With 8 days to go, the Tories still have a small edge over the NDP

There is only one week left in this 2018 Ontario election. What once was a safe lead for the Progressive Conservatives of Doug Ford has turned into one of the most competitive elections I've covered. By the end of the campaign, my projections usually give chances of winning of 80% or more to one party. This time around however, it is well possible that the race will literally be too close to call!

That's not completely the case right now though. This isn't a perfect 50-50 race. As you can see below, the chances of winning (the most seats; I'm not even trying to discuss scenarios where two parties would make a deal) are roughly 65-35. The only real certainty is that the Liberals of Kathleen Wynne won't finish first. Beyond this, not much has changed in the last few days.

Voting intentions; Seat projections with 95% confidence intervals; Chances of winning the most seats.

If you want the detailed projections, you can find them at the bottom of this article. If you care more about outcomes, here they are:

Notice that the "majority" scenarios are more likely. This is because the OLP isn't currently winning enough seats to make a minority the most likely scenario. Doesn't mean it won't happen (see BC last year), just that it's not as likely.

If you are wondering what "others" is, those are mostly scenarios where there is a tie. If the PC and NDP were to win the same number of seats, this would create an interesting but potentially messy situation. It could go weeks before we'd know who would become Premier. So I prefer not to speculate and just leave that as "others". As a BC resident, I wish Ontarians to have just as much post-election fun as we did last year!

You can also see these projections on the map. This is the first time I did that and I must thank Rhea Donsman for showing me how (and some Youtube videos). It's most likely not perfect (no numbers for now, just colors) yet but it's fun, isn't it?

The main question some of you might have is really: how can the NDP be higher in average in the polls yet be given only 34% chances? The answer is really vote efficiency. Our electoral system being what it is, how the votes are regionally distributed can make a big difference. The NDP vote is simply less efficient in winning seats than the PC's. At least based on my analysis. I had estimated in a previous post that the NDP would need to win the popular vote by 2 points if Andrea Horwath wantsed to win more seats than Ford. I stand by this analysis. It's not an exact science but 2 points seems to be the lead where this race would be 50-50. As you can see, the polling average doesn't place the NDP 2 points ahead.

While the New Democrats had been rising in pretty much every poll over the last week (including some crazy numbers from Forum...), this trend stopped yesterday. Ipsos published a new poll that showed a rebound from the Tories. Mainstreet published a full poll to the public (as opposed to the daily tracker that is behind a paywall) where the NDP finally took the lead (remember that for a while, phone polls were not agreeing with online polls and continued to show the PC ahead, so Mainstreet having the NDP first was kind of a big deal). But on Twitter, Quito Maggi (Mainstreet's CEO) said that the lead was back to the PC in their new daily numbers. I think "rebound" will be the buzz word for the day. Maybe.

At the end of the day, it's not really possible to determine right now who would receive the most votes. Polls aren't accurate enough to give us such a precise estimate. The best we can tell right now is that the NDP and PC are in a close race, around 35-37%. After, turnout and GOTV could swing the balance one way or the other.

On top of regular polls, I also account for riding polls from Mainstreet. Their accuracy is way lower but they still provide information. Some of it isn't very good for the NDP. In most ridings in the GTA, I have found that my model was overestimating the NDP and/or underestimating the PC. This was the case in 3 riding polls in Brampton. So I made some adjustments. With that said, NDP supporters should know that Mainstreet's riding polls during the BC election last year failed to capture the NDP wave in the Lower Mainland. Still, I can't completely ignore this information.

So what does the NDP need? They either need to sweep Toronto proper, increase significantly in the GTA or somehow manage to target key ridings here and there (1 or 2 in Ottawa, etc). The rest of the province isn't that interesting. The North is already all NDP, Central Ontario is heavily PC, so is the rural South West. The NDP also already wins the urban centers (Hamilton, London, Niagara, etc). So really, there aren't that many possibilities left. Of course, all of this is assuming the race remains close. It's completely possible the NDP will surge in the last few days.

We don't have polling data regarding the debate of Sunday (well I have my own Twitter poll but this is just for fun). Innovative said they'd have such data in their poll while Mainstreet said they won't. Having watched the debate, my subjective opinion is that Wynne did relatively well (after the horrible "Sorry not sorry") while Ford probably didn't lose any vote or convince anyone. So I don't think this debate will cause the NDP surge, but what do I know? Talking about a NDP surge most likely means talking about a Liberal collapse. Is the OLP at its floor or can it go even lower than 20%? It already did in some polls, just not in the average.

The OLP being projected so low means a minority is unlikely. But it doesn't mean the Liberals won't offer a fight in many ridings. Depending on how resilient they can be (and where), it could create quite a lot of close races and uncertainty. I'm not trying to protect myself in advance, but people maybe need to lower their expectations regarding projections. With such wide swings and wild cards, I don't anticipate my model (or any other for that matter) to perform as well as in BC last year for instance. As always, focus on the probabilities more than on the raw, top line numbers.

That's all for now. I'll try to post an analysis regarding strategic voting during the afternoon or tomorrow. Also, remember that advance voting has started. As soon as we get data about the turnout, I'll make some riding adjustments.

Riding by riding projections: