Friday, September 26, 2008

Strategic complications

One more followup note on strategic voting. As problematic as it is at the best of times to try to figure out where a vote is best placed even if one wants to vote strategically, this year's election looks to be a particularly difficult one to try to break down neatly. And that can be readily seen from the suggestions at the Vote for Environment site which seems to have emerged as the main source for strategic recommendations.

Rather than making recommendations based primarily on current polling numbers, its figures are based primarily on 2006 election results with not much regard for what's apparently changed since then. So even with the Libs potentially losing up to half of their 2006 popular support and falling behind even the Greens in B.C., the site still recommends voting for Lib candidates in ridings like Fleetwood-Port Kells, Newton-North Delta or Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca - even though the NDP would rank ahead by a substantial margin if the difference from 2006 to today in provincial polling numbers is applied to the ridings.

Which isn't to say that applying the 2006 results is necessarily an unreasonable starting point for recommendations. But it does raise a significant risk that an effort to vote strategically may backfire: a strategic push toward the Libs in that kind of riding could only dilute the effects of increased general support for the NDP, allowing the Cons to win seats which they wouldn't hold otherwise.

And of course there are equal dangers in the other direction. Ultimately, any recommendation can easily be counterbalanced by some other factor far outside the influence of a strategic voting effort.

In fairness, Vote for Environment does plan to issue updated recommendations after the debates - so some of the bugs which one might point out now may be fixed by then. But that still leaves plenty of room either for things to change between then and election day, or for the group's assumptions to be wrong to begin with. And faced with that risk, the best plan in the vast majority of cases is still to vote for the party who best reflects one's values based on the knowledge that it'll benefit in a number of ways, rather than hoping to guess right in a strategic voting scenario.

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