Toronto Election Study finds that strategic voting was not a major factor in mayoral race

The Toronto Election Study (TES) post-election survey is now complete and its principle investigators have concluded that the impact of strategic voting was limited and did not affect the outcome of the 2014 Toronto Municipal election.

The TES pre-election survey collected information on candidate preferences and on the perceived competitiveness of each candidate and the post-election survey asked TES respondents how they voted.

“We found that only 2.9 per cent of votes cast in the election were strategic votes,” says TES investigator Laura Stephenson, an associate professor in Political Science at Western University. “This finding runs counter to speculation among some media outlets that strategic voting played a significant role in the election.”

“The media were mostly correct in the direction of strategic voting, however,” suggests TES investigator Mike McGregor, an assistant professor in Political and International Studies at Bishop’s University. “John Tory was the largest beneficiary of strategic voting, receiving 81 per cent of these votes while Ford and Chow only received 15 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.”

As expected, most of the strategic votes (70 per cent) came from Olivia Chow supporters. However, 12 per cent of strategic voters also switched from Ford to other candidates.

“Tory actually received a net gain in votes from both Chow and Ford supporters, which suggests Tory was the compromise candidate for both the right and left,” adds Stephenson.

In the end, strategic voting would not have affected the outcome of the election.

“Tory’s support would have only dropped by 2.1 per cent (taking him from 40.3 per cent support to 38.2 per cent). Doug Ford would still have come in second (receiving 33.9 per cent instead of 33.7per cent), and Olivia Chow, despite seeing her support jump from 23.1 per cent to 25 per cent, would have remained in third place,” argues McGregor.

TES investigator Aaron Moore, an assistant professor in Political Science at the University of Winnipeg, concludes, “Based on his policies, John Tory is much closer to Doug Ford than to Olivia Chow. Had Karen Stintz still been in the running, I could see her supporters changing their vote to Tory at the last minute to prevent a Ford or Chow victory. However, for many Chow supporters, the gulf between Chow and Tory may have been too great to cross, especially as Tory seemed to have a strong lead.”

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