The meaning of Adrian Dix's defeat

Progressives: Be tough and get young people to vote for you

Beyond the latest existential crisis for polling firms, Alice Funke notes a few lessons in British Columbia’s surprising election result.

“No more Mr. Nice Guy’ – The “positive campaign” as a strategy in the face of relentless attacks does not work, especially when the ballot question winds up being leadership. Everyone remembers the 2012 Obama campaign as positive, but seems to forget that a brutal series of negative ads against Mitt Romney six months earlier paved the way for their positive end-game. Voters (especially women) might tell focus groups ahead of time that they don’t like negative attacks and prefer positive campaign ads, but that feedback is given in isolation from exposure to the other campaign. Once you get into an election period, with the two main campaigns running in parallel, if one campaign is constantly attacking you, turning the other cheek looks wimpy…

“Anger is better than love, and fear works better than hope” – In the chaotic and frenzied info-saturated world electoral campaigns now have to function within, strong negative emotions repeated endlessly cut through the clutter if they’re not answered better with strong communications and marketing. The BC Liberal campaign was able to change the ballot question for enough people from ‘time for a change’ to ‘fear of weak leadership’, while the hopeful kids who wanted ‘change for the better’ did not seem to feel it necessary to vote.

And then there are the kids these days…

“The lessons are different for right and left” – Conservative parties received confirmation last night that they are right to stay in their own bubble and mistrust the ‘analysis’ coming from the policy wonks in the media (or, evidently, me). They learned that they can speak to their core supporters, who have very different demographics and values, and ignore everyone else. Ranking the BC ridings by turnout shows the older, wealthier ridings near 60% turnout, and the less-well-off, younger ridings down in the low 40s. The turnout bonus for conservative parties is apparently accelerating, as well, going from a 3- or 4-point gap in the 2011 federal race to a 10-point gap last night in BC. Ten ridings were decided by less than 3.7% of the vote, and while under BC elections law there are six kinds of absentee ballots that won’t be counted until May 27 which could conceivably change the outcome in several of those seats, it was not closeness of the race but turnout that was decisive in explaining last night’s historic upset. If the traditional demographic bases of support for progressive parties do not vote in sufficient numbers, they will become increasingly powerless to effect other changes in their society.

The federal New Democrats and Liberals might have plans that don’t include attracting a large number of young voters, but their respective causes likely become easier to realize if either wins the strong support of those under the age of 30 and, importantly, if that age group votes in significant numbers. Barack Obama narrowly lost the vote to Mitt Romney among voters over the age of 30, but he won 60% of the vote among those under the age of 30. And voters between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 19% of the American electorate in 2012.

I can’t find directly comparable numbers, but Elections Canada has estimated that voters between the ages of 18 and 34 accounted for 20% of the Canadian electorate in the 2011 election. Votes among those 18 to 24 were estimated to be up slightly from 2008, but both the 18-to-24 group and the 25-to-34 group voted at a rate below the national average.

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