Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Electoral test for B.C. in two by-elections

Update: You can check out my post-election analysis of the by-elections here.

Polling has been very light in British Columbia, with only three surveys having been published for the province in 2015 and none since November. So the two by-elections taking place today in the ridings of Coquitlam–Burke Mountain (CBM) and Vancouver–Mount Pleasant (VMP) will provide a revealing peek at what the political landscape in B.C. currently looks like.

With an election a year away, that may prove useful.

In the 2013 provincial election, Douglas Horne won the riding of CBM for the B.C. Liberals with 49.9% of the vote, followed by the New Democrats at 37.4%. The Greens and Conservatives trailed at a distance with 5.8% and 5.5%.

This will likely be the riding to watch, as the margin was relatively close. A loss for the B.C. Liberals here would signal some malaise with the government that should be of concern for Christy Clark. If the margin narrows significantly, that may also be a sign that the New Democrats are a real threat.

But if the margin does not narrow, or if the margin increases, the New Democrats will have to wonder if they are on track for another defeat.

The B.C. Liberal candidate is Joan Isaacs while the NDP is putting Jodie Wickens. The Greens and Libertarians are also running candidates. Full by-election information for the riding can be found here.

The by-election in VMP is unlikely to be as interesting. Jenny Kwan, now a federal NDP MP, won the riding with 65.8% of the vote in 2013, followed at a distance by the Liberals at 18.7% and the Greens at 11.9%.

Few doubt that the New Democrats will win here, but it will be interesting to see if the margin narrows. It likely will, as often happens in by-elections that were won by a landslide in the previous general vote. The result will not be as revealing as in CBM, as VMP is not a riding that the B.C. Liberals would be targeting anyway.

The New Democrats are running Melanie Mark against the Liberals' Gavin Dew. The Greens, Libertarians, and Your Political Party are running candidates. Full info here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What do Trump, Clinton, Pallister, Couillard, and Trudeau have in common?

They are all leading in the polls!

- We'll start with the next election around the corner, the Democratic and Republican caucuses being held in Iowa on Monday. Hillary Clinton narrowly leads Bernie Sanders in the polls for the Democrats, while Donald Trump is narrowly ahead of Ted Cruz for the GOP. I wrote about the state of the race for the CBC here.

- In Manitoba,
 which votes in April, a new poll shows the Liberals are dropping in support, with the Progressive Conservatives taking advantage. The NDP still trails at a distance, tied with the Liberals. The poll is from Mainstreet Research and I also wrote about it for the CBC here.

- A poll by CROP conducted in Quebec flew under the radar, as the polling firm posted the results quietly to its website. Provincially, it shows the Liberals leading with the Parti Québécois dropping back. Both the CAQ and Québec Solidaire were up. Federally, the Liberals were way ahead of the other parties.

- And the latest federal numbers from EKOS show the Liberals enjoying a wide lead nationwide, with 47% support against 25% for the Conservatives and 16% for the NDP.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ambrose up in Nanos tracking

The weekly rolling poll from Nanos Research often shows shifts within the margin of error from one month to the next, but the latest set of numbers from Nanos shows that interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose has experienced a statistically significant increase in support.

Note to regular readers: these weekly poll reports can get a little tedious, so I will only write about new Nanos numbers in the future when they are showing a shift that is outside of the margin of error and worth a look.

Justin Trudeau still leads on who Canadians prefer for prime minister, and by a huge margin. He scored 52.2%, down slightly from the previous independent sample from Nanos.

Ambrose was up 3.3 points from Nov. 29-Dec. 27 poll to 14.6%, an increase that was outside the margin of error (though not by an enormous amount). It will be interesting to see if Ambrose continues to show growth.

Tom Mulcair was down a little to 11.5%, but has been wobbling back and forth since the election (as has Trudeau).

Elizabeth May was down to 3.5%, the lowest score for the Green Party leader recorded by Nanos since July.

And Rhéal Fortin of the Bloc Québécois — who is a virtual unknown in Quebec — was down again to just 0.9%. Presumably, that would only put him at about 3% to 4% in Quebec. By comparison, at his peak in Nanos's polling Gilles Duceppe managed 10% in the province during the campaign.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Breaking down Saskatchewan's elections

As I plug away at the projection models for Saskatchewan and Manitoba (the three-election system requires a little more work, since some effort at a rough transposition for elections before the last one has to be done), I thought I'd share some of the information I've tallied for the Saskatchewan model.

The model will be a regional one, with breakdowns for Regina, Saskatoon, and the 'rest of Saskatchewan', which is a sadly dismissive name for such a huge area of the province. These regions have been defined as any of the ridings with the name Regina or Saskatoon (or neither, in the case of the RoS), as these mostly align with the boundaries of each city.

Both Regina and Saskatoon have a riding or two that is partly outside and partly inside the city boundaries, but a quick glance at the map suggests that a large proportion of the population in these ridings is within the city limits. Locals may dissuade me of this notion if need be.

Because the model is a three-election system, I've had to calculate the electoral results in these three regions going back to 2003. So let's take a look at them, starting with the capital.

The last time the NDP won an election in Saskatchewan, in 2003, they dominated Regina. They took 56.8% of the vote, with the Saskatchewan Party capturing just 25.6%. The Liberals took 15.9%, finishing closer to the Sask Party than the Sask Party did to the NDP.

In 2007, however, the NDP lost a lot of its support to the Sask Party in Regina. The NDP fell to 47.5% as the Sask Party increased by about 10 points to 35.7%. The Liberals hardly budged, sliding to 13.9%, while the Greens went from just 1% in Regina in 2003 to 2.7%.

The NDP dropped again in 2011, but the Sask Party's big gain in the city (rising to 55.7%) was propelled by the disappearance of the Liberals from the scene — quite literally, as the party offered up just six candidates for the entire province. While the NDP did bleed some votes to the Sask Party, falling to 40.6% (and the Greens, who were up to 3.2%), the scale of Brad Wall's victory here was largely the product of the hole the Liberals left on the political landscape.

The most recent Mainstreet poll, which put the Sask Party at 49%, the NDP at 34%, the Greens at 10%, and the Liberals at 6% among decided voters, suggests that the two smaller parties are making up ground at the expense of the two larger ones. That's bad news for the New Democrats, who desperately need to return to Regina in force.

The NDP had also won Saskatchewan's largest city in 2003, but by a narrower margin than in Regina. The party took 47.8% of the vote, with the Sask Party at 29.5% and the Liberals not far behind at 21.6%.

But the NDP lost Saskatoon in 2007, falling to 41.7% against 42.8% for the Sask Party. Though that represented a steep drop for the NDP, the Sask Party made most of its gains off of the Liberals, who had fallen to just 12.8% in the city. The NDP's slide was also driven by a gain for the Greens, who went from 0.8% in 2003 to 2.3% in 2007 in Saskatoon.

The Sask Party won the city by a wide margin in 2011, as they gathered up most of the Liberal vote. The party took 58.2%, followed by the NDP at 37.5% (a smaller slide than in Regina). The Liberals captured just 1.4% of the vote, putting them behind the Greens, who had 2.9%.

The last Mainstreet poll gives the Sask Party 52% in Saskatoon, with the NDP at 37%, the Liberals at 5%, and the Greens at 2%. This would suggest that here the gains for the Liberals may draw votes away from the Sask Party, rather than the NDP.

The New Democrats narrowly held onto government in 2003 because they kept things competitive outside of Regina and Saskatoon, winning seats in the north (of course) but also the smaller cities of Prince Albert and Moose Jaw.

But the Sask Party still won the 'rest of Saskatchewan' with 47.6%, followed by the NDP at 39.4% and the Liberals at 10.9%.

With gains from both the Liberals and the NDP, the Sask Party dominated southern, rural Saskatchewan in 2007 with 59.6% of the vote, as the NDP dropped to 31.8% and the Liberals to 6.4%. The Greens, though, went from 0.3% to 1.7% in the region.

But while the NDP held on to a few seats in southern Saskatchewan outside of the two big cities in 2007, they were pushed out entirely in 2011. The Sask Party increased its vote to 69.7% as the NDP fell to 26.7% and the Liberals to just 0.4%. The Greens picked up a point, increasing to 2.7%.

In the Mainstreet poll, the Sask Party led in the region with 66%, with the NDP at 23%, the Liberals at 9%, and the Greens at 1%. The Liberal gain has come at the expense of both the NDP and Sask Party.

As the Liberals will be running a fuller slate this time around (their website lists 29 candidates), the party has the potential to complicate things for the other two parties. But there is no sign in the polls yet that any sort of upheaval is likely to give hope to the NDP or worry to the Sask Party.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

And Trudeau still dominates Nanos 'Best PM' poll

Breaking — the weekly rolling poll from Nanos Research still shows Justin Trudeau well ahead on who Canadians prefer to be prime minister.

Considering the slow movement of this four-week rolling poll, I imagine Trudeau will enjoy a sizable lead over his rivals for quite a long time to come. Here are the latest numbers, comparing it only to previous independent samples from Nanos.

Trudeau led in the poll with 53.5%, no different from where his numbers were the month after the election.

Rona Ambrose was up slightly to 13.7%, while Tom Mulcair was at 10.6%, down from where he was in the previous independent sample.

Elizabeth May and Rhéal Fortin followed with 4.5% and 1%, respectively.

Also, I'm sure this isn't the first time you see this poll, but Mainstreet Research had a national survey out yesterday that included some numbers on the Conservative leadership race. And guess who was nipping at Peter MacKay's heels? Kevin O'Leary! I took a look at the poll here yesterday.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Liberals still well ahead in Abacus federal poll

The latest federal numbers from Abacus Data show the Liberals continue to be in fine form, though their honeymoon surge at the end of 2015 has dissipated a little.

The Liberals led in the poll with 45%, followed by the Conservatives at 28% and the NDP at 17%. Compared to Abacus's previous poll from November, the Liberals are down four points, the Conservatives are up four points, and the NDP is up one.

This follows the pattern also recorded by Forum Research since the election — the Liberals down a little from towering heights as the Conservatives recover their base of supporters. The NDP, however, remains at a very low level of support.

In other words, the gains the Liberals have made since the election have come from the NDP. As I've written in a few recent columns for the CBC, that is potentially a sustainable path to a few terms in government for the Liberals as it replicates their numbers from the Jean Chrétien years. It may seem like the NDP is in better form than at that time, but in reality what we're looking at is a lot of Bloc support from the 1990s and early 2000s now in the NDP column. That doesn't hurt the Liberals much at all.

Abacus also has some numbers on the government's approval rating. It remains high, though disapproval is catching up on approval (both are up).

One of the interesting bits from Abacus's polling is the breakdown of where Canadians place themselves on the political spectrum. The Liberals are doing disproportionately well in the centre and on the centre-left, while the Conservatives are doing disproportionately well on the centre-right and right. The NDP is doing best on the left and centre-left, but it does not dominate this part of the spectrum like the other parties dominate theirs.

I asked David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, if he could break down each party's support by the left-right spectrum. He obliged:

This chart shows just how much of the country is in the centre (or at least thinks it is). But it is also a very revealing look at the make-up of each party.

The Liberals are indeed the 'centrist' party, but they are pulled much more to the left (30%) than they are to the right (12%).

The Conservatives are much more of a centre/centre-right party than the Liberals are a centre/centre-left party, with a substantial right-wing. Just 8% of Conservatives consider themselves left-of-centre, while 49% think of themselves as right-of-centre.

The NDP still has a large portion of supporters considering themselves centrists, but they are pulled to the left more than the Liberals (39%, including 14% who are just on the left).

It shows with numbers what we already know — useful since it backs up conjecture with hard evidence. The Liberals are a centrist party that leans towards the left. The Conservatives are a centre-right party, and the NDP is a centre-left party.

The results for the Greens are illuminating. The Greens are sometimes considered a bit of a centrist party when the environment is left out of things, but their supporters do not seem to agree entirely. The party is clearly centre-left, with the largest portion of people who consider themselves leftists among the five parties. The Greens look a lot more like the NDP than they do the Liberals, though the Greens do have the largest proportion of right-of-centre supporters, by a narrow margin, apart from the Conservatives.

The Bloc is also a centre-left party, sitting somewhere on the spectrum between the Liberals and the NDP. And for all the noise about the niqab, only 9% of Bloc supporters seem themselves as right-of-centre.

Nevertheless, for the Bloc and Greens we're talking about small sample sizes. But it does help us put them on the political spectrum: from left-to-right, this chart suggests the parties should be placed with the NDP first, then the Greens, Bloc, Liberals, and Conservatives.

On an unrelated note, I wrote about a new by-election poll for Oshawa–Whitby here.