Sunday, June 8, 2014

Why strategic voting doesn't work

In the 2011 federal election, 400,000 Greens voted strategically to stop Harper. But it had no effect. He still won a fake majority on 39.6% of the vote.

Why? Green voters are left-leaning and all of Harper's 40% came from the right side: blue Liberals, red Tories and hard-core cons.

The same is true in the present Ontario election. Left-side voters can't stop Hudak because he needs right-side votes to win.

How neo-cons are stopped

In order to stop the neo-con party from winning, the Liberal and NDP parties have to appeal to right-leaning voters.

The Liberal party typically tries to win over red Tories with moderate neo-liberal ideology.

The NDP appeals to voters with pocket-book issues that offer real savings for individuals and families — as opposed to neo-con tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich. (Although Liberals sneer at this as “populism,” it's actually left-wing populism, not right.)

Exception to the rule

In swing ridings where there is a clear two-way race between the PC candidate and another candidate, strategic voting makes sense.

Just keep in mind polls are far from accurate. In a three-way race your strategic vote could help rather than hinder vote splitting.


If you are a left-leaning voter, voting out of fear won’t do any good. Best to stick to your principles — and fight for voting reform to put an end to the nonsense.


  1. "Left-side voters can't stop Hudak because he needs right-side votes to win." Sure, but the threshold of voters Hudak needs to win depends on the degree to which the left-side splits their vote. This is the whole point of strategic voting! Whether Hudak needs to get 35 or 40 or 45 in a riding to win depends on what the left does. In any close race, voting for anyone but the leader of the OLP or NDP (usually the OLP) is effectively a vote for Hudak as it reduces the number of votes Hudak now needs to win. Even in a close NDP vs OLP race, voting for the NDP means one less seat the PCs need to win the largest minority.

    And the non close rates don't matter much as the result is determined anyways, so it is silly to call the close ones - where strategic voting really DOES matter - the "exceptions to the rule". No, the rule is that strategic voting DOES work in all the ridings that matter. You can vote for principle all you want, but the consequence of that voting for principle is very often to make it easier for the PCs to enact their agenda.

    1. Our voting system, FPTP, means the con party can win all the power on 40% of the vote instead of 50%. How the left vote is divided doesn't matter. The cons will win about the same number of center-left ridings that will turn their 40% into 54% (approx) of the seats.

      All one has to do is study the 2008 & 2011 federal elections. The Green vote shifted around. The NDP and Liberal vote shifted around. But the point at which Harper needed a majority did not.

      In 2008, on 37.7% he was 12 seats short of a majority.

      In 2011, on 39.6% he was 11 seats above a majority.

      That's a 1.9 point difference. One could nail the tipping point down to 38.5%, which is the bare "majority" Chretien got in 1997.

      As I pointed out, 400,000 Green voters voted strategically in 2011. This did absolutely nothing to shift the tipping point any.

      Strategic voting doesn't work for three reasons:

      1) The right-wing party needs 40% of the RIGHT vote to win a fake majority. Left votes are irrelevant.

      2) Since it's impossible to know which party to strategically vote for, the randomness involved cancels out any desired effect. (If we had ranked ballot voting, which guarantees strategic voting - Anyone But Con - it would work. I have blogs on how the 2011 election would've been if we had RBV.)

      3) Even if there was a positive effect, not enough people participate to make it work.

      Of course, the bigger issue is that "strategic voting" becomes code for nonsense like "a vote for Horwath is a vote for Hudak" which Wynne and other Liberals used trying to sleaze a fake majority government instead of EARNING it.

  2. "How the left vote is divided doesn't matter. ". This is objectively false. 40% isn't a magic number carved in stone. The exact percentage needed for the cons to win CHANGES precisely depending on the degree to which the left vote is divided. If a riding is predominantly con vs lib, then a vote for the NDP means one less vote needed for the cons to win. It is precisely because of the way the left typically divides the vote that the "40%" heuristic applies, but if they chose to divide it differently from historical voting trends, then the cons would need either more or less. In practical matter, there are many close ridings between the cons and libs where a small amount of NDP voters shifting to the liberals would flip the riding from going con to going lib.

    There are many good reasons to vote. But to pretend that strategic voting isn't a real thing that makes a real difference is utter nonsense.


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