May 10, 2011

The new crop of MPs: Inexperienced? Perhaps. Persistent? Definitely

By Andreas Krebs

Since last week's election, the media has been abuzz over the apparent inexperience of many of the new MPs set to arrive in Ottawa. The youngest MP in Canadian history, Pierre-Luc Dussealt was elected, as were a number of students and other young people. In future posts, we'll be discussing the age and professional backgrounds of the 41st Parliament. Here, we'd like to point to another way of thinking about political experience: electoral persistence.

In our series of blog posts exploring the 40th Parliament, we discussed the fact that a high percentage of MPs elected were very "persistent"--over 27% of Parliamentarians had lost at least one previous election. And while this number may seem low, considering the high number of very "safe seats" in Canada, it is significant.

In this election, the number of MPs who had previously ran increased to 102, or 33% of the House of Commons. And, just like last time, the numbers vary by party.

Bloc Québecois 50%
Conservative 31.1%
Green 100%
Liberal 23.5%
NDP 38.2%

Of course two of the parties here--the Bloc Québecois and the Green Party--have very few members in the House, which means that their numbers may not indicate much. The main change since last time is that the percentage of the NDP's caucus who have faced electoral defeat is actually smaller, decreasing from 48.7%, even though they maintain the highest percentage of "persistent" caucus members of all the parties.

Another way to look at "persistence" is the average number of election defeats per MP. On average, each MP in the House lost a total of 0.48 elections prior to winning their seat. If we break this number down by party, however, the NDP has a higher previous-losses average than other parties.

Bloc Québecois 0.5
Conservative 0.38
Green 2
Liberal 0.35
NDP 0.67

We'll be bringing you more posts on the demographics and backgrounds of the 41st Parliament in the coming weeks, including a more in-depth look at the age and previous careers of our current MPs. What these numbers suggest is that youth and inexperience may mark this new lot of MPs--but so does electoral persistence.

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Jeff Chan

May 11, 2011 02:35 AM

Why are candidates who run following one or more previous defeats more persistent than a more successful member who has won his/her previous campaigns? they may have had more to overcome, but the prior win or loss has no bearing on their persistence.

As for many of the NDP rookies (first time candidates and first time MPs) far from being persistent, they look to be dilettantish one-hit wonders. Can't wait to see their exit interviews.

Andreas Krebs

May 11, 2011 20:09 PM

Hi Jeff,
Thanks for posting.

We aren't trying to say that candidates who have lost previous elections are more persistent than those who have never lost an election. There are always a great deal of very experienced, and persistent, multi-term incumbents elected who have never lost an election.

We just wanted to point out that there is a healthy percentage of currently elected MPs, both incumbent and new, who wouldn't take no for an answer, running successive campaigns until they were elected.

Thanks again for taking the time to engage!

Andreas

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