Was the CAQ's big victory predictable all along? These charts say yes

In most issues dear to Quebecers, Coalition Avenir Québec was closer to the public consensus.

In most issues dear to Quebecers, the CAQ was closer to the public consensus

Supporters of François Legault's CAQ celebrate the party's victory in Quebec City. Polls and Vote Compass showed that the party was most aligned with most Quebecers' values. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Were the results of Quebec's election surprising, or obvious all along but we just didn't see it?

If you look closely at results of Vote Compass and recent opinion polls, the writing was on the wall. Across most issues dear to Quebecers, Coalition Avenir Québec, which won a decisive majority last Monday, was most closely aligned with the people's values.​

CBC News obtained the results of 6,000 people who took the Vote Compass survey and compared them to where the four major parties stand. We split the results by the users' most important election issue to see if they coincide with party positions. The results were telling.

When you average the results by issue, most fall pretty close to where the CAQ itself scored on the Vote Compass.

A Vote Compass primer

If you didn't take the survey, here's a brief description. It asks a series of questions about one's values and priorities: should Quebec separate from Canada? Should university education be free? Should we allow more immigrants in?

Based on the responses, it uses fancy math to assign the user a position on a plot. The horizontal position is socio-economic, or the classic left-wing/right-wing spectrum.

The vertical spectrum has more to do with identity. The higher the result, the more identity is important to the responder.

(Brooke Schreiber/CBC News)

Vote Compass also asked users to write in their most important issue in the election. In the end, it compares the result to the values and positions of Quebec's political parties.

Here are the results of 6,000 anonymous, randomly-selected Vote Compass users, 1,000 for six of the top issues.

(Brooke Schreiber/CBC News)

Predictably, people who said Quebec and language are their top issues scored higher on the identity scale, close to where the separatist parties Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire scored. Similarly, people who care about the environment tend to be more left-leaning, although the identity factor is not as strong.

But with health, economy, education and immigration, users scored closer to the CAQ's position.

"It really shouldn't be a surprise," said pollster Christian Bourque, vice-president of Léger Marketing.

"Over the past months in our polls, the CAQ was headed to a majority. It was only during the election campaign that they weren't."

When Léger broke the polls down by issues, they saw the same pattern as Vote Compass: people who cared more about health, education, economy and immigration also favoured the CAQ.

"Pollsters underestimated the drop in Liberal support, but the indications were pro CAQ all the way," Bourque said.

This chart below shows just how close the CAQ was to Quebec's pulse. We calculated the Euclidean distance between the average user response and each party's score. This is like the distance between two points on an imaginary map. The CAQ comfortably beats other parties on all issues except the environment and language.

But similarity to values doesn't always translate into votes, warned Charles Breton, director of research at Vox Pop Labs, the company behind Vote Compass.

"A lot of things can influence vote choice other than policy issues: local candidate, appreciation of  the leader, historical party identification, etc.," he said. 

About the Author

Roberto Rocha


Roberto Rocha is a data journalist with CBC/Radio-Canada.


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