Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How to measure support for the coalition

Stephen Harper did not get a huge degree of support to govern, but the Liberals got even less.

I know there are people saying that the combined Liberal and NDP vote was higher than the Conservatives, but this assumes that their supporters are all behind a coalition government and I believe this is not accurate. It is an utter fallacy in our electoral system to look at the raw vote totals and make assumptions about things because of it. The decision making process people use when they vote in our system is a complex one that delivers little or no direct information about public will. The only reflection we have of public will is through the MPs elected.

In the election the Dion made it clear he would not form a coalition with the NDP, so this is something people voting Liberal expected. Many Liberals are more likely to support the Conservatives than the NDP, how many Liberal supporters would be happier with a Conservative government than a coalition? This is something we can not know and can not fathom.

Are New Democrats happy to be in coalition with the Liberals? Not all of them. A lot of NDP voters will never vote for the Liberals - look at the results in Saanich and the Gulf Islands where the NDP candidate still got several thousand votes after ending his campaign.

Bloc voters can not be counted as supporters for the coalition, they simply can not be counted as supporting any federalist party.

So, where are we at with popular support for the coalition? My estimate is that about 28% to 30% of Canadian voters support the coalition at this time. I can hear some of you out there saying "but that is unrealistic" - for an example of the whole is less than the sum of the parts, look at what happened when the PCs took over the Alliance and formed the Conservatives, the new party lost a lot of support.

Anecdotally in online polls and other measures of support things are running between 25% to 33% in favour of the coalition and 67% to 75% opposed.

When the first public opinion polls come out, my question of levels of support will be clearly answered. What does the NDP do if their support is way down? How do the Liberals react to very low polling numbers?

I suspect very low polling numbers will push the coalition to hold power and the Bloc will attempt to keep them in power because of the fear of Conservative majority.

I expect the media line to become "No one elected them and they are wildly unpopular - get rid of them." or something like that. Low polling numbers, no public mandate for a program of governance and bad economic times is going to make for life in hell for a Lib/NDP coalition.

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