27 January 2015

Investigating voter turnout

Turnout is often seen as (at least an easy) metric of the health of a democracy – as voting is a primary activity in civic engagement. However, turnout rates continue to decline across many jurisdictions[i]. This is certainly true in Canada and Ontario.

From the PsephoAnalytics perspective – namely, accurately predicting the results of elections (particularly when using an agent-based model (ABM) approach) – requires understanding what it is that drives the decision to vote at all, instead of simply staying home.

If this can be done, we would not only improve our estimates in an empirical (or at least heuristic) way, but might also be able to make normative statements about elections. That is, we hope to be able to suggest ways in which turnout could be improved, and whether (or how much) that mattered.

In a new paper we start to investigate the history of turnout in Canada and Ontario, and review what the literature says about the factors associated with turnout, in an effort to help “teach” our agents when and why they “want” to vote. More work will certainly be required here, but this provides a very good start.

23 January 2015

Comparing our predictions to the actual votes for the Toronto mayoral election

We value constructive feedback and continuous improvement, so we've taken a careful look at how our predictions held up for the recent mayoral election in Toronto.

The full analysis is here. The summary is that our estimates weren't too bad on average: the distribution of errors is centered on zero (i.e., not biased) with a small standard error. But, on-average estimates are not sufficient for the types of prediction we would like to make. At a ward-level, we find that we generally overestimated support for Tory, especially in areas where Ford received significant votes.

We understood that our simple agent-based approach wouldn't be enough. Now we're particularly motivated to gather up much more data to enrich our agents' behaviour and make better predictions.