With less than six months to go before the next election in British Columbia, Adrian Dix's New Democrats are on track to oust the B.C. Liberal government headed by Premier Christy Clark.
The province is scheduled to go the polls on May 14, 2013 when Ms. Clark will seek an extension of the Liberals' 12-year stint in government. The odds that she will get that mandate are very low.
If an election were held today, the New Democrats would capture an estimated 49 per cent of the vote, based on the latest vote projections from ThreeHundredEight.com's forecasting model. The Liberals would take 30 per cent, while John Cummins's B.C. Conservatives would garner 13 per cent support. Another 7 per cent of British Columbians would vote for the Greens and 2 per cent for independents and candidates from other parties.
Compared to the results of the 2009 election, when both the Liberals and NDP were headed by different leaders (Gordon Campbell and Carole James, respectively), this represents a seven-point gain for the New Democrats and a 16-point loss for the Liberals. Much of their support has drifted to the Conservatives, who only captured 2 per cent of the vote in 2009 (also under a different leader).
Can Clark make a comeback?
Overcoming a gap of 19 points over the next six months is a very tall order for Ms. Clark. A party with a 19-point edge in the polls six months out from the next election could expect to win the popular vote in about 19 out of 20 contests. While that gives Ms. Clark and the B.C. Liberals an outside shot, the clock is running out.
With these levels of support and based on the robustness of the polling data currently available, the New Democrats would win between 46 and 75 seats if an election were held today, more than enough to ensure a majority government. The most likely outcome would be a haul of 62 seats, up from the 36 the party currently occupies in Victoria's 85-seat legislature.
The Liberals would form the Official Opposition with between eight and 38 seats, with 22 being the most likely outcome. With the Liberals having suffered such a huge drop in support, even the re-election of Ms. Clark, elected to the legislature in a 2011 by-election by a margin of only 3.5 points, would be in doubt.
Neither the Conservatives nor the Greens would be likely to win a seat on these numbers, while the group of elected or re-elected independents could number between one and three.
The regional breakdown
The New Democrats lead in every region of British Columbia, with a projected share of 44 per cent of the vote in metropolitan Vancouver against the Liberals' 33 per cent. This is enough of an edge for the NDP to win 25 of the region's 40 seats. The Conservatives come up third with 14 per cent.
In the B.C. Interior and the northern parts of the province, the NDP has the edge with 44 per cent to 32 per cent for the Liberals, with the Conservatives in a respectable third at 16 per cent. The vote splits are even more favourable to the New Democrats in this region, as they would win 23 of 31 seats.
The New Democrats enjoy their widest lead on Vancouver Island, with roughly 62 per cent support to 22 per cent for the Liberals, and would sweep all 14 of the island's seats. The Greens and Conservatives tie for third with a projected 8 per cent support apiece.
The next six months
Though the odds are very slim, the Liberals are still capable of pulling out a victory in six months' time. Based on how the polls have moved over the last 180 days, over the next six months the Liberals could plausibly push their support back up to 42 per cent. That would give them a shot at another majority government. Conversely, the Liberals could also sink down to 18 per cent support and be replaced by the Conservatives as the main rival to the NDP. The New Democrats, meanwhile, have been incredibly steady in their support over the last year. A collapse (or surge) is not considered likely.
It is too early to write the B.C. Liberals off, as they still have strong organizational and fundraising capabilities. Support for the B.C. Conservatives is also quite flimsy, and could breakdown under the magnifying glass of a campaign. But the likelihood that Ms. Clark will be able to overcome such a yawning gap between her party's support and that of Mr. Dix's NDP in such a short period of time is very low. If the New Democrats can avoid being that 1 out of 20 result, they will form British Columbia's next government.
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. Read the full methodology.
Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com.