What happened to the NDP vote?

The persistent media narrative has been that the NDP have a big lead in BC in #elxn42.  Or do they?

Nanos tracking has show a decided downward trend for the NDP in the past two weeks.  While it is has now appeared to stabilize – they were third at one point – they are no higher than the Conservatives.  If the polling is accurate, it’s not great news either for the Conservatives who are far below their 2011 mark but better than the pre-writ.  It’s a lot better news for the Liberals who have bounced back from a lousy spring-summer.

Last week’s release of polling data by the Dogwood Initiative is interesting on two counts.  First, the numbers in and of themselves show that in seven ridings, the NDP vote was down across the board.  The average decline in NDP vote from pre-writ to September was -8.4% of the decided vote per riding.  Conservatives up an average of 4.6% and Liberals 5.5%.  That’s a 14 point swing between NDP and Liberals and 13 for NDP/Conservative.  While the earlier Dogwood polling was trumpeted by the left-wing organs, not much heard on this round.

This not-too fancy graph shows the results across seven “battleground” ridings tested by Dogwood and Insights West: three on the North Shore (West Van, North Van, Burnaby-NV Seymour), South Okanagan-West Kootenay, Vancouver South and two on the Island (Courtenay-Alberni and Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke).

Dogwood polls

In the weeds, here are the swings in decided vote per riding.  That’s a pretty big swing in Burnaby-North Van Seymour, changing the story from a 27 point NDP lead in May to a four-point lead in September.

CPC/NDP swing LIB/NDP swing
West Van – SC – Sea to Sky(J) -4.6 -7.0
North Vancouver(J) -11.4 -20.3
Burnaby-NV Seymour(M) -22.7 -22.9
Vancouver South(J) -11.5 -9.5
South Okanagan-W.Kootenay(J) -20.9 -19.5
Courtenay-Alberni(M) -5.1 -1.9
Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke(M) -15.1 -16.3

This is more interesting if you take the polling literally, and I don’t.  I don’t think the first round of polling was realistic.  They had the Liberals at 6% in Burnaby-North Van Seymour.  Give me a break.  However, given that some media reported these numbers on the first go-around, they are obligated to give the second round some attention as well, and if they do, they must show that the NDP have fallen from great heights.  The Notley-Alberta win halo effect is wearing off.

Which brings me to my second point.  Why is Dogwood doing this in the first place?  They are presumably doing this to encourage strategic voting.  Well, the results show that the Liberals are rivalling the Conservatives in areas where Liberals have won seats before, and NDP are doing well in other seats where they are traditionally stronger.  Surprise, surprise.  Is this polling necessary?

The party that is not being helped by Dogwood on any of this is the Greens, the party that truly supports Dogwood’s anti-pipeline stance.  After all, the NDP position on Kinder Morgan is nuanced, to say the least.  The Notley government in Alberta will go full-out to lobby a federal NDP government to approve a pipeline to the west coast.  But the Greens have been written off by the strategic voting advocates using the logic of don’t vote for who you want, vote for who has best chance to beat Harper.  Elizabeth May would not have polled very strongly five weeks out in 2011 either but she won.   How about letting people make up their own mind – they will anyway – and they often do so in pundit/pollster-defying ways.

If I were in the war room for the NDP or Liberals, I would want to tell Dogwood to take a hike with their polling.  I would want to duke it out on my own terms.  If I were in the Green war room (if they have one), I would be thinking “with friends like these, who needs enemies”.

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