OK, the excitement is building - Election Day has arrived! OK, so it isn't really that exciting, but I thought it might be fun to try and predict how things are going to play out over the course of today.
Here are a few observations and thoughts about the election (yes - the CANADIAN one!).
Well, the answer to that of course is - no one! If the polls are to be believed, no one party is going to get a majority this time around, which raises the question: If Harper knew this going in (and he surely must have) - why did he call the election?
Speaking of polls, I am one of these people who think that polls are bad for democracy. It seems to me that polls are simply a way for the media to create the news, rather than reporting it.
Polls are not accurate - we have seen evidence of this over and over again (hell, if the pollsters can't even get exit polls right (see Kerry versus Bush) what hope do they have of getting their more ambiguous polls correct?)
Another thing about polls is that they are cross sectional and cross regional. While we may hear that Harper is ahead by five or six percentage points across the country, what does that mean for each of the ridings?
Is the riding where he lost by 90 votes last time around more blue than red? Are those strongholds just as strong? It's entirely feasible that a party with a five- or six-point lead could lose the entire election, especially if those percentage gains are concentrated in areas where the party was expected to win anyway.
In a sense, every vote cast after the winning vote is counted is a wasted vote. There's no such thing as a 'big win' or a 'close call' in a riding - you either win or lose, how big doesn't matter.
The other thing about polls is that they tend, or at least they try, to frame the election. "Harper's lead is slipping," the headline will read, or "Dion's support grows."
This 'news' - based on iffy polling methods as it is - is tenuous at best and I would argue that it's even irrelevant. The only poll that matters is the Election Day one.
If the media want to get into the business of polling, they should follow the example of the political parties and poll at the riding level and by key lifestyle and demographic criteria - that's where the real patterns lie.
Our political system is complex and so are voters and voting patterns. Dumbing it down for the sake of a number and an imaginary news item is not doing any of us any favours.
The sad reality of media polling is that numbers do influence voting. By creating an anxiety over a Harper majority the media have forced the other political parties to change their tactics and address this fear, rather than concentrate on selling us their policies. As a result many of us will go to the polls today with the simple intention of stopping someone else.
And while strategic voting is encouraged, in this way it is difficult for political parties to get an accurate read on how they are performing. Our whole democracy suffers.
So who will win? Well I'm no pundit, I don't even count myself as a knowledgeable observer really, but just for the fun of it I'm going to predict a final tally:
Ben's Ill-informed 2008 Election Seat Tally
If I get it right, let's say Ryan owes me a pint (to go with the several he still owes me). [Wait, what? - Ed.] My prediction is not very controversial, I know, but come on - neither was the election! I mean really, on what basis would I change my vote? If anything, I think that some ridings will change simply because people don't bother to come out.
I'm guessing Harper will bleed a couple of ridings in Quebec, but no more. He'll solidify his base out west, and he'll grab a couple of rich boroughs in 905. Dion will lose a little ground for the Libs and claim he has 'something to build on' and Layton and the Greens will bemoan the blight of strategic voting like they always do.
And tomorrow we'll all get back to doing what we really want to do - watching the American election. :)
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