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Those advance polls

Posted by cwaddell under All, Election 2011, Election 2011 Campaign strategy, Election 2011 Faculty links, Election 2011 Media commentary

Christopher Waddell

A couple of quick thoughts on advance poll numbers released by Elections Canada today.

This may be the first time (I can’t recall a previous one) when the advance polls were held on a holiday (Good Friday) and a quasi-holiday (Easter Monday). As a result it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that turnout was high when voters had the day off work. So take the news releases about record turnout with more than a grain of salt. It might be little more than a transfer of votes from May 2 to Easter weekend.

There is a interesting element to this though.

In the 2004 campaign there appeared to be a dramatic turn back to the Liberals in the campaign’s dying days including the final weekend as their hidden agenda campaign against Stephen Harper seemed to strike a chord with some voters. There was a significant drop in Conservative support between some of the opinion polls in the last few days of the campaign and the results on election night.That meant some Conservative candidates won the advance poll in their constituencies but by the time of voting day a week or so later the tide had turned and they ended up as overall losers on election night.

This year the advance polls were held while the media focus on the NDP was still gathering steam. It started last Thursday centred on Quebec the day before the advance polls opened but really picked up intensity late on Monday as polls showed the NDP ahead of the Liberals nationally. By that point advance polling was in its final couple of hours.

It creates the possibility that as in 2004 in some ridings there could be significant differences between advance poll results and the ballots counted on election night. If there is going to be NDP growth this week some of it may be missed by the advance polls, making overall NDP numbers on election night lower than some might project.

That where last weekend’s record turnout could play a role even if the final overall voter turnout is little changed from 2008.

Christopher Waddell is director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University. He is a former reporter, Ottawa bureau chief for the Globe and Mail and a former CBC-TV parliamentary bureau chief and executive producer-news specials for CBC TV News. You can follow him on Twitter @cwaddell27