Alberta Liberal Party candidates

The Alberta Liberal Party isn't fielding a candidate in 31 ridings. It could mean some voters opt for the NDP candidate instead, but that's not a given.Candidate nominations for the upcoming Alberta Election closed on April 17. After much speculation, we now know for sure that the PCs and NDP will be running candidates in 87 ridings, and the Wildrose will be running candidates in all but one riding.

The Liberals, one the other hand, won’t run a full slate, as they did in 2012. Instead, they will only be running candidates in 56 of 87 ridings. So the big question is … where will Liberal supporters in the 31 ridings without a Liberal candidate throw their vote on Election Day?

When studying results in past Alberta elections where the PCs won by small margins, political analysts love to combine the votes that all the progressive candidates received. If this total adds up to more than the PC vote, they will declare that the PCs only won because of vote splitting.

I wanted to test the hypothesis that supporters of one progressive party would automatically support another progressive party if their party of choice doesn’t run a candidate. So I added a question to a March 2015 survey that asked Albertans about their second choice vote.

What I found was that about half of Liberal voters (47%) choose the NDP as their second choice, but the other half are equally divided between preferring the PCs, Wildrose or being undecided. The pattern is similar among NDP supporters, as half (56%) would pick the Liberals as their second choice, but the rest are divided.

The one riding where the Wildrose is not running a candidate is in Edmonton-Strathcona, where NDP leader Rachel Notley is expected to win by a large margin and the Wildrose would not have stood a chance of winning anyway. Although the interplay between PC and Wildrose voters won’t be a factor in this election, it’s interesting to note than only 35 percent of PC voters pick the Wildrose as their second choice and only 34 percent of Wildrosers pick the PCs as their second choice.

The impact of no Liberal candidate? Maybe some NDP wins

What does all this mean in the 31 ridings where the Liberals are not running candidates? In most of these ridings, it probably won’t make any difference at all, as none of the progressive parties stand much of a chance of winning there anyway. Places like Cardston-Taber-Warner, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and Vermillion-Lloydminster are likely going to vote for either the PCs or the Wildrose, and other parties will not be in the running.

In a handful of ridings though, the transfer of half of the votes from orphan Liberal supporters to the NDP could secure enough votes for the NDP pull off a win. Examples of such ridings would include Edmonton-McClung, Sherwood Park, Strathcona-Sherwood Park, West Yellowhead, and Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater.

The Alberta Party is the only other party running a sizeable slate of candidates, with 36 candidates. Unfortunately, the March survey results don’t contain enough data to do an analysis of how the absence of Alberta Party candidates in 51 ridings will impact the results in those ridings.

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