Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Could the NDP and Liberals get along?

Between the post below, and some questions I have about the long term viability of destroying the Liberal party to bring about progressive governance in Canada that I raised over at Merge-Left, I need to post the following table to ensure some of the claims I have made (explicit or implicit) have some backing:

Pollster Ekos does some great "second choice" polling:

First Choice

Second choice Overall 2nd CPC LPC NDP GPC BQ Other
CPC 8.9 - 16.0 13.4 14.4 11.1 9.8
LPC 16.1 17.8 - 40.5 16.5 17.6 6.9
NDP 23.8 21.1 43.2 - 26.8 37.1 11.7
GPC 11.2 11.0 15.9 12.4 - 10.7 12.9
BQ 4.2 2.3 4.1 10.9 3.4 - 12.9
Other 3 2.9 1.6 4.2 3.3 0.0 -
No Second 32.7 45.0 19.1 18.5 35.6 23.6 45.9

If it isn't clear, the way to read this table:  First column is the overall percentage of voters who pick the parties on the left side as their "second" choice.  Then there is a column per party showing what each party's supporters pick as their second choice.  So 16% of current Liberal party supporters say the Conservative party is their second choice, 13.4% of NDP voters say the same and so on.

Here's what I take from this table:

  • Yes, the vast majority of Liberal voters are left-of-centre.  Only 16% would go Conservative, while nearly three times as many would vote NDP.  Almost as many as would vote Conservative would instead go to a minor left-wing party in the Greens.  In a world where the NDP and Liberals were somehow one entity (either because of a merger or because the Liberals collapse) I'm fairly sure most of those 16% saying they'd vote Green could be brought to vote for the combined entity.  
  • More people pick the Greens than Conservatives for second choice.  This is just good news in terms of identifying the real ceiling of the Conservative vote.  In 1984, the Conservatives actually crested 50% of the popular vote, even assuming they won every current voter they have today, plus all the people who pick them as their second choice, they're still below that.
  • Conservatives are least likely to have a second choice.  This is the bad news about the conservative floor.  Almost half their support would not vote for anyone but a right wing party.  
  • The NDP have the best chance of picking up votes from the BQ and Greens.  Given the increasing NDP support in Quebec and less remarkably (but still important) in BC, this is important.  
  • The NDP and Liberals are each other's top second picks.  In fact they're the top 2 numbers on the whole chart. This last is perhaps most important when discussing the possibility of some kind of alliance, merger, coalition, agreement, accord or whatever other poll tested word the leaders call it when and if they come to it.  Throw in the large blocs of Green and BQ voters who would pick the Liberals or NDP second and it's pretty likely a good chunk of them would come over if it meant keeping the Conservatives out of 24 Sussex.
  • The NDP and Liberals are least likely not to have a second choice.  This is related, but still important to note.  Any potential merger of any two parties anywhere will lose some number of die-hard purists who cannot support the merged entity, but NDP and Liberal supporters already appear most open to supporting whatever party will support the goals they believe in.  
I don't know what Layton, Igantieff and Duceppe might have in mind for the post-election scramble, and whether they could pull together somehow to form a government, but if they don't the case for a higher level of formal coordination only gets stronger.  Since compiling this table, Ekos released another poll, whose 2nd choice results (scroll down a few pages) validate nearly everything above (in fact, in the latest poll, more Liberals would choose Green over Conservative).

We can't keep having >60% of Canadians voting for a left-of-centre government election after election and ending up with Richard Nixon North.  Something has to give.

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