On the second official day of the provincial election campaign in British Columbia, Adrian Dix’s New Democrats remain heavily favoured to prevail on May 14. The time remaining for incumbent Premier Christy Clark to turn things around is quickly running out.
The latest forecast for ThreeHundredEight.com (full methodology) and The Globe and Mail projects that, had an election been held on April 14 when polls were last in the field, the New Democrats would have taken 48 per cent of the vote. The B.C. Liberals would have taken 30 per cent, with the B.C. Conservatives at 12 per cent and the B.C. Greens at 9 per cent. That is an enormous lead for Mr. Dix, and it is estimated that there is a less than 1-in-50 chance that it can be overcome by Ms. Clark before May 14.
With such a large margin over the Liberals, the NDP should be able to capture between 57 and 73 seats to form a majority government. The Liberals would be reduced to between 10 and 27 seats, while as many as four independents could be elected. The precise seat projection, based on current polling data, awards 65 seats to the New Democrats, 19 to the Liberals, and one to the independents.
Those are bleak numbers for the B.C. Liberals, and they have accordingly made a virtue out of poll skepticism. But if an election were held today, the odds are little better than 2 per cent that the polls (and the projections based on them) could be so wrong as to miss their re-election.
The polls have been remarkably consistent. The last five surveys (from four different polling firms) have all put the party at between 27 and 29 per cent support, and the gap between them and the New Democrats at between 17 and 20 points (with the exception of an EKOS poll, though their estimate of likely voter support also put the margin at 17 points). The Liberals have hardly been able to budge from a narrow range of between 26 and 33 per cent support since September, while the NDP has polled at 39 per cent or higher in all of the last 36 polls stretching back to the beginning of 2012.
Ms. Clark does have a whole campaign to turn the tables on the New Democrats, and they have already taken a few early swings at Mr. Dix. But the problem for the Liberals is that they have not been able to use the time afforded to them in the last year to change the dial. In the previous projection of early December, the NDP had a 19-point edge over the Liberals. Having reduced that by one point over 4.5 months does not bode well for the party over the next four weeks.
But they have, so far at least, held off the challenge from the Conservatives on their right. After briefly flirting with second place last year, the Conservatives under former MP John Cummins have been unable to break out of the low-teens in support. Though there is the potential for the party to concentrate enough votes in individual ridings to steal a few seats, the numbers are not in their favour.
This is due in large part to their relatively uniform support throughout the province. They are projected to take 10 per cent of the vote in and around Vancouver, 11 per cent on Vancouver Island, and 15 per cent in the B.C. Interior and the north of the province. The Conservatives would need to start pushing 20 per cent in the Interior to be capable of more than one or two upsets, particularly since Liberal support is still relatively robust in the region. A survey published this morning in Kamloops shows the Liberals leading in one of the city’s two ridings, and trailing the NDP by only six points in the other, with the Conservatives far behind.
Above it all, the New Democrats are posting strong numbers throughout British Columbia. They have an estimated 49 per cent support in and around Vancouver and 52 per cent on Vancouver Island. They are expected to sweep the island, though the Greens do have the chance to be in a position to win at least one seat in the Victoria region by May 14.
But at this stage and with the data currently available, only the New Democrats are in a position to form a government on that date. The forecasting model does not consider a total of more than 37 seats – well short of the 43 needed for a majority government – likely for the Liberals on election night even if they manage to turn the tide. And if the Greens and Conservatives win a few seats, and all four of the major independents are elected, even an NDP minority government is not seen as being likely.
The next four weeks could change things dramatically, of course. But based on how things have shifted – or rather, have not shifted – over the past year and how other campaigns have played out both in B.C. and elsewhere in the past, the New Democrats are in about as strong a position as they could be.
All publicly available polls are weighted by sample size, date, and the polling firm’s accuracy record. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all 85 ridings in the province, based on the provincial shifts in support since the 2009 election and subsequent by-elections. The probability forecast is based on historical changes in support between polls and election results. The projection is subject to the margins of error of the polls included as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level.
Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com .