Great News for the Green Party: Campaign Plan in the offing?

logo_torontostarThanks to Ken Summers for pointing me at this Toronto Star article. Is it too much to hope that the Green Party is going to do something waaaay more sophisticated than past practice? I hope I’m not reading the tea leaves badly, but it could be that this blog, and some other constructive criticism around the ‘corridors of power’, (OK, around the campfire  of power), are having an impact.

First off, it’s official, and public. The Green Party is focusing on the obvious potential ridings as target ridings for the leader to run in.

“The party is polling and testing the ground, in an unprecedented way, May said, in ridings such as Guelph, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, and Saanich-Gulf Islands, where the Greens did well last year.” CCMV is also a target riding, according to the Star article. What really grabbed my attention was the enigmatic comment about polling and testing the ground in an unprecedented way. I have posted quite a few times regarding target ridings, how to target your demographic, and how to organise on the ground. I have often stressed that the purpose of opinion polls for our needs is to identify issues, and the target audience that is susceptible to our message on the issues. Polling should be used to hone, and fine tune the message. It’s not enough to think you’ve got the message that will win over a specific group of voters. You need to test the targets, test your issues, then test the specific message, and campaign theme. Could it be that this is what she is referring to?

Why is it so important? Because when you have collected the right data, and use that data to inform your decision making, then you will make much better decisions. I have posted before that BGOS is a tough riding to win in, because it will entail a frontal assault of the Conservative vote. Given straight data on what messages will shift which people, this becomes so much more plausible. I could be completely wrong in my assumptions. It could be that conservative voters are the low hanging fruit, and that a Green Party message of fiscal conservatism is a Conservative killer, that will sweep Owen Sound before it. I sure hope so!

I’m going to make the assumption that this is the kind of polling being done. I know that there are competent people in the Green Party of Canada who will know what to do with this data. Rob Rischinski, several times candidate for Parkdale-High Park is a Geographer with Statistics Canada. There are any number of actuaries, and knowledgeable people like Michael Moreau as well. With the purchase of the National census results, it will be relatively easy to hold the key to the best possible electoral outcome for the Green Party in the next election. By feeding the results of the issues based polling back into the national population, we can build up a broader list of second tier target ridings. These will be the ridings that don’t neccesarily have the organisation on the ground to win right away, but that will respond most positively to the campaign theme and message. Depending upon the national strategy, these ridings can be given a little special attention, because they will be the places where the best results will be garnered from the specific policy prescriptions and message developed during strategy formulation. In fact, every riding in Canada could benefit from this analysis. It will take a lot of preperation work, but those same statisticians, and geographers working on riding analysis could just as readily find target polls, and provide maps to help every riding in Canada identify the polls where the national campaign will have the most resonance, and impact. The local campaigns can then focus their canvas, signs, flyer drops, etc. on the specific populations that are most responsive to our message.

Other things remaining equal, I believe that this approach will yield at least a 2% increase in our vote on eday. That increase will be concentrated in ridings where there is already a basic organisation that is capable of implementing a coherent campaign plan. I can assure my readers that there will be a whole lot more target ridings to be assessing when the preperations for a subsequent general election are under way.

I hope that I haven’t read too much into these chance comments of Elizabeth May’s. I hope that this is indeed what is going on. However, if the GPC is in fact conducting this most excellent research, then the next Federal Election will be the most important Party building exercise since the 2004 election. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, and keep on blogging!

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More detailed analysis of the relationship between spending and the Green Party of Canada vote.

In March, I published a post on the correlation between campaign spending and vote outcomes for the Green Party of Canada. I gathered together the Green Party of Canada Campaign spending data and votes results for 102 Ontario Ridings. Recently, Michael Moreau, a Green Party activist from Winnipeg commented on my basic correlation numbers, and pointed out that correlation is a poor analytic tool by itself. Since Mike is a mathematician, and knows what he’s doing, I sent him the raw data I compiled, and he produced some very interesting analysis. Mike’s blog is the Don Street Blog. What follows here is paraphrased from his reply to me, with some judicous cropping and editing.

 Mike ran a non-linear and linear regression analysis of the 102 ridings for which we have data. The non-linear graph tells us that there may be differing sensitivity of vote% gain to extra dollars – that in fact an extra $1 is worth more for the smallest of campaigns. However, there is little correlation improvement between the non-linear and linear, so we can use the linear model.

All reported Ontario campaigns: Linear

All reported Ontario campaigns: Linear

 

The linear model of the 102 reported ridings is the most important graph. It tells us that there is a massive correlation between the two variables. In fact, given a degree of freedom of 100, we can be more than 99.999% certain of the correlation existing! Now, the regression line tells us a lot, too. It predicts that for every $1000 in increased spending, we will get 0.1836% more vote total. In other words, it predicts that we will gain 18.36% over a base total by spending $100,000 in the riding. Unfortunately, at some max $100,000 in spending, the model predicts only 24% of the vote share for the Greens in an average riding. That means that at base support levels in 2008 for the GPC, no Green could be elected by only pumping in money. But, the money gets us closer.

Under $5,000 spending

Under $5,000 spending

Now, the other graphs zoom in on certain money ranges and tell us that the relationship between spending and vote% is fairly consistent at any level. The lowest range ($0-$5000 in spending) is a bit of a dog’s breakfast, though, since there are so many other factors at play in those locations. There is some evidence that extra dollars at that level are more effective – but not too much evidence. We cannot be statistically certain that an extra dollar spent is more effective in a riding with little money versus in a riding with more money – just that a dollar is effective. In other words, we can’t say that the GPC should funnel money to smaller EDAs to help kick-start their campaigns – but, we suspect that this is money is more efficient in those ridings than in the ridings with $40,000 already in play.

 

Finally, there is a 95% confidence interval to deal with. No one much cares about this at this stage, but for $10,000 spending in a randomly selected GPC

Ontario Over $5,000 spent

Ontario Over $5,000 spent

race in Ontario in 2008, the model predicts that vote total would be 7.723% plus or minus about 4%. That is to say that we can be 95% confident that with $10,000 spent, you would receive between 3.7% and 11.7% of the vote share. Such a wide range reflects the fact that there are many other factors at play. So, using the regression analysis to predict a vote share result entirely based on spending is faulty. However, we can say for certain that increased dollars equals increased vote % in a particular riding – and $10,000 gives us 1.836% more vote share.

 

STRATEGICALLY:

 

If the goal of GPC is to increase vote share overall, money can be sent anywhere, but we suspect (and have a little evidence) that “seed money” in small ridings can be the best use of resources. This money should only go to ridings where there is someone organized enough to spend it effectively and efficiently, though.

 

If the goal of the GPC is to gain “beach-heads”, then GPC should fully fund EDA’s where the Greens have a solid base of support, many volunteers, and a credible candidate. However, there should be some caution here. Only 4 green campaigns spent more than $42,000 in 2008, so we cannot be certain that the linear relationship between vote share and spending continues at higher spending levels. There could be any number of results.

Finally, regardless of the strategy, money should only be sent to ridings which meet certain criteria for federal funds. Those criteria should include – but not be limited to – number of members, vote gap between green vote and riding winner, organized EDA, evidence of past effective use of funds, and intangibles such as the candidate nominated.

This ends the first in (hopefully) a series of data crunchings from GPC Ontario 2008 and Canada 2008.  

The above is largely Michael’s analysis. The conclusions are his, and are certainly subject to discussion. The Data is what it is, and at least subsequent discussion will be based on honest to goodness data, instead of conjecture, and plausible but untested intuition and opinion. I for one will be revisting my past conclusions about beachhead vs. rising tide national strategy. I think that more than ever our strategy needs to be more sophisticated, looking at both rising tide, and targetted efforts. The better we can understand both the limitations, and opportunities that face us, the better decisions we may make in the runup to the coming election.

UPDATE JUNE 23: Alice Funke at “The Pundit’s Guide” published a post on the relationship between spending and voter outcomes last month. For those of my readers who are involved in planning the next GPC campaign, they should read this post, and draw the appropriate conclusions regarding the likelihood of NOT earning a financial return on a rising tide strategy. (There are some good reasons to broaden the target, but nort broaden it to 308 target ridings.)

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Green Party: 2009 election and the Health Care Issue.

Really Really big survey

Really Really big survey

I have been sitting on a draught of this post for about a month now. It was simply a matter of time before a major poll came out with some convincing evidence to support my thesis. That is that the Health issue is one important direction the Green Party can move in order to broaden our support base. Now we have the second poll in the massive series that the CBC has commissioned from EKOS.

In a recent post, I suggested that Health care is a major issue that has simply dropped off the radar in the last two elections. It’s not because Canadians don’t care about it anymore, because they do. It’s not because it isn’t important, because it still gobbles up about 10% of our GDP. It’s not because it’s somehow been fixed, because there’s no permanent fix for people getting sick. It’s because the major Party’s have decided that elections are about slanging wars, sound bites, and that policy can jolly well take a back seat.

Green and Healthy choices

Green and Healthy choices

This content vacuum is a great opportunity for the Green Party. Yes, we certainly want to take back the Carbon Shift for our very own. That is an obvious major plank in our upcoming election plans. I propose that a second major plank should be a robust preventative health care program.
I have been digging up numbers, and there is lots of evidence to support my contention. Ipsos Reid released a poll on Dec. 4, 2008 in which 76% of  Ontarians believed that there were toxic chemicals in their environment, 77% believed that there were toxic chemicals in the products they use, and over 80% believed that these toxins could be harmful to themselves or their families. These are pretty direct fears, and I believe it’s the kind of material that can motivate people to change their voting behaviour.

The EKOS Poll didn’t ask a specific question about Health Care. Instead, they asked a catch all question about ‘Social Issues’, which included Health Care. The ranking of the top issues is here:

Top issue for next election:
¤ 35% social issues
¤ 27% jobs & unemployment
¤ 18% debt & deficit
¤ 11% climate change
¤ 10% none of the above

The Green Party has pretty dismal poll results in all these policy areas with the obvious exception

Liberal Policy: Prepare a $$Billion injection!

Liberal Policy: Prepare a $$Billion injection!

of climate change. I don’t think that the Liberals will miss the boat in the upcoming election. They will have spending promises, and I will bet dollars to donuts that they will have a carefully crafted Health Care message to trot out. It should be no great trick for the Green Party of Canada to have a really well differentiated Health Policy. The trick will be to help steer the conversation in this election away from the economy, where the GPC fares miserably in the electorates eyes.

Obviously the Conservatives will be in a cleft stick. Their leader is at an all time nadir in popularity and trust measures. They can be castigated on the Economic front, and will be seeking to steer the election towards the right wing fluff they call policy. Mandatory prison time for dope smokers. No early release for convicts. Minimum sentences, etc. It’s the Liberals who will be both our closest ally, and our deadliest foe. How would it be if we were able to tag team with the Liberals by talking up the Health issue, but by presenting a dramatically different policy prescription? I don’t think we’ll have enough traction to bring Health to the forefront of the campaign by ourselves. If we are pulling in tandem with the Liberals, then it provides Ignatieff with a debating partner for a public dialogue, which will eventually oblige the Tories and Dippers to defend their turf on this issue. So long as they are all talking about it, and we are saying something valuable and really quite different, then it will expand the pool of voters available to us.

I will confess a personal bias on this issue. When I first joined the Green Party it was because I was upset that the proximate causes of my infant daughters Asthma were simply not on the political radar screen. The rest of the Green Party platform at the time was eminently sensible policy, that appealed to the small business owner that I was, but the impetus to consider change was the issue that touched me deeply, and personally. To whit, my families health and security. I hope that I’m not falling into the trap of assuming that my own experience is universally applicable. Perhaps this anecdote will help my readers though, because it illustrates just how this issue is different from most other issues available to us. When it has an impact, it is truly visceral, and touches people in a place that will influence them strongly.

Whether I’m wrong or right in this post, I still believe that there is an election right around the corner. This is the kind of thinking that absolutely needs to be happening at GPC Headquarters. WHAT is the objective in this campaign. WHERE are we going to focus our efforts to acheive said objective. Who are our target voters that will get us there, and precisely what message are we going to deliver that converts those electors into Greens?

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Barrie Ontario Green Party EDA hits a home run

Where's the Pony-Tail gone?

Where's the Pony-Tail gone?

I’m sure that many of my readers have also seen Erich Jacoby-Hawkins article on Green Party Strategy. It has been bugging me for over a week since I first read it. It seems so simple, but it’s such an excellent idea, on so many levels.

In a nutshell, the Barrie EDA printed up some small stickers, with the Green Party logo, and  ‘No Junk Mail Please’ printed on them. They then targetted the top three Polls which had not been canvassed in a previous election. The EDA scheduled the Canvas for the weekend, and gathered together 3-8 volunteers to help with a candidates canvass, in three different time slots. They went out over a weekend, and did a total of 10-1/2 hours of canvassing.

The reported reults were impressive. They ID’d 86 past or future Green Party voters. They gained a dozen new sign locations, and they recruited half a dozen new volunteers. Just as importantly, they fostered espirit de corps amongst their own volunteers, and had a chance to get together for the post canvas patio party.

In the long term, they left behind hundreds of stickers applied to letterboxes, and front doors with the Green Party logo, and a positive message. I suspect that the postie who delivers mail to this area will be dreaming of Green Party logo’s, he’ll have received so many impressions. In more general terms, thousands of people will be acclimatised to the Green Party by regular exposure to their own, and their neighbours little green party stickers. How many times do you see a Liberal, or Conservative message like this outside an election period?

This is also a really non-threatening introduction to canvassing for the local EDA volunteers. It can bring together a small team, give them a simple tool to grow their numbers, and skills. There’s a ready made excuse to have some fun, and get together after the canvas. It works even better than gathering petition signatures, because it leaves behind a little permanent advertisement.

The only quibble I have with it is that it seems they paid too much for the printing. I have found in the past, that your best bet for excellent printing costs is to cut out the middle man, and go straight to a small lithographic/press operator. Every major city has a number of these guys tucked away in Industrial units. Typically an owner operator working long hours cranking his presses doing print jobs for larger graphic design houses. Generally speaking, I have gotten printing work done at about half the cost of dealing with full service providers. It’s easy enough to find them. Look in the yellow pages for printers who don’t have big ads. Call them all, and find out who fits the description above. You’ll have to have your’ own graphics files, but you’ll save a bundle on print costs.

I know this is really a derivative post, but I wanted to make the point that there’s plenty of good, fun stuff that can be done in between elections. If your’ EDA is scratching it’s collective head wondering what can be done, here’s a great idea for a monthly activity. Once again, kudo’s to Erich, and the Barrie EDA. This is part of the reason why they are in a position to spend $58,000 on a campaign, and win over 11% of the vote. If they can keep this great work up, they will be one of the Green Party’s breakthrough ridings.

Green Party take note: Free accurate polling data

Really Really big survey

Really Really big survey

I have always taken publicly released polls with a grain of salt.  Anybody with an ounce of sense would realise that pollsters have political affiliations. Polls have increasingly become partisan, spin doctors tools, and while polling companies won’t like their names being put to erroneous data, there’s no problem with selectively releasing the data that serves their masters purposes best.

All that said, properly constructed surveys are the life blood of public opinion research. Yesterday, EKOS released the first of a series of really massive public opinion polls on behalf of the CBC. To quantify ‘massive’, they surveyed about 10,600 people, from coast to coast. Put into perspective, I start to trust poll results when the sample sizes get up to maybe 800+ respondants.

This poll is important because it actually has significant regional sample sizes, with 1,254 in BC, 917 in Alberta, 3,480 in Ontario, and 2,555 in Quebec. The poll respondants are sorted geographically, but also by gender, incomes, and ages. These sub-groups have been statistically weighted to ensure they are accurately sampled subsets. Again, these smaller subsets are still statistically significant sample sizes. You can contrast aggregate results, and regional results with a pretty high degree of confidence that you are comparing apples to apples, and draw meaningful conclusions from the comparison.

I won’t draw any conclusions from this poll at this time. The purpose of this post is basically to ensure that my Green Party comrades are alerted to the fact that this poll is not an ordinary poll. It is probably the most accurate poll ever published in Canada, and should be scrutinised carefully. My thanks to the CBC as well. There is no way in hell that anybody outside a major political Party could ever have access to  this quality of data, and to make this public puts our researches on a par with the ‘big boys’ for once.

Green Party of Canada: And Elizabeth May’s chosen Riding will be…

...Where she stops, nobody knows.

...Where she stops, nobody knows.

Thanks to Mark Taylor for picking up on this tidbit in the news: Riding on May’s radar, by the Owen Sound Sun. So it appears that the search for a Riding for Elizabeth May to run in is under way, and that search might not be limited to the riding of Central Nova. Let’s make a bold assumption that Elizabeth May wants to be elected to Parliament at the next opportunity. What is the best riding for her to run in? I am a very strong proponent of data driven decision making, whether in business, life, or politics. The most important data is simply not available to myself, or the Green Party for that matter, until either I, or They spend a chunky six figures on some very well defined polls. I’ve written elsewhere about how you conduct opinion research as a political Party, but basically it revolves around defining target issues, target populations, and the impact that a well delivered policy can have on peoples voting intentions. I’m sorry that I don’t have this data, because if I did, I would share it with the GPC, and we’d have several elected members right now. I guess the beauty of Blogging is that we can let our opinions have free rein, but please bear in mind that the data I use here is incomplete at best.

I guess we can start with Bruce Grey Owen Sound. The riding has an interesting history for the GPC. It was pretty much a run of the mill riding in terms of electoral results for the Greens, until 3 years ago. Shane Jolley, a popular local business man made it his business to build the Green prganization in the riding, and really took fire. They have now had three elections, two Federal, and one Provincial where their results have grown dramatically into a fairly strong second place to the overwhelmingly strong Conservatives. The Liberals, and the Dippers are a vanishingly small presence, and therin lies the problem. Because the Liberals are vanishingly weak, and the GPC is so strong, this is a faint hope riding for the Liberals. That’s something that isn’t calculated to attract a strong Liberal candidate to come along and split the Conservative vote. Any increase in Liberal strength, at the margin, will impact more strongly on the Greens than on the CPC. What this all points to is the need for the GPC to take on the Conservatives toe to toe, and beat them in their own chosen demographic. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see the GPC taking 1 in 4 Conservative votes from the incumbent. Failing that, the Campaign strategy will have to be to effectively go negative, and suppress the Conservative turnout. That will entail a Campaign that highlights Conservative failings. An example would be to focus on the Conservative voters, and don’t stop telling them that the Conservatives failed to manage the budget, and have brought in the worst defecit ever. The intent here would not be to win their votes, it would be to deny them to the Conservatives by persuading them to stay at home. This kind of strategy doesn’t serve the Party leader very well, because the Green Party will want to be running a positive, well differentiated communications strategy nationally. All in all, BGOS is a great riding for an agressive local candidate who can implement this strategy effectively, but the Leader cannot spend the next election convincing Conservatives to stay at home.

The second riding to look at is Central Nova. I have made no secret of my opinion that Central Nova was a big big mistake in 2008. Peter MacKay isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. He will not be unseated by Elizabeth, unless his hands are caught in the cookie jar. Anything can happen in Politics, and MacKay has displayed bad judgement in the way he has been manipulated and sidelined by the Reform Party/Conservative Party. That doesn’t mean that he will allow himself be photographed swiping the crown jewels or anything. It’s a very long shot, but Elizabeth would be well advised to only consider another run there if MacKay slipped on a giant banana skin.

The third riding exists by a fortuitous coincidence. That is Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, which I’ll refer to as CCMV. This riding is extremely interesting because it fits in so well with Elizabeth May’s stated intentions. First of all, the incumbent, Bill Casey sat as an Independant PC, which is to say he is a Progressive Conservative, not the neo-con variety. He is retiring from the house, and so a By-election will be called before the year end, assuming a general election doesn’t happen first. Elizabeth has promised to run in the next available by-election, so this is at this moment one of three possibilities. CCMV is right next door to Central Nova, where Elizabeth May has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building a local office, and election team. What could be simpler than shifting your efforts a few miles down the road? If Elizabeth commits to running in CCMV for the by-election, then she has met her criteria of a riding close to home. In the event that the By-election gets displaced by a General election, then Elizabeth doesn’t need to destroy her credibility by re-locating her campaign yet again. She simply needs to keep on campaigning hard, and seek the seat in the general election. There is actually a reasonably good chance in CCMV. There is no incumbency factor at play, and since both the Liberals, and Conservatives are running Progressive Conservative candidates, there is the opportunity to differentiate the GPC. Elizabeth will have her presumably experienced Central Nova campaign team to call on, which is reputedly a good cadre of activists and volunteers. I must also confess that I am completely ignorant as to why Elizabeth May didn’t run a Green Candidate against Casey in the last general election. Who knows what was being concocted, perhaps with this exact eventuality in mind?  That could be grounds for some wonderful, if somewhat idle speculation.

There are several other ridings which bear investigation, mostly in Ontario, but I simply do not have the time to write an enormous essay here, so I’ve thrown three obvious ridings into the mix.

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