Is the proportional representation side actually currently ahead?

The other day I was reporting that, based on the turnout data by riding provided daily by Elections BC, there were reasons to believe the NO side (i.e: keeping the current FPTP) was ahead. That was mostly because turnout data was indicating that older (55+) people were voting more, as well as higher turnouts in the interior. Those two groups are known (by the polls for instance) to be less favourable to PR.

However, the analysis was made difficult because by far the main determinant of the turnout was when the riding received the ballots. I was trying to account for this but nothing is ever perfect.

Today I decided to do a different exercise. I figured that turnout is nice (i.e: percentage of registered voters actually voting). But what ultimately matters is the number of votes. And we have that information!

We also know, thanks to the polls, the average level of support by age and by region. I can therefore use this information and try to estimate how many votes the YES and NO sides have received so far. This is obviously an exercise providing only estimates. The votes have not actually been counted. But I think it can be interesting.

The polls

The four polls (Angus-Reid, Insight West, Mainstreet and Research Co - I ignored my own Google Survey poll even though the results are completely consistent with the others) all mostly agree: the older you are, the less likely you are to support PR. Also, the Interior of BC is more pro FPTP than the Lower Mainland or the Island. They don't all agree on the actual numbers (it's normal) but overall, they show the same picture.

I thus averaged these four polls and used the averages to estimates how many votes have been casted for each side. Without going into too much detail, if a riding in the Interior has already mailed 4000 ballots and this riding has a higher proportion of 55+ than the rest of the province, my estimate will be that a majority of these 4000 votes are for keeping the current system. The exact number of votes for each side will be calculated based on the averages by age and region, as shown below.

Here are the averages I used.

18-34 69% 31%
35-54 53% 47%
55+ 37% 63%

Lower Mainland 52% 48%
Island 54% 46%
Rest of BC 43% 57%

Millennials and Gen Z are really, really in favour of PR while older Gen X and Baby-Boomers are really against it. Similarly, the rest of BC is really agaist the idea of switching system.

Estimates of the votes by day

Here are the total number of votes (they sum to the total provided by Elections BC, obviously) for each side. Yes it's close.

A better way to see who's ahead is to look at the percentages.

Here you can see that as the Lower Mainland ridings have started sending back their ballots (they got them later), the YES side has progressively climbed back. To the point where it could well be ahead right now.

Notice that this entire exercise is only valid to the extend that these polls are right. In particular, it is necessary to assume that the undecided (they are many of them in the polls) won't break in favour of one or the other side. Polls done over the last few weeks all showed the same 50-50 race so it doesn't look like the undecided are choosing one side more than the other so far.

Additionally, my estimates below are quite sensitive to the averages used. Adding the Research Co. numbers of yesterday made the NO side ahead at the beginning while it was behind the whole time before. At least no matter what averages I used, the trend has been the same: pro PR.

I tried to run these estimates using only the data on age or region. If I only use the age (and thus the age distribution profile in each riding), I would get the YES side at 50.78% as of today. Using only the region, I have the YES at 49.6% and therefore behind. It was at 48.7% at the beginning of the campaign.

So, why am I now saying the YES side might be ahead when my previous post was saying otherwise? I think the best explanation is that the regression was showing that indeed older people were voting more. That's still the case if I run the regression today. But the difference isn't big enough to compensate for the 18-44 that are more pro PR. Also, the influence of the Interior is vanishing as we keep counting votes. More importantly, it's one thing to show a higher turnout (so a higher %) but ultimately it's the total number of votes that will be counted. The Interior riding might be voting slightly more (note: as of today, my regression isn't showing any significant effect anymore regarding the region) but these ridings don't represent that many votes. Finally, and this is more stat nerdy stuff, but just because a result is statistically significant doesn't mean it's important in magnitude (it was a difference of less than 2% for the turnout in the Lower Mainland versus the Interior). In our situation, the difference in turnout by age (and therefore the bigger influence of the 55+) might not have that much of an impact.

Still, I think the conclusion remains that it's super close. The trend is good for the PR side and we still have many ridings that should provide many votes for a change that have a low turnout (the Victoria ridings for instance, some of the rare ridings that said YES in 2009). But similar to what the polls have been showing, this is a very close contest. The one thing that I still observe in my regressions is that ridings that voted more for the NDP in 2017 are not voting as much as others so far. If Horgan and the NDP are serious about wanting PR, they should be able to get the vote out in their own ridings.

I'll update this graph regularly (I don't promise to do it daily!).