The popular mandate

I ran these sorts of numbers a few years ago, so, for the sake of argument, here are this year’s election results as a measure not of votes cast, but of total possible votes (based on the preliminary result of 61.4% turnout).

Conservatives 24.3%
NDP 18.8%
Liberals 11.6% 

That would give the new government the fourth-smallest mandate in history. Or, put more positively, that gives the new government a larger mandate than the governments elected in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

The mandate won by Robert Borden in 1917—42.8% of all possible votes—remains the undisputed champion of this academic exercise.




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The popular mandate

  1. Decisions are made by those who show up.  Non-voters willingly remove themselves from any consideration of mandate, legitimacy or support.  To measure a party’s vote share against the pool of potential voters is a meaningless exercise, unless one can demonstrate some form of barrier to universal voting.  (And disenchantment with the “system” is not a barrier, it’s an excuse for laziness, self-absorption, and irresponsibility.)

    It saddens me that so many citizens can’t be arsed to engage in the quick and simple task other peoples are laying their lives down to gain the right to.  But I’ll be darned if I’m going to invest any more effort in accounting for, or understanding them, than they’re willing to invest in their own society.

  2. Decisions are made by those who show up.  Non-voters willingly remove
    themselves from any consideration of mandate, legitimacy or support.  To
    measure a party’s vote share against the pool of potential voters is a
    meaningless exercise, unless one can demonstrate some form of barrier to
    universal voting.  (And disenchantment with the “system” is not a
    barrier, it’s an excuse for laziness, self-absorption, and
    irresponsibility.)

    It saddens me that so many citizens can’t be
    arsed to engage in the quick and simple task other peoples are laying
    their lives down to gain the right to.  But I’ll be darned if I’m going
    to invest any more effort in accounting for, or understanding them, than
    they’re willing to invest in their own society.
     

  3.  It is unfortunate more people don’t vote.  Strategic voter suppression techniques (slashing tires, harassing phone calls, and such) may have lowered the vote somewhat, but there are also a lot of eligible voters who simply don’t bother to vote.  For calculating a popular mandate though, it may be as valid to simply give those missing votes to all possibilities.  The people I know who don’t vote, don’t care much who wins – so in some sense, they are more or less equally satisfied (or unsatisfied) with any of the choices.

    • I wonder, though, why slashing tires and harrassing phone calls would amount to “voter suppression” techniques in Canada.  I mean, it’s not like this is Afghanistan – correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone in Canada (at least among the clinically sane) avoids going to the polls because they fear for their safety or anything like that.

      Also, the underhanded phone calls that I heard about weren’t so much “harrassing” as disinformation (re location of polling stations).  That I can see as suppressing votes, though that whole incidcent still strikes me as bizarre, I really wonder about the partisan effectiveness of that — unless of course you’re phoning people on, say, the NDP party’s internal list of supporters or something like that.

      But back to the first point — honestly if somebody slashed my tires or sent me a harrassing phone call that appeared to be politically motivated, I think that would make me more likely to vote, not less. 

      •  Some of the calls were disinformation as to where to vote, but the earlier ones were repeated calls and calls during the night,  pretending to be from another party.  And, my understanding is they did have the other party’s identified voters list.  I have no idea how much these tactics affect voter turnout – as you suggest maybe they bring in some new voters even if they turn others off.  The majority of non-voters simply don’t vote, independent of any of this.

  4. I’d like to thank all the non-voters, the more of you that don’t the more my vote counts.

  5. This is a non-sequitur. Non voters accept that their votes are apportioned to accord with the spread among voters. It is perfectly democratic to withhold a vote or not vote. If my riding offered a choice between Commies, NDP Reds, and Greens, I would not vote specially while such parties expect a $2 vote subsidy. Thankfully, that subsidy will end. 

    Now let’s have an end to other subsidies starting wth the $1.1B for the CBC. 
     

  6. It’s funny how the same people who never stopped lecturing us on how our Parliamentary system works in relation to coalitions then turn around and provide analyses that specifically ignore how our Parliamentary system works. For one thing, it certainly doesn’t represent people who don’t care enough to vote. 

    • What’s funny is your constant vociferous arguments with the wind.

      No one is arguing that our Parliamentary system should work differently. No one providing any analysis in fact.

      • Then what in the world is the point of this blog post? Does it not take into account factors irrelevant to our Parliamentary system, such as people who don’t vote?

  7. I find these statistics very relevant and interesting. That a majority government with near dictatorial powers over government can be elected on such a slim slim minority of voters (by far lowest in our history) is indeed how our system is structured to work. But it is a concern and shows us that our democracy is weak or ill. Especially whenthe leader of the party holds such dictatorial-like powers over his own party and even over who can be nominated for “his” own party. Four people get to decide for the entire country who can represent us.

    This is the kind of scenario that, if persists and continues to deteriorate, creates a ripe situation for a true demagogue/autocrat (not the wannabe demagogue/autocrats like Chretien and Harper).  

    • Four people get to decide for the entire country who can represent us.

      Well, no, that’s the approximate number of people who approved the leader of the party that was pretty thoroughly REJECTED by the voters earlier this month. 

  8.  It’s a shame you chose “popular mandate” to define this silly exercise.  But if you choose to continue to play this way…

    A more legitimate (no, that’s not right… let’s try “only slightly less insanely illegitimate”) mandate may be calculated by the INSUFFICIENTLY OUTRAGED INDEX: 62.9%.

    24.3% of possible voters voted Conservative.
    38.6% of possible voters opted to not vote against the Conservative Party, by not voting at all.

    24.3 + 38.6 = 62.9.

    Wow!  It’s a LANDSLIDE!!!!!!

    I repeat: only slightly less insanely illegitimate…

    • I also get a kick out of people who say that two-thirds of voters voted against Harper or some other such nonsense. Again, this is a complete misrepresentation or misunderstanding of how an election works, since nowhere on a ballot is there an option to actually vote against someone.

      • Exactly.  If there was a line item on the ballot that said “I really really really hate Harper”, then I could see these people’s point.

        Fact is, lots of people cast a ballot for POSITIVE reasons, not negative ones.  Lots of people case a vote in favour of a candidate that, you know, they actually like.  It often has nothing to do with them disliking anyone else.  Lots of people cast a ballot in favour of somebody because they like a particular policy that that candidate is proposing.  But the professional Harper-haters will have none of this. As far as they’re concerned, every single Canadian who did not cast a ballot in favour of a CPC candidate did so because they think Harper is a greater threat to humanity than the Sun going supernova.

  9. I get a kick out of all of the people attacking you for simply applying mathematics to reality, Aaron.  Why are they so insecure?  24% of eligible voters voted Conservative.  It’s a indisputable fact.  Just as 19% voted NDP, 12% Liberal, etc.

    None of us know what really motivates (or demotivates) the 39% that stay home.  I have to say, I’m uncomfortable knowing that 39% of voters either hate all the parties or don’t care enough about the outcome to spend an hour or less at the booth.  What causes such mass disinterest?  Why celebrate it?

    • Why are people who don’t vote supposed to matter? For two years we got lecture after lecture from some of you about how are Parliamentary system works via coalitions. Back then, what voters think didn’t seem to matter. Well, that didn’t work, so now voter sentiment, or lack thereof, is supposed to matter. Really.

      I’d love to come across a Parliamentary system somewhere that is supposed to accommodate people who don’t vote. 

      And, if you don’t know why some people don’t vote, why are you bemoaning the fact? Me? I’ve never had a big problem with low voter turnout. I don’t understand the big deal. Seems more like a complaint from people who don’t get their way in elections. As long as people aren’t prevented from voting, they’re exercising their right to not vote, aren’t they? Again, don’t really understand the big deal.

      • I’ve been consistently worrying for 20+ years about 60% voter turnout figures and false majorities.  This is not a new concern for me.  I complained about Chretien’s false majorities and his concentration of power in the PMO.  I complain when provinces elect false NDP majorities.  They don’t reflect the will of the people.

        Why worry?  Because something about our democracy is failing to interest 40% of the population.  I wonder what can be done to lower that figure, to improve participation.  In order to do that, you must understand why people stay home.  It’s not partisan.

        • Again, you say it concerns you, yet you don’t know why these people don’t vote. What if they don’t vote because they’re happy? What if low voter turnout is a reflection of economic and political stability. Voter turnout is high usually in places where democracy is scarce.

          Additionally, people don’t seem to have a problem with majority governance. In three provinces in Canada, and just recently in the UK, voters rejected systems that would essentially remove the stability that comes with majority rule.

          So I’m just not so sure what you’re so upset about. The people that this democracy represents sure don’t seem to share your concern.

        • Let me offer an alternative theory. Voter apathy may not be a symptom of a broken political system. It might well be a symptom of a broken culture at large. Successive generations are becoming more selfish, less caring, less polite, less civic-minded, etc. I think these kinds of developments are inevitable in societies that abandon God and faith. You might have some other theories. I don’t know.

          • I don’t buy into the Leave It To Beaver theory.  The ’50′s (and earlier times) had their share of problems, from McCarthyism to proxy wars in southeast Asia.  Canada had residential schools.  Back then, the bad priests didn’t get caught or publicized, but they were still having their way with the flock.  This belief that we are rushing towards immorality from some golden age of civility (let alone that a lack of religion is responsible) is based on false impressions of earlier times as better times.

            But that’s aside from voter apathy.  Voter apathy concerns me.  Maybe I worry too much about it, maybe you worry too little about it. You are free to ignore it if you don’t think it’s worth worrying about.

          • It seems to me that you’re more interested in an agenda than you are in our democracy.

            Regarding the evolution of society, you might look into a book titled “The Ego Boom: Why the World Really Does Revolve Around You” by Steve Maich and Lianne George. They’re hardly Bible thumpers.

            It specifically talks about how people don’t care much about things beyond themselves anymore. This includes voting and other things.

            I think it’s because of a departure from God. You don’t seem to have any answers. Just saying.

          • Hmm.  I just did a search trying to find scholarly articles on voter apathy, and came up empty.  Are there not poli sci students who study this sort of thing?

            I have no answers, but I reject your religion theory.  My circle of friends includes mostly atheists, and we all vote and care deeply about what direction all three levels of government go.  Admittedly anecdotal,  but there’s probably a reason why strong atheists get involved politically.  Something to do with atheists in the past getting locked in towers and/or ostracized from civil society by overly dogmatic leaders.

            It’s all a moot point, though.  Happy early Rapture Day!

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