Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quebec 2012: Much Uncertainty

The two major pollsters in Québec have published their last poll:
CROP - PQ 32%, CAQ 28%, Lib 26%
Léger - PQ 33%, CAQ 28%, Lib 27%

Also, Forum Research's most recent poll (I don't know if it was their last one) had PQ 33%, Lib 28%, CAQ 27%.

Obviously, the three pollsters are in agreement about the overall numbers. But there is much uncertainty about what seat distribution would arise. The best guess, should the PQ win by about 5%, with the two other parties roughly tied, is that the PQ will be very close to the majority cutoff (63 seats), one way or the other, while the Liberals would form the Official Opposition.

However, given that the CAQ is a new party and that the election is being fought on a new electoral map, the projections this time around are less reliable than usual. For example, with actual vote shares, the 2011 federal election would have been pretty easy to get right outside of Québec. But this time, even if we could see the overall vote shares in advance, the predicted seat counts would be subject to significant uncertainty. Add to that notoriously fickle Québec voters - the last CROP and Léger in 2007 had the ADQ at 25-26%, when it actually got 30.8% - and the truth is that we can't even be sure that the PQ is going to win.

What we do know is that certain regions are much more unpredictable than others: about 2/3 of the seats in the "450" (Laval, Laurentians, Lanaudière and Montérégie) seats are closely contested, while only 1/4 of the races in Montreal, Quebec City area, Central Quebec and far away regions are tight. Here's a quick overview of the electoral geography for this election.

"Far away" regions (17 seats, Abitibi--Témiscamingue, North, Côte-Nord, Saguenay--Lac-St-Jean, Gaspésie--Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Bas-St-Laurent)
The PQ should win at least 13 of the 17 seats, and could sweep all 17.

Greater Quebec City and nearby areas (21 seats, National Capital Region, Chaudière--Appalaches, Central Québec)
The CAQ should win at least 14 of the 21 seats, and the PQ should win two (Pauline Marois in Charlevoix and downtown Quebec City). It'll be interesting to see if Option Nationale leader Jean-Martin Aussant can be elected in Nicolet-Bécancour. The remaining are essentially Liberal-CAQ races, and it would not be surprising for the Liberals to be wiped out even though they won a majority of this region's seats in 2008.

Estrie (5 seats)
The Liberals won all 5 seats in 2008 (though the previous version of Johnson, won by the PQ, included part of the region), but none of them, including Jean Charest's Sherbrooke seat, is assured this time. It's an all out fight between the Liberals and the PQ in every seat.

Mauricie (5 seats)
Hard to tell what'll happen here, as all three parties have a shot at winning seats.

Outaouais (5 seats)
The Liberals have swept this region in every election since 1981, but this time, the PQ could win in Hull and especially Papineau.

Laurentians and Lanaudière (15 seats)
The Liberals' only shot is in Argenteuil, which they won in 2008, but lost by 3% in a June by-election. Otherwise, this area could well determine whether the PQ wins a majority or a minority: there are a handful of safe PQ seats, but most of the other ridings feature tight PQ-CAQ races. CAQ leader François Legault, as well as star candidates Jacques Duchesnau and Gaétan Barrette, are all running here, and none is assured of winning.

Laval (6 seats)
The Liberals swept Laval in 2008, but this time, they are only assured of retaining Chomedey. All five other seats will be tight, though student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin has a good chance of winning Laval-des-Rapides for the PQ. The CAQ could be a factor, but the main contenders are the Liberals and the PQ.

Montérégie (23 seats)
Apart from their two strongholds of Vaudreuil and La Pinière (Brossard), the Liberals have no safe seats, and are only competitive in a handful of other ridings near the western half of the Island of Montreal. The PQ has several safe ridings near the eastern half of the Island of Montreal. The rest of the region (about half of the 23 seats) will feature right PQ-CAQ races, much like in Laurentides-Lanaudière.

Montréal (28 seats)
There are 6 tight races in Montreal: not much, but more than usual. Anjou, Laurier-Dorion, Verdun and Saint-Henri--Sainte-Anne will be tight between the Liberals and the PQ, while Gouin (Françoise David's riding) and Sainte-Marie--Saint-Jacques are fought between the PQ and QS. The remaining 22 ridings will likely divide as follows: 16 Liberals, 5 PQ and 1 QS. The CAQ is not a factor here.

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