Three parties entered the Quebec election with a chance to win, and while the PQ appears to be stumbling to victory, it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen on Tuesday.
Of course, that’s not stopping anyone.
Even in the best of times, seat projections are an inexact science, but this is an election where they might not fare much better than the TSN playoff monkey.
Unlike Herman Cain, I’m not someone who distrusts the polls – but as the Alberta election showed us, shaky methodology and a volatile electorate can lead to journalists frantically re-writing their copy on election night. A robo-dialled Forum poll last week showed the Liberals riding a post-debate momentum wave to a 6-point lead over the PQ and an 11-point lead over the CAQ. That poll sticks out like an anglo at a PQ rally, but it’s still being included in the cumulative poll projections, and whose to say we won’t get another outlier in the final week?
Complicating things is the turnout issue. We know the PQ and Quebec Solidaire vote skews younger and young people are too busy smoking pot and listening to loud rock and roll music to bother voting…but are the polls factoring this in? Do the student protests change this? It really comes down to which party’s supporters are most motivated after an uninspiring August election, and I don’t think there’s a clear answer to that question. 308.com gives the Liberals an “advantage” for being in government, but this is based on a study of just 16 elections, and I’m not convinced it will translate through to a party that’s on the way out of power. And if it does, the other seat projections are under-estimating Liberal support.
Even if we had 100% confidence in the polls, transferring that confidence to seat projections is a recipe for disaster. Seat projections work reasonably well when there’s a good baseline to work off and relatively uniform shifts. Last year’s Manitoba election is a good example of this – with support levels only moving slightly from 2007, seat projections were spot on the money.
The problem with this election is that we’re dealing with a jumble of 3-way races and the rise of a new party, so there’s no baseline to work off. We can’t simply assume the CAQ will build off ADQ support uniformly, because this is a very different “third party” than the one Quebecers rejected four years ago, and they’re targeting a different type of voter.
So even when we’re treated to detailed regional numbers, there’s no way of knowing how that vote will transfer to individual ridings. Precise regional splits are a rare luxury, as many polls treat “Montreal”, “Quebec City”, and “Rest of Quebec” like three distinct and uniform regions. Anyone who has looked at riding-by-riding results in Montreal will know that’s certainly not the case.
My gut feeling is we’re heading for a Marois minority (and we all know how much she hates minorities!), but conditions are ripe for a surprise. Tune in Tuesday.