the numbers guy

Could a ‘united right’ threaten the NDP lead in British Columbia?

Posted on: May 10, 2012

BC’s next election is scheduled for just over a year from now on 14 May 2013 – and the province is already in something of a political ferment, with Premier Christy Clark’s governing BC Liberals having recently lost two of their electoral strongholds to the NDP in by-elections.

A big reason for these Liberal losses was the split in the centre-right vote due to the surge in support for the BC Conservatives, a party which won just 2.1% of the vote in the last election back in 2009.

Last time out the BC Liberals won 49 seats to the NDP‘s 35, with Independent Vicki Huntington picking up the remaining seat in the 85-seat legislature. The BC Liberals had a narrower win in terms of percentages in 2009, winning 45.8% to the NDP’s 42.1%.

The opinion polls reflect just how much things have changed in British Columbia politics since 2009. The most recent poll is from Forum Research who were last in the field on 2 May:

The headline figures of NDP 48%, LIB 23%, CON 19%, GRN 8% may seem eyebrow-raising – but are pretty much in line with those from other pollsters who have also shown the NDP with a hefty double-digit lead over a BC Liberal Party struggling to stave off the surge from the BC Conservatives.

When these poll results are broken down by region and fed into my BC seat projection model, the NDP would unsurprisingly win a sweeping majority:

The NDP would win 68 seats with the Liberals being reduced to a rump of just 9, the Conservatives winning 6, and independents 2.

(For ridings where the BC Conservatives did not stand a candidate in 2009, my seat projection model allocated them a notional support value somewhat lower than that of their weakest ridings in the region.)

With the NDP polling this well with barely over a year until the election, many on the right are urging the Liberals and Conservatives to bury the hatchet and form some kind of alliance, coalition or even a merger. What might happen if the BC Liberals and BC Conservatives did join forces in this way?

Well, with the NDP polling just a couple of points below the 50% mark, even a straightforward addition of the BC Liberal and BC Conservative support base would not be enough to prevent an NDP majority:

The NDP would still come out on top, winning 47 seats to a projected 36 seats for the Lib/Con pact. That said, it would be a close race in much of the province, and the NDP would have Vancouver Island to thank for their majority.

Of course, a straightforward addition of BC Liberal support to that of the BC Conservatives is very unlikely to be how things would actually pan out in the event of a merger. Some supporters of both parties would be alienated by the prospect of working with the other. For example, some moderate BC Liberal supporters may feel they have more in common with the Greens or with the NDP than with the Conservatives. A ‘free enterprise coalition’ could prove less popular than the sum of it’s parts.

Angus-Reid reportedly have a poll in the field looking at how attractive a ‘Free Enterprise Coalition’ would be under a range of different prospective leaders. When these figures are published we’ll start to get a better idea of what support for a centre-right merger or alliance would look like – I’ll run a new seat projection based on the results when they are released.


1 Response to "Could a ‘united right’ threaten the NDP lead in British Columbia?"

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