Thursday, April 17, 2014

Trudeau: One Year Later

Justin Trudeau has been leader of the Liberal Party for one year now. I wrote about the effect he had on the polls for The Globe and Mail earlier this week. I suggest you check it out if you have a subscription, as I go into the regional details there. Here, this is just a brief look at how the polls have broken down for the last two years.

I also suggest you consider checking out Tapping into the Pulse, my ebook on polling from 2013. It covers the last months of the Liberal leadership race and the first eight months with Trudeau at the helm of the party. The book also covers the wider federal scene, as well as each province individually. You can order it here from Gumroad, Amazon, and Kobo.

For those who want another trip down memory lane, I looked at the polls one year after Thomas Mulcair became leader of the New Democrats for The Hill Times here.

The chart below shows federal support in polls conducted one year since and one year before Trudeau became the Liberal leader. I've used a five-poll rolling average to smooth out the lines as much as possible. I've also added a linear trendline (the dotted, darker lines) to give an idea of how things have moved over the last 24 months.

The graph paints a pretty clear picture of the influence Trudeau has had on federal politics. The trendlines for both the Conservatives and New Democrats are negative, though both parties have more or less held steady for the last few months.

Stretching the chart back to April 2012 also allows us to take a look at Mulcair's honeymoon, when the NDP was polling in a tied or ahead of the Conservatives. It also lets us look at where his numbers have gone after two years as leader.

In late 2012, the Liberals were making gains as the leadership campaign rolled on, but you can see that in the months before Trudeau's victory became inevitable the polls were all over the map. This was, in part, because some voters' intentions included Trudeau as leader and others didn't. And Trudeau's quality as a potential leader was still murky at the time.

Since his victory the polls have been less varied, particularly over the last few months. You can see that since the beginning of 2014 the support levels of the three major parties have been relatively tight. Are the numbers stabilizing?

The chart also starkly shows how the Conservatives have not held a clear lead in the polls since over a year ago, and are trailing by a larger margin than they did when the New Democrats were doing so well in the spring and early summer of 2012. Never in the minority years of 2006 to 2011 did the Conservatives trail by such a large margin for such a long time. That the New Democrats have been solidly in third for the last year masks the fact that they have also been solidly over 20% - a level of support that was their ceiling prior to the 2011 breakthrough. Mulcair says it often, and he is right: the party's old ceiling is now their floor.

But the Liberals may be near their ceiling, particularly in this three-way race era. Only a couple of times has the party done better than 40%, the level of support they probably need to be comfortably in majority territory.

So that is the last 24 months in polls. Only 18 months remain before the next election is scheduled to take place. What will this chart look like by then?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

March 2014 federal polling averages

The Liberals continued to hold a lead in March as their numbers stabilized after months of oscillation back and forth. Only three polls were in the field nationally last month, and one in Quebec, but nevertheless over 10,000 Canadians were surveyed on their voting intentions.

The Liberals averaged 34.8% support in March, down 0.2 points since February. This marks three consecutive months in which the party has been in a narrow one-point band, the first time that has happened under Justin Trudeau. In fact, the Liberals had not even managed to hold their numbers steady for two months before 2014.

The Conservatives were down 0.4 points to 28.3%, making that six consecutive months in which the Tories have been registered at under 30% support. The New Democrats were up 0.6 points to 24.8%, their best result since September 2013, continuing a positive three-month trend for the party.

The Bloc Québécois was down 0.2 points to 5.7% while the Greens were up 0.6 points to 5.2%. Support for other parties averaged 1.3% in March.

In British Columbia, the Liberals picked up 6.6 points to reach 36.8% in March, their best result on record going back to January 2009. The Conservatives were down 1.3 points to 28.8%, while the NDP dropped 6.3 points to 22.9%, its worst result since March 2011. Considering these extremes, the month was more likely an anomaly than anything significant. The Greens were up 0.8 points to 10%.

The Conservatives led in Alberta with 55.6%, up 8.8 points since February. The Liberals were down 7.6 points to 20.8%, while the NDP was down 0.9 points to 15.1%. The Greens were up 0.1 point to 5.8%.

In the Prairies, the Conservatives managed their best result since June 2013 with a 3.4-point gain to 43.3%. The Tories have picked up support in Saskatchewan and Manitoba for three consecutive months. The Liberals were down 3.4 points to 29.7%, and the NDP was up 1.2 points to 22.6%. The Greens were unchanged at 4.2%.

The Liberals have been very stable in Ontario, averaging 37% or 38% support over the last six months. They were up one point to 38.4% in March, while the Conservatives dropped 3.1 points to 30.6%. The NDP was up 1.6 points to 25%, its best result since March 2013. The Greens were up 0.3 points to 4.6%.

Quebec - in the midst of a provincial election campaign in March - had the Liberals down 1.1 points to 31.7%. The New Democrats put up their best numbers since before Trudeau became Liberal leader, with a gain of 1.2 points to 29.8%. They have been experiencing a positive trend for four months (the NDP was at just 25% in November). The Bloc Québécois was down 1.7 points to 20.7%, while the Conservatives were at their highest since March 2013 with a 0.9-point gain to 13.6%. The Greens were also up 0.9 points, to 3.9%.

The Liberals were ahead in Atlantic Canada with 52.9%, a drop of 4.6 points. The New Democrats were up 2.4 points to 20.6%, while the Conservatives were down 0.5 points to 20%. They have been on a negative trend for four months now, dropping from 25% in November. The Greens were up 1.4 points to 4.6%.

The chart above shows the effect that Trudeau has had on politics in Atlantic Canada. Since he became leader in April 2013, the Liberals have managed 50% or better in five of 12 months, and have never been lower than 43% or held a lead of less than 13 points. Both the Conservatives, who last held a consistent lead in 2011, and the New Democrats, who were ahead after Thomas Mulcair became leader, have taken a hit.

With these levels of support, the Liberals would likely win around 137 seats, up four since February's projection. The Conservatives dropped one seat to 120, while the New Democrats were up three to 76. The Bloc Québécois would likely win three seats, a decrease of six from February, while the Greens would win two.

The Liberals make their biggest gain in Ontario, up eight seats to 61 thanks to the margin between their party and the Conservatives increasing by almost five points. The Liberals would also pick up two seats in British Columbia compared to February, but were down one each in Quebec and the Prairies and four in Alberta.

The Conservatives gained eight seats in all in the West (one in the Prairies, three in B.C., four in Alberta) but were down nine in Ontario.

The New Democrats were up seven seats in Quebec to 43, and one seat in Ontario, but dropped five in British Columbia.

Mostly stable numbers across the board. That is not a bad thing for the Liberals, as the longer they remain in the lead the harder it will be to budge them from it. The New Democrats are showing a little life in Quebec, which is good news for them, and remain in the game. The Conservatives still appear unable to turn things around. With 18 months to go before the next election, that is not an enviable position to be in.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Conservatives drop in EKOS poll

We have not heard much out of the federal polling world since the Quebec election took centre stage, and federal politics are likely to fade to the background again if Ontario heads into an election campaign next month. In the meantime, however, the latest poll from EKOS Research for iPolitics suggests the Conservatives have yet to rebound.

EKOS was last in the field January 22-27. Compared to that poll, the Liberals were up 2.6 points to 35.8% while the Conservatives were down three points to 26.7%. The New Democrats were down 2.5 points, while the Greens were up 1.9 points to 8.1%.

Only the drop in support for the Conservatives appears to be statistically significant.

The Bloc Québécois was up 0.3 points to 4.8%, and support for other parties was up 0.6 points to 2.7%. The number of undecideds were 10.2% of the entire sample, up 0.7 points.

This is generally the status quo, then, for federal politics since last fall. The number for the Conservatives is quite low, though EKOS generally has support for the larger parties lower than other firms due to higher Green and Others numbers.

In British Columbia, the Liberals were ahead with 32.2%, followed by the Conservatives at 25.8% (up 8.9 points) and the NDP at 25.7%. The Greens were at 13.8% in the province, their best result in the country.

The Conservatives were in front in Alberta with 53.7%, with the Liberals at 25.9% and the NDP at 9.6%.

In Saskatchewan, the Conservatives led with 46.3%, while the Liberals and NDP followed with 22.9% and 22%, respectively.

The Conservatives picked up 15.9 points to lead in Manitoba with 40.9%, while the Liberals dropped 19.6 points to 28.1%. The NDP was third with 21.1% support.

The Liberals led in Ontario with 40.4%, while the Conservatives fell by nine points to just 26%. The NDP had 21.1% support.

In Quebec, the Liberals were ahead with 33.8%, followed by the NDP at 25.2% (down 6.5 points), the Bloc Québécois at 18.6%, and the Conservatives at 15.4%.

And in Atlantic Canada, the Liberals led with 48.8% to 23.5% for the NDP and 21.4% for the Conservatives.

All in all, nothing too unusual in these regional numbers. However, the large Liberal lead in Ontario is somewhat out of the ordinary.

With these levels of support, the Liberals would likely win about 155 seats, putting them 14 short of a majority. The Conservatives would win 111, while the NDP would take 63 seats, the Bloc would hold seven, and the Greens would win two.

The Liberals do exceptionally well in Ontario, taking 73 seats with just 31 going to the Conservatives. They also win a majority of seats in Atlantic Canada with 23. The party takes the plurality of seats in Quebec with 34 and British Columbia with 14.

The Conservatives still do best west of Ontario, with 13 seats in B.C., 20 in the Prairies, and 30 in Alberta. The New Democrats take 26 seats in Quebec, with another 17 coming from Ontario and 13 in British Columbia.

EKOS also probed the approval ratings of the three main leaders, finding Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair to have the highest approval scores at 41.3% and 39.5%, respectively. Trudeau had a higher disapproval rating at 34.2% to 23.7% for Mulcair, but Mulcair had 36.7% either not having an opinion or not responding. That compared to just 24.5% for Trudeau and 19.5% for Stephen Harper.

The Prime Minister had a very low approval rating of just 26.5%, compared to 54% disapproval. He had the highest approval rating among his own party's supporters, however, at 77.5%, compared to 77.1% for Trudeau among Liberals and 67.6% for Mulcair among New Democrats.

The numbers have yet to come unstuck, as Trudeau celebrates his first full year as leader of the Liberal Party. Over that time, he has not relinquished the national lead in the polls. But can he hold it for another 18 months?