The paper presents evidence on the effect of voter demobilization in the context of the Canadian 2011 federal election. Voters in 27 ridings (as of February 26, 2012) allegedly received automated phone calls (‘robocalls’) that either contained misleading information about the location of their polling station, or were harassing in nature, claiming to originate from a particular candidate in the contest for local Member of Parliament. I use withinriding variation in turnout and vote–share for each party to study how turnout changed from the 2008 to the 2011 election as a function of the predominant party affiliation of voters at a particular polling station. I show that those polling stations with predominantly nonconservative voters experienced a decline in voter turnout from 2008 to 2011, and that this effect was larger in ridings that were allegedly targeted by the fraudulent phone calls. The results thus indicate a statistically significant effect of the alleged demobilization efforts: in those ridings where allegations of robocalls emerged, turnout was an estimated 3 percentage points lower on average. This reduction in turnout translates into roughly 2,500 eligible
(registered) voters that did not go to the polls. The 95%-confidence interval gives a lower bound estimate of 1,000 fewer votes cast in robocall ridings, which is still a sizable effect.
The paper's conclusion?
In 27 of the 308 ridings, voters allegedly received automated phone calls containing false information on the location of their election site, or harassing them in the name of one of the contestants. The results suggest that, on average, voter turnout in those ridings affected by the demobilization efforts is significantly lower than in the ridings where no automated phone calls have been reported. The point estimate gives 3 percentage points. As such, the effect is considerably smaller than the 50 percent reduction in turnout that Barton (2011) finds. But since nothing is yet known about the total numbers of voters that actually have received a phone call, if any, those numbers
are not comparable. Besides, Barton’s results are based on a framed-field experiment with little consequence of failing to go to the polls and it may be difficult to draw inferences regarding actual elections. In either case, Barton also reports that pre-election warnings against possible fraudulent messages inoculates voters against misinformation effects, and generally restores voter turnout. If his findings are taken at face value, the outlook is positive: having been warned, the Canadian electorate should now be guarded against any future attempts at demobilization.
LaRue's analysis based on the above paper?
The NDP would still be the Official Opposition, thanks in large part to its support in Québec, the almost total collapse in support for the Bloc Québécois, and lingering indifference towards the Liberals after Adscam.
Factoring in all of the reported incidences of robocalling and its effects at the individual poll level, combined with other voting irregularities in certain ridings, it is clear that the Liberal Party was the biggest victim, losing 14 seats it shouldn’t have. Close behind was the New Democratic Party, losing 4 seats it rightly should’ve won. (There was no discernible effect on the fortunes of the Bloc Québécois or Green Party.) The 18 seats the Conservative Party shouldn’t have won gave them the majority government they so desperately sought.
Go, read the paper and LaRue's extrapolation. If both are correct, something terrible happened last May.