the numbers guy

‘Free Enterprise Coalition’ in BC could amount to less than the sum of its parts

Posted on: May 17, 2012

Angus Reid have now released the results of their poll which looked at how some form of ‘Free Enterprise Coalition’, bringing together the BC Liberals and Conservatives, might fare against the BC NDP in next year’s election.

Angus Reid’s party-by-party results show the BC NDP well ahead on 50%, followed by the BC Liberals on 23%, the BC Conservatives on 19% and the Greens on 6% – figures very much in line with the 2 May poll from Forum Research.

If these numbers are reflected on election day, the NDP would clearly win a landslide majority. My seat projection last week, based on very similar numbers from Forum Research, had the NDP on 68 seats, the Liberals on 9, the Conservatives on 6 along with 2 independents.

Where the Angus Reid poll gets particularly interesting, however, is where voters are asked who they would support if the Liberals and Conservatives come together in a ‘Free Enterprise Coalition’. A coalition led by current premier Christy Clark would win support from 20% of British Columbians, to 33% for the NDP. (A coalition led by finance minister Kevin Falcon would have 21% support, and one led by Conservative leader John Cummins would have 17%).

Significantly, the number of undecideds leapt up from 16% on the traditional party support question, to 35% when asked to consider a coalition. With over 1 in 3 undecided, any projection has to come with a major health warning. The poll also has ‘Others/Independents’ on a relatively high total of 7% compared to 2% on the traditional question.

With both these major caveats duly noted, here goes. If you allocate the undecideds proportionately to the other parties (and assume that ‘Others’ do as well as they did in 2009), the FEC would be on 34%, the NDP on 57%, the Greens on 7% and Others on 2%. This would result in a sweeping victory for the NDP:

Perhaps a more realistic scenario may be to split the undecideds equally between the ‘Free Enterprise Coalition’ and the NDP (while giving a small portion to the Greens and again assuming that ‘Others’ only do as well as they did in 2009) – this would result in headline support figures of FEC 39%, NDP 53%, Greens 6% and Others 2%. This scenario would result in a closer but still solid NDP win:

Despite numbers like these, the NDP can’t afford to take anything for granted. The 35% undecideds are the crucial factor – if they were to swing decisively towards a coalition, the NDP’s hopes of a majority could be dashed. It’s also worth noting that NDP support among all voters (including undecideds) is about 42% when all parties are listed – but drops to 33% of all voters when the prospect of a coalition is put on the table.

That said, for advocates of a coalition, the Angus Reid findings don’t offer much more by way of encouragement. The poll puts the combined BC Liberal and Conservative support on 42% – but support for a coalition between the two parties falls well short of that figure.

It may be that should a coalition actually be formed, it could prove more attractive to voters than these numbers suggest. But there’s not much hard evidence in this poll to support that proposition – hard evidence which coalition advocates will surely need if their project is to gain momentum.

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