the numbers guy

Archive for July 2011

One of the great things about a federal system from the point of view of a political anorak is that there’s almost always another election around the corner.

2011 has already been a particularly exciting year in Canadian politics – not only did we witness the seismic general election in May (when the Conservatives won their first overall majority since 1988 and the NDP became the official opposition for the first time), we also have an enticing series of upcoming provincial and territorial elections – taking place in Ontario, Saskatchewan, PEI, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon – as well as a possible fall election in British Columbia.

In this piece, I’ll take a look at Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, which goes to the polls on Monday October 3rd.

The current Liberal govt of Robert Ghiz has a 24-2 seat majority (with 1 seat vacant) over the Progressive Conservatives in the PEI Legislative Assembly–  having won the 2007 election with 52.9% of the vote to the PC’s 41.3%. PEI is traditionally a two party system, with the third placed Greens (3.0%) and fourth-placed NDP (1.9%) lacking any significant regional or demographic base. No Green or NDP candidate even managed second place in any provincial riding last time out.

There are a number of factors to look out for this time round:

The Swing: The provincial Tories will need a province-wide two party swing of 5.8% from the Liberals to win the most votes. To actually take power they’ll need to win 14 seats (a gain of 10 from last time), and if the provincial result is narrow this may come down to a handful of battleground ridings.

The Battleground: If the election looks like being close, both parties will be focussing on a key group of 6 ridings, in which the Liberal majority was between 400 and 500 votes last time. To get to the magic number of 14, the Tories will need to hold their 4 eastern ridings, along with winning the 7 ridings in which the Liberals had a majority of under 400 – and also 3 out of these 6 ridings:

If the Liberals can hold 4 or more of these ridings, their majority should be safe.

Another blowout win? – winners in PEI tend to win big, due to the lack of well-entrenched political strongholds (the Tories tend historically to do a bit better in the east, the Liberals in the west, but not by much) and the centrist tradition of both main parties. Last time out the Liberals won 85% of the seats on 53% of the vote. The previous election the Tories won 85% of the seats on 55%. Not since 1986 has an opposition party even made it to double figures in terms of seats.

The NDP factor: Will the NDP improve on their traditionally poor performance in the province? The federal election in May saw an orange wave in Quebec. and there’s been some polling evidence since then of a spillover effect into Atlantic Canada. The NDP will be hampered however by their lack of a regional base (their best result in 2007 was 7.2% in Charlottetown-Victoria Park) – they will really need a huge improvement on their province-wide total of 1.9% last time out to be in with a shout of winning an assembly seat for just the 2nd time in their history. Another factor is the small size of provincial ridings in PEI, with MLAs representing at most just 5000 people – this makes the ground game and organization particularly important. Smaller parties lacking in established political organization may suffer as a result.

The Polls:Polling figures for PEI are scant, the most recent being from Corporate Research Associates back in May. That poll pegged the Liberals on 51% (down 2% from 2007), the Progressive Conservatives on 35% (down 7), the NDP on 13% (up 11) and the Greens on 2% (down 1). If repeated on election day, these figures would result in an easy Liberal majority (possibly even a sweep).

However it’s only one poll, and it also had undecideds at 40% so there’s clearly a lot still to play for between now and October 3rd.

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Here are some numbers I pulled over the weekend , on the total followers each GOP candidate has on their official Facebook and Twitter sites (as of Sat 16 July):

Although I’ve included Twitter in this graph, I’m wary of making a direct comparison between a Facebook ‘like’, which implies a degree of support, and a Twitter ‘follow’, which merely implies interest in what the politician has to say.

Here are the figures on how much each candidate has raised in individual contributions to date, and on how much each raised from sub-$200 donations. (source: NY Times , Note: Huntsman wasn’t required to file an FEC return last quarter)

And finally a comparison of Facebook likes with amount raised through small donations:

It’s still early days in the GOP race, so these figures are just early indicators. Some candidates have built up extensive following on social networks through years of political prominence. Others, like Huntsman, have only recently come to public attention outside the Beltway or their home state. And, of course, there are still two big beasts yet to declare – Palin with her 3,191,925 Facebook fans, and Perry with his more modest 70,485.

I’m setting out these numbers in order to use them as a base going forward – changes over the coming months of the race could well prove intriguing – for example, a significant increase in social networking followers could be a strong lead indicator of growing ‘real world’ political momentum going into Iowa and NH.

I’m also interested (and I’m not the only one) in tracking the correlation between having a strong social network following and a strong small-donor fundraising base – so this topic is one to watch closely as the campaign develops.

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Posted on: July 16, 2011

Welcome. This will be a blog mostly about politics. And numbers. And how the two go together to tell us interesting things.



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