Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Turnout and the Ontario By-Elections

This evening while wracking my brain trying to figure out what I wanted to write about today I decided to go to the 308 Blog and see what Eric Grenier had written this week. His post from today was about modeling the upcoming by-elections and voter turnout out this, “A few weeks ago, I discussed how a simple turnout model was able to significantly increase the accuracy of polls in some recent elections. Depressingly so - the model requires ignoring the voting intentions of those under the age of 35. But nevertheless the model worked.”

The model had mixed results. The outcomes for by-elections were sometimes more accurate and sometimes less. It did seem to correct for those more inaccurate polls related to by-elections. By-election turnout is often in the 30-40% range. It is easy to imagine how those least likely to participate are the first to fall off when the electorate shrinks to such a small size. The handful of citizens willing to answer a poll is likely going to vote as opposed to those who hang up.

Polls have come out over the last month for all five of the by-election races in Ontario.

Windsor-Tecumseh looks to be very strong for the NDP. The federal party had held the seat for decades, but the provincially they have had little luck. City Councillor Percy Hatfield looks ready to overturn that. A July 24th poll showed Hatfield leading with 55% of the vote. His nearest contender is the Progressive Conservative candidate polling at 22%.

In London West, despite the Liberals attracting a star candidate, Ken Coran, they are in third 17%. The riding appears to be a race between the ONDP and PCs. The PCs, according to Forum, has the lead with 36% to the NDP’s 31%. Polls in Ontario have shown considerable strength for the NDP in southwestern Ontario and this may be the sign of it.

Ottawa South, the seat of former Premier Dalton McGuinty is at risk of being won by the Conservatives. Forum’s poll showed the PCs leading the Liberals 48-34 with the NDP at 12%. Grenier is not confident in Forum’s numbers in this riding.

Scarborough-Guildwood is the only riding Forum showed a Liberal lead with 38% to the Tories’ 32%. The NDP’s Adam Giambrone mustered 21% in the poll, disappointing for the star candidate.

Finally, Etobicoke-Lakeshore offers a surprise as Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday leads Councillor Peter Milczyn 47% to 40%. The federal Conservatives hold the seat, but Holyday’s potential win is surprising in this former Liberal stronghold.

Taken all in all it is a bad set of numbers for the Liberals, but I take them all with a grain of salt. Turnout will be critical and with a by-election being held in the summer it is impossible to know the potential outcome. In addition, polling disasters over the past few years should leave anyone shy of predicting the future on their backs. The PCs are leading provincially but it hasn’t materialized yet. Perhaps these by-elections could be a sign of things to come.

The final vote will be held on August 1st. 

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