PEI: Another lopsided majority

In a province with a history of lopsided majorities, Prince Edward Island’s FPTP electoral system has again produced a grossly exaggerated seat bonus for the leading party. The opposition Liberals have defeated the governing Conservatives, 23 seats to 4. That’s a governing party with more than 85% of the seats and an opposition hardly able to function as such. This just so happens to be an exact reversal of the seat balance from the 2003 election.

The votes breakdown was as follows (with that of 2003 in parentheses):

    Liberal 52.9 (42.7)
    Cons. 41.3 (54.3)
    NDP 2.0 (3.1)
    Green 3.0 (0)

This graph from my FPTP analysis files shows the tendency of this electoral system to exaggerate vote pluralities. (The graph ends with 2003.)


The upper reddish line shows the vote difference over time between the two leading parties. Elections have only sporadically been close in votes (this one was expected to be, but again was not). The lower green-colored line shows the deviation from the expected seat share of the second party (based on the seat-vote equation), with zero deviation represented by the grey horizontal line. That the second party tends to be so under-represented–even relative to the normal expectation for parties with these actual votes ratios and with such a small assembly–shows that today’s result is by no means unusual for the province. Nor does it matter which party is the second party: the effect is systemic.

PEI certainly would be a good candidate for reform, but colorful though the Island’s political culture is, reformist it is not. In fact, the voters rejected an independent commission’s proposal for a rather modest form of mixed-member proportional (MMP) system in November, 2005.

7 thoughts on “PEI: Another lopsided majority

  1. Why has PEI always had lopsided majorities? Is there not much variation in district results? Are most district results alike and close to ‘average’? In that case I would understand that most districts have the same winner, the same as the overall winner.

  2. Interesting question Bancki. PEI has a population of roughly 5000 per provincial electoral district as compared to roughly 50,000 for BC and 100,000 for Ontario. You’d think there’d be more variation in these smaller chunks of population and therefore a more proportional result, overall. My guess is that the PEI population is much more homogeneous than the larger provinces – requiring even smaller districts to capture a more proportional result using FPTP voting.

  3. Maybe the reason why Prince Edward Islanders rejected MMP was that they felt it was too party centric. I think PEI should try another PR referendum instead of MMP by using the Single Transferable Vote. I think the political culture of PEI is very similar towards that of Malta. Malta doesn’t have lopsided legislatures simply because of it’s use of STV.

    The only electoral reform would happen if there was such a thing as reverse majorities in the FPTP system.

    An example would be the recent elections where Liberals won a majority of the popular vote, but didn’t form the goverment whereas the Tories won a minority of the popular vote and won a huge majority of seats.

    Is this statistically possible in a FPTP system with only two parties?

  4. If you break it down further, the result doesn’t get much more proportional: poll-by-poll totals were Liberals 258, PC 59, and 1 tie. (Libs won 85 percent of seats, and 81 percent of individual polling stations).

  5. Suaprazzodi asks if a reverse majority is statistically possible in a FPTP system with only two parties?
    Yes it is: if a party collects a tiny majority of votes in a tiny majority of constituencies, its wins with overall just over a quarter of the votes.
    A real life example is Belize 1993.

  6. The polling-place data suggest that even a much larger assembly might not have corrected much the vast disproportionality of the overall result. PEI’s assembly is very small, both in absolute terms and as a function of the cube-root law expectation. Its 27 seats are exactly half of what the cube-root of its number of voters in recent elections. The polling-place data suggest that even with 54 seats (or many more), the disproportionality would not be much changed; however, in absolute terms, an opposition with eight members is better equipped to staff the key committees with a dissenting voice and monitor than is one with only four.
    PEI must have one of the more uniform swings of any FPTP system to produce such lopsided majorities for whichever party wins the majority of popular votes.

    I agree that STV might be a good choice for PEI–even more than a larger assembly, which also ought to be looked at. (The polling-place “proportionality” is not much more meaningful than district by district: It tells us nothing about how much the Liberals won by in any given polling place. But it could offer some good hints about the likely partisan breakdown of an assembly elected by STV.)

    The plurality reversal scenario in a basically two-party system, of course, can happen only where districts follow in a less uniform pattern the distribution of votes jurisdiction-wide, or very much the opposite of what PEI experiences.

  7. Pingback: PEI 2016: Referendum favors MMP | Fruits and Votes

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