Vox Populi: The NDP Leadership Contest


The leadership contest to succeed the late Jack Layton has attracted an unprecedented degree of interest. When membership numbers in the party were released almost five weeks ago, a record number of 128,351 people had joined - a 50% increase since October, 2011.

With seven leadership candidates repeatedly crisscrossing the country, a series of six national debates to expose Canadians to their ideas and policies, and a preferential voting system, drawing a bead on the standing of the candidates in the race has proved a complex undertaking. There are several approaches each of which can yield certain insights into the standing of the candidates.

Alice Funke of the Pundits Guide to Canadian Federal Elections has been tracking fundraising by the candidates. Her March 20th statistics identify Thomas Mulcair ($303,493) as the frontrunner, followed by Brian Topp ($238,904), Nathan Cullen ($207,935), Peggy Nash ($195,890), Paul Dewar ($187,648), Martin Singh ($68,262), and Niki Ashton ($45,777). Only two of the candidates, Mulcair and Cullen, are showing significant momentum in the final days of the contest, with Cullen's rate of increase leading the pack.

[Note: these figures are based on reporting to the end of the week of March 3; since then both the Topp and Cullen campaigns have broken the $300,000 fundraising mark; Cullen's stands at $304,689]

Cullen's recent momentum has put him in a position draw close Mulcair, and iPolitics reports that Cullen has received support from 2,275 contributors, surpassing Mulcair.

Éric Grenier of ThreeHundredEight.com has been tracking endorsements of the candidates. His statistics on "endorsement points" (see ThreeHundredEight.com for how these are calculated) show Thomas Mulcair with a narrow lead (a 28.7% share) on fellow contenders Brian Topp (26.5%) and Peggy Nash (23.4%), all of whom lead Paul Dewar (12.8%), Nathan Cullen (5.6%), Niki Ashton (3.0%), and Martin Singh (0.0%).

One indicator of the race is the number of Facebook "likes" of the NDP leadership candidates. On the cusp of the leadership convention it's a good time to take stock see how they've fared. Below are the number of "likes" of each candidate, their increase over the last 40 days, and their percentage growth:

  •      Nathan Cullen: 9,067 friends (+ 2,035) / + 28.9%
  •      Peggy Nash: 7,724 friends (+ 1,109) / + 16.7%
  •      Paul Dewar: 5,063 friends (+ 575) / + 12.8%
  •      Brian Topp: 3,973 friends (+ 190) / +5.0%
  •      Thomas Mulcair: 3,388 friends (+ 624) / +22.6%
  •      Niki Ashton: 1,163 friends (+ 197) / +20.4%
  •      Martin Singh: 917 friends (+ 97) / +11.8%


Over those 40 days, the ranking of the candidates (Cullen, Nash, Dewar, Topp, Mulcair, Ashton, Singh) has not changed. Cullen has consistently lead the pack and his 'momentum' of 28.9%, the highest of all candidates, has meant his lead has widened. Indeed, Cullen has taken 42.2 % of the total increase in Facebook "likes" in that period.

Mulcair, with a 22.6% increase and Ashton with 20.4%, have also shown respectable growth, however, both are far behind Cullen in absolute numbers. All the candidates save for Topp have achieved double digit increases. Topp's candidacy has stalled with only a 5.0% increase in "likes". In terms of the total number of Facebook "likes", Cullen and Nash are significantly ahead of everyone else, their combined total exceeding the other five candidates combined.

Facebook "likes" are an incisive barometer of popularity in that they are self-selecting, completely democratic, and entail no financial or political barriers of the kind that donations or endorsements involve. People can freely and readily chose to "like" a candidate or not. Based on the vox populi of Facebook, Nathan Cullen clearly has the greatest strength in numbers of supporters and momentum going into the leadership convention.

The NDP leadership convention takes place March 23-24, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario. Stay tuned.

Christopher Majka: Project Democracy