27 April 2011

Advance Poll turn-out comparison #elxn41

For the vote geeks out there, take a gander at this lovely chart showing turn-out in advance polls held in federal general elections from 2004 to 2011 for each of the ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador.

advance polls

Some of the media reports have compared the 2011 advance polls votes to 2008.  That would be a misleading comparison since the federal Conservatives suffered from an unusual problem due to the Family Feud.  If you look at the two before that, you can get a better feel for recent trends.  2006 was a year of change nationally and it marked the last time the provincial Conservatives actually worked closely with their federal cousins.

Here’s what you can see:

Turn-out is up in every riding but the magnitude of the change is more dramatic in some cases than others. 

The easy number is in St. John’s East.  Lots of media reports have noted it had the highest advance poll turnout at 4474.  That corresponds to a 56% increase over the next largest turn-out in 2006. The rest of these numbers compare 2011 to the next largest turn-out.

St. John’s South-Mount Pearl is up 91% compared to 2006.

The lowest change in turn-out is Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor, up 2.3% compared to 2004 and Random-Burin-St. George’s, up 3.5% from the same election.

Avalon is showing a 47% increase compared to 2006.  That’s almost exactly the change in Labrador (48%).

What does it all mean?

That’s hard to tell. 

Look at the anomalies first.

On the face of it, there’s no reason why St. John’s East should show such a dramatic increase in total number of votes cast. The incumbent appears to be safely in his seat.  There is no heated contest in the riding.  While it looked potentially like a harder fight before the writ dropped, the reality has been that incumbent New Democrat Jack Harris could be vacationing in Las Vegas with his future Quebec caucus-mates and he’d still slaughter his competition. If there was some sort of surge toward the NDP, this would be a real sign since the seat is already orange.

Ditto Labrador.  There’s no sign of any dramatic change in the riding.  When you look at the riding with almost exactly the same rate of change – Avalon – it gets weirder.  

Avalon is the scene of a vicious fight between Scott Andrews for the Liberals and former Conservative incumbent Fabian Manning who Andrews beat in 2008. One would expect numbers there to be up way compared to another year when they had a hard-fought contest. 

So while those three seats looking odd, the other four seats,  the voter turn-out pictures look like what you would expect.  In the ridings where there’s been a really small change in turn-out, there’s no sense of a hard contest and the change in turn-out reflects that.  The numbers for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte are up, but only 25%.  Again, that reflects a strong Conservative campaign, most likely, but it is hardly a sign of big change. In the absence of any other signs of revolution, this vote change looks relatively normal.

In St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, the blood feud between the New Democrats and incumbent Liberal Siobhan Coady has been intense since before the election started.  Seeing turn-out up by 91% is no surprise in what appears to be a tight race between two highly motivated and highly organized teams. The Conservatives don’t seem to be a factor, at least if the only publicly available poll is anything to judge by.  Any jump in turn-out is likely not coming from the Rain Man’s effort to get back in elected politics.

- srbp -