UR Opinion

Number of Votes to Predict Close Races in Northern Ontario

Andrew Ault

By Andrew Ault

If there is any election where Northerner’s should vote, it is without question this one. On the day of this election, political analysts across Northern Ontario and the nation still have no concrete opinion on the outcome. Many often leave it up to two candidates. That is true nationally, with most alluding to a Conservative minority or Liberal minority; and it is also for five Northern Ontario ridings. So, what does this all mean for Northerners? Simply, every vote in Northern Ontario has a lot of weight. Given that, it means every voter’s decision should be well informed as misguided, mislead or misinformed decisions could very well change the outcome of the election. So how should we vote today, what should we look for, and how can we predict who will actually win the election? All those can be answered with a clear understanding of the current electorate, solid framework on voter behavior and fresh perspective on the available statistics.
In this election, there are arguably 60-66 seats which have no clear winner. Five of them rest in Northern Ontario. In almost all of these ridings, there lies only 7.3 - 11.8% of voters in Canada left undecided, a significant indigenous population and variance in leader visits. All of these factors are extremely important.
Many presume signs, strategic voting and socioeconomics play a significant role in showing how people vote on Election Day. However, signs are more tradition than having any effect as their only actual significance is ensuring those with a sign remember to vote, and vote for that candidate because they feel guilty haven taken one of their signs. Lots of analysts point to strategic voting, yet only 0.4% is estimated to actually vote “strategically” and therefore this has little effect. Socioeconomics have been argued to play a role. But recently, it is more split. Many unionized workers vote NDP, but many also vote Conservative. The wealthy are generalized to be Tories, yet more are actually Liberal card-carrying members. And, for the poor, statistics show they are equally divided between the NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives. In short, no one party dominates a particular demographic. So, what does suggest voter behavior?
On the days leading to the election, most people vote for the same reasons children watch cartoons. It’s not to see what Scooby Doo is doing just for pleasure. It is, however, to be current with playground conversation. People become victim to voting alongside their more well-informed peers. These opinion leaders often refer to voting for the candidate over the party. Despite this being a predictor of behavior of decided voters, it shows little relevance to those deciding today.
For most of the ones deciding today, it would come down to their opinions of the leader, or the concept of “voter shopping.” Lots of people will ask themselves “Who do I want to be Prime Minster?” and disregard specific candidates. What becomes important is their interactions with the people running for Prime Minister. Second, “voter shopping” is to play a significant role. According to this theory, people go in with one idea of how they will vote and change it at last minute based on new information they obtained. This also holds true in car shopping. Parties know these things. This could explain why the Liberals have visited key ridings, an rolled out a new campaign three days before the election. This campaign; emphasizing change, faith and the historical importance their victory could have on Canada likely aligns with an assumption people may base their choice of “car,” or vote, on one thing they disagree with Harper and favor more of Trudeau.
So what does all this mean for Northern Ontario? And what about Canada?
The polls analysts refer to should not be an end in a prediction, but rather qualitative approaches could be used to make a more accurate prediction. Applying the above framework to Northern Ontario ridings, some significant conclusions could be drawn.
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