Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Point Doulgas by-election: Post mortem

I haven't made many “post-election analysis” posts on this blog, but it's never too late to start, right? As expected, the NDP managed to win last week's provincial by-election in Point Douglas, Manitoba. A seat they have never lost, and which gave them their best result out of all ridings in the 2016 provincial election. Even though the NDP won, the by-election result was a bit of a disappointment for the party, as they won less than 50% of the vote for the first time in the riding's history.

Preliminary results show the NDP's Bernadette Smith winning 44% of the vote (down from 58% in 2016), with the Liberal's John Cacayuran winning 29% of the vote in second place (up from 19%). This was the Liberal's best showing in the riding since the 1990 election. The Tories finished third with 16% of the vote, only down a quarter of a percentage point from 2016. The Greens finished in fifth, behind the libertarian Manitoba Party. Overall turnout was down 10% from last year's election, to just 32%. While bad, it's not unusual of for by-elections to have turnouts in the low 30s, and considering how low turnout usually is in this riding, it's not that bad.

Elections Manitoba published the preliminary results by polling division, which has allowed me to delve deep into the results to see just what happened on election day. I sure hope they used the same poll map as in the last provincial election.
Race and income by census tract (2011 National Household Survey)

Except for the one polling division in the southeast corner of the riding, Point Douglas' electoral geography is usually quite homogeneous, as the NDP has historically swept almost every poll in this riding. Last week's by-election did identify a political cleavage in the riding, that I believe is most likely based on ethnic lines. The Liberals ended up winning 8 of the 40 polls in the riding, and tying the NDP in one other. Most of these poll wins came from the northwest part of the riding, which has a lower Aboriginal population than the rest of the riding, and a higher Filipino population. This part of the riding is over one-quarter Filipino, which is the highest proportion of Filipinos in the riding. Most of the rest of the riding has a large Aboriginal population (with about 50% of the population in these areas being Native), and these areas stuck with the NDP, who just so happened to be running an Aboriginal candidate. The poll in the southeast corner of the riding stuck with the Tory candidate. This one poll is in an area that is very different from the rest of the riding socioeconomically, with an average income of over $60,000 compared to the low $20,000 range in most of the rest of the riding.

The swing map reinforces my theory of Filipino voters switching their allegiances to the Liberals. Some polls in the northwest of the riding saw up to 30% swings away from the NDP. In fact the poll which was the NDP's best in 2016 was even won by the Liberals! That's not to say it was all bad news for the NDP, as a few polls actually swung in their direction. One poll even saw a nearly 30% swing away from the Liberals! These swings to the NDP came from areas that are the most Aboriginal in the riding, and are also among the poorest parts of the riding.

Contributing to the election results was a likely turnout difference between Filipino and Aboriginal voters, as the northwest part of the riding saw the highest election day turnout, while the poorest and most Aboriginal parts of the riding tended to see the lowest turnout. In fact, there is a clear correlation between swing and turnout; areas that swung the most to the Liberals had a higher turnout, while those areas that had the lowest turnout swung to the NDP (or at least had a lower swing to the Liberals).

What does this all mean for Manitoba politics going forward? Well, not too much, as both the Liberals and NDP are leaderless at the moment. However, it does expose a potential ethnic cleavage in Winnipeg's north end, which may cut into the NDP's dominance of this working class part of the city. We've already seen the Liberals not only make inroads, but sweep this part of the city in the last federal election. I'm not saying they will do this on the provincial level, but winning over Filipino voters will help the Liberals win a few more seats in the region.

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