Projections update September 17th: Liberals possibly in majority territory

Projections update September 17th: Liberals possibly in majority territory
With new polls from Ipsos, Mainstreet and Nanos yesterday, the projections have moved a little bit. Thanks to strong numbers in Quebec and Ontario, the Liberals of Justin Trudeau are right at the door of another majority.

Before going further, here are the projections:

The riding by riding projections:

I understand that it might seem weird given some of the recent trends regarding the nationwide numbers. Nanos for instance has shown the Tories moving from almost a 3 points deficit to a 1 point lead in 3 days. Mainstreet has also seen the CPC rising.

But Ipsos, that had the CPC ahead, now has them tied with the Grits. More importantly however, the numbers in Quebec and Ontario are just too good for the Liberals. and they might actually be undesestimated there!

As I was discussing the other day (in French), the collapse of the NDP in Quebec is opening wide open a door to many gains for the Liberals. Trudeau and his candidates don't even need to gain votes or anything, they'll likely recover a majority of the 16 NDP seats from 2015. The Conservatives are doing fairly well in Quebec (slightly above 20%) and would likely keep their seats and make some gains. But their support is simply way too concentrated to really prevent the Liberals from winning 50+ seats. Could it change? Sure, I mean everything is possible. But Scheer's French is definitely inferior to Harper's. I don't really see any reason why the Conservatives would suddenly go above 25% in that province.

The Bloc could. Almost dead in 2011, this party is now on the rise. At 20-22% in the polls, it's still too low to really compete with the LPC in most of the province. However, we can easily imagine the Bloc gaining back some of the NDP votes. Should the nationalist party climb back to 25% and above, this could cost the Liberals multiple seats (in the east of Montreal island, the suburbs and elsewhere). The Bloc's message is very well aligned with the CAQ's one and this party remains extremely popular in Quebec.

I should mention that Mainstreet is providing riding polls and so far, in Quebec, they show the NDP even lower than the national polls. It's possible the party of Jagmeet Singh is below 5%! The Liberals, on the other hand, are higher in those polls by a few points. I haven't made any adjustment yet but it'll come soon. So if you're somehow hoping for the national polls to be wrong and overestimate the Liberals, well the riding polls are bad news for you.

Then there is Ontario. This is the province Andrew Scheer needs to win. Without major breakthrough in Quebec, he can't afford to be behind in Ontario. Sure he's in very good positions in the Prairies, Alberta and especially BC to make significant gains, but he'll fall short of the magic number of 169 without Ontario. As a matter of fact, he would fall of even creating any suspense and finish behind the Liberals.

Polls have been fairly clear over the last two weeks: Trudeau and the Liberals are ahead in Canada's most populous province. Yes they might be down compared to 2015 (and it's actually not sure), but they are still ahead. And by enough to maybe win a majority. The seats they'd lose would be compensated by the gains in Quebec.

There as well the riding polls are showing that the Liberals might actually be even higher than what the national polls are indicating. And the NDP is below any expectations. I'm talking of the NDP collapsing below 10% in Ontario. Yes that seems absurd but those are the current numbers.

The one thing surprising to me is that all those numbers don't match well with a very detailed Innovative survey. In this one, we can clearly see that the Liberals are actually down among some major groups of voters, including what they refer to as the "core left". So you wouldn't really imagine the Liberals being able to compensate some losses by having some NDP voters joining them. More importantly, you have the "Canadian dream strugglers" where the Tories are now ahead. Those are exactly the people targeted by the Conservative campaign. So it's a little bit surprising to see the Liberals doing so well in Ontario where non-horse race numbers would point to a less favourable scenario (that includes the numbers regarding a desire for change).

In any case, I think it's fairly obvious the campaign is just starting. The Liberals will need to play defense for one long month. In Quebec the Bloc will attack them non-stop on bill 21. A Leger poll published recently clearly indicated that a vast majority of Quebecois support this bill. Although, it should be said, there might be just enough of a sizable minority for the Liberals to win enough votes.

In Ontario, I'd expect the CPC's message to resonate well in the GTA. Google Trends is showing that people are starting to learn more about Andrew Scheer. And while I don't think his campaign was spectacular during the first week, he also seems to be delivering his message to the people he wants.


Is the People's Party hurting the Conservatives?

So it's official (and surprising), the leader of the People's Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, has been invited to the official leaders' debate. A surprising decision given that the debate commission had initially told Bernier he didn't make the cut. I'm of the opinion that this was the right thing to do as the PPC is running candidates pretty much everywhere and, while it might not elect more than 1 MP (or zero actually), the polls put this party around 2-5%, a score that isn't negligible. It seems to me that should indeed be enough to be invited.

Andrew Scheer's reaction was, to say the least, not positive. See below.

Given that Bernier came super close to winning the leadership of the CPC (he would have if it weren't for the effort of the dairy farmers, let's be honest), and given the general policies of the PPC, the conventional wisdom is that the PPC is mostly hurting the Tories.

I'd tend to mostly agree with this assumption. A poll from Abacus supported this thesis, although it was done right after the creation of the PPC. My own analysis of the data (for instance I looked at the correlation between polls as well as looking at the before/after of polls from the same firms when they decided to include the PPC), confirmed this. Other polls (for instance polls showing how the 2015 votes is distributed currently) also pointed towards the PPC mostly taking votes from the CPC, but not only. I think it's really hard to give an exact estimate. I'd say anything between 40 to 60%. I'd say we can confidently say a majority (or plurality) of the PPC votes are coming from the CPC, but not all.

In my model, I assumed that the PPC was taking 40% of its votes from the CPC, 15% from the Liberals, 15% from the NDP and 30% from new voters. Some might be surprised that I'd even assumed some NDP voters defecting to the PPC but all the numbers analysis I ran showed that there was indeed a link. Remember, chances are that if you are reading this blog, you are a political nerd who knows the full left-right spectrum. For you, it's not logical to jump from NDP to the PPC. But many voters aren't that logical.

Before looking at the current impact of the PPC on the CPC's chances of winning, I need to mention a somewhat counter-intuitive effect of my model. For the sake of illustration, let's round the Conservatives' results at 32% in 2015. If the PPC is polling at 4% and we assume 50% of those votes are coming from the Tories, then they should be at 30% (32% minus half of 4%) if nothing else had changed. So when the polls are currently placing the party of Andrew Scheer at 35%, it means they are up by 3%+2%, not 3%. In other words, they made up for the 2% lost to the PPC by gaining 2% elsewhere. Depending on where this 2% is coming from, it could actually make the Conservative's vote more efficient (imagine for instance the CPC losing the 2% to the PPC in rural ridings but gaining it back in the suburbs). Key word: could.

So what it means is that keeping the CPC constant at 35%, the higher you input the PPC in the model, the bigger the positive swing for the CPC becomes! Again I understand it might seem counter-intuitive but I actually think it's very logical if you think about. Of course the key element here is whether the CPC is indeed really at 35%, but that's another question.

So, is the CPC currently hurt by the PPC? My latest projections have the CPC at 35.2% nationwide and 140 seats, compared to 34.1% and 165 seats for the Liberals (the Liberal vote is just more efficient, thanks to Quebec. Read this piece in French from yesterday if you want to know why the Liberals could make big gains there). Specifically, here what it looks like:

The PPC is at 3.2% and zero seat (Bernier is in a close race in his riding of Beauce). So let's assume that 40% of the PPC votes would vote for Scheer if the PPC didn't exist. 15% would go to the LPC, 15% to the NDP and 30% would simply not vote. Let's assume it's the same in every province (well except in Quebec where we will assume 40%, 10%, 10% and 20% to the Bloc).

Doing so would give the following projections:

So yes the Tories would indeed be higher (they gained 40% of 3.2% but also a little bit more since 30% of the PPC wouldn't vote, thus making the other votes be worth slightly more). But realistically, it's only changing a few seats.

With that said, a few seats could well be the difference between a majority or minority, or a Conservative or Liberal government. So it's too early to categorically state that the PPC isn't affecting this election. But it does seem to be fairly minor right now. Of course, this exercise is full of assumptions. Moreover, with Bernier at the debates, it's possible he'll actually take more votes away from the Tories.

If we instead assume that 60% of the PPC votes is from the CPC and 40% wouldn't vote (so no exchange between PPC, LPC and NDP or Bloc), we get the following:

So depending on the assumptions, it seems the existence of the PPC is costing the CPC between 1 and 4 seats. Alternatively, it means the gap with the Liberals is decreased from 25 seats to 17 in the most aggressive scenario here. So it's definitely not negligible in this case.

In conclusion, I think it's fair to say the PPC could indeed hurt the Conservatives the most. But it's also not currently making the difference between Scheer becoming Prime Minister or not.

Projections update, Monday September 16th

Quick update to the projections. I added the new daily trackers from Mainstreet and Nanos. Plus a few tweaks here and there (like the riding of Victoria). Nothing major. They are behind paywalls but I can add them to my averages. The Tories are now at 35% but... they still trail in Ontario and actually lose seats in Ontario and actually lose seats in this update.

Remember, this update is done early morning (like 1am Vancouver time). So no, it doesn't include any poll published in the AM on the East coast. Mostly because I'm still sleeping at that point!

I don't include the riding polls yet simply because we don't have enough. However, if I did, the Liberals would be even higher in Quebec while the NDP would be lower. But again, that's based on like 4-5 polls.

Have a nice day!

Remember that you can use the simulator here if you don't trust the polls (but trust me, at least when it's free, to convert percentages to seats).

And the riding by riding projections:

Élection fédérale 2019 Qui profitera de la baisse du NPD au Québec?

Premier billet en français de cette campagne. Comme à mon habitude, si le sujet concerne le Québec, j'écris dans la langue de Molière.

Le Québec joue toujours un rôle important lors d’une élection fédérale, ne serait-ce qu’en raison du nombre important de députés dans la province (78 sur 338). Mais cela est encore plus vrai cette année. Le Québec pourrait en effet être la clé d’une réélection pour Justin Trudeau.

Il y a une certaine ironie à voir une province qui a voté majoritairement pour la CAQ et la laïcité il y a 1 an de cela -et qui soutient majoritairement la loi 21- qui pourrait fort bien être la raison principale pour laquelle Trudeau conserva son poste. Mais la politique est parfois bizarre. Aussi, le mode de scrutin étant ce qu’il est, un parti à 35% peut gagner très gros, surtout si l’opposition est divisée.

Il est encore tôt dans cette campagne pour vraiment aller dans les détails. Les projections actuelles sont disponibles ici. Mais une chose semble acquise : le NPD est en forte chute par rapport à 2015. Tellement en fait que le parti de Jagmeet Singh se retrouve parfois derrière les Verts d’Elizabeth May et à des niveaux d’appuis d’avant 2008. En gros le NPD au Québec n’existe quasiment plus.

Les Néo-democrates avaient déjà subit de fortes pertes en 2015, 4 ans après une vague orange qui avait permis à cette formation de devenir l’opposition officielle. Ils avaient quand même remporté 16 sièges. La question devant nous est ainsi claire : à qui iront ces sièges? Regardons cela en détails.

Sur cette liste, Outremont est déjà retournée en mains Libérales après une partielle en raison de la démission de Thomas Mulcair.

Comme vous pouvez le voir, une bonne partie de ces victoires avaient été acquises par des marges très faibles. Avec le NPD sous les 10% dans les sondages au Québec -donc une baisse de plus de 15 points- il n’y a aucune chance que ces comtés serrées restent NDP.

L’autre fait marquant est que le PLC avait terminé 2e dans 13 comtés sur 16. Pour le parti de Trudeau, l’effondrement du NPD au Québec fournit une banquet de possiblement 13 sièges supplémentaires (pour rappel le PLC avait remporté 40 sièges en 2015).

Les Conservateurs ne sont pas bien placés pour aucun de ces sièges. Cela fait en sorte que pour Andrew Scheer, s’il veut avoir une chance de devenir Premier Ministre, il doit compter sur le Bloc pour empêcher le PLC de récolter plus de 50 sièges au Québec. Car si un tel scénario devait arriver, cela rendrait la tâche du chef Conservateur très, très difficile. Il lui faudrait gagner l’Ontario par une bonne marge. Or, les sondages actuels ne montrent de loin pas cela.

Est-ce le Bloc peut profiter de la baisse du NPD pour reprendre du poile de la bête au Québec? Après tout, avant 2011, le Bloc était quasiment assuré de remporter le plus de sièges dans la province. Pendant longtemps les électeurs Bloquistes partageaient beaucoup avec le NPD, sauf bien sûr la question de la souveraineté. Je me souviens que la vague orange de 2011 n’avait pas été une grosse surprise pour moi. Au contraire, je m’attendais à une percée du NPD à un moment ou un autre.

Tout ça pour dire qu’il n’est pas illogique de penser que ces électeurs NPD retourneront au Bloc. Le Bloc avait en fait baissé en termes de pourcentages de votes en 2015, cela veut ainsi dire que les votes NPD de 2011 perdus étaient allés au PLC. Est-ce que les électeurs restants sont plutôt du type à avoir le Bloc comme 2e choix? Pas impossible. Un tel transfert d’électeurs permettrait au Bloc de non seulement gagner une bonne partie de ces 16 comtés, mais aussi d’aller chercher des sièges au PLC. Utilisons le simulateur pour illustrer cela.

Si le Bloc pouvait grimper vers les 24-25% tout en ayant le PLC sous les 35% (donc sous son résultat de 2015), cela ouvre la porte à de nombreuses victoires dans le 450 et en régions. Tout à coup le Bloc passe de ses 10 députés en 2015 à 20 et plus. Un tel scénario forcerait presque assurément une minorité à Ottawa. Je ne vois en effet pas comment le PLC pourrait retenir sa majorité étant donné les pertes probables en Ontario et ailleurs.

Le Bloc a aussi une carte majeure à jouer lors de cette élection : c’est le seul parti qui soutient le Québec dans son désir d’imposer davantage de laïcité. Si le chef Conservateur a fait savoir plutôt clairement qu’il ne voudrait pas aller en court pour défaire la loi 21 (bien qu'il ne soutienne pas la loi), le chef Libéral a été bien moins clair. À une époque où la souveraineté pure ne semble pas vraiment d’actualité pour le Bloc, se concentrer sur la défense de la loi 21 pourrait payer. Après tout, une forte majorité de Québécois soutiennent cette loi.

Nous verrons bien ce que nous réserve la campagne, mais je ne serais pas surpris de voir le Bloc gentiment remonter vers les 25% et devenir bien plus compétitif. Après les 4 sièges de 2011, ce serait toute une renaissance pour le Bloc!

Quant au NPD, il pourra peut-être sauver quelques sièges en concentrant ses efforts. Le chef Singh fait un bon début de campagne et son français est meilleur que prévu. Mais il resterait que ce parti ne conservera vraiseblablement que très peu de ses députés dans la province à moins d'un `norme retournement de situation.

First projections for the 2019 federal election: A close race between Liberals and Tories

First projections for the 2019 federal election: A close race between Liberals and Tories
Alright, time to start making projections for the now on-going 2019 federal election. I apologize for starting a little bit later than expected. But you can expect regular updates from now on.

Also, I'm sure most of my regular readers will be interested in the new simulator. I have added the PPC (more details below). So have fun.

Alright, let's cut to the chase, here are the current projections of this site:

I'll need a little bit more time to get the probabilities going.

You can find the riding by riding projections here below.
1. What is the situation as the campaign is starting?

Believe it or not, we haven't had that many polls in the last two weeks, and especially not since the campaign officially started. So I don't believe we have a perfect idea of where things stand. Still, we can at least make an educated guess.

Basically, it's two-way race between the Liberals of Trudeau and the Conservatives of Scheer. This much is clear. There is absolutely no way any other party is in the running. This isn't your 2015 campaign with the NDP with a legitimate shot at power. If anything, the party of Jagmeet Singh might be lucky if it keeps its official status at the House of Commons. Yes, it's that bad for the NDP - although polls don't fully agree on the extend of the NDP's collapse, with IVR polls being much harsher than online ones.

The story of the last 12 months has been the rise of the Green party (they also won a second seat during a by-election on Vancouver island). The Green rising is a worldwide phenomenon and has been observed in BC in 2017 for instance. They aren't in a position -yet?- to win many seats but they could hope to finish of the NDP, at least in terms of votes. That is pretty nuts and we'll have to see if the Green vote is really solid as the campaign progresses. The current model doesn't have Green-specific adjustments. If this party stays as high as 10-12%, I'll look into that. I suspect the demographic of the ridings more likely to vote Green can be inferred.

Behind we have the Bloc. Under its new leader -Yves François Blanchet- this party appears to have regained some strength. After the collapse of the PQ last fall, it wasn't guaranteed that there would be a competitive Bloc Québécois. Number wise, polls put them slightly above their 2015 results (which was a record low). It's not great but again, they are still there. More importantly, now that the NDP has fully collapsed back to its pre-2011 levels (for many reasons, don't want to debate them), that offers a good opportunity to the Bloc to come back to 25 or even 30%. I personally can't imagine the Bloc becoming the number one party in la Belle Province again, but this party could at least go and challenge the Liberals in the 450 or in the more rural Quebec.

Finally, the new People's Party of Maxime Bernier exists and is alive. Actually it's doing not too bad. Multiple polls even puts this party around 5% which is quite impressive for a new party. I personally find it ridiculous not to include him at the leaders' debate, but that's another discussion.

Let's go back to the big two. The Liberals are clearly down from their 2015 results. But a strong resilience in Ontario and the NDP collapse in Quebec make it such that the LPC would be favourite to win the most seats at this point. Yes they wouldn't wipe the Atlantic like 4 years ago but they could make some significant gains in Quebec. This is where not switching to proportional representation could really pay off for Trudeau. There is a desire for change but it's not as high as what we observed 4 years ago, or in recent elections in BC, Quebec and Ontario. It appears that many people aren't the biggest Trudeau fans anymore but they aren't yet sure if they want to change.

As for the Tories, they seem to have made some gains but mostly west of Ontario. In Quebec they are stable and they still trail the Liberals in Ontario. In this province, any hope of becoming the first party again would rely heavily on improving the vote efficiency. I'm talking for instance of reclaiming some of the suburbs of Toronto.

The main issue for Scheer is that his path to victory requires him to gain in Ontario and hope that another party will prevent the Liberals from winning 55 seats+ in Quebec. I'm saying another party because I possibly can't imagine Scheer, with his fairly weak French, doing better than what Harper ever did in this province. In an ideal scenario for Scheer, the Bloc Quebecois would go back to 25-30 and cost the LPC many seats. Then Scheer would "only" have to do seduce the GTA. This last part is clearly the objective of the Conservative campaigns. The public transit tax credit is proof of that. It's very early in this campaign but it seems fairly obvious the CPC has decided to campaign conservatively (pun intended). No giant promise or anything, just one clear message ("hey middle class in the suburbs, do you want more money?") and voilà. Will it work? Well maybe. If the election were tomorrow, the Tories could well win. But the "Quebec problem" could prove insurmountable. And the soft-change voters don't seem fully convinced by Andrew Scheer. it might help him if his party didn't have a controversy regarding one of its candidates every day...

Also, there is the whole issue of what winning really means. If Scheer wins a minority, does he actually become Prime Minister? I don't know, I guess it would depend. While a Liberal minority would likely require the support of the NDP and the Green (and maybe the Bloc), it also means a Tory minority would need 1 or more of these parties to defeat Trudeau. Because I can't imagine Justin Trudeau just giving up the power even if he wins fewer seats. So Scheer either needs a majority (he's far from it right now) or he needs to get close enough. My guess is it'd make a huge difference if Trudeau would only need the support of the NDP (and Green) or if he'd also need the Bloc.

Anyway, we'll need more polling and data before making a better call.

2. How does the model work?

All projections models -and there are a lot nowadays- use basically the same principle. You take the results in 2015, you add the provincial or regional swing and you get the numbers for 2019. You can tweak this swing, make some adjustments, be pretentious and write that you "account for socio-demographic characteristics" (without explaining how of course) but that's pretty much it.

My model isn't fundamentally different. I do have regional coefficients estimated using past elections. Do they help? I think they can. They usually don't hurt at least. I also have an incumbency effect but this is super weak -and it's always the case in this country. Don't believe anyone telling you about a strong incumbency effect in Canada. I also account for when a long term incumbent retires. Data shows that costs the party around 5 points (sometimes more but that's the average).

I believe I do two things differently however. The first one is how I aggregate the polls. I do NOT distribute the undecided proportionally. Instead I currently allocate 40% of them to the Tories, 40% to the Liberals and 10% each to Green and NDP. Other parties don't get anything (well the Bloc in Quebec does). Why do I do that? Because redistributing the undecided proportionally is a bad assumption. And yes this is an assumption, even if it looks like the natural thing to do. It tends to overestimate the smaller parties. It also assumes that decided and undecided voters will ultimately vote the same, which is dumb. So yes my assumptions of 40-40-10-10 are subjective but I'm clearly letting you know. I believe the undecided will ultimately go for one of the main two parties. The CPC vote is older -so higher turnout- while the Liberals benefit from the usual underestimation of the incumbent. Again, you are perfectly allowed to disagree but remember that using a proportional redistribution is also making a big assumption. My track record on polls aggregation is that it has always helped me compared to simply averaging the polls. Yes it hurt me partially in 2015 because I didn't see the late surge for the Liberals. My bad. But my overall polling average was still better than the CBC one for instance.

I also don't really waste my time trying to weigh each poll differently based on a slightly bigger sample size or whatever. My experience is that giving equal weight (except for obvious exceptions) works perfectly fine. So my rule during the campaign is every poll within two weeks is included as long as I don't have more than 2 polls from the same firms (and the second one is heavily discounted). Polls from the last week get a weight of 1, polls of the week before are at 0.5.

The second thing is that I'll use the riding polls a lot. Not only will I use them to adjust at the riding level -usually if my current projections are really off- but I'll also aggregate them and calculate the swings using these polls only. I'll then do an average of the swing calculated using the riding and provincial polls.

You might not trust the riding polls (especially the ones from Mainstreet which has a mixed reputation -wrongly if you ask me) but collectively, they have proven to be gold. They had the large victory of Ford over the NDP in Ontario. They also pretty much had the perfect results in Quebec, while provincial polls ended up being so wrong we can add Quebec 2018 to Alberta 2012 and BC 2013 in the list of giant polling failures.

We currently only have a few of these riding polls, so I don't have any adjustment yet. But it'll come.

2.5 How did I add the People's Party?

It wasn't simple. Adding a party to a projections model is always tricky. Ultimately, after carefully looking at polls and correlations, I decided to add the PPC the following way: I assume that 40% of the votes of the PPC will be taken from the Conservatives. Then 15% each from the Liberals and NDP (polling correlations did indicate a relationship with these parties, so did an analysis by Abacus). The remaining 30% is taken from new voters or uniformly. This creates a situation where the distribution of the PPC vote resembles the CPC's but it isn't a perfect copy.

Maxime Bernier is assume to keep half of the votes he got as a CPC candidate. This assumption makes it such that the projections match the two Mainstreet polls done in the riding. Personally, I'm fairly convinced he'll win his own riding. 

Alright, that's all for now. Expect daily updates from now on, in English and French. Have a nice campaign!

Final projections for Alberta 2019: United Conservatives with a majority

Here we are, my final projections for what has been, essentially, the most boring election I've covered. Sorry Albertans, but that's the truth. Except for some movement at the very beginning of this campaign, nothing changed. Sure, some polls were showing a bigger or smaller lead, but the average barely moved and very few seats are competitive. With that said, I have to admit that Alberta has different topics of discussion between parties than the rest of the country (pipeline!) and it's interesting in itself.

As soon as the PC and Wildrose merged into the United Conservative Party, it was all but guaranteed the NDP of Rachel Notley wouldn't be able to stay in power. And guess what? These final projections have the UCP overwhelmingly favorite. It really isn't close and it'd take a monumental polling failure for Notley to remain Premier.

Here are the projections, including the chances of winning and a 95% confidence interval for the seats. By the way, friendly reminder that you can use the model yourself and make your own projections, here.

Here are the riding by riding projections:

Sorry no time for riding by riding probabilities. I just had time to write the new R code (I switched to R) for the province-level stuff.

1. The polls.

As mentioned above, the average has barely moved. Sure the NDP caught up to the UCP right at the beginning (when people starting paying attention) but the NDP was never ever close during the entire campaign. Jason Kenney not being particular good as leader (or particularly liked) probably made this election slightly more competitive than it ought to be. There is still one scenario that would see Notley remaining as Premier (see below) and while the polls kinda indicate this scenario is possible, it is far from likely.

Overall it seems the situation hasn't changed much compared to 2015, although there could be cancelling within province variations. The only party clearly up is the Alberta Party while the Liberals have almost completely disappeared.

1.1 The turnout

There is one possibility for the polls to be wrong: if the turnout ends up changing everything. We have seen in the past, including in 2012 in Alberta, how a change in turnout can often lead to polling failures. Advance voting has been going like crazy in Alberta, with over three times as many votes as in the advance voting of 2015. While this might indicate an increase from the 57% turnout of 2015, we should also remember that advance voting has been on the rise everywhere. More and more people are taking advantage of the possibility of casting their vote early. Also, this year in Alberta, people could even vote in advance from anywhere in the province. There was also one extra day. So more opportunities to vote early. I'll also add that the most people vote early and the more committed they likely are, which decreases the chance the polls are wrong (in 2012 for instance, it seems many people made up their mind at the last minute).

So while I'm expecting an increase of turnout, I also don't think it'll be crazy. In BC in 2017, advance turnout was 62% higher than in 2013 but the final turnout barely went up by 5%. So I'm betting on a 65% turnout, just below the 2015 federal election. Yes, that is mostly a guess (educated one maybe?).

The bigger question is: who will it benefit? Many often assume that a higher turnout means the left will win. But that's not always that simple. Ford won a large majority in Ontario after a 7 points increase in turnout. In Alberta, there was a sharp jump in 2012 and that coincided with an explosion of the vote for right-wing parties (PC and Wildrose combined). So, what about this year? The truth is that I have no idea. Election Alberta hasn't released the advance turnout by riding (I asked, trust me). So it doesn't allow us to look for patterns like I did in Quebec (where we could see the Liberal vote staying home).

I'll add one thing: in 2015, it seems fairly evident that some conservative voters stayed home for the provincial election but came out for the federal one. So the increased turnout could be, at least partially, from them.

If I had to guess the impact of the turnout, I'd guess it'll help both the NDP and UCP. I don't believe it'll make a big difference at the provincial level. It will, however, likely make the difference in some key races in Calgary or the Edmonton suburb and my model will be wrong there. Oh well, not much I can do if the data isn't even published.

Using Google Trends, if we look for the parties (UCP and NDP), that gives us pretty much a tie.

If we instead use the leaders:

Notice that Google knows Jason Kenney as a former MP, not as the leader of the UCP...

It's always hard to use Google Trends for anything meaningful but I'll say that I don't see anything that would indicate a surprise NDP victory (given that younger voters are more for the NDP, if the NDP was actually ahead, I'd expect this party to clearly dominate on Google Trends). Kenney doesn't seem like the most popular leader but neither is Notley. Google Trends show no clear advantage for either of them.

There is a desire for change in Alberta but nowhere near what we saw in Quebec, Ontario or BC in 2017 where over 70% of the voters wanted a change of government. It really just seems the conservative people from this province, who are clearly a majority, want their conservative government back. That's logical.

As for the age breakdown, Millennials and Gen Z (so the 18-34) are much more likely to vote NDP. An increased turnout of that age group would definitely help, but it will likely not be enough to compensate the huge margins for the UCP among the 55+. With that said, my projections have the NDP winning mostly the same parts of Calgary as the federal Liberals in 2015 and the Millennial/Gen Z vote will likely have an impact there.

By the way, my polling average is calculated using all the polls (one per firm) of the last week, with equal weight (you can waste your time trying to give different weights based on sample size and the sample being one freaking day older, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter much. I consistently beat other sites doing complex averages with my simple rules and I see no reason to change). I haven't allocated undecided proportionally. Instead I have split them 50-50 between the NDP (incumbents are often underestimated) and the UCP (main party; Plus the PC was systematically underestimated in Alberta in the recent past, including in 2015). I have also adjusted the Liberals, Green and Freedom Party down since they aren't remotely running a full slate of candidates. This explains why both the NDP and the UCP are higher in my average than in the polls. Additionally, I calculated the swing from the 8 riding polls from Mainstreet and I extrapolated the province-wide percentages based on them and did an average with my other numbers. Since these riding polls were slightly more negative for the NDP and slightly better for the UCP (it would give province-wide numbers of over 50% for the UCP and close to 36-37% for the NDP), that explains why I have the UCP higher than in the regular polls (although I don't really have this party higher than the last few polls published it seems, including the latest Forum).

By the way, let's remember that 2018 was a terrible year for Canadian polls. They were off in Ontario (underestimated significantly the lead of the PC, at least in average), got so, so off in Quebec (mostly because English-speaking voters didn't get out to vote) and there is also the infamous BC referendum on electoral reform where polls were dead wrong. So we'll see tomorrow if 2019 will start better. But note that in all these situations, the polls underestimated the right-wing option.

2. Projections

The real question on Tuesday, at least according to me, will be whether the UCP goes above or below 60 seats. Honestly, it seems pretty simple to make projections for this election: the UCP will quasi-sweep the rest of Alberta with communist majorities. Edmonton (core) will likely remain NDP, the suburbs will be a fight. The real battleground is Calgary. This is where most of the competitive seats are and where a surprise could come from.

Now is a good time to go back to this one scenario that would allow the NDP to remain in power. The NDP needs a couple a things. First of all, it needs the polls to be wrong. In particular it needs the polls to be wrong in Calgary. Polls are showing the UCP ahead by about 12 points in average. Some firms have them closer, like Mainstreet (but Mainstreet and Calgary might not necessarily be the best match if you remember the mayoral election last year...).

The NDP also needs to make its vote way more efficient. That means not winning in core-Edmonton by as much and instead transferring those votes to the suburbs or Calgary. So, ideally, the polls would show the NDP down in Edmonton and in the rest of Alberta (won't matter there) and up in Calgary. And they are showing that! Just not by a big enough margin to allow Notley to win the most seats.

The path to victory for the NDP is incredibly narrow because the right merged. Let's not forget that a united right would have won in 2015 (at least based on the results; Obviously it could have been a very different campaign). So the NDP needs to do better than it did during a perfect-conditions year. You don't need an excel spreadsheet to see how hard it is. It's already remarkable that Notley is polling so close to her 2015 number. I never thought that would happen.

So the path involves the NDP sweeping Edmonton like in 2015: 26 seats. Then it needs to win another 14-15 seats in Calgary. The NDP won 15 in 2015 against a divided right. The projections currently give the NDP 5 seats there (at the center of the city, the same area the federal Liberals won in 2015). Can it get the extra 10 needed? It's tough and this is where the polling failure will be required. Basically, the NDP needs to win the popular vote there instead of trailing by 12 points. We are talking about a fairly major polling mistake. Since Calgary represents roughly 1/3 of the riding, an underestimation of the NDP by 7-8 points there will mean the NDP should finish at least 2-3 points above its provincial numbers. So that means the NDP beating its results of 2015.

And please realize that even if this happens, the UCP would still likely win. That would particularly be the case since the NDP being down in Edmonton would cost them some seats in the suburbs. So really, the NDP needs the polls to be right in Edmonton and wrong in Calgary. And then it needs some wins elsewhere. So 26+14+3=43, maybe just enough to keep power in a very unstable assembly (would likely require the speaker to be the sole AB elected member).

Is all of this possible? Sure, but it isn't likely at all. Far from it.

Also, since we are talking of uncertainty and surprises, keep in mind it goes both ways. That means the UCP could end up way over 50%, winning pretty much all of Calgary (the NDP's seat aren't projected to be safe there unless we get the massive polling failure we just discussed), most of Edmonton suburb and almost everything elsewhere. That would put the UCP way over 60 seats.

This scenario is actually, at least to me, more likely than a NDP win. Why? Because the riding polls from Mainstreet (8 in total) have shown the NDP to be down and the UCP to be higher than provincial polls would predict. I mean, those polls have shown the UCP to be right behind the NDP in Edmonton McClung, ahead in Calgary-Elbow and right behind in Lethbridge West. Not a single one of those riding polls have shown the NDP more comfortable than expected. As a reminder, these riding polls were much better in Ontario and Quebec at measuring the overall swing. We did get a lot more of those polls back then however.

As for the Liberals and Alberta Party, well the former has completely collapsed and will likely not elect a single MLA. The Liberals leader, Khan, seemed to have done an okay campaign and might win his seat (he took the riding of the only Liberal win in 2015) but I'm doubtful. The Liberals are only running 51 candidates, which means their actual percentage of votes will almost surely be less than what the polls predict. The Liberals are running everywhere in Calgary however, which isn't helping the one-dream scenario of the NDP.

As for the AB, logic and numbers would dictate that they'd at least keep their seat in Calgary-Elbow, although a Mainstreet riding poll there showed the UCP candidate ahead.

Oh, technical notice but I assumed that UCP was 90% of PC+Wildrose. The remaining 10% went to the Freedom Party and people simply not voting. I assumed (and based on some polls I found) that no merger is ever 100%, so that made sense. With that said, this is a very successful merger.

Finally, there is no chance of a minority since really only two parties are projected to win seats. Although BC managed to get one in 2017 in a similar unlikely scenario, but the third party won 3 seats. I can't see the Liberals and AB winning 3 seats tomorrow.

Well, that's it for me. I'm sorry if I didn't cover this election as much as I had done for the Ontario and Quebec election, but the timing wasn't optimal for me (end of term, so exams, etc). Plus, the fact the race seemed so uninteresting didn't help.

With one week left, United Conservatives cruising to a majority in Alberta

Let's be honest: this 2019 Alberta election wasn't expected to be interesting (in terms of the horse race itself) and we are getting exactly what we thought we would get.

Sure, some polls at the beginning of the actual campaign might have suggested a tighter race with the NDP pulling off its one path to victory: sweeping Edmonton and increasing in Calgary to win most, if not all, of the seats there. This narrow path would possibly allow the NDP of Rachel Notley to stay in power despite facing a united right this time around.

But recent polls show the UCP well ahead of the NDP. The incumbent is actually doing alright. I mean, 4 years ago, the NDP got to 40% of the votes thanks to a huge dissatisfaction with the Conservative government. It was clear not all of the NDP votes were coming from true supporters. So to see the NDP polling around the 2015 levels is already pretty impressive. The issue, and it's a massive one, is that the right is now united.

Here are the current projections. Remember that you can make your own using the simulator here.

The riding by riding projections are the end of this post.

If the PC and Wildrose had been united in 2015, they'd have won a majority of the seats. My model assumes that the merger kept 90% of the votes (with the remaining 10% going to the Freedom Conservative as well as simply not voting). Current polling numbers suggest the UCP is slightly above the 50% mark and therefore increasing from the 90% sum of the two parties in 2015. In other words: in a very, very good position to win. I don't have the simulations ready for this model (I'll really try to have it done for my final projections on Monday next week) but there is very little uncertainty at this point.

The other issue for the NDP is that the (behind paywall) riding polls from Mainstreet are showing the UCP doing better than expected so far. Remember that the riding polls were showing the PC with a much bigger lead over the NDP than the provincial polls in Ontario. These riding polls were right. Same in Quebec where the riding polls were showing the Liberals much lower than expected. We haven't had many of these riding polls yet in Alberta but the current trend isn't good for the NDP. It's not a massive difference but if we were to use these polls to estimate the swings and project the province-wide percentages, that would boost the UCP by 2-3 points and lower the NDP by the same margin (that means the recent Forum poll might be the most accurate. That will trigger some pseudo data-nerds on Reddit or Twitter who always hate Forum).

Yes those riding polls can be quite inaccurate taken individually and we don't have many so far. Still, that's just another sign that a surprise NDP victory isn't likely to happen.

Look, it's a two-way race with an electoral system that usually rewards the party finishing first with a majority. The United Conservatives could actually win a majority even if there was proportional representation! Think about it... Whoever is telling you there is a lot of uncertainty is just lying.

There is one scenario that allows the NDP to stay in power, we mentioned it already: sweeping all (or almost all) of Edmonton (26 seats), winning a majority in Calgary (28 seats in this region) and then getting a few seats elsewhere.

Since the global percentages have the NDP slightly below their 2015 numbers, it means the NDP needs its vote to become a lot more efficient. Essentially pulling a BC NDP by increasing in urban centers and decreasing elsewhere. As a matter of fact, the NDP could even drop a little bit in Edmonton.

The polls are showing that this scenario is indeed partially happening. The NDP's lead in Edmonton appears smaller while the party is more competitive in Calgary. Specifically, in 2015 the NDP got around 34% in Calgary against 55% for the Wildrose+PC. This year, polls are showing a 37-49 race. Slightly better but way too far from allowing the NDP to win a majority of seats there.

Let's look at it another way: in Edmonton, the NDP is projected to win all the 20 core urban seats. In the suburbs or the greater Edmonton, the UCP is currently winning 5 out of the 6 seats. In 2015 the NDP would have won 3 seats against the UCP. Why are the United Conservatives gaining? Because the polls, and the model, are showing the NDP down in Edmonton overall. So for the sake of best-case scenario, let's imagine the NDP drops in Edmonton but only in ridings where it'd still win easily. Let's imagine the NDP vote even becomes super efficient and wins 4 out of 6 of the suburbs seats. That leaves us with 24 seats for the NDP from the greater Edmonton. That is really the absolute best case scenario.

Let's look at Calgary. The current projections have the NDP winning only 4 seats. The issue is the NDP is losing only 3 seats by a margin of less than 10 points. Let's imagine the polls are wrong and the NDP, in this region, isn't trailing by 12 points but pretty much tied at 44%. Then the NDP could win 14 seats there.

That puts the total for this best-case scenario at 24+14=38. Add to this 2-3 seats in the rest of Alberta and the NDP would, almost magically, be very close to staying in power (it could come down to Calgary Elbow and whether the Alberta Party could conserve its one seat). It'd still be short of the magic number of 44 (or 43 depending how you look at it) but it's possible

Except that, in order for this best-case scenario to happen, we need the polls to massively underestimate the NDP (in Calgary at least) and the NDP vote to be incredibly efficient in the Edmonton suburb and the rest of Alberta. So again, is it possible? Yes it is. But it's super unlikely.

Detailed projections: