Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tight race in Alberta in new polls as by-elections loom

With four provincial by-elections just around the corner in Alberta, two new polls suggest the race could be tight both province-wide and within the two cities at play.

We'll start with the poll from Lethbridge College, which reports on an annual basis. We last heard from the school in October 2013.

The poll pegs Progressive Conservative support to stand at 32.6%, down 3.5 points from where the party was a year ago. That marks the lowest that Lethbridge has registered PC support to be since 2009, when it started polling.

Wildrose was up 1.4 points to 30.8%, their highest score in Lethbridge polling. 

The New Democrats trailed with 16.8%, while the Liberals were at 12.8%. Support for other parties (which presumably includes the Alberta Party) was at 7%, up 1.4 points.

It is a close race, which is in step with the last two polls we have seen out of the province from Léger (31% to 26% in favour of Wildrose in June, 33% to 29% in August-September). While that is, relatively speaking, good news for Wildrose, this does still represent a level of support somewhat below where the party was in 2012. They have come into contention almost by default, as the PCs shed more than 10 points' worth of support.

At the regional level, the PCs enjoyed sizable leads in both Edmonton and Calgary, were tied with Wildrose in the northern part of the province, and well behind in the south.

But the results in Edmonton and Calgary are out of step with the recent Léger polls out of Alberta. The Tories have averaged just 27% support in those polls in Calgary, versus 42% according to Lethbridge. While both the NDP and Wildrose polled lower in the Lethbridge polls than in the Léger surveys, it is among Liberals that the difference is most important: an average of 23% instead of the 16% here.

In Edmonton, the PCs have averaged 22% against 28.5% for the NDP and 21% for the Liberals, instead of 33% here for the PCs, 24% for the NDP, and just 10% for the Liberals (Wildrose's support seems consistent).

Now, we could consider that perhaps the arrival of Jim Prentice has transformed things in both Calgary and Edmonton, as Liberals flock back to the PCs now that it is under a Red Tory. While that might be an intuitive conclusion, Lethbridge College showed higher results for the PCs than other polls did in October 2013, so we may be looking instead at a methodological quirk.

The other poll was conducted by ThinkHQ in its 'Eye on Alberta' regular report. Only the results of the poll in Calgary and Edmonton proper (not the metropolitan regions or CMAs, as Lethbridge College has it) were released to the public.

In Calgary, ThinkHQ puts Wildrose narrowly ahead at 38% to 36% for the Tories, with the Liberals well behind at 13% and the NDP at 8%. Since July, that represents a gain of eight points for the Tories, who have been picking up steam in the city for some time. The PCs were at just 20% in Calgary proper in March, while Wildrose has fallen 10 points since then.

The contest was a close three-way race in Edmonton, with Wildrose at 27%, the PCs at 26%, and the NDP at 25%. That marks a drop of five points since July for Wildrose, and a gain of four points for the Tories. Here again, the PCs have been rising, as they were at just 15% in Edmonton proper in March.

It seems that Prentice has had a positive effect on the Tories' numbers (though he only recently won, he has been the heir apparent for months). But he has still not put the party in a position to win a province-wide election - ThinkHQ mentioned in its report that Wildrose still held a provincial lead, and even with the numbers from Lethbridge's poll the PCs would only barely eke out a majority, if at all.

So the three by-elections in Calgary and the one in Edmonton should still prove a difficult test for the Progressive Conservatives. These were all relatively safe ridings, so they should still be favoured to win them all. But if Wildrose is as strong in Calgary as ThinkHQ suggests, the PCs will be hard-pressed to hold all four seats.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

September 2014 federal polling averages

There was a relative flurry of polls in the month of September, as parliamentarians got back to work in Ottawa. Five national polls and two in Quebec surveyed almost 9,000 Canadians, showing that support has been mostly holding steady for the last few months. And that means a continued sizable lead for Justin Trudeau's Liberals.

The Liberals averaged 38% support in September, unchanged from where they were in August and marking the third consecutive month with the party between 38% and 39% support - a high for them since at least 2009.

The Conservatives were down 0.8 points to 29.9%, while the New Democrats were up 1.5 points to 22.2%. Despite the NDP's gain, the party has been between 21% and 22% for three months now, their lowest since before the 2011 federal election. Undoubtedly, the NDP slump and Liberal strength are related.

The Greens were down 0.5 points to 4.7%, while the Bloc Québécois was down 0.4 points to 4%. Support for other parties was at 1.1%.

The New Democrats moved into the lead - a very narrow one - in British Columbia, the only province where the party is in front. They were up 6.6 points to 30.1%, their best result since August 2013. The Liberals were down 5.1 points to 29.4%, while the Conservatives slipped 1.6 points to 29.3%. The Greens were up 0.1 point to 10.4%.

In Alberta, the Conservatives picked up 3.5 points and averaged 54.8% support, followed by the Liberals at 27.2% (down 0.2 points). The NDP dropped 4.1 points to 10.6%, while the Greens were up 0.3 points to 4.8% in the province.

The Conservatives also made gains in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, up 3.2 points to 39.4%. The Liberals were up 1.2 points to 32.4%. The party has been very stable in the region, polling at an average of between 29% and 33% since the end of 2013. The NDP was down slightly, by 1.7 points to 24%. The Greens were also down, by 2.5 points to 3%.

In Ontario, the Liberals continued to lead and gained two points to reach 43.1% support. The party has been over 40% for three consecutive months now. The Conservatives were down 2.3 points to 33.1%, while the NDP was up 0.8 points to 18.2%. The Greens were down 1.7 points to 4.3%.

The Liberals were also in front in Quebec, down 0.6 points to 36.6%. The NDP was up 1.2 points to 30%, while the Bloc Québécois dropped 0.5 points to 15.5%. The party has been stagnant or dropping for four consecutive months now under Mario Beaulieu. The Conservatives were unchanged at 14%, the level of support they have averaged in six of the last seven months. The Greens were down 0.1 point to 3.1%.

The Liberals dropped 3.3 points in Atlantic Canada and slid to 49.1%, their lowest level of support since December 2013. The NDP increased by five points to 22.7%, while the Conservatives were down 0.9 points to 21.8%. The Greens were also down, dropping 1.4 points to 5.1%.

With these levels of support, the Liberals would likely win around 143 seats, with 112 going to the Conservatives, 81 to the New Democrats, and two to the Greens. The Bloc would be shut out.

Compared to August, this represents a drop of four seats for the Liberals, eight for the Conservatives, and one for the Bloc, while the NDP picks up 13.

The Liberals picked up six seats in Ontario and one in the Prairies, but dropped one in Alberta, three in British Columbia, and seven in Quebec (recall that, despite the overall Liberal lead in the province, polls suggest the NDP has the edge among francophones).

The Conservatives gained one seat in Alberta and two in the Prairies, but dropped four in British Columbia and seven in Ontario.

The New Democrats were down three seats in the Prairies, but up one in Ontario, seven in British Columbia, and eight in Quebec.

Now that the show has returned for the fall and the parties are in full pre-election mode, it will be interesting to see how the polls shift in the coming months. Stephen Harper's Conservatives have yet to gain any traction or put a dent in the wide lead that the Liberals have taken in the summer. Thomas Mulcair's NDP is showing signs of life in B.C. and Quebec (vital battlegrounds for them) but is struggling in Ontario. Can the Liberals continue to hold off their two rivals?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Liberals potentially most vulnerable on Iraq mission vote

While MPs debate what kind of role Canada should play in the fight against ISIS, polls suggest a majority of Canadians are supportive of the country joining the United States and its coalition partners in a combat mission against the Islamic militants.

To read the rest of the article looking at what polls are saying about Canadians' views on the mission in the Middle East, visit

In the article, I briefly look at the partisan divide on the issue. I thought it might be worthwhile to explore that a little more deeply here.

The chart above comes from Abacus Data's report, breaking down responses by party support for the question of whether Canadians supported sending military advisers to Iraq.

Conservatives were the most enthusiastic, with 68% strongly or mostly in support of sending the advisers. Just 23% were in opposition.

Liberals and New Democrats saw things roughly equally, with 56% of Liberals and 55% of New Democrats in support. Opposition, at 29% and 31%, respectively, was also virtually identical.

Where opposition was strongest was among supporters of the Bloc Québécois. Just 18% supported sending the advisers, while 65% were in opposition. Greens were split, at 41% for and 34% against.

But what about sending combat aircraft, which the Prime Minister is suggesting Canada do?

We find similar divisions here, though with less agreement among Liberals and New Democrats.

Conservatives were 67% in favour of sending jets, with 25% opposed.

Liberals were also strongly in favour, with 55% in support and 36% in opposition.

A plurality of New Democrats supported sending jets, but not a majority: 49% in favour, with 39% in opposition.

Greens and supporters of the Bloc were against sending jets.

While the order of enthusiasm of the three parties does align with the views of their supporters, both the Liberals and New Democrats seem to be somewhat offside on these issues. The NDP is perhaps less vulnerable, as its supporters were the least likely to view a mission in Iraq favourably. But the Liberals may find themselves offside - their voters were only slightly less favourable to hitting ISIS than Conservatives were.

But what if respondents were given the option between a combat role, an advisory role, or no role at all? Angus Reid Global looked at this.

When given the choice, sending advisers is the preferred option by Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats. But again we see the same order of intensity: the Conservatives most favourable to some sort of role, the Liberals in between, and the NDP the least enthusiastic.

Among Conservatives, fully 81% supported a role of some kind, with 55% of them preferring advisers and 45% supportive of military intervention.

Among Liberals, support for a role of some kind totaled 72%, with 58% of them favouring advisers over military intervention.

And among New Democrats, still 63% favoured a role of some kind, with 62% of them preferring military advisers. Again we see the same order of support: Conservatives most, Liberals next, NDP last.

Non-voters, interestingly, were the least supportive of any sort of mission. Perhaps if they'd like to actually have a say in whether these things happen, they should go out and vote.

The New Democrats are following their more pacifist traditions, and their supporters are the most ambivalent, so the NDP is best positioned to be the dove on this issue. But these numbers suggest that the Liberals may have been better off choosing a more moderate position on the mission in Iraq.

Whether or not Justin Trudeau has miscalculated, however, will depend on several factors: the success or failure of the mission, of course, but also whether this is an important issue to voters. The polls did not investigate this question, but we may see some fallout in the voting intentions numbers in the coming weeks.