Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Non-Voting

Frank Graves, the head honcho at EKOS, has gone from a meticulous analyst of Canadians' opinions to a meticulous analyst of the meticulous analysis of Canadians' opinions in little more than a single month. Good for him - if nothing else, he's a very thoughtful, intelligent person.

He's come to the conclusion that the main reason pollsters were so far off on their election predictions this year is that they could not accurately predict who, among people who said they were going to vote, actually would vote.

And past that there's nothing very surprising: the young vote way less than the old, the undereducated vote less than the educated, NDP supporters vote less than Conservatives.

That is to say, a larger percentage of people who told EKOS or other pollsters before May 2 that they would vote NDP didn't actually bother to go vote on May 2 itself. Larger than the percentage of people who said they were going to vote Conservative.

So someone who supports the Conservatives is more likely to actually vote than someone who supports the NDP.

How much so? Well, if you trust Graves's numbers, among the 40% of voting-age Canadians who didn't vote, but whose voting intentions can be extrapolated by comparing EKOS's polling numbers ot the election day results, fully 32.1% would have voted NDP. Now, that's not far off the 30.6% the NDP really did get (which explains why while EKOS's numbers overall were a disaster, their NDP numbers weren't half bad), but the yawning gap between what could have happened on May 2 and what really did is best illustrated by looking at the Conservatives' numbers:

Merely 24.8% of Canadians who registered an opinion on party preference but didn't actually go and vote on election day preferred the Conservatives. In an inverse election where those who voted found their opinions ignored and only those who didn't vote were able to choose the government, the NDP would have come in first by almost eight percent over the now neck-and-neck Conservatives and Liberals. And combining those numbers (meaning that every voting age Canadian actually voted) would have brought about the seat count Graves predicted on May 1: a Conservative minority with ample legroom for an NDP-led majority coalition with the Liberals, had they been able to work that out.

The Conservatives didn't win this election: we lost it. Or rather, both are true, because the Conservatives are blessed to have a voting bloc who realises that you get the people you want elected elected by electing them - by going out and voting for them. And congratuations to the Conservative voting bloc for having the energy to go out there and vote in numbers great enough to secure a majority government for your party.

After all, this is what ensured that; not any real shift in the overall support that the nation feels oward the Conservative Party. Throughout April and up to voting day, our country experienced a distinct leftward shift on an almost unprecedented level: the Conservatives showed only the most minimal of an increase in support while the NDP went through the roof. What was the result of this? A distinctly rightward shift in our House of Commons.

No small blame for this must lie with NDP supporters nationwide, who got out the vote in numbers significantly smaller than did the Conservatives. I know NDP doesn't exactly correlate with youth doesn't exactly correlate with disenfranchised doesn't exactly correlate with 'didn't vote'. But there are overlaps here too great to ignore. Disefranchisement, especially among the young, is a vicious circle, and it is a very real phenomenon. Young Canadians don't feel Ottawa represents them, so they ignore it. In feeling that the governmnet is out of touch, they effectively ensure it remains out of touch. It's frustrating as hell to think we could have had the government that Canadians want to have if only we had gone out and made it happen. To think that a certain percentage of Canadians - a measurable number and probably a number large enough to determine the state of Canadian politics for the next four years - said, effectively, 'not enough people vote for my party for them to win, so I won't vote either'.

Which is not only patently ridiculous but is also self-defeating. We're having the rug pulled out from beneath us as a party with the support of a distinct minority of Canadians gains more and more control in this country. Our getting frustrated enough by the process to tune it out is exactly what they want. Just think of how well it's worked for them so far.

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