Friday, June 13, 2014

UPDATED Strategic voting fails again - this time in Ontario provincial election. Original headline: Strategic voting often helps those you want to hurt

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Conservative leader Tim Hudak - Sun News montage
Ontario election could be preview for BC municipal, federal contests.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column
Tuesday June 10, 2014
By Bill Tieleman
"A vote 'against' someone or something is a vote in favour of nothing."
- Alice Funke,
UPDATE:   Strategic voting fails again, in Ontario

As predicted here, strategic voting failed once more, this time in the Ontario provincial election on Thursday June 12.

The surprising Liberal majority - hello depressed pollsters yet again - did not come from strategic voting but from a precipitous drop in Conservative support and some very lucky breaks for Premier Kathleen Wynne.

In fact, the Ontario Liberal Party vote rose only 1% in this election over the last that produced a Liberal minority government - but the Conservative vote dropped by 4.2%, which meant a loss of 8 seats down to 28, while the Liberals picked up 5 seats to 58.

The NDP vote - which one would expect to shrink if strategic voting stampeded previous party supporters to "strategically" cast a ballot for the Liberals to block Conservative leader Tim Hudak - actually went up 1%, not down, and the NDP under leader Andrea Horwath maintained their previous total of 21 seats. 

And the Green Party - which actually and totally wrongly blamed strategic voting for it not winning a seat, astonishingly saw it's vote percentage rise the most of any party - by 1.8% - a complete reversal of what would happen if strategic voting were happening in a real way.

So what really happened is that Conservative voters split three ways - their 4.2% vote drop went to the Liberals, the NDP and mostly to the Greens - at least on the numbers.  

Of course, if we could read minds we might find multiple other explanations but one thing is overwhelmingly clear - this was no "strategic vote" by Liberal, NDP or Green supporters to "Stop Hudak" - it was Conservative voters voicing their strong displeasure with Hudak's crazy idea of cutting 100,000 public sector workers' jobs and threatening a serious attack on unions and their members.

And that's something to be pleased about!


Ontario goes to the polls on Thursday after a bitter, nasty campaign dominated increasingly by one topic -- strategic voting designed to defeat the party you hate the most rather than the one you actually support.
Strategic voting is a misnomer, however, because the results are consistently a big failure. But we can expect to see strategic voting promoted here in B.C.'s fall municipal elections and especially in next year's federal election.
In the 2011 federal contest, strategic voting was used to try and block Stephen Harper's Conservatives, and yet they won a majority government after the New Democrats and Liberals foolishly defeated them in Parliament, forcing an election.
Despite multiple websites like Catch 22 and Project Democracy which combined dire warnings about Harper's agenda of mayhem with directions on whether to vote Liberal or NDP in dozens of ridings, the effort was obviously a spectacular bust.
Nonetheless, the same flawed approach is being applied in an attempt to stop Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak from becoming premier by steering voters to either the governing Liberals under Kathleen Wynne or the NDP's Andrea Horwath, depending on which party appears to have the best chance in each riding.
Note this: The "Stop Hudak" campaign will become May 2015's "Stop Harper" effort, no matter how ineffectual.
Ironically, in this race it's some of Ontario's most left-wing activists publicly attacking the NDP and worrying that the Liberals will lose.
Feminist Judy Rebick, columnists Michelle Landsberg and Gerald Caplan and others denounced Horwath for defeating Wynne's budget while saying the Ontario NDP is too right-wing -- in the middle of the campaign when the only result of such criticism can be to damage the NDP vote.
Strategic voting helped the Tories
The problems with strategic voting are many and significant.
First and foremost, it requires the people who tell voters which party has the best chance of defeating the one being strategically voted against to have sophisticated, riding-level polling and research in dozens of ridings.
As Pundits' Guide's Alice Funke pointed out in 2011 about federal strategic voting websites:
"Their electoral analysis was incompetent and utterly wrong in most of the ridings where it could be said to have mattered -- leading to incorrect recommendations in many cases where it would have made a difference, and no recommendations in others that were overlooked.
Funke convincingly points out that strategic voting substantially helped, not hurt, the federal Conservatives, who must have been pinching themselves at their good luck to have such unintentional assistance.
"Project Democracy proved unable to rally sufficient voters to prevent 19 Conservative gains, completely missed the opportunity to even recommend strategic votes in 10 other cases where the Conservatives gained a seat, and got the recommendation right in just eight cases where Conservatives were actually defeated, leaving 33 targeted Conservative MPs in place," Funke wrote in her evisceration of the plan after the May 2011 election.
"The Conservatives were re-elected with a majority government. No wonder they loved Project Democracy."
Painfully true.
Taking away choice
Second, strategic voting demands that a huge number of voters not support their traditional party based on its values and policies and instead cast a ballot for a party they don't like, in order to stop one they despise.
Vancouver polling analyst Bryan Breguet suggested that in the 2011 federal election it would have taken as much as 60 per cent of Liberal and NDP voters to switch their choice in their riding to make strategic voting effective, something he called "completely unrealistic."
It should go without saying that strategic voting strongly promotes the development of a two-party system with few options for different ideological perspectives.
Political history shows that the New Democratic, Social Credit, Parti Quebecois, Reform, Green and many other parties came into existence and sometimes power because the traditional choice of Liberal or Conservative was unpalatable.
Trying to use strategic voting to influence election results is like playing blackjack at a poker table – the level of complexity is far beyond the ability of the player – and they’re in the wrong game.
Lastly, voting is your democratic opportunity to make a decision based on your values by picking the candidate and party that can best represent you in elected office.
No one should squander their principles by voting for a party they don't like to defeat a party they hate while abandoning the party they truly support.



Not Anon DPL said...

I don't follow the strategic vote route. I support one party, except now and again a candidate from another party who , over time has impressed me on their ability. That alone pretty well means, no Conservative, nor BC Liberal( conservative, Socred actually). Some of the folks I've voted for didn't have much of a hope to win but voted for her or him anyway

Anonymous said...

Hey Bill, thanks for the analysis, some may disagree but personally, I couldn't agree more. The key takeaway for me is an affirmation that NDPers spend far too much time worrying about Green voters and losing NDP voters to the Greens both provincially and federally.
E May's attack letter to Andrea Horwath was not based on E May's high principles or keen interest in NDP policy it was purely from the realization that Horwath's non-progressive platform was going to attrack Green voters.
E May was elected federally largely by voters dis-enchanted with Con MP Gary Lunn. Some NDP votes moved for her but not many. A J Weaver in Oak Bay was elected by disenchanted BC Liberals. Poll by poll the NDP vote remained solid. Fact is while the Green Brand is associated with progressives and has ssome idealists and some Prop Rep proponents, it's really "ptrogressive" Conservatives who vote for them.
Here in E May land, we call them Conservatives who compost. With turn-outs as low as they are the core votes remain intact and the so-called strategic voters are voting against someone and not for anything. Green policy is carefully crafted to reflect no real support for the left and occasionally the members who thought they had signed up for a progressive change movement revolt when they see the gamesmanship and high-minded posturing that shows a kind of cynicism remoniscent of the Conservatives.
So I will continue to vote for the party who stands for things I believe and "strategic voting" has unintended consequences for sure, but it's no substitute for stand for something and voting accordingly..

Anonymous said...

Strategic voting is just mush dished out by those who are stupid enough to believe it.

Hudak lost because he was not clear as to how those 100,000 public service positions would be eliminated, and even through attrition and retirement, it would have been too much. He came across as too right wing. The PC Ontario Party obviously did not make the effort. He was supposed to gain a few seats, in actual fact he lost 10.

Everyone knows DPL here votes NDP.

(the) Pundits' Guide said...

And that's with turnout going UP by over 4 points as well.

Evil Eye said...

The "Eye's" 2 cents worth. The Liberals won the election with transit politics in Toronto. Hudak was going to scrap the current LRT plans and build subways. The NDP promised "pie in the Sky" solutions and the Liberals played the locals like a well oiled machine.

But where is the money for all the promises? The cupboard is bare.

Richard Hughes said...

OK, here is the third defeat or disappointment in a row. Nova Scotia, BC, Ontario.

In Ontario the ONDP forced an election by rejecting an 'NDP Style' budget and forcing an election.

How long will the NDP continue relying on the the Kool-Topp-Guys?

Who wins with these guys, usually the Conservatives, this time the Liberals.

Face it the Ontario NDP was to the right of the Liberals and that is why so many NDP'ers voted Liberal. They were more progressive.

It was not Strategic Voting. It was a complete CF from the pretend NDP!

Blaming strategic voting is smoke at best. The lack of effective strategic voting and the NDP attack on the Liberals brought us Harper.

In Ontario we lucked out. The NDP is overdue for a major shakeup and shakedown!

e.a.f. said...

That last line, "The NDP is overdue for a major shakeup and shakedown!" says it all. It is about time. Perhaps that is why voters in Ontario went Liberal. Hudak was just plain scary and people saw no way their lives were going to improve with the Cons. They didn't go NDP because Horvath, forced this election and to what end? Her greater glorification and perhaps a crack at the Premier's job. If I'd were living in Ontario, I'd have voted Liberal because the NDP wasn't going to offer anything. Wynne just had some decent things on the table.

Anonymous said...

E.a.f. would not vote Liberal. He's fooling anyone who follows him on many blogs that he would vote anything else, as he is blindly loyal to the NDP. He says he would vote Liberal, but the truth his, he would vote NDP, you'd see him in an NDP campaign office. He's a little to the left of Dave Barrett. That's based on his rhetoric here on Bill's Finest BC Whines Blog and the Tyee (which isn't "independent" at all, it's funded by Labour interests and The Left).

The NDP needs a shakedown here in BC. Horgan being elected leader is just a start. But the NDP both here and in Ontario simply need to learn being constantly critical and being anti-everything is not going to win a lot of votes. Dix and many on The Left found that out the hard way last year. The NDP was expected to win big, and ended up where they have been since 2001.