Will the polls be wrong (again) in BC?

With Research Co publishing their second polls yesterday and confirming the trend, there is very little doubt right now that the BC NDP of John Horgan is ahead. So ahead actually that it's difficult to imagine them missing on a majority. As I was showing yesterday, the NDP is dominant in every region. I'm not updating the projections with the Research Co poll because adding it makes no difference overall (I believe it marginally flips one seat from liberals to NDP).

Still, as shown in my Twitter poll, you have a lot of people who aren't confident in calling for a NDP majority yet. And it's fair, there are still over two weeks of campaign ahead of us, including the leaders debate on the 13th.

There are also memories of 2013 where the polls were pointing towards a NDP majority and the Liberals ended up winning. To this day, the BC 2013 remains the second worse polling failure I have seen in Canada (the worst being Alberta 2012). Polls were also dead wrong for the referendum on electoral reform in 2018.

So, should we be concerned about the polls this year? The answer is mostly no and I'll explain why. With that being said, let's remember that this is a fairly unique election with what will most likely be a low turnout and most people voting by mail. So there are certainly sources of uncertainty.

Polls can be wrong for many reasons. Pollsters love to pretend people just changed their mind at the last minute but this is rarely true. No, usually the reason has more to do with a turnout that favoured one party. In BC, the turnout by age is incredibly skewed towards older voters. Polls weigh based on census data. So if the 18-34 represent (say) 30%, they will want to give their sample a weight of 30% to this demographic (polls also weigh based on gender and other characteristics). This is problematic if young people vote less and ultimately represent a smaller fraction of the electorate.

Why am not not that concerned this year then? Because there is remarkably little impact of the age on those. While it's typical to see the 18-34 voting very differently from the 55+, we don't see a strong pattern this year. See the table below.

This is very different from 2013 and 2018. In 2013, the NDP was dominating the Liberals by 20-30 points in the 18-34 age range but were trailing (or tied) in the 55+. Given the age turnout, it's actually not a big surprise the polls were wrong.

The 2018 referendum was even worse. Over 58% of the voters were above 55 years old, a proportion much higher than in the population and higher than the 50% of the 2017 election. Given how polls were clearly showing that younger voters overwhelmingly favored PR while older voters preferred FPTP, there as well we can see why the polls were so off.

To illustrate my point, I calculated the current voting intentions in BC if the age-turnout of 2017 or 2018 occurred. You have the results below:

Similarly to how the NDP dominates every region in BC, this party is ahead in every age group. So even if the turnout is low and skews older, we should still get a NDP majority.

Don't take it the wrong way, I'm not claiming the polls will necessarily be right, I'm just saying we at least don't seem to have to worry about the age turnout causing trouble.

Final note, the BC Green are currently doing better among the 18-34 than among older voters, in particular the 55+. This wasn't necessarily the case in 2017 and shows, again, what I've been saying: this party is losing voters to the NDP. I think going more left and losing Andrew Weaver might have a huge impact on older voters on the Island and this is why I'm not confident they'll keep their seats.