28 February 2013

General Election Cost Per Vote - Updated #nlpoli

Last fall, we looked at cost per vote for provincial general elections.  At the time, Election NL hadn’t released the 2011 general election figures but with those numbers now available, it’s time to update the earlier comparison.

Two things to note:

  • first, these comparisons are only for election period spending by each of the three parties.  Last fall we looked at total spending by the parties throughout the year.
  • second, the chart is a bar instead of a line graph.  This is a better visual presentation since the individual yearly comparisons are still there without implying any connection from one year to the next.

cpv provincial bar

Cost per vote is a measure of campaign efficiency.  It reflects how much each party spent in relation to the number of votes it received.  The lower the number, the more efficient the campaign.

Note the New Democratic Party’s CPV for the past three general elections.  It is going down steadily.

Don’t assume that campaigns strive for efficiency. They spend what they think they need to spend or what they can afford to spend.  The Liberals spent crap-loads in 1999 and 2003, as you’ll see from the next slide, but that didn’t produce votes to the same degree.

By contrast the Tories were much more efficient than the Liberals in 2003.  They spent about $150,000 less but produced roughly 163,000 compared to the Liberals’ 92,000.


As you can see from this slide, the Tories substantially outspend the Liberals and the NDP in the three most recent general elections.  They are also spending relatively a lot more compared to the amounts the incumbent Liberals outspent the Tories and NDP in 1996 and 1997.


This slide shows the extent to which the Tory hegemony over the past decade is due to one major factor:  the collapse of the Liberal Party vote.  By contrast, the Tories managed to hold onto a substantial vote in the late 1990s.  In 2003, they could build on that base.  Note that in 1999, the Tories held their vote despite spending considerably less.

To explain this,  go back to the bit about not assuming that parties strive for efficiency.  The Liberals had a rough ride in 1999.  Lots of people were ticked off at Brian Tobin and the Liberals for different reasons. People might have missed it but during the campaign, the Liberals struggled to hang onto three seats including two in St. John’s belonging to key cabinet ministers.  Tobin pissed off the nurses, in particular, who dogged him at campaign stops during the whole election.  All that worked for the Tories who were otherwise caught short by an election in a year when there was no need to have one.

The last thing to note here is the NDP.  In 2011 they spent about $150,000 more than they had in 2007.  They also pulled in almost 55,000 votes compared to only about 19,000 in each of the two previous general elections.  If the NDP are doing things to  produce votes efficiently, then that could be a key factor in 2015. After all, the Tories have been relatively less efficient than the other parties in the past couple of elections.