Ontario 2018: Dramatic polling shift and an anomaly watch

With just over a week to go till the provincial assembly election of 7 June, polls in Ontario have shifted quite dramatically.

Here is what it looked like, according to the CBC Poll Tracker, on 18 May:

The Progressive Conservatives (PC) were well ahead in votes, and strongly favored to win a manufactured majority of seats with 41% of the vote. It’s good to be a 40-percent party under FPTP, especially when you are in a highly non-Duvergerian party system with two other large parties splitting most of the remaining three fifths of the vote. The New Democrats (NDP) were far behind, at not quite 30%, and the incumbent Liberals not even polling a quarter of the votes.

Ten days later, here is how things have shifted:

Well, it is a little more “Duvergerian” in that it looks like a close race between two parties, the PCs and the NDP. But not anything like your supposed lawlike “two-party system”, with a third party at over 20% and the fourth just below 5%.

As to what has has led to this shift, and the possible echoes of the 1990 election (which resulted in the only NDP government in the province’s history, to date), see Eric Grenier’s explanation at CBC.

This being a FPTP system, even with a polling lead as of now that is almost two percentage points, it is not as simple as the party with the most votes being assured of governing (whether with a majority, minority, or as head of a coalition). Note how in today’s projection the NDP is favored to win fewer seats than the PCs and the latter party is still quite likely to win a majority of seats.

Thus I hereby declare Ontario 2018 to be on anomaly watch.


11 thoughts on “Ontario 2018: Dramatic polling shift and an anomaly watch

  1. As Liberal voters continue to switch to the NDP, the dream scenario is: Ford’s PCs 61, Horwath’s NDP 61, 1 Liberal (Nathalie Des Rosiers, former Chair of the Law Commission of Canada, long-time proportional representation advocate) and 1 Green (Mike Schreiner is leading in Guelph, they claim.) But that would take a 4% NDP lead in vote percent, showing how very possible a “wrong-winner” result was. In the last 25 years we have seen parties coming second in the popular vote forming “false majority” governments in New Brunswick (2006), Saskatchewan (1999), Quebec (1998), and British Columbia (1996). That result would light a fire under almost everyone.

    Dream on? Yet, how many predicted the BC Greens would win the balance of power in their 2017 election?

  2. Even if a Canadian providence change to a PR system, it would be ironic like NZ changed to MMP because the 2nd largest party formed government twice under FPTP and now the current NZ government is formed by the 2nd largest party under MMP? Does everybody believes that the largest party should always form government? I always thought everything is based on the composition of the parliament.

    • The current NZ government is based on a parliamentary majority that includes the second-largest party. That is not quite the same as saying the second-largest party forms the government. Broadly I do not think the largest party should always form the government. That would just be a somewhat skewed version of presidentialism.

  3. Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne has made the unusual decision to concede defeat a week before polling day. The Liberals seem to be in a particularly bad position under first-past-the-post, with current aggregates showing their 20% of the vote translating into just three seats. It seems very possible that they could end up with no seats at all. I don’t know whether this is really an anomaly: Canadian provincial and federal governments have been wiped away to virtually no seats in the past, even when retaining a considerable share of the vote. However, it seems *extremely* non-Duvergean for a non-regionalist party to end up with 20% of the vote in the midst of a close race between two other parties.

    • It is not as bad as the previous Liberal government had less than 40% and won a majority. I think it is okay for a party to win an absolute majority in a FPTP system as long as it is 40% plus, but anything less than that should be a minority government. What would this election been like if a ranked choice system had been used? That would had been interesting.

      • What is so special about 40% that makes a majority formed on one legitimate? I probably wouldn’t object if the other 60% was spread amongst multiple parties both left and right of the 40% block, but that doesn’t usually happen in Canada.

      • That would depend on the particular form of preferential voting and on the government formation rules.

        The Netherlands has a grand and elaborate procession of scouts, informateurs and formateurs. People there meet, fall in love and have children in the time it takes to form a government. Denmark has a highly informal system of the queen chatting with the parties and an average government formation of 5 days. The two countries are very similar in almost all respects except government formation times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.