04 October 2011

Telelink releases campaign’s only independent poll #nlvotes #nlpoli

NTV and Telelink released the only independent poll of the campaign on Monday and with a week to go in the 2011 general election, things are on track for a historic election.

For starters, let’s look at the Telelink party support numbers:

  • PCP 35%
  • NDP 15%
  • LIB    08%
  • UND 42%

These numbers are ones you can trust for accuracy and reliability.  In fact, once you read along here and look at 2007 you’ll understand the real reason why CRA and other numbers are pure crap on a cracker.

Next, let’s take a look at the 2007 poll numbers.

In 2007, Telelink’s election poll turned out these numbers:

  • PCP 42%
  • LIB    08%
  • NDP 3.5%
  • UND 31.7%

The actual poll results on election night, as a share of eligible voters was:

  • PCP  42%
  • LIB    13%
  • NDP  05%
  • DNV  38%

By comparison, CRA’s August 2007 poll (adjusted to show  percent of all responses) was:

  • PCP  62%
  • LIB    14%
  • NDP  06%
  • UND  18%

All opinion polls in this province survey eligible voters. The polling firms don’t report their figures that way.  They make it seem like they are talking about share of popular vote. But if you look at it, they simply talk to anyone eligible to vote.  That means you have to compare their poll percentages to the share of eligible votes a party got on voting day.

Incidentally, if you looked at the popular vote numbers and the ones CRA actually reported (as a percentage of decideds) their accuracy doesn’t get any better.

So compared to CRA, Telelink was almost spot on for everything, except the Liberal vote.  

And with all that in mind, let’s look at what we can see in 2011.

Record Low Turnout

For starters, we can expect a record low turn-out at the polls beating the previous record set in 2007.  Given the way the Telelink numbers compared to actual then, we could be looking at half the population not bothering to get out to vote.

In patronage-addled political cultures like Newfoundland and Labrador, voting is one of the ways people pay the patron back for his benevolence. They also need to turn out to vote to show their continued loyalty to the Boss or to signal their allegiance to a new one.

Not surprisingly, in the 18 elections from 1949 to 2007, turnout was above 69% in all but three. Turnout in 1949 was 95%.

So in years when the turn-out was low, you have to wonder what the heck was on the go.  What do 1956, 1966 and 2007 have in common with 2011?  One thing they don’t have in common is overwhelming satisfaction with the party in power at the moment.

Tory support high but dropping

Conservative support sits at 35% and that’s likely where it will hold.  What’s most interesting over the past four years is the way even CRA polls have picked up a decline in Tory support.  When you take out the misleading twist of giving the numbers as a share of decideds, the Tory support has dropped dramatically since early 2010.

The Race for Second Place and Other Bullshit

While plenty of people in 2011 will be talking about the low Liberal number in the Telelink poll, you already know it’s exactly the same number the Liberals turned up the last time out in the Telelink poll.

On voting day in 2007, the actual Liberal share of eligible vote turned out to be almost double that number.  And as a share of popular vote, the Liberals turned out three times what turned up in the polls. They held three seats at the end of the night and picked up another one later on.

The polls don’t tell the story and the media reports on those polls sure don’t tell the real story.

You can also see that when you consider that the NDP polling number in 2011 (15% to 18%) is roughly what the party had in the mid-1980s.  They had two seats.

The final seat count will depend very much on what happen  on the ground this week. 

The Conservatives have undoubtedly dumped as many bodies as they can into the seats where they are under pressure.  Some of those seats are in St. John’s and others are spread across the island and into Labrador.

If the Liberals and New Democrats learned anything from the last time, they are pushing back hard as well.

There is no race for second place.  That’s a fiction invented by the media.  The real election race is being played out in those pressured seats – as many as a dozen or so – across the province.  The Liberals pose the bigger threat to the Tories because they are potentially viable in more seats.  That’s just a function of the electoral math.

What you will see Tory partisans doing is pushing hard on the theme that the Liberal Party support is collapsing.  They want people  - especially Liberal campaign workers -  to become demoralised and stay home. 

The Tories are getting plenty of help from Liberal gaffes.  They are also getting help from the news media who report fiction – like the race for second place or the importance of debates - as if it was fact.

What is really happening and what the news media often report are two very different things. 

And what happens next week after all the voting is done, well that won’t look much like the media projections to date and it may well be a lot less dramatic than people are assuming.

- srbp -