All posts tagged Liberal Party

Latest Calgary poll results – perhaps aided by party’s sophisticated moves – show Green Wave developing

Calgary Centre Greens get ready to surf the Green Wave, expected momentarily. Actual Green Party supporters may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: Chris Turner, Joan Crockatt and Naheed Nenshi.

The latest poll of residents of the Calgary Centre riding shows a Green Wave developing among opponents of the Conservative Party in the Nov. 26 federal by-election.

Organizers for Green Party candidate Chris Turner are taking a highly sophisticated approach to polling in the Calgary Centre by-election, tipping their supporters when they get wind of opinion polls in the riding and instructing them to be sure to pick up their phones and answer the questions.

Nothing wrong with this, of course – but it should serve as a warning to undecided voters and other observers, especially journalists, that the “narrative” candidates’ campaigns try to spin around small-sample polls like those being conducted in Calgary Centre can be easily manipulated by smart efforts to game the polling process.

In the case of the Calgary centre by-election, the narrative being developed by Mr. Turner’s supporters is that their candidate is the only one with momentum after he appeared unexpectedly in third place among respondents to a Nov. 12 poll of riding voters conducted by Forum Research Inc.

And it may well now be true, as Mr. Turner told the Globe and Mail yesterday after another Forum research poll appeared to confirm the results of the Nov. 12 survey, “we’ve got the momentum now. I know for sure we can win it. This is the most vulnerable Conservative campaign in Calgary in decades.”

The Nov. 12 poll showed Mr. Turner in a strong position to vault into the lead among the riding’s many voters who are opposed to front-running Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt. This would be an important consideration for strategic voters opposed to Ms. Crockatt and looking for the best candidate to whom to give their anti-Conservative vote.

The Nov. 12 Forum poll put Ms. Crockatt in the lead, barely, with 32 per cent of committed supporters. Liberal Harvey Locke was in second place with 30 per cent of those surveyed and Mr. Turner – at that time surprisingly – was in the key No. 3 spot with 23 per cent. NDP candidate Dan Meades had 12 per cent, according to that Forum survey.

The Forum Research poll released last night appeared to reinforce the narrative. In the survey conducted Saturday, Ms. Crockatt was back up a little at 35 per cent, but well below the 48 per cent she recorded in the first poll on Oct. 26. Mr. Locke was holding at 30 per cent. Mr. Turner had moved up again to 25 per cent. Mr. Meades’ support slipped to 8 per cent.

If this narrative sounds familiar to Alberta political observers, it ought to. It was exactly the strategy used to catapult Naheed Nenshi into the lead in the October 2010 Calgary municipal election and Alison Redford to victory in the 2011 Progressive Conservative leadership race. Both really got on the radar when a poll unexpectedly placed them in the No. 3 spot in their respective contests. Mr. Nenshi is now mayor of Calgary and Ms. Redford, of course, is the premier of Alberta.

It is likely no coincidence that many of the same people backing Mr. Turner were also involved in the Nenshi campaign, and possibly in the Redford campaign as well. Indeed, Mr. Nenshi stepped into the fray last week, slamming Ms. Crockatt for not showing up at some all-candidates’ forums.

So journalists and citizens interpreting the various Forum Research poll results ought to take note of the fact that the survey samples are very small – the Nov. 12 poll had only 376 respondents and the Nov. 17 poll had 403, which means that approximately four responses could move the level of support for any given candidate by a full percentage point.

Interactive voice response surveys like these Forum polls (which is pollster talk for robocall push-button polls) tend to have lower response rates than other polling methodologies, further increasing the impact of individual respondents.

After the Nov. 12 results, media quickly picked up on the fact Ms. Crockatt’s support appeared to be dramatically lower than it was on Oct. 26, when she recorded the backing of 48-per-cent of respondents. Journalists also quickly ran with the idea Mr. Turner was the candidate whose support was showing the most upward movement.

So it is significant – though impossible to criticize – that a Green Party organizer emailed committed supporters a note headed “There is another poll tonight – be sure to pick up,” not long before the latest survey.

“Word from Chris Turner’s Head Quarters is that another poll is being conducted at this very moment,” said the email from Green Party Volunteer Co-ordinator Natalie Odd to committed Turner supporters. “Please be sure to pick up any calls your receive this evening!”

The emails were followed up with phone calls to supporters, although the pollster actually appears to have called a day later than the party expected.

In addition to such emails and calls, Mr. Turner’s supporters posted similar messages on Facebook and some people distributed the call-display number the polling company was using.

As previously noted, there’s nothing wrong with this, any more than it would be wrong for a politician to encourage supporters to show up at all-candidates meetings and cheer loudly. Other campaigns may also be doing the same thing.

But as citizens we need to be aware that this method of polling can produce results that do not precisely reflect the true distribution of public support at the time the survey was taken. Furthermore, we would be naïve not to realize that poll results influence voter preferences during campaigns, especially among undecided voters pondering a strategic vote against a particular candidate.

Advance polls in the Calgary Centre by-election are scheduled to open today.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Can Canada’s Conservatives truly become our ‘natural governing party’? Maybe

Prime Minister Stephen Harper tries just to stifle his worst instincts. Warning: Canadian prime ministers may not be exactly as illustrated. If you’re too young to get this, just don’t worry about it. It’s pretty obscure anyway. Below: Richard Nixon, back in the days when there was only a Commie under every bed. Mr. Harper as we’ve come to love him.

Just the other day, it was said by one of the usual suspects in one of the usual places that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada now sees itself as having inherited the mantle of the country’s “natural governing party” from the woebegone Liberals.

It is certainly true that this could happen if the dice roll the Conservatives’ way, as so far they have. But this potential outcome notwithstanding, the so-called Conservatives – who despite their honourable history are nowadays neither really conservative nor truly a national party – face considerable roadblocks to their great ambition.

Chief among these are the radical and intolerant nature of their own political base and their nearly complete lack of support in one of the key regions of the country. For despite having many more moderate supporters, they remain the party of the hate-filled, Internet trolling, union-hating, fear-mongering, gun-loving, homophobic, anti-abortion, loony right as well as of corporate greed, and they have little support in Quebec outside a few reconstituted separatists.

Consider the United States as an illustration of the fate that may await the Canadian Conservatives if they cannot overcome their baser nature and also build meaningful support in French-speaking Canada – both goals that are within the grasp of the party, but which will not come particularly easily to them.

In the U.S., Democratic Party President Barack Obama may very well be reelected – despite his profound lack of success on the economic front and his betrayal of his own key supporters on a wide range of issues.

Why? Simply because the Republican Party has forfeited its role in the modern era as America’s natural governing party, which it has enjoyed since the inception of Richard Nixon’s divisive but effective Southern Strategy in the late 1960s. It has done so by moving consistently to the right to the point where it is on the verge of becoming the Treason Party of the United States. All this the Republicans did to themselves without facing the danger of alienating voters in a part of the country that speaks another language, for the simple reason no such region exists – yet…

To a significant degree, Prime Minister Harper’s Tea Party of Canada still appeals most to essentially the same minority of voters, and managed to form a majority government by successfully keeping those supporters in check at the same time as it moved its policy platform back toward the middle. Add to that strategy a waning and still discredited Liberal Party and a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time NDP, and they were able to achieve their goal.

Having done so, however, the question is whether they can overcome the radicalism of their own core and the extremist instincts of Mr. Harper himself to really become a natural governing party. In other words, they need to get their trolls under control – and some of those trolls are pretty well placed!

The conundrum for the Conservatives is that to become the natural governing party, they need to be a moderate party that hews to the centre – even if they try to ease the centre to the right. But if they succeed at staying near the centre line, they risk losing their most loyal supporters – perhaps to a national version of Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance party, as indeed has happened once before.

One senses the PM understands this strategically, but can’t quite achieve it viscerally, in his gut. Indeed, for a vivid example of the PM’s own instincts at play, consider his warning yesterday in an on-line CBC retrospective on the 911 attacks that there may be an “Islamicist” in a suicide vest hiding under each of our beds. Please!

So, we shall see. If the Conservatives truly become the natural governing party, it may not as bad a thing as some of us fear. After all, they will have had to moderate their worst instincts to achieve that goal.

And if they don’t, well, there’s another party waiting in the wings – one with support in Quebec and fewer lunatic trolls among its fringes – almost ready to play that starring role.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.