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How Canada would vote in a U.S. election
The Democrats' Big Blue Glacier
The U.S. midterms have come and gone and the Democrats out-performed expectations, holding on to the Senate and keeping the House close enough that it has yet to be called (though it seems likely the Republicans will barely hold on to it).
Of course, it was a near-run thing. As of 10 AM Tuesday morning, the Democrats hold a lead of less than one percentage point in Nevada. That could prove to be the decisive victory if the Democrats come up short in the Georgia run-off on December 6.
But what if Canadians had a vote?
There’s nothing I love more than political what-ifs, and luckily Léger provided us with the raw data for one this morning. In its latest poll, it included results from surveys conducted in both Canada and the United States and, in addition to some questions about domestic politics, Léger asked Canadians to weigh-in on American politics.
Including how Canadians would vote in a U.S. election.
The topline numbers show that 42% of Canadians would vote for the Democratic candidate (the poll did not spell out specifically whether the election was congressional or presidential), with the Republican candidate taking just 14% of the vote. Another 11% would vote for an Independent candidate (we love our multi-party systems) and 33% said they didn’t know or preferred not to answer.
If we remove those undecideds from the equation, we get 63% support for the Democrat, 21% for the Republican and 16% for the Independent. That would make Canada a D+42 state in a presidential election, somewhere between Vermont and Washington, D.C.
According to Léger, every province and region would lean Democratic pretty heavily. In Alberta and the Prairies, the Democrats would come up just short of 50% of the decided vote. But that is because of the performance of the Independent candidate, who would finish ahead of the Republican in Alberta.
But let’s ignore that Independent vote and focus on the margin of victory the Democrats would have over the Republicans — and where each part of this country would rank when put up against the results of the 2020 presidential election.
As you can see below, most of Canada would rank among the safest blue states in the American Union. Only Washington, D.C. would be safer for the Democrats.
Quebec tops the list as a D+62, closer to Washington, D.C. than to Vermont or Massachusetts, the quintessential blue states. Atlantic Canada would follow at D+51, British Columbia at D+43 and Ontario at D+37.
Even Conservative-voting Alberta would be a D+23 in a U.S. election, putting it on par with New York and bluer than Rhode Island. Saskatchewan and Manitoba, meanwhile, would be D+20 — the most competitive Canadian region, if one would consider the states of Connecticut, Washington or Delaware “competitive”.
It does show the huge gulf that exists between Canadian and American politics. The Republicans would be about as popular in Alberta as Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party is.
The high scores for the Independent distorts things a little, but even if we just looked at the Democratic vote share Alberta and the Prairies become swing states, at best. The 49% the Democrats manage in Saskatchewan and Manitoba is equal to Joe Biden’s 2020 score in North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia, while their 45% in Alberta puts that province in Ohio/Iowa territory.
But the Republican vote share, topping out at 29%, would be lower than in any state. So, the Independents would have to break pretty strongly to the Republicans to make the Democrats worry in a hypothetical North American election — something they probably wouldn’t worry much over, considering that Independents did disproportionately well among Green and NDP voters (as well as PPC voters).
A Blue Wall that can be bypassed
Let’s extend this hypothetical even further, stretching it to its limits.
Just ahead of the 2020 U.S. election, Canada decides to join the United States. Not wanting to add 10 states to the Union — expanding the number of senators by 20 — a compromise is reached that adds just six states: B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan-Manitoba and Atlantic Canada.
Using this handy congressional apportionment calculator and the population estimates from 2010 (the census upon which the 2020 electoral map was based on), Ontario would get 19 electoral college votes, ranking it fifth in the newly-expanded United States of North America. Quebec would get 12 votes, B.C. would get eight, Alberta would get seven and Atlantic Canada and Saskatchewan-Manitoba would get five apiece.
With 435 seats still in the House of Representatives and 12 more seats in the Senate, the new electoral college total is 550, with 276 needed to win.
When the votes are finally counted (Canada finishes counting before 11 PM on election night), Joe Biden sweeps the six new Canadian states, along with the other states he won in the actual 2020 election. That gives him a big margin over Donald Trump, with 334 electoral college votes to just 216.
But would Canada’s votes make the Democrats unassailable? Not exactly.
In this hypothetical scenario, Trump would have no chance of winning in Canada. His one visit to Quebec went horribly.
But he wouldn’t need to compete in Canada. Winning Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Michigan, in addition to the states he actually won, would have been enough. Of these, Michigan was the state the Democrats won most comfortably in 2020, but it was just by a margin of 2.8 percentage points. The map Trump would have needed, even with Canada added to it, would have been nearly identical to the map he had in his 2016 victory over Hilary Clinton. The only big difference being an extra win in Nevada.
Here’s what that map would have looked like. Not an unimaginable scenario:
Of course, this is all just for fun. In the never-going-to-happen world where Canada joins the United States, party behaviour would change in ways we can’t predict. But there are two takeaways from this what-if that does tell us a few things about Canadian and American politics today.
Firstly, it reminds us how different our politics are to those of the United States. The left-right spectrum, if that measure still has value, is much further to the left north of the border than south of it. Not that this comes as a surprise, but the Léger poll helps us quantify it.
Still, we have some polarization, too. The poll shows that Conservatives would favour the Republicans over the Democrats by a margin of 34% to 25%, contrary to past polls in the Trump era which usually showed the Democrats winning among Conservatives. A majority of Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc voters would support the Democrats, with less than a tenth of them backing the Republicans, while PPC voters would favour the Republicans by a margin of 42% to 2%.
Secondly, the American political landscape is evenly split — again, not a surprise but this exercise illustrates just how split it is. Even the addition of six heavily-Democratic states, two of which would rank in the Top 15 in population, would not change the electoral math much.
The outcome of an American election, even a greatly expanded North American election, would still depend on the same battleground states.
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