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Feature Issue: Exploratory Analysis: The Electoral Power of People with Disabilities in Manitoba (Updated)

This is an updated version of an analysis originally released in January 2015. The initial version was based on disability data from Statistics Canada’s 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS). The updated version is based on more recent data from Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Survey on Disabilities (CSD).

The voting choices of persons with disabilities in selected constituencies could be a key factor in determining the outcome of the next provincial election.

To put it differently, the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) capacity to sustain support among eligible voters with disabilities versus the Progressive Conservative’s (PC) capacity to attract more votes could very well hold the key to which party forms the government in 2016. 

Note that in the last general provincial election in 2011, the NDP received just over 47% of the popular vote in Manitoba but won 65% of the seats – a record majority (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1

Charts on vote and seat splits

The Progressive Conservatives, on the other hand, received almost the same percent of the popular vote (45%) but came away with only one-third (19) of total seats. The Liberals captured only 7% of the popular vote that translated into only 1 seat (less than 2% of the total).

If the number of seats had actually reflected the popular vote in the election, we would have had a minority NDP government with only one more seat that the PCs and with the Liberals holding the balance of power with four MLAs.

Did some sort of magic affect the results? Did something untoward take place? 

No, on both counts. The marked difference between popular vote and electoral success is explained by what political scientists refer to as the efficiency of the vote. Lopsided victories in "secure" constituencies are reflected in the popular vote but don’t translate into overall seat counts.

Figure 2

Chart on margins of victory by constituency

Both the NDP and the PCs held their traditional seats among the 41 constituencies won by wide margins (see figures 2 and 3). These 41 solid constituencies represent their respective bases of support in Manitoba. 

Figure 3

Chart comparing vote percentages

The NDP won 61.5% of the vote compared to the PC’s 31% in the 25 of these seats that went NDP. In contrast, the PCs won 67% of the vote compared to only 27% for the NDP in the 16 of these seats the PCs won.

However, and here’s the difference, the NDP were very fortunate to win the lion’s share (12 of the 16) of the seats where the contests were close. On average the NDP won 52% of the vote in these 16 "contested" constituencies compared to the 43% won by the PCs. If an average of only 350 voters in the constituencies won by the NDP had voted for the second place candidate, we very likely would have had a majority PC government.

Guess what? An estimated average of almost 1,300 persons with disabilities voted in each of the close contests won by the NDP. Another 800 persons with disabilities were eligible to vote in each but chose not to. The numbers of persons with disabilities significantly exceed the numbers of voters who would have had to change their votes to produce very different results (see Figure 4).

In short, the NDPs capacity to sustain support among eligible voters with disabilities versus the PC’s capacity to attract more of their votes could very well hold the key to which party forms the government in 2016. 

Figure 4

Chart on votes needed to change election outcomes

Success in this electoral strategy will depend on each party’s the ability to respond to a large and growing but non-traditional demographic. This will require priority attention to key disability concerns that neither party has given high profile to in the past. 

Voting statistics are based on data from Elections Manitoba. Estimates of voters and eligible voters are based on Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Survey on Disabilities (CSD).

We are pleased to provide downloadable versions of the analysis (Word / PDF)