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Demographics key to NDP, Liberal by-election chances

Income levels and home ownership--or one's lack thereof--influence the way people vote, and next week's Vancouver-Burrard byelection could reinforce classic party voting patterns, according to Sacha Peter, a political commentator who authored a provincial by-election website.

"People who rent apartments downtown would more likely support the NDP, while the people with mortgages on their condominiums would be more likely to vote BC Liberal," said Peter. "The middle-income earner--as well as the political centrists--is the ultimate 'swing battleground' for both major parties in terms of demographics."

Peter's maps of voter support and turnout from the 2005 election suggest parts of Gastown, the Granville Mall, and English Bay--regions surrounding what Peter calls the 'NDP circle of strength' in the West End's Davie Village--are swing regions of the riding, areas which, depending on voter turnout, could see almost equally-strong NDP or Liberal support.

The maps also suggest that the strongest overall 2005 voter turnout came from residents of English Bay, Coal Harbour (which showed strong Liberal support), and the Davie Village.

And the Green Party remains a force to be reckoned with. Vancouver-Burrard Green candidate Drina Read has lived in the West End for 21 years, making her the candidate with the longest-standing roots in the community, and is a longtime Green Party volunteer. "They cannot be ruled out if they are able to do a masterful job of mobilizing their base," Peter said, adding that more than 10,000 people voted for Adriane Carr in the federal election. "A typical Green voter is geographically in closer alignment with the NDP than to the BC Liberals."

But will Drina Read's longstanding residence in her riding top Spencer Herbert's community advocacy and Arthur Griffith's years as an influential public figure? Peter figures the election results will be determined more by the candidates' personalities than they will the provincial platforms they stand on. "In a by-election with low voter turnout, the individual candidates' public persona and local campaign becomes more relevant since the provincial parties will be taking less of the media spotlight," he said.

Local campaigning on the municipal election front could also serve to draw resources away from by-election campaigns. "People ordinarily supporting the NDP will be assisting Vision Vancouver/COPE, while people ordinarily supporting the BC Liberals will be assisting the NPA," Peter said. "I do not know anybody who has conducted research on voter fatigue, other than the real-life experiment that will be on October 29."

Jackie Wong reports for The Westender.

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