Saturday, April 30, 2011


I firmly believe, if we had an election period ban on polls (not a statement on merits one way or other), our current perceptions would be far different. It's sort of any interesting consideration, imagine a world wherein every day's tone wasn't determined by the polling? I don't think anyone would dispute the overwhelming influence of polls, the almost self fulfilling nature of the subsequent digestion. Personally, I've been dejected more than a few mornings, knowing a poor result will mean another rash of negativity for my party. Even my NDP friends, now benefiting from poll momentum can remember way, way back three weeks ago, when the "squeeze" was on, in key regions talk of collapse. It's a funny animal, polls are central to everything, all the cues, all the analysis, so we tend to really have a very superficial campaign.

In the imaginary world of no polls, I am convinced people would have a very different view of the Liberal campaign. Even now, critics acknowledge a fairly seamless campaign. Liberals have seen great creativity from our team, overall very competent, quick to react, isolate yourself to just conduct, no relationship to apocalyptic scenarios we now entertain. On that score, this from today's Susan Delacourt column:
About $4-million has flowed into federal Liberal coffers during the past month – more than the party raised in the past three elections combined, and double the party’s fundraising targets for this campaign, according to party officials.

A lot of that money has been sent in through small cheques, accompanied by hand-written notes of encouragement to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

“It’s a lot of direct mail. People have been writing out a cheque, putting in the mail. And that’s a very interesting sign, about why I’m saying to you the base will show up,” Ignatieff said when he visited the Star’s offices this week.

Remarkable isn't it? I mean, here we sit with all these dreadful polls, prognostications, dancing on the graves and YET a defying infux of CASH, probably the most concrete example of resonance. I remember vividly, it was when Obama started to raise serious money, challenge Clinton, that is where the momentum really began, again a concrete sign that something may be afoot. That Ignatieff has doubled our projections is a very positive sign indeed, but apparently it operates in isolation, perplexing to say the least.

We've had the crowds, I would venture multiple times more this campaign than in 2008. Prior to the collapse, plenty of praise of Ignatieff on the stump, I know I was quite pleased, particularly how he had evolved, how he related to the questions, not perfect, but formidable. Okay, so turnout big CHECK, leader CHECK, fundraising big CHECK, our war room CHECK, social media integration CHECK. Without the polls that never showed us getting traction, even prior to the debates, I would have given us the edge, based on pure perception. I'd also add, of all the platforms, ours seemed to offer the newer planks. You'll recall Layton came out with old ideas about bank interest rates, while Harper had absolutely nothing but fear. A quick aside, this isn't sour grapes, more an internal attempt to understand the disconnect.

It means ABSOLUTELY nothing, so don't attach any real meaning to this declaration, but if we lived in a world where campaign polls weren't part of equation, I bet today, instead of post-mortems, people would be saying their mental math predicted a good showing for we Liberals. I don't know what will happen, but this is without a doubt- both sides of the border- the most peculiar, throw out the intangibles, campaign I think I've ever seen...


Scott @ Prog Blog said...

It'd be nice if those 800 000 or so Liberal voters who didn't show up to vote last election DID show up this time. That would throw a wrench into things.

Steve V said...

For what it's worth, my limited sense is Liberals understand the stakes and will be active election day. I bet turnout is up over 2008.

Kirk said...

I think that it was because of the lack of movement for the Liberals in the polls that when the NDP started to make gains against the BQ thereby raising his aggregate national numbers, according to the polls, that people said, "OK, if Ignatieff isn't going to bring down Harper then it looks like Layton can".

Funny thing is the the NDP-BQ dynamic had nothing to do with anything elsewhere in Canada outside of Quebec.

The collapse of the Bloc made Layton the anti-Harper hero.

Even funnier is that except for 4 or 5% of Canadians who've stopped supporting the Conservative since their heady 40% plus days before the election we've seen very little change in the Conservative vote, just shifting of the non-Conservative vote which is now viewed, strangely, as progress against Harper.

Steve V said...

Agreed. You might recall before the NDP surge I said QC numbers for us were blunting our national numbers momentum. We were actually doing quite well in Ontario over 40%, BC showed promise, but we needed to get back up to high 20's in QC (which we were and more prior under Iggy).

Alison said...

A ban on publishing poll results during the campaign, as well as a ban on out-of-writ political ads would go a long way to improving our democracy. The media would then have to spend their time on the issues. That would be a shock!

The parties could still use polling results for their internal use.

In all honesty, Ignatieff has run a very good campaign for his first time. And you are right about the platform. It combines the best of fiscal responsibility with necessary social programs. It is far superior to either the NDP or the Cons.

Purple library guy said...

While I agree 100%, I have a funny feeling that this never occurred to you in past elections when polls tended to reinforce Liberal "natural governing party" mythology rather than undermine it.
Bit late to complain at this stage about the institution that's been important to maintaining Liberal importance for decades.
After the election, can we expect sudden Liberal musings about the undemocratic nature of the First-Past-the-Post electoral system? That too will be welcome and absolutely true, yet somehow hard to take seriously.

Steve V said...

I do think we would have a deeper discussion of issues, no question about it. You would still get cues of internal polling, based on where leaders were campaigning, money, volunteers, just not central consideration. I LOVE polls obviously, but really my main attraction is because I know how much they mean for momentum, you hope your side shows something in the polls so the media will key in, like what has happened to the NDP. It just feeds and feeds, good if it's you, but hard to recover if not, that's the self fulfilling part.

Steve V said...

" I have a funny feeling that this never occurred to you in past elections"

You'd be way wrong then :)

Just to expand, I saw many clues in 2008 that gave me a sense of dread, all of those missing this time. BTW, I was never a Liberal during the "natural governing" reign, so maybe don't throw out judgements without knowing your subject matter.

sharonapple88 said...

Steve, it's interesting to look a regional poll like this one from Halifax. The bit that catches my attention is the high number of undecided voters.

"Perhaps more interesting, however, is 29 per cent of those surveyed remain undecided — a rare thing so late in the campaign.

“It’s a bit of a mystery,” said Rick Emberley, senior council for MarketQuest-Omnifacts.

“The normal range with four or five days left in the campaign would be in the very high teens ... It’s a signal of some description, and definitely indicates there’s a bunch of people out there sitting on the fence.”

Kirk said...

Purple library guy, the domination of polling in news reporting and commentary has grown remarkably in the last 10 years. I don't think Conservatives were all that concerned with polls during the Liberal "natural governing party" years either.

Jerry Prager said...

I just keep being impressed by what a good leader in a crisis that Iggy is turning out to be, he just keeps going, keeps believing in his people, and giving his people reason to believe. I saw him today in Guelph, Frank V looked like he was frozen in the lights on the national media, hanging in because his leader was giving him the strength, and if that strength is coming from the base, then that is why Ignatieff is emanating strength for Frank and the party.His leadership numbers are rising while JL's and SH's numbers are falling, a ways to go yet, but this election is a wild ride. Iggy could turn out to be the come back kid.
At the start of the campaign Bob Rae implied that there would be days like these. It really isn't over yet.

Jerry Prager said...

The tortoise and the hares.

Dame said...

we have an exceptionally super quality intellect a very decent character.. who NEVER shy away to answer ANY question.. we have a great leader in all senses. he built the party with GRIT ... and allI am asking we stay with him and he stays with us... for a long time..
this is not real a flashing mania .. will not hold it is a wind only.
Quebec is full of winds showing they are unhappy forever.
I always thought polls are poisons.
We will do much better then polls suggest.

Kirk said...

If the Liberal Party response to this election is to say "Change the target, this one's full of holes" then they won't have learned anything. Martin, Dion and Ignatieff - that's 3 Liberal leaders shot down by Harper and just having a fourth one doesn't change the pattern.

The Liberals need to stay in the game after the election and a minority Harper govt (almost guaranteed) will make for a lot of games. To go into neutral with an interim leader and internal attention focused on a leadership campaign will make the Liberals irrelevant at a crucial time, finishing the process started by a likely fall into third place.

sharonapple88 said...

I'm not sure if it's the campaign that's making Liberal supporters passionate, or if there's the feeling it's do or die time. How many people are volunteering? I'm not sure what it's like on the other political blog aggregates, but it seem as though practically everyone on liblogs is doing something.

As for leadership... the real test will be after the election. There are party leaders -- for example, Mike Harris and Dalton McGuinty -- no matter how you feel about them, who managed to revitalize their parties, sometimes even rebuilding themselves in the process. Whatever happens, good or bad, we're going to need someone like that.

Niles said...

The only thing I fear is the split of the Liberals and NDP to let the Cons slide up the middle.

Mr. Layton and the NDP got the uber media notice the Liberals didn't because it's sudden and exciting and sorta kinda like the other unrest in the world. Everything I've managed to scrounge on Ignatieff said he does really well, but how often in the supper news has that been a feature?

I like to think that the Conservatives were caught off guard by the sudden outside rush of voting opinion because they were covering their 'man', Ignatieff and the Liberals. Why would they be concentrating so hard on him and the Libs if there wasn't pressure saying he needed kneecapping hard?

So now, the Cons are going, well crap, which way do we spin? So Harper tries to tell the Liberals they should score on their own goal by backing the Cons? So he can not only have the power to defund the VotePer, but get more money for his own party until he does so? Is this anything like trying to reassure the general voters, it's ok, the Cons know they can't get a majority, so don't come out and vote?

If it's anything less than a majority for the Cons, the Liberals and NDP will need to join at the hip anyway. At this point, IF Harper simply glues himself to the PMO and needs hoisting on a petard, even the fat lady singing the polls are closed in Bamfield means this isn't over.

If the outcome is 'merely' that Harper needs help from another party, if either Red or Orange backs the Cons post-election, I don't see a bright future for either.

Cathie from Canada said...

Actually, I just don't understand why Ignatieff hasn't generated any momentum. But then again, I like him. People who didn't like him before apparently STILL don't like him, he didn't manage to change their minds at all. Layton, on the other hand, did change people's minds -- they saw four guys on a stage, and Jack's the one they liked.

bazie said...

"poll feedback" as I like to call it is particularly strong with regards to the NDP over other parties because a lot of what has held them back is the perception that they simply can't win and so it is a wasted vote. As that perception is challenged because of our awareness of the poll changes, it increases the chances of continuing movement towards the NDP

Kirk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk said...

If the outcome is 'merely' that Harper needs help from another party, if either Red or Orange backs the Cons post-election, I don't see a bright future for either.

What happens after the election will depend on a lot of variables.

But if it's 120 Con with 100 NDP that would make any Harper declaration that he is the sole, uncontested winner of the election and should be declared Supreme Leader hubris that will be obvious to almost all Canadians.

However, if it's 150 Con then no matter what the numbers of the other parties it will be hard to deny that Harper has a stronger legitimacy as our returning conqueror.

CK said...

In addition to perhaps eliminating polls everyday, perhaps newspapers shouldn't be endorsing parties. This I've always had a problem with.

It's one thing for a newspaper to print columns of opinion and such, but endorsments? That's hardly responsible media.

The Toronto Star's endorsement of the NDP as well as the endorsements for Cons will ultimately tell people how to vote. Many do swallow that corporate media kool-aid.

I think the Toronto Star's endorsement of the NDP really doesn't help the Liberals.

bubba said...

No party has ever promised so much and delivered so little(child care,Gst).No party has ever damaged key areas (health and education) as badly.No party has damaged the military more deeply. I can not wait to see who gets blamed for liberal devastation on may 3(attack ads,ignorant electorate). Because no party has ever taken less responsibility for their weaknesses

Steve V said...

"No party has ever promised so much and delivered so little"

Except for this one.

sharonapple88 said...

Except for this one.


Harper promised accountablity in 2006.... we've seen how that's turned out.

He also said he'd have a better relationship with the provinced. Newfoundland ran the "Anyone But a Conservative" campaign. Sask threatened to rebel over the Potash situation.

Balanced budgets -- out the window.

Then there was the promise to reform the Senate.

These are just the things from the top of my head.

Kirk said...

Bubba, Canada spends the second highest percentage of it's GDP on health care for developed countries after these supposed Liberal cuts and yet it has mediocre, at best, outcomes. (It also has amongst the highest level of private dollars in health care so don't bother to bring that up).

So how did any "Liberal" damage to health care occur? It's certainly not because Canadians aren't spending enough.

Liberals brought in a universal child care plan. Harper killed it.

The military was hardly damaged under Chretien or any Liberal PM. It just wasn't funded to the endless degree that the Cons want. We could outspend the US as a % of GDP and Cons would still want to spend more. Those dark days for the military actually were referring to the shame the military brought upon itself for the torture and killing of Somalis and only now have Cons twisted that to be about supposed under funding.

Education? isn't that a provincial responsibility? Even university education is only a shared area.

And GST? Well, that's just the equivalent of the Cons "Income Trust Promise" yet Cons like to ignore that.