[updated for spelling – HT Margaret]
Monday saw the worst performance of the Liberal Party of Canada in its long history, both in terms of seats won and the popular vote. But how did they do in Saskatchewan, you must be salivating to know. Well, let’s have a look:
They re-elected Ralph Goodale, keeping their 1 seat in the province. The rest of the seats went to the Conservatives so that, as far as seat distribution goes, there was no change.
However, the Liberal vote in the province declined from 14.2% to 8.6% (62194 votes to 38,981)* – that’s a 40% decline over 2008 results.
The Conservatives again won 10 of their 13 seats with an outright majority of the votes in that riding (50%+), with some extremely wide margins, such as Ed Komarnicki in Souris-Moose Mountain who claimed 73.98% of all the votes. Province-wide, the Conservatives increased their share of the popular vote, from 53.7% in 2008 to 56.3% this year (225,152 votes to 256,004).
Overall, voter turn-out was up as a percentage (the number of registered voters declined slightly over 2008) and in absolute numbers: from 438,033 in 2008 to 455,053.
Who were the big losers in 2011? The Liberals lost about 23,000 voters since 2008. The Green party also lost nearly half their support in Saskatchewan, about 11,000 voters. And other parties (Christian Heritage, Western Independence, etc) lost about 20,000 votes collectively since 2008.
This tells us that voters were motivated by the stark choice – Conservative or NDP – and few wasted their votes on the Liberals, Greens, or a myriad of other also-rans. In 2008, the Conservatives and NDP together accounted for about 79% of the vote. So 21% of voters chose other options. This year, less than 12% did so. Combined with an increase in the total number of voters this year, this put a lot of votes into play.
Who benefited? To which party (the Conservatives or the NDP) did these tens of thousands of voters turn to?
Well, it appears that both parties attracted these voters in large numbers, but the NDP attracted about 33% more. Put another way, these voters went to the Conservatives and NDP at a ratio of 3:4. The Conservatives obtained about 30,000 more votes over 2008, and the NDP obtained about 40,000 more.
Now, we can’t draw too many conclusions about that, at least without doing a poll-by-poll comparison – which I frankly lack the time to do – but it is an interesting ratio.
In the end, the NDP obtained 32.3% of the popular vote – a significant increase, but it didn’t come at the expense of the Conservatives, and so they were unable to win any seats.
Let’s look again at what actually happened to the Liberal vote. In Dead Grits – Part Two, I talked about how the personal brand of Ralph Goodale and David Orchard artificially inflated the province-wide Liberal popular vote. And obviously the same effect is at work in 2011. So let’s normalize the situation by taking Ralph out of the equation (David Orchard didn’t run in 2011 – so he didn’t have an effect; nor were there any other “star” Liberal candidates).
Goodale’s votes alone (15,842) account for 40% of all Liberal votes cast in Saskatchewan in 2011! Leaving out the Wascana from the provincial Liberal results, we get the a normalized rate of 5.1%. Down from a normalized rate of 10.9% in 2008 – a steep decline. While Goodale’s performance declined only 7% over that same time.
To conclude, we see a continued decline in the Liberal brand in Saskatchewan. At the federal level (which historically outperforms the provincial party) the Liberals are now at 5%. I believe this supports my prediction from Dead Grits – Party One of a <5% performance for the Saskatchewan Liberal Party in the provincial election later this year.
I suppose the good news is that at 5%, there isn’t much further to decline.
* Note: this analysis uses the currently available Elections Canada results, which are the May 5 Preliminary Results.