"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Third party, redux, redux

In the 2011 provincial general election, there were 268 regular voting-day polling divisions, in ten different electoral districts, which were contained wholly within the city of St. John’s. (A handful of polls which straddled the border with a neighbouring suburban municipality are disregarded here.)

In those 268 polls, Stjohnsians cast a collective 37,750 valid ballots.

Of those 37,750 votes, the Tories took 48%, the NDP 45%, and the Liberals 7%. The uncomfortably tight margin, in what is traditionally the Tory chateau-fort, led to the defeat of several incumbent PC MHAs, the conversion of three districts from the PC to the NDP column, close races in a few other metro-area districts, and no shortage of morning-after hand-wringing inside Tory circles.

Fast-forward not quite two years to the present day.

In the context of the current municipal elections, VOCM and Abacus Data have put out a poll of St. John’s residents, examining the public mood, the issues, and the top-line horse-race numbers. The poll was carried out over several days in late August. VOCM has helpfully published its reports on its website, with the horse-race numbers, released earlier today, available here.

The VOCM-Abacus Data poll is cross-tabulated on a number of interesting demographic and other factors, including, happily enough, current provincial voter intention.

For argument’s and this blog posting’s sake, let’s take the Abacus provincial political numbers at face value.

Of the VOCM-Abacus sample, the largest share of Stjohnsites, 33%, say they are undecided in their provincial voter preference. This is a bit higher than, but roughly in line with, the recent province-wide undecided vote as reported by CRA in its quarterly polls.*

Of decided voters, 42% support the provincial NDP, 33% the Liberals, and 23% the Progressive Conservatives. **

As compared to the 2011 actual results in the city, the NDP support is, within the margin of error, unchanged. St. John’s is the new chateau-fort of the Dippers.

The provincial Liberals, having been shut out of the city, and even its suburbs, in three consecutive general elections, now enjoy nearly quintuple the support they saw in the last general election. Their gain is entirely at the expense of the Progressive Conservatives.

And of the Tories, once the undisputed rulers of the St. John’s roost and nine of the ten electoral districts which, in whole or in part, are made up of Townie voters?

Their popular support in the capital city, their redoubt in even the worst of electoral cycles, has been halved in less than 24 months. The PC Party, per the CRA and Abacus polls released today, are not only the third party province-wide, they are the third party in the capital city that they once owned.

The implications of these numbers are astounding: In a notional election where the popular vote was reflected in the Abacus numbers, the incumbent PCs would be entirely shut out of the city of St. John’s. That has never happened in provincial electoral history.

The Liberals would make a modest beach-head of one or two seats in Town for the first time since 1999 – and perhaps three, depending on the impact of the Osborne Decision.

The NDP would gain, or hold, the rest.

* Percentages are calculated here using Abacus' own weighted data, but the unweighted values yield the same outcome to within a very small variance of 2% or less.
** A handful (2%) said they would vote for “Other”. Tom Osborne, former PC and Independent MHA, announced that he was joining the Liberal caucus half-way through the Abacus fieldwork.

[Reformatted and lightly edited since initial posting.]

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