Monday, May 09, 2005

Interpretations of Vulnerability Index

In an earlier post I used predictions posted on electionprediction.org to produce a numerical representation of how vulnerable each party's current seats are if an election is held this spring. I found that 36% of Liberal incumbents are vulnerable, while only 21% of Conservative and New Democratic MPs, and only 2% of Bloc MPs face an uphill battle.

Evaluating the predictions

The longer the period of time between now and election day the less valuable current predictions become. Right now the folks at ep.org have been cautious and have not predicted any incumbent defeats yet. Instead, it seems, they have chosen to list races where the incumbent might be defeated as too close to call, for now.

This coming election will be much easier to correctly predict than the last. First, where we usually have four to five years between elections we now only have one. Also, last election, predictors were forced to try and estimate how well the previously split CA and PC vote would come together. That's not a problem here. Finally, this time around there are no boundary changes that have in past made it difficult to extrapolate from historical results.

In general, I feel quite strongly that this election is an ideal situation for organisations like ep.org and their predictions.

Interpretations

Both the CPC and the NDP are in similar positions with about one-fifth of their incumbent MPs vulnerable. Except for a couple of rare cases in Ontario and BC these vulnerable seats will go either to the party that now holds them or to the Liberals--it is unlikely that a seat would switch from Tory to NDP or vice versa.

The Bloc has their seats all but locked up. Only one BQ seat is currently listed as too close to call. No where to go but up.

On a riding-by-riding basis the Liberals are in a worse position compared to the other parties. One-third of Liberal MPs are vulnerable enough that their ridings are currently listed as TCTC.

Conclusions

These numbers should be an obvious explanation for why the Tories and Bloquistes are eager to have an election this spring while the Liberals do everything in their power to avoid one.

A majority government is next to impossible. There are 124 seats all but locked up for all parties other than the Tories and 129 for all parties but the Liberals. Either one would have to both protect their base and gain a large number of the available seats. If we have an election before July 15 and we don't see the sort of monumental campaign blunder that only happens once in a generation the numbers more or less rule out a majority.

I am not sure how much stock to put in this argument but some will say that secure seats mean available resources that can be allocated elsewhere. I'm skeptical of how useful a brigade of Stetson-wearing Albertans would be to the Tories on the streets of Toronto or if Liberal volunteers from Toronto could help stave off Bloc wins in several Quebec ridings. I suppose this may be a factor on the issues of allocating funds and in choosing where to send the party leaders. Martin will have to concentrate more on saving incumbents while the others can work for new gains.

Within two to three weeks we should know if we are going to have a spring election. I believe that between now an election call the momentum for that election will be established. A strong indicator of who will benefit from an election will be the party who starts to have TCTC races assigned to their challengers. Also, if predictions begin to pull more of a party's incumbent ridings into the TCTC column we'll know that that party is in trouble.

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