Thursday, June 16, 2011

EKOS and the Wild Ride

Beating a dead horse? Nah. The 2011 Federal Election was way too important to just suddenly stop talking about. I'll be talking about it for years to come.

But this time out, it's not me talking. Rather, it's Frank Graves, head honcho at EKOS, one of Canada's bigger pollsters. I've been looking back at his 'analyses' which accompanied each of his press releases with new sets of numbers. They're interesting in that, with the benefit of hindsight, you can see what a really wild ride Election 41 really was. I've picked out salient soundbites from the analyses pertinent to the NDP and their come-out-of-nowhere surge that, merely five weeks on, has already started to feel permanent. Note as the election progresses that the frequency and urgency of the press releases increases, and that Graves goes from including parenthetical observations about the NDP for the sake of fairness to letting the NDP entirely dominate his discussions. Whatever Graves's own politics happen to be, his commitment to making polling interesting has him toward the end almost breathless with admiration for the NDP and their surge. Here it all is, taken from his PDFs which I'm too lazy to link to individually but which you can find at

MARCH 10: "The NDP are now within the margin of error of the Conservatives in Quebec. Coupled with other findings in the survey, there is evidence that the NDP could be poised for something of a breakthrough in Quebec."

MARCH 25: "While the Liberals and Greens are poised to make some minor gains at the expense of the Conservatives and the NDP, there is little chance that we will see any major changes in the balance of power."

MARCH 28: "Do the NDP really think that the Layton Liberals will flock to their leader when the chips are down?" "The NDP are not far off from their position going into the last election (although they are short of their 2008 election performance). But they are doing best on second choice and have the most liked leader so they have plausible aspirations for matching if not eclipsing their last performance."

APRIL 1: "Joining the Conservative Party in forward movement is the NDP who saw a significant bump up in support, largely at the expense of the Green Party and, to a lesser extent, the Liberals." "There would appear to be opportunities for the Liberals and NDP in Quebec, as the confidence in the current federal government has virtually evaporated in the province. But so far, there is little evidence of any rallying hub for federalist forces in Quebec."

APRIL 6: "Contrary to the erratic impression from reading the welter of various polling reports out there, the race appears to be evolving in a relatively orderly pattern with a clear logic."

APRIL 8: "The regions are all in different stages of flux as well. British Columbia sees a Conservative lead, but they are in close pursuit by the NDP and the Liberals, with the Green Party showing enough strength to possibly signal a breakthrough for Elizabeth May." "The Atlantic Provinces aren’t very happy with the federal government and they are showing low enthusiasm for this election. They are oscillating between the Conservatives and the Liberals, and the NDP have some chances there as well." "Overall, it appears that both the NDP and Liberal Party have the most opportunities to grow, although a fair bit of that would be cannibalizing each other (according to the breakdowns of second choice by current preference)."

APRIL 13: "The other main story of this poll is that the claimed demise of the NDP is clearly premature. The New Democrats are showing important new strength, particularly in Quebec and British Columbia where they now lead." "Women voters are defecting from the Conservative Party and there is now a very large gender gap. The NDP, meanwhile, is doing very well with women and has broadened its demographic constituency."

APRIL 15: "The NDP does very well in British Columbia and looks surprisingly strong in Quebec. It is also attracting women’s votes. Less auspiciously for its prospects, the party attracts the highest number of voters who would consider changing their minds."

APRIL 18: "The NDP, meanwhile, continues to follow an upward trend line and, at 20.0 points, they are the only party to have clearly demonstrated upward momentum throughout the campaign (which they began around 6 points below their current standing)." "While support for national direction has improved, support for the current government in Canada has reached a low point for the campaign. So far, it is the NDP who have tapped into this growing disaffection for the incumbent government, but it could be a force in the final stages of the campaign."

APRIL 21: "Building on a solid if unspectacular rise from the outset of the campaign, Jack Layton’s NDP party is scaling heights not seen since the NDP’s salad days under Ed Broadbent." "On March 24th, the NDP stood at 14.2 points. Since then, they moved up steadily to around 17 points, then they started closing in on 20 and, in this poll, they find themselves at 24.7, tying themselves with the Liberals and only 9 points shy of the once-distant Conservative Party. This steady progression from “also ran” to contender has been a smooth and steady. It is very uncertain whether it will be sustained or whether it could even advance further." "Shockingly, the NDP have how eclipsed a clearly faltering Bloc Quebecois (down nearly 15 points)."

APRIL 25: "After several years in a political rut characterized by trench warfare between the Conservatives and the Liberals, Jack Layton and his NDP party appear poised to reshape Canada’s political landscape." "These results, if they were to hold, would produce a profound transformation in the Canadian political firmament, tantamount and arguably more far reaching than the Reform explosion in 1993." "The NDP have experienced an unperfected doubling of their poll support from 14 to 28 points since the writ was dropped. They now have a large lead in Quebec and are poised to gain the lion’s share of the 75 seats there (up from their current single seat). They also now lead in the Atlantic and are within the margin of error of the lead in British Colombia." "They may not have reached the ceiling of this JackQuake which is shaking the country."

APRIL 26: "The NDP has captured new voters from across the political spectrum in a remarkably eclectic fashion. Looking at how 2008 voters have migrated, we see the Conservatives almost entirely intact whereas the NDP is now an amalgam of defected Conservative, Liberal, and Green supporters. In particular, the NDP surge has been driven by a wholesale transfer of Bloc Quebecois supporters in Quebec."

APRIL 27: "The Conservatives remain at 34.0 and the NDP is at 28.1. The Liberals have not been able to reverse their fortunes and are now at 22.9 which may be a new nadir in our polling for the Liberals." "It is unclear whether the electorate has truly grasped the significance of the sweeping changes that the NDP surge (now plateaued) has produced. The chief remaining question is how Ontario will deal with these new realities in the closing portion of the campaign."

APRIL 28: "As for a massive NDP collapse, that likely isn’t going to happen. Jack Layton’s orange train has left the station and it’s just a question of how far it will take him. With a very slight uptick, he could see himself arriving at not only Stornoway, but even Sussex if the new government were to be defeated promptly. Heady stuff for a party that entered the race at a mere 14 points."

APRIL 29: "The NDP, who began the campaign at a scant 14 points, have now more than doubled their support and at 29.7% and are breathing down the necks of the stalled Conservative Party." "The NDP now have significant strength in British Columbia, and have risen sharply to tie the Liberals in Ontario. They have a huge lead in Quebec and are tied for the lead in the Atlantic. The Conservatives are strong in the west and, due to a newly split NDP and Liberal vote in Ontario, have a 12-point advantage over the Liberals and the closing NDP." "While the Conservatives remain very strong with older Canadians and males, the NDP are showing strong connection with the Gen X and Gen Y, where they now lead. The NDP have also seized much of the university-educated vote from the Liberals and have significant representation in all regions and demographic groups, outside of over 65 voters who are the lynchpin of Conservative support."

MAY 1: "The Conservatives are at 34.6 points, while the NDP is three points back at 31.4 and the Liberals at 20.4." "Using these numbers, and we will reserve the final forecast until later this evening, we would see a Conservative minority where the NDP were within 20 seats and the NDP and the Liberals combined would have a narrow majority between them. This means that if there was common will between the NDP and the Liberals, they would have both the legal (and according to our recent polling on the topic) the moral authority to swiftly dispatch Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party." "Quebec is abandoning the Bloc Quebecois even further and the NDP could virtually sweep that province in a breathtaking development." "The NDP ceiling is now 55 points, fully 11 points above the Conservative Party." "Quebec is painting itself orange in a remarkable display of unanimity. The Atlantic provinces remain locked in a tight three-way struggle but the NDP are showing a late spurt there which has placed them in the lead."

MAY 3 (POST-MORTEM): "While we believe EKOS did a very good job in charting the direction of the election and some of the historical shifts that occurred, we were caught flat footed in capturing the majority victory for the Conservative Party." "EKOS correctly noted early in the campaign an important shift to the NDP which we correctly estimated would see the NDP as Official Opposition with over one hundred seats. We were roundly pilloried for this prediction from those who claimed nothing was happening in the campaign and that the NDP vote would collapse." "There was a late movement of Liberal supporters to the Conservative Party which shifted about three points to the Conservatives (half of our shortfall)."

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