Sonia Furstenau likely won the leaders debate but will it be enough?

Tuesday was the leaders debate of this 2020 BC election. a debate that was actually quite good (in my opinion) and saw all three leaders perform relatively well. It appears, however, that Green leader Sonia Furstenau likely performed a little bit better, especially if we measure as we should:  adjusted for voting intentions.

The new poll from Insights West tells us that John Horgan got the most 'likes'. We need to remember, however, that people tend to be biased when answering such questions and are more likely to find the leader of the party they support to have won.

If we control for the fact that the NDP is currently polling around 50% while the Green are barely at 12%, it puts Furstenau as the true winner. See it another way: while 81% of NDP voters found Horgan to be good or very good, 54% said the same for Furstenau. On the other hand, only 38% of Liberals voters and 30% of Green voters thought Horgan did good or very good. Sonia Furstenau therefore received some high praise from the voters of other parties.

I have done such analysis for years now, what I usually call the leader index. This has worked well in every single election to determine what post-debate trajectory we should expect in the polls. In the present case, it'd be logical to expect the Green party to increase. Of course, that is assuming enough people watched the debate and nothing else happens.

I had done my own Twitter polls on Tuesday and had found qualitatively similar results. It's weird how Twitter polls, as biased as they are, can actually work relatively well for such leader index. I guess the bias cancels out once we take the ratio.

As a reminder, Andrew Weaver had won the 2017 debate. It didn't really translate into an increase in the polls but maybe his win prevented a drop towards the end? The 2017 campaign was a lot closer and everybody was worried about vote splitting. So the Green party managing to actually get 16-17% and 3 seats was very impressive.

Will this debate help the Green this year? Hard to say. One caveat for Furstenau is the fact so many have already voted (by mail) even before the debate. Also, her best moments (including the answer on white privileges) came relatively late during the debate. Ultimately, I doubt it'll create much movement in the polls overall but it might be enough for her to win her seat. Google Trends shows the peak for Furstenau right after her answer. Unfortunately for her, and despite the best efforts of CBC, she didn't seem to generate much interest post debate.

Speaking of which, my model was, until now, giving her a 5% boost as new leader. Those things are always hard to measure and are mostly subjective. After the debate, and looking a little bit more into it (like previous Green leaders), I changed the bonus to 10%. It is enough to flip the seat back from the NDP in my projections but my confidence is low. Fortunately, it seems Mainstreet might do a few riding polls and I really, really hope Cowichan Valley is one of them.

If we go back to the Insights West poll, done entirely post-debate, the Green are actually down! From 16% to 14% (and from 26% to 24% on Vancouver Island) if we compare the two polls from this firm. There are other things that should worry this party. First of all, the Green are clearly doing better with the 18-34 group than the 55+. It was already the case in 2017 but not to the same extent. Given how voters in BC tend to skew older (50% above 55 in 2017 and 58% in 2018 during the referendum!), this could mean the Green will underperform their polling numbers (note: I already don't allocate undecided to them as they are a small party, exactly in order to correct the typical overestimation of small parties in the polls). Moreover, polls have consistently shown that Green voters are less certain to vote and are less certain of their choice. Finally, the Green voters are more likely to declare their intention to vote by mail. This is good but how many have actually requested their ballots and will return it on time? How many will just forget?

Anyway, I updated the projections. Not much change really except the Greens eat (but this is due to the change in the leader bonus, not the polling average). Also, no, I haven't incorporated yet the situation in Chilliwack-Kent, not sure how I'll as this is very tricky.

Adjusted polling averages; Seat projections with 95% confidence intervals; Chances of winning the most seats