Sunday, August 01, 2010

On uncharted territory

There have been a couple of interesting posts discussing the NDP's resurgence in Quebec. But it's worth taking a slightly closer look at the historical numbers for the NDP's three most successful elections in the province to see just how much of an opportunity the party actually enjoys.

While Eric and Volkov have based their charts on the NDP's raw vote percentages in Quebec, let's take a look at the three apparent spikes for the party from another standpoint: comparing the NDP's share of the vote to that of the other national parties, consisting of the Libs and Cons in each election along with the Greens in 2008. (While the greatest effect of that move is to remove the Bloc from the picture from the picture for 2008, it also has some effect on the 1965 results when the Creditistes won a substantial share of the vote.)

Year NDP% Federalist% NDP Federalist Share
1965 12.0 78.9 15.2
1988 14.4 97.4 14.8
2008 12.2 61.2 19.9

In other words, the NDP is now far ahead of where it's ever been in the past among the national parties in Quebec. And that's all the more clear in looking at the NDP's share of the vote in direct comparison to that of the other parties.

In previous elections, the NDP had managed to post so much as half of the vote of either the Cons or Libs in Quebec exactly three times - in 1965, when it won 12% of the vote to the Cons' 21%; in 1980, when it took 9.1% to the Cons' 12.6%; and in 2004, when it won 4.6% to the Cons' 8.8%. And of course the latter two results were based more on extreme Con weakness than NDP strength.

But in 2008, the NDP managed to top that standard compared to both the Libs and the Cons. And the NDP's standing has only improved its standing in the time since then, with the party polling close to even with the Cons for most of the time since the 2008 election while at least keeping pace with the Libs.

Of course, as a result of the Bloc's stranglehold on a substantial chunk of the province's vote, the NDP's success against its national competitors has translated only into a trip back into the NDP's historical territory in its share of the total vote. But while I won't make the mistake of assuming the Bloc will fade away on its own, it's worth keeping in mind that the NDP is actually the best-positioned national party to peel off Bloc votes based on both Jack Layton's personal popularity as a potential Prime Minister, and the NDP as a party ranking as Bloc voters' preferred second choice.

So while the Cons have mostly written off the province and the Libs have no apparent plan for growth, the NDP's current standing in Quebec involves a far more direct path to electoral success than the party has ever had before. And that means that there's reason to expect the NDP to be able to build on its current level of support, rather than seeing the 2008 results as a temporary spike.

(Edit: Added 1980 and 2004 results to share-of-vote comparison.)

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