How Big Is The X Factor In Voter Projections

By Roy L Hales

Throughout this election campaign, I have been playing close attention to 338Canada’s voter projections. The creator of that website, Paul Fournier, has a track record of picking 90% of the winners in ridings throughout Quebec and Ontario. However there are factors that the algorithms and historic data cannot pick up. So how big is the X factor in voter projections for Powell River – North Island?

I sent queries out to all of the four leading parties in our riding.

The Conservatives did not reply. This is not a surprise. They have not replied to a single email I have sent them during this election.

NDP Staffer Responds

An NDP staffer emailed me he doubted his candidate would comment on national poll projections which are mostly algorithms based on national numbers with very little if any information actually coming from our riding. 

A Huge Aggregate Poll

How Big is the X Factor, could the Greens Win?
Green candidate Mark de Bruijn speaking at the September 20 Climate March on Cortes Island – Alexander Dudley photo

I spoke to Green candidate Mark de Bruijn following the September 20, 2019, Climate March on Cortes Island.

338Canada is a huge aggregate poll. So as far as polls go it is probably about as good as it is going to get right now, bit polls are based on algorithms using limited sample sizes and historic data,” he said.

Any One Of Three Parties Could Win

Statistics taken from 338Canada’s page for Powell River – North Island – chart by Roy L Hales

When you allow for deviation, 338Canada’s statistics actually show that any one of three parties could win. For example, on September 24 the Conservatives were only slightly ahead (28.2%) of the NDP (28%), with the Greens trailing closely behind (23.5%). Only there is a +/- variation of between 6.3% and 6.7% for these statistics. Our riding is considered a “Toss Up.”

Screenshot from the Vancouver Island page on 338Canada. The middle column shows who held the riding prior to the election and current standings are on the left. Note that the strongest leads are all Green; all other ridings are labelled “toss up.” The Greens lead in four ridings; Conservatives in two and the NDP in one.

Odds Of A Green Or Liberal Victory

Fournier calculates the odds of a Green victory much slimmer than the Conservatives, 9% to 47% respectively, but still possible. The Green party’s biggest obstacle may be their past electoral history. This raises the question: what will happen when voters realize they could be elected?

The Liberals (16.9%) are too far back right now. The best they could do, according to 338Canada’s projection for September 24, is third. They still have 25 days to improve that number.

The X Factor – Not Measured By Projections

Mark de Bruijn does not take these numbers too seriously:

“As we all know, things are shifting in the world everywhere, including Canada. That can’t be measured or reflected by algorithms. Polls are of limited value. They are an interesting indicator of things and probably have some reliability, but it is very limited. I would not want to put all my eggs in a basket made of algorithms.”

“We know that in our riding there are many, many people who are thinking Green, we meet them all the time. They talk to us about it. Polls don’t capture that.”

His partner and volunteer co-ordinator, Carol Thatcher, mentioned some of the reactions she had seen to an interview on CBC radio:

“Mark was interviewed, as they are interviewing all of the candidates on the island. They are pairing them. So Mark was paired with Shelley Downey in this very short five minute interview. In the day following that, we heard from several people that they … felt so positive about the way Mark spoke that they are shifting to voting Green.”

” … One of the exciting things that we are seeing is that as one individual says, ‘Yes, I will take a lawn sign and put it out front.’ Then their neighbour sees that and says ‘Oh my God, I can do that now – because I’d really like to vote Green but I was afraid because nobody else on my street is voting Green.”

“A Stretch I’d Say”

how big is the X factor in voter projections for Powell River - North Island? Could the Liberals win?
Liberal candidate Peter Schwarhoff during the 2015 election.

Liberal candidate Peter Schwarzhoff emailed me:

“Some comments on your interpretations of polls: I had a look at how they were generated. The one I examined was based on 200 something actual individuals surveyed over all of Vancouver Island. From that they produced poll predictions for all 7 ridings. A stretch I’d say.”

After Knocking On 6,000 Doors

“I’ve knocked on almost 6000 doors. Here’s the truth:

“Former NDP voters are trying to decide how to vote. Many are looking at the Greens. None are looking at the Conservatives. Some learn about me and are impressed by environmental science background and my motivation for running. Some are impressed that the Liberal has advanced so much of its progressive agenda (92% kept or underway). First Nations and Metis have never seen so much progress ( a very long way to go, but we’ve been given credit for moving in the right direction). Our 2015 platform could have been an NDP platform in many eyes.”

“Of course the Liberals are losing some votes while gaining others. Some are deeply disappointed that decided the country is not ready for proportional representation. Others at furious at our support for the Trans Mountain pipeline.”

“So… The Conservatives are holding their base while the progressive side is split with many, many undecided.”

“Too close to call, but voters here will help to decide whether CPC or Liberals form government.”


There is one more statistic to consider. Fournier claims that his predictions were correct in 90% of the ridings during previous provincial elections. Assuming he scores just as well in this election, that means his algorithms will probably pick the wrong candidates in 34 about ridings. Powell River – North Island could be one of them.   

Top photo credit: Cruising the Discovery Islands with the Pirate Team, 2015 Trip report posted on my blog: log of LUNA – small adventures in a very small boat by Dale Simson via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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