Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Handicapping The Election

When accessing the probabilities of where the various parties stand, heading into an election, you have to sift through a sizeable amount of various considerations, hard data, not to mention a host of intangibles. Making any assessment more problematic, your own bias, how you are interpreting what you see, what you give weight too, what you dismiss. I do my own mental math to reach the following conclusions, on how I access the percentages of who might do what. Here's my take, please feel free to add your own:

Chance of a Liberal minority- 30%
Chance of a Liberal majority - .02%

Chance of another Conservative minority- 70%
Chance of a Conservative majority- 20%

Chance of a bigger minority, relative to 2006- 50%
Chance of a smaller minority, relative to 2006- 50%

Chance of NDP seat gain- 20%
Chance of NDP maintaining- 30%
Chance of NDP seat loss- 50%

Chance of Elizabeth May winning- 10%
Chance of Greens maintaining a seat- 50%
Chance of Greens gaining more seats- 10%

Chance of Bloc seat gain- 0%
Chance of Bloc maintaining- 35%
Chance of Bloc seat loss- 65%

Lately, some have accused me of being more and more "optimistic" in my assessment of the Liberals. The above shows that, although I see real opportunity, I still give the advantage to the Conservatives, all things being equal, they probably start with a slight advantage, and further to that, the leadership gap, while fluid, is what is it, Dion still needs to improve (could he and will he are different considerations).

Let the games begin...


Anonymous said...

I take it you mean there is a 20% chance of a liberal majority, not a .02% chance . . . unless you were really driving a point home in a "telling us how you really feel" kinda way ; ).

I'd think I'd occur with your instincts as laid out.

Steve V said...

Joseph, no that's right. Unless something off the charts occurs, I really don't see any possibility for a Liberal majority. That's just my opinion though.

Anonymous said...

On a cp24 callin show ...do you want election with laura.coyne and lying ipsos reid....654 No...143 yes...all callers hated harper except one lady who said she liked him because he was nice to jews but she did not want election on holy day...so he is not too popular on a tory phonein show.

Anonymous said...

grin. I did consider that was your intent, but thought it might have been a typo as well.

Off topic, but following up our conversation about polls driving news, I thought you'd get a kick out of this analysis of two insta-polls from Friday night about Palin that had dramatic differences. A good analysis of how that happens:


Anonymous said...

Closer to how things play out and influencing the potential outcomes, I think the Liberals should do everything they can to make this a referendum on Harper.

They should offer policy of course, and be prepared with a full economic plan. But I think they should concertedly lay out and reinforce the scenario of just what a Harper majority would mean.

They should not be outlandish or over-reach. But develop a narrative firmly and logically based upon the conservative's behaviour in the past 3 years.

Steve V said...


Interesting link.

When you think about where the Conservatives have to grow, namely with women voters, I don't see how they grow with Harper as the focus. RT has a post today, showing the website and some of the framing, the Cons seem to want to make Harper the focus, which is interesting, because I agree, the Libs want the same. Rarely do two strategies converge like this, but it is interesting to say the least.

Jason Hickman said...

Very interesting. I'd say that it's posts like this that make this one of my favourite Liblogs, but coming from me, that may seem to be a case of damning with faint praise :)

My only real quibbles, at this point, are: (1) I think you're overstating May's chances just a bit. But really, I'm not sure how much below 10% you could really go in good conscience.

(2) As much as I hate to say it, I don't think the BQ has *zero* chance of gaining seats. I'd put it in the 10-15% range. Duceppe has surprised people before, and he's the most experienced leader of the lot. I still wouldn't put it much above 15%, though...

Steve V said...


Point taken on Duceppe, and I've also argued that before. Duceppe is a polished campaigner, and he always looks great in debates. Duceppe will make a powerful case that the Bloc is the best way to keep a Harper majority at bay, not to mention the simple fact, no matter what people say, the Bloc is closer policy wise to mainstream opinion. I think they won't gain seats, because frankly that would be logistically hard to do, they have so many now, it would mean a real surge in support. Realistically, I could see a small loss, but I don't buy into some speculation that the Bloc is poised for large erosion. Could happen, but with a lack of really attractive options, the Bloc may be a safe choice in the end.

CuriosityCat said...

The Liberals are running a major risk if they run mainly on the Green Shift platform (see my website for my suggestion for a second major plank for Dion - Parliament for the People). So far, the party has not managed to table alternatives to the Tories with zing, apart from the Green Shift (which is notable for its differences to Harper's climate program).

It is critical that Liberals give voters reasons for voting FOR the Liberals, and not rely on gaining votes because people don't like Harper...

Steve V said...


Let's wait to see the platform.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! The economy is what Canajuns is worryin' about. Dion oughta use the Green Shift to demonstrate how the economy vs. environment is a false dichotomy. Here's the first bit from a G&M article from yesterday:

OTTAWA — A groundbreaking federal study has calculated the “social costs” of operating cars, trucks, planes, trains and boats across Canada at up to $40 billion a year.

The study for the first time attempts to put a national price tag on the unwanted byproducts of transport, that is, accidents, pollution, congestion, noise and greenhouse gases.

The findings, released without fanfare in late August, are the result of a five-year project that drew widely on experts from academia, industry and the provinces.

Using statistics for the year 2000, the task force found that the often-hidden social costs for all modes of transport ranged between $24.4 billion and $39.5 billion – or up to 17 per cent of the total costs of transport that year.

Automobile accidents represented the largest single source of social costs. Researchers determined that a Canadian life was worth about $4 million on average, based on insurance and court settlements, and that fully disabling accidents cost an average of $260,000.

Altogether, road accidents accounted for an estimated $16 billion in social costs in 2000, compared with just $370 million for accidents involving planes, trains and boats combined.


So, one of our greatest sources of carbon is also one of the biggest drags on the economy and costs us $40 billion a year. That's significant and counters the argument that saving the planet would cripple the economy. Failing to save the planet is what will cripple the economy. It's already doing so but these sort of reports are "released without fanfare".

There was another report recently released quietly that projected the health care costs associated with climate change.

Canadians have paid for high quality research but when that research doesn't jibe with Harper's environment versus economy ideology, those reports are downplayed and released quietly, if at all.

Green collar job creation has been instrumental in keeping Germany's job picture rosy. Alternate energy projects and initiatives have created more that 200,000 new jobs in Germany and green collar jobs now outnumber auto industry jobs in the land of Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz.

Of course if you really want to Go Green, Vote Green.


Jesse said...

Hate to quibble, but I think you need to edit; the odds of a bigger minority and a smaller minority can't both be 50%... there must be a chance of the exact same minority, mustn't there?

lance said...

JB. False dichotomy? Good luck campaigning on that. We haven't even had the Green Shift explained in less than a speech yet and now you want to bring in the idea that broad based costs < targetted tax cuts?

And have Dion sell it?

Jesse, yes they can, they're odds, not a whole.

ottlib said...

If you take the Strategic Council or the Angus-Reid polls as reflecting reality then your analysis is probaby correct Steve.

However, if you take Nanos, Decima or even Ipsos-Reid's latest offering then I think you are understating the Liberals' chances, perhaps by a large margin.

In the past 30 years historical voting patterns have demonstrated that election campaigns have been very unkind to incumbent governments. They almost always lose support during the course of an election campaign with their main opponent being the chief benefactor. So, again, if Nanos is closer to reality than SC the Liberals are closer to a majority government than the Conservatives.

I blogged about this the other day so if you want more detail on that I would direct you to that post.

As well, the Conservatives and the media have been very successful in lowering expectations for Stephane Dion so it should be easier for him to perform above those expectations. If he does then we could expect a rise in support for the Liberals.

Finally, your handicap is a good example of the conventional wisdom on the current political climate.

However, I would point out that conventional wisdom stated that Jean Chretien would be reduced to a minority government in 2000. It stated that Paul Martin was poised to sweep Canada in 2004, even taking more than two seats in Alberta. It stated that the Conservatives would never win government with Stephen Harper as its leader. It stated that the Conservatives would never rise above single digits in Quebec with Stephen Harper as its leader. It stated that Michael Ignatieff would win the Liberal leadership and Stephane Dion would come in well down in the pack.

So, in just this last decade conventional wisdom has been flat wrong on every major political question.

Who knows maybe conventional wisdom is due to be right. The Law of Averages must kick in at some point I guess but there is a strong possibility that October 14 may again prove conventional wisdom was all wrong again.

JimmE said...

I can hardly wait for the kids in polar bear suits & seniors who lost their life savings trusting the INCOME TRUST WHOPPER to follow the present PM around the country. Yup, can hardly wait.

Steve V said...

"Hate to quibble, but I think you need to edit; the odds of a bigger minority and a smaller minority can't both be 50%... there must be a chance of the exact same minority, mustn't there?"

I realized that, just thought it simplier on that score, because of some many seats in play, the chance of the same seat totals highly unlikely. I did it differently for the Bloc and NDP.


Leave it too you to say 30% is a vast understatement ;) Seriously, I agree about the more reliable polls, it looks good for the Liberals, but that isn't the only consideration. You do have to incorporate Dion, and I leave room for improvement, in fact I think we'll see it. However, that's an IF, so you can't just assume.

Also, the Cons do seem to have a slight advantage in organization, or election readiness, if you will, so that's another factor, the intangibles.

ottlib said...


I have rarely ever bought convention wisdom. It is too pat and it is wrong more often than it is right.

Handicapping elections is always fraught with pitfalls because of all of the unforeseen variables which is why I put a big disclaimer at the front of the last post at my place.

It is the same in this case.

I do not know how this election is going to unfold but I do know one thing. It will unfold in a way that no one has foreseen and I am reasonably certain that election night will surprise alot of people.

Steve V said...


I don't dispute that, I've never seen a campaign go according to script. My handicapping is just my personal opinion, based on the situation at present. Nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Yep, sounds reasonable. I think turnout levels and get out the vote efforts will be crucial, especially given this seems like it will be about a "vote against" election rather then a "vote for something" election.

A lower turnout increases the chance of a Conservative victory, given their voters are generally more reliable to come out and vote.


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

I think your numbers are pretty good. My one quibble (being a Green, no less) is that while I agree with May's chances being 10%, I think that your estimate of the Greens maintaining a seat at 50% is way to high. I would put it at 20%.

Steve V said...


You put Wilson's chances that low?

Anonymous said...

"You put Wilson's chances that low?"

Yes, not that I can claim to know much about Wilson or his riding, but my guess is that even though he was cleared by elections Canada his popularity has taken a beating. I hope I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget that Wilson won in 2006 by less than 1000 votes, and that the GPC candidate only got 6%. For Wilson to win he has to be able keep almost all of his Liberal votes, I can't see him doing that. I figure that he will actually be in a race with the NDP for 3rd place.