Friday, April 22, 2011

The Legitimacy of the NDP Surge:: What the Data Says

Vidcap of Jack Layton-NDP Leader in Toronto announcing party platform regarding Internet & mobile,
calling PM Harper a "Commodore 64 in an iPad world",
There's a lot of talk about the NDP surge in the polls, particularly in Québec, which Nik Nanos stated earlier in the week is mainly in Montréal. EKOS has the NDP projected to win 60 seats. While there's rampant speculation about whether or not this will come to pass, I believe it's in the realm of possibility that Bloc voters shift to the NDP. I blogged earlier about the Parliamentary voting patterns in recent history, where in the 39th. Parliament {2006-8 under Stephen Harper}, the Conservatives moved towards the Bloc, while the Bloc and the NDP were very close in ideological space::

If there is Bloc fatigue, the NDP is going to be the closest federalist alternative, given the two dimensions of Canada's political space {Opposition/Government and Québec}. Voting for the NDP at the expense of Bloc seats, which is what most pundits believe, would alter the power balance in Ottawa. The tradeoff for a nationalist vote is an ideological one. Voting to create a strong NDP is a vote for the opposite of Harper's Conservative party, given the NDP's voting record places them as the party most opposed to the Conservatives in the 39th. I think there's a tipping point for a NDP bandwagon effect in Québec that can spread to other regions. If the NDP can sustain their polling numbers and turnout is relatively high, this could make things interesting. Given that it looks {to me} that Harper will win a minority but not a majority, the Conservatives will have to compromise with the opposition—so Québec can choose to force them to compromise on nationalism or ideology. If they vote Bloc, they are voting for nationalism, but within the status quo. 

The "Mainstreaming" of the NDP
This post showed how the underlying political preference pattern shows how fragmentation is leading to all three federal parties representing a core, as opposed to one dominating. The political preference pattern is determined through EKOS federal voting intent and second choice data. Looking at the last EKOS poll before the 2008 election is instructive. The poll numbers {EKOS predictions were quite accurate in 2008} for federal vote intent were:: The CPC 34.8LPC 26.4NDP 19.4, GPC 9.6BQ 9.8. The second choice pattern shows the fragmentation of the opposition parties, with the key overlap being the mutual support structure of the Liberals and the NDP. The stronger Liberal voting intent numbers put them in the driver's seat.

 EKOS Second Choice data, October 13, 2008
Examining the coreness data I ran in UCInet {v.6.198}, in 2008, Stephen Harper's Conservatives could have legitimately made a claim that they had a mandate since they were the only party in the core.

Bloc 11.76                              NDP 39.1      Liberal 46.3                         Conservatives 73.6
    periphery< |---------------------------- 39.7---------------------------| >core
                19.1                                mean                             60.03

                   Canadian Political Party Coreness, 13 October 2008, EKOS data
                                  mean= 39.7, standard deviation {σ} = 20.6

Fast forward to this week. The current EKOS numbers for federal vote intent were:: The CPC 34.4LPC 24.7NDP 24.7, GPC 7.8BQ 6.5. The second choice numbers show how the NDP has underlying support for and by those supporting other parties as a first choice. The over 50% of Liberals who consider the NDP a second choice is as telling as the 40.1% of Bloc supporters doing the same. There's also a rise of overlap from 2008 between the NDP and the Conservatives.

EKOS Second Choice data, survey taken April 18-20, 2011

The latest numbers have the NDP and Liberals {in that order} either just outside the core or all three parties in it, depending on the statistical heuristic one uses. A strict test {based on the mean and standard deviation of coreness scores} finds the Conservatives hanging on to the core alone. The NDP has leapfrogged the Liberals, which means that the party is no longer perceived as on the fringes::

            Bloc 9.5                                 Liberal 45.2 NDP 51.9            Conservatives 68.8
periphery< |------------------------- 33.1---------------------------| >core
                 9.2                               mean                             57.7
                     Canadian Political Party Coreness, 21 April 2011, EKOS data
                                  mean= 33.1, standard deviation {σ} = 23.9

A more liberal test {based on concentration scores} has all three in the core.

The top three nodes being the Conservatives, NDP, and Liberals. It should be noted that being in the core doesn't translate into seats in a first-past-the-post system. The Bloc has been in the periphery and has more seats than the NDP and the Greens, which are closer to the core.

Implications: A Leftward Shift?
Cutting to the chase, I feel this shows that across the country that the NDP is gaining mainstream appeal. Does this mean the electorate is shifting towards the left? I'm not sure on that one. I think there's an anti-Ottawa effect that is driving the Jackiste or Jackomanie support in Québec. That brings up the issue of a leader effect. The conventional wisdom of Layton being a popular leader of an unpopular party might be giving way to "let's give Jack a chance."

The above core analyses show how the NDP has increasingly mainstream appeal, but will this split the vote and allow the Conservatives to come up the middle? I think there's a social contagion effect that can cause voters to flock to the NDP, implying a tipping point. I still ponder how many people in the US voted for Barack Obama without really knowing his positions on various issues. When the economy started to slip and the McCain-Palin campaign sputtered, a contagion effect swept Barack to office. Unfortunately, the selling of "hope" created lofty expectations in a hungover post-bubble economy that's reluctant to recover. What would the expectations for the NDP be? Well, the Conservatives approached the NDP to try to garner their support for the latest budget. Jim Flaherty's concessions were symbolic crumbs, which the NDP rejected. The effective role of a stronger NDP will be the shifting a minority Conservative government policies towards the left. Now, the Liberals and Bloc in Québec could make the same pitch, but momentum isn't on their side.

Twitterversion:: [blog] Is the #NDP surge legitimate? Data shows +mainstream appeal of the party, so is this a new political era? #elxn41  @Prof_K

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