I Want My Vote to Count

I Don’t Want to Fall Victim to Bandwagoning and Strategic Voting.

Strategic and bandwagon voting hinder our ability to freely exercise our democratic right. Graphic Marilou Bricket.

According to Elections Quebec, regardless of who wins the election, each vote is one extra ounce of support and funding for the party to continue to expand its beliefs.

However, what Elections Quebec doesn’t tell you is that polling and media predictions strip this precious idea of democracy from you. 

Canada prides itself on being a proudly democratic country. Every vote contributes to a properly functioning democracy. How can we hold ourselves to this standard if election polls influence voters, compromising their right to freely decide on a party that best aligns with their beliefs? 

Canadian companies or research firms such as Abacus Data, Nanos Research, Leger, Mainstreet Research, EKOS, and Ipsos are responsible for providing the media with election predictions. These firms and companies survey groups between 600-5000+ voters about which direction their vote will swing. 

As a fresh face out of Toronto, I was not even aware of the upcoming provincial election, making me a prime victim to be swindled by polls.  If you are a Canadian citizen and have lived in Quebec for longer than six months, you are eligible to vote. For undergraduate students born outside Quebec, this may be their first time voting. Without being fully aware of the candidates and their platforms, you risk being manipulated by polls.

Upon asking students grazing downtown Montreal about their thoughts on the upcoming election, almost more than half were reluctant—or declined—to respond. 

Some felt unable to answer given their lack of knowledge about the parties or politics in general. I was shocked, but not too surprised, that the Montreal students were just as clueless as I am.

The problem is that polling encourages informed voters to participate in strategic voting—the act of voting for a secondary preferred party to prevent the leading party from winning

Strategic voting is problematic as those who maintain this philosophy, withhold from voting for the party they align with. They risk never having the chance of casting a ballot for the party best suiting their beliefs. Your vote is put in a gridlock between two continuously trumping parties. 

The media violates our right to a proper democracy, so these polls should at least be accurate and error-free, right? Not quite. Pre-election predictions are not an entirely accurate representation of the public consensus. Many contributing factors lead to inaccurate polls. For example, coverage bias in polls means a research sample is not representing a chunk of the population by having zero chance of being included in the survey.

In this case, polls exclude a demographic of voters.  Individuals from poorer communities–who make up 3.2 million of the Canadian population–and the elderly who don’t always have internet access, can be unaccounted for in online surveys.  

I wonder whether my views, as an anglophone born outside of Quebec, towards the politicians and their platforms, are even taken into account in these polls.

Bandwagoning is another risk for uninformed voters. If the misrepresentation of these groups gets absorbed in the polls, those who bandwagon vote and rely on predictions, are being spoon-fed an incorrect reflection of what election day is going to look like. 

I am guilty of it myself. During the latest Ontario provincial elections, I voted for the man who governed my riding since 2018. I voted for him off the whim of a familiar face, and the fact he spoke at my grade eight graduation, rather than my core values. I was an uninformed voter. 

With the election just a handful of nights away, it can be discouraging to want to exercise your right to vote, but feel lost in the platforms of the candidates. 

Bandwagoning isn’t just a byproduct of uninformed voters. It also occurs naturally since we as humans are known for following trends and seeking refuge in crowds. I have found myself in many situations where bandwagoning just feels natural and is an overlooked action I participate in. 

On Oct. 3, Quebec is holding its 43rd provincial election, and the polls reflect François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec party leads the election with 38 per cent support. Whether you align with the CAQ or not, these predictions should not influence your vote. Rather than relying on polling, research the candidates and find the party and politician you most align with.