What we wanted versus what we got

08-10-15-seat-100-1The good news about a minority is uncertainty keeps political strategists and analysts in business. The bad news about a minority is it keeps political strategists and analysts in business 🙂

In the days, weeks, and months ahead many will opine on the meaning of this past election and take stabs at the direction of the Canadian political landscape.

What happened and why? Which leaders will survive, which wont? What impact did vote-splitting have and will the Left finally get it together, or could a figure such as a Jean Charest do for Canada’s natural governing party that which Mr. Dion hadn’t a hope?

It is this observer’s intention to keep adding to the discussion, hopefully always from a different angle and only when I have something important to say as opposed to a set schedule.

Speaking of different and important;

A couple of weeks ago when I wasn’t talking about vote splitting – which I admit wasn’t very often – it occurred to me to field the Core Strategies “Seat 100” question just as Canadians were heading to the polls. So we did.

To refresh your memory, the question asks not for whom you will vote but rather how many seats would you like each of the five main political parties to have in the house of commons. In short, it’s a question about Proportional Representation by other means.  

The point of the exercise is to showcase the divide between what kind of representation Canadians want versus what our electoral system gives us. Something is wrong when a system that espouses Democracy delivers something very different from what that Democracy expressly says it wants.

Those who oppose some form of Proportional Representation – usually the larger power-based parties – will point to examples such as the recently defeated referendum in Ontario as reason to ignore PR. For the record, Ontarians didn’t reject the concept, they simply didn’t understand the question as posed.

Generally speaking, the same is true of most Canadians. It’s easy to fear and reject the unknown and we have no better proof than the election just witnessed to see how fear of the unknown affects behaviour and election outcome.

The seat distribution analysis isn’t one that is meaningful only on aggregate. On the contrary, analysis by voter intention is even more interesting and revealing. The chart below, while perhaps a little difficult to get your head around, depicts the number of party seats by voter intention. For example based on the survey of 1,200 Canadians we conducted Oct 9-12, Conservative voters want the Conservative Party to end up with 193 seats. However, that same group of Conservative voters wants 48 Liberal seats, 33 NDP, 19 Green, and 14 Bloc.

    All Voters       CON     LIB     NDP     GREEN   BQ  
  Oct Dec Jun May   Oct Dec Jun May Oct Dec Jun May Oct Dec Jun May Oct Dec Jun May Oct Dec Jun May
CON 103 96 91 97   193 174 151 171 59 61 68 69 53 56 54 53 63 66 61 67 50 71 62 59
LIB 83 111 88 81   48 73 70 58 157 177 136 125 65 90 67 66 69 107 71 64 56 61 65 61
NDP 57 48 56 49   33 31 39 32 43 37 50 45 132 115 110 97 51 42 50 51 42 36 45 39
GRN 35 25 38 42   19 12 26 24 30 19 32 39 38 21 46 51 104 72 83 92 26 20 34 37
BQ 30 28 34 39   14 18 24 23 20 14 23 30 20 26 32 41 21 20 43 35 133 121 102 114

In other words even diehard Conservatives want the other parties to have a certain number of seats.

It’s also an interesting analysis to compare the results by voter intention and ask questions like why is it Liberal voters only want their own party to have 157 seats, whereas Conservative voters want their party to have 193 seats? And what does the answer to that question say about trust in one’s own party, or party leader?

Here’s another good question; why is it that between December of 2007 and October 2008, Liberals who wanted 177 seats now only want 157 for themselves, whereas all other parties want more? Perhaps this is an indication of how much weaker Liberal faith is within its own party.

In percentage terms the “Seat 100” line of questioning yields identical voter intention results to the traditional vote question. For example 103 of 308 seats Conservative is 33%, and 83 Liberal, 57 NDP, 35 Green, and 30 Bloc is 27%, 19%, 11% and 9% respectively. These figures are nearly identical to aggregate of Harris-Decima, Strategic Counsel, Nanos, Ekos, and Ipsos.

It’s what the Seat 100 data tells us in addition that is so darn interesting. Almost as interesting as the fact first-past-the-post gives Canadians what they don’t want.  


Survey Methodology

The study was conducted via CATI from dialing facilities in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. Data collection for this study was conducted between October 9th through October 12th, 2008. The sample size was 1200 interviews completed among randomly selected adults 18 years of age and older. The data is weighted in tabulation to replicate actual population distribution by age and sex within region according to the 2006 Census data. The margin of error on a sample of 1200 is +/- 2.8% 19 times out of 20.    

The question posed was:

Imagine that there are 100 seats in the House of Commons.  How many would you like to see each of the following parties win in the October 14th federal election?  {Read and Rotate, and ensure adds to 100} Liberal, Conservative, Bloc Quebecois, NDP, Green

            a.       Conservative

b.       Liberal

c.       Green

d.       NDP

e.       Bloc Quebecois

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