The elephant is among us: figures show that fear of a referendum was the dominant factor in the Quebec election.

Author:Lisee, Jean-Francois

What lessons can be drawn from the electoral earthquake of April 7? Before we construct political hypotheses, we need to look at the figures (table 1). They are eloquent.

There were only 100,000 more voters than in 2012. It was essentially within the existing electorate that variations occurred.

There are several things to notice in these figures:

  1. There was a move from the PQ to the Liberals among francophones.

  2. The CAQ vote declined relative to 2012. Francois Legault did not make any progress with the voters.

  3. Quebec Solidaire made only modest gains, which can, in theory, be almost entirely explained by a move to QS by people who voted Option Nationale in 2012.

    The major fact of the election is thus the shift of the francophone vote, throughout Quebec, from the PQ to the Liberals. An extremely strong signal.

    The second major fact is the CAQ's inability to attract a single new voter. On the contrary, the CAQ lost 17 per cent of its 2012 vote. This reality was masked by the CAQ's decline before the campaign and then its partial recovery during the campaign. But it signifies that the CAQ, like the PQ, appears to be structurally condemned to a stretch in opposition.

    The third major fact is the absence of a shift from the PQ to Quebec Solidaire, despite the arrival of Pierre Karl Peladeau. There was no hemorrhage of left-wing Pequistes. This reality was masked by QS's gain of one seat (for a total of three), won narrowly in east-end Montreal.

    How the campaign progressed

    To understand the reasons for this shift of the PQ's francophone vote toward the Liberals, we need to look back at the progression of the campaign, as can be seen in the trend lines in figure 1, compiled by Claire Durand. These trend lines were taken from an aggregate of all the polls, adjusted for a correct division of the undecideds.

    The first vertical line represents the arrival of PKP.

    You can see that the rise of the Liberals began before his arrival and continued afterwards, until the first debate (second vertical line).

    The PKP effect, then, contributed to maximizing the Liberal vote.

    After the first debate, the PQ's francophone vote drifted to the CAQ, which regained some of its 2012 votes.

    What political conclusions can be drawn?

    Here are my hypotheses. There were many factors in play, and I don't claim to describe all of reality. But I don't think I'm wrong in drawing out these principal elements:

  4. THE PKP EFFECT: Pierre Karl's arrival had a major effect. Until...

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