I laid out here my belief that a lot of the Conservative campaign was aimed at suppressing Liberal vote rather than building the Conservative vote. In short form; what Karl Rove would do in an American election. If what you stand for is anathema to the majority of the voting public but you have a rock solid base that is motivated to vote for their issue, then the path to success lies through suppressing the vote.
Now the Simon Fraser University Political Science Department has come out with their analysis. (h/t One Woman One Blog).
A choice and juicy quote:
"The 2008 election appears to have been a real success for the Conservative Party with a gain of 19 seats from the 2006 election. However, that success was entirely due to the woes of other parties, rather than any added support for the Conservatives. Indeed the number of Canadians voting for the Conservatives even dipped slightly.
The main factor in Conservative success was the big drop in turnout among Liberal supporters. While the Green Party managed to split the Conservative's opposition by capturing a number of defecting Liberals and NDPers, the Conservatives benefited even more from the hundreds of thousands of disenchanted Liberals who simply stayed home on election day. The Conservatives picked up 11 seats in Ontario with an impressive gain in popular vote from 35 to 48%. However, the Conservatives won hardly any more votes in Ontario compared to 2006. Their gain in vote share came about because 500,000 Ontario voters went AWOL between the two elections, most of them Liberal, leaving the Conservative candidates better supported in comparison. The Conservatives were not able to capitalize on the drop in Bloc support across Quebec, because they received 120,000 fewer votes in that province themselves. The only province where the Conservatives made many gains thanks to a substantial increase in votes was British Columbia."
So if 500,000 voters, most of them Liberal stayed home how would that have changed the vote?
The Elections Canada page for the Ontario results is here. (You may have to select Ontario from the drag down menu in the upper left hand corner). Or look at the one pasted above.
I have recast the Ontario results based on the following assumptions:
- SFU is correct that 500,000 Ontario voters stayed home.
- For the purposes of estimating the result if the 500,000 voters had come out, I assumed:
- To determine the Popular Vote excluding the Liberals I assumed the vote for the other parties stayed the same . E.G.: The Conservatives captured 59.2 of the vote count that excludes Liberal votes
- This Popular Vote can be applied to the fraction of the 500k that wouldn't have gone to the Liberals. E.G.: If the Liberals got 80% of the missing votes, the Conservatives would have received 59.2% of the remaining 20%.
So if the Liberals had captured 68% (within reasonable proximity to what SFU probably means by "most") of the estimated non-cast Ontario votes, they would have tied the Conservatives in popular vote. What would this have meant to the seat count?
This also raises some interesting what ifs:
- What if the missing voters would have voted at a higher level for the Liberals?
- The 500k number was estimated based on the turnout for last year. What if some people who would have otherwise voted Liberal were afraid of having their brakes fail on the way to the voting station?
- What if it didn't matter so much who the leader was since this was the gist of their campaign anyway? I have a hunch that if Ken Dryden won we would have seen lots of "Not a goalie" ads.
- What if some of the voters intimidated by the vote suppression tactics aimed at Liberal voters voted NDP rather than not vote? Does this not imply that Ontario voters did not buy into Jack Layton's pitch? Did spending to the limit result in an indebted party with no actual benefit?