Are soft NDP voters switching to save Liberals?

In my earlier preview of September elections, I noted that the surge in polls for the Conservatives in the Canadian election might lead to the NDP losing votes. It is possible this is happening now.

In recent days, the Liberals have returned to a narrow lead in votes and strengthened their existing seat lead, according to the CBC poll tracker. At the same time, there is a notable dip in NDP votes and seats.

We need to be careful about inferring individual change from aggregate trends. But the most likely cause of what the poll tracker and its seat estimator are picking up is softer NDP voters worried about a Conservative plurality.

Note that this would be strategic voting, but not based on district-level expected outcomes (“coordination”), rather on national-level expectations. “All politics is national”, as Taagepera and I put it in the title of our chapter (10) on predicting district patterns from the Seat Product Model in Votes from Seats.

Here are screen shots from the poll tracker on the morning of 12 Sept.


Estimated seats:

The challenge for voters who prefer the NDP over Liberals but are motivated more by stopping the Conservatives is that some of them may be in districts where the Conservatives wouldn’t have won anyway. But some of these voters may help the Liberals win a majority of seats—the poll tracker shows this outcome back within its 95% confidence interval. Yet the sort of voter I am describing wound surely prefer a Liberal minority with a strong NDP third-party caucus.

Getting just the right amount of strategic voting is hard when seats are determined one-by-one, but voters key mostly in national expectations. Yet this is exactly the best available information, which voters tend to employ in choosing voting strategy, according not only to the Seat Product Model, but also Richard Johnston’s The Canadian Party System.

It appears the Liberals have regained their stalled momentum and thus Justin Trudeau just might get what he was seeking after all. On the other hand, a short-term trend need not continue, and at the moment the most likely result still seems to be a Liberal plurality of seats.

12 thoughts on “Are soft NDP voters switching to save Liberals?

  1. Note from the first graph how the PPC (People’s Party–far right) has been growing lately. It was growing even during the time that the Conservatives were themselves still ahead in votes, but it seems to have grown more during the very recent decline in Conservative support.

    This is another excellent “all politics is national” case study, as the PPC is unlikely to win any seats (on current polling). At most it might win one. Yet its national polling has risen to the 5% range. This trend appears to show how tough the Conservatives’ task is–they are trying to appear moderate enough to win away centrist voters who are not satisfied with Trudeau, but in doing so, they may be alienating the right. To the extent that this is happening in Alberta and the Prairies, it would not cost them seats because the Conservatives lead in most seats there by wide margins anyway. However, from the graphs at the CBC, the PPC’s current surge seems to be happening to a considerable degree in all regions (even, more weakly, in Quebec and Atlantic Canada). All politics is national, indeed.

    The Greens, on the other hand, continue to crash and burn, as we expect of parties tearing themselves up over their leadership (and over non-core “virtual signal” issues at that).I just hope their burning does not release too much carbon.

    • The PPC surge is interesting because it appears to be bringing a new dimension to the electoral reform debate in Canada, and probably a new roadblock (if the old ones weren’t enough). At the moment it looks like the PPC will struggle to win any seats at all, but of course under any of the proposed PR systems they would have at least a handful of seats. There has been discussion of hypothetical extremist representation under PR, but this election may bring it out of the realm of the hypothetical.

  2. I was going to check 338Canada’s current projections, but their website is so awful I usually can’t even load it. And if it will load, it usually won’t scroll. Maybe someone else has more luck with it.

    A week or so when I got it to work briefly, it had the Conservatives with about the same votes lead over Liberals as the CBC Poll Tracker then had, but it also had the Conservatives leading in seats even as the Liberals continued to hold the seats edge, according to the CBC Poll Tracker.

    • I find 338 Canada less reliable than the CBC Poll Tracker, which today shows the Liberals down 3 from 2019, the Conservatives down 1, the Bloc down 4, the Greens down 2, one less Independent, and the NDP up 11. Why did Trudeau call this election, again?

      • Whoa, what poll had the NDP up 11? They got 16% in 2019, and all the polls I’ve seen this year have them floating between 17-21%.

      • Still, an increase of 11 seats would be quite impressive. Their 24 seats in 2019 is just 7.1% on that 16.0% of votes. If they got 35, that would be 10.4%, still a big punishment by the FPTP system, but a decent return on their greater projected vote share.

        But to take it back to the theme of the post, that would be a drop from around 40 at their peak, taking the midpoint of the projected range in the CBC’s seat estimator from early Sept.

      • The NDP seem to be in interesting territory where a 2-3% increase in the polls leads to a dozen or more additional seats for them. They’re not approaching 2011 levels, especially in Quebec (I’d predict they only pick up a couple of seats in Montreal and win back Berthier on the strong performance of former “Vegas MP” Ruth-Ellen Brosseau), but I believe in Western Canada there are quite a few seats where they’re the main opposition to the Tories.

  3. Indeed the NDP is on track to elect some interesting new MPs from western Canada, mostly women. For example, in Regina, Tria Donaldson: A communications representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees for nine years, whose grandfather was a Mohawk residential school survivor, also proud of her Punjabi, and European roots.

  4. Pingback: Canada 2021 | Fruits and Votes

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