Okay. The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (hashtag #pcaa) did what every pollster west of Toronto and north of Seattle said they had no chance in hell of doing: they took on the Wildrose Party (hashtag #wrp) in Alberta Votes 2012 (hashtag #abvote) and came away with a decisive majority of 61 seats in the 87-seat legislature, while @ElectDanielle and her 16 #wrp MLA colleagues will have to settle for being the official opposition. I get it. Both the New Democrats (hashtag #abndp) under @bmasonNDP and the Liberals (hashtag #lib) under @RajShermanMLA regained official party status by winning the requisite three seats (#lib took five, #abndp grabbed four). I get that too.
But there are a couple of things I DON'T get. I don't get how the pollsters--and it seems there was a new poll released every couple of hours throughout the campaign--managed to call this particular election so horribly off-base. The mea culpas, I'm sure, will come eventually from the various provincial and national polling organizations, with excuses and reasons and such about why they missed the mark, but Calgary pollster Janet Brown, blogging for the Calgary Herald, was first off the mark (at least the first one I read) with her take. Basically, she offered four theories:
- Every poll was accurate, on the day it was conducted.
- All the polling organizations systematically and consistently under-estimated the #pcaa vote. This MIGHT have been true this time around, but it wasn't the last time around, where every poll conducted during the campaign measured PC support to within their stated margin of error. And as recently as January, most polls had the #pcaa with a lead of as much as 37 points.
- The #pcaa benefited from strategic voting, in which #LIB and #abndp supporters threw their votes to #pcaa to prevent a #wrp majority. Given that both the #LIB and the #abndp garnered about 10 per cent of the popular vote, strategic voting, Brown said, could only have resulted in perhaps a six-point swing in favour of the #pcaa, not the 10-plus bump they got between the most optimistic pre-election poll and the actual count.
- #wrp supporters, encouraged by the early days of the campaign, were more willing to express their support for their party. #pcaa supporters, on the other hand, took a wait and see attitude, and only chose to express their full support for their party in the "only poll that counts" on election day.
Pollster Brown seems to favour this theory, and it's really the only one that makes much sense to me. Many Albertans are not as enamoured with the #pcaa and @Premier_Redford, to the extent that they weren't willing to publicly come out in support of her. When push came to shove, however, and they came face to face with their consciences in the sanctity of the polling booth, old allegiances held, and the support finally materialized, when it really counted.
Another thing I don't get--and perhaps I never will--is the extent to which social media impacted the campaign and the election. I've followed the campaign on Twitter, more from an observational perspective than a participatory one, and I have to say that the discourse of the Twitterverse ranged from outrageously entertaining to sickeningly banal and condescending. There were more than enough nut-jobs actively tweeting at all hours to keep me entertained 24/7, but like most working stiffs, I couldn't spend my whole day reviewing Twitter convos. All I could do was sample, and that was probably a good thing.
But discounting the tweets at either end of the spectrum and looking only at the reasoned, cogent opinions in the middle, I'd have to say that most of the Twitter conversations amounted to little more than preaching to the choir. What impact personalities such as @kikkiplanet (who began the campaign as an ardent #wrp supporter but flipped to the #pcaa about a week into the campaign as the conscience rights platform of @ElectDanielle and the #wrp surfaced and became an issue) and @johnnyjesus (who was a demon for retweeting with cutting commentary and who got into quite a dustup with @KikkiPlanet as #wrp aspirations for a majority government dissolved into acceptance of their official opposition status on election night) actually had on the voting electorate perhaps will never be known. What I do know, however, is that I'm not even partially convinced, as @RogerKingkade opined during @GlobalCalgary results coverage, that @KikkiPlanet and her anti-#wrp tweets had much at all do with swinging the election in favour of #pcaa. I just don't think any one person, Tweep or otherwise, can have that much influence.
Finally, what I do get, is my favoured Our Industry columnist back in the fold. David Yager (or @Yager4Hawkwood, as he is known in the Twitterverse), has penned the popular @Oilweek column for the last eight years or so, but stepped back to run for #wrp in the new Calgary riding of Hawkwood. David lost out to #pcaa candidate @Jason_Luan_ and will, presumably, return to the pages of @Oilweek at some point in the future, perhaps alternating with @gwvander from @BMIRtweets, who took over for the upcoming June @Oilweek.
I look forward to future contributions from them both.
-- Dale Lunan