Thursday, December 23, 2010

Canadians up for election, believe it will result in another minority

It appears that the talk of an election in 2011 is not idle chatter among Ottawa politicos who would enjoy the spectacle (i.e., me). A new poll by Angus-Reid shows that Canadians also believe that an election will take place in 2011. And what's more, they seem to be down with it.

Fully 49% of Canadians agree that a federal election should take place in 2011, compared to 34% who disagree. Taking out the "not sures", that puts 59% of decided Canadians in favour of holding an election in 2011. That's quite a bit more than we usually see in these types of polls. Canadians seem to be coming around to the idea of holding an election. It's unlikely they've warmed up to elections themselves, but have grown a little tired of the Parliament that currently exists and the constant speculation and electoral threats. In other words: s**t, or get off the pot.

However, it's supporters of opposition parties who most want an election. Only 37% of Conservative supporters agree an election should take place next year, compared to 58% of Liberal and New Democratic supporters and 65% of Bloc Québécois supporters. It appears that Conservative supporters aren't too confident that Stephen Harper will be able to improve his party's position - otherwise they'd be clamoring for another trip to the polls. The opposition, on the other hand, is perhaps a little over-confident.

Rumour is reality for 57% of Canadians, the number of people surveyed who believe that an election in 2011 is likely. For my part, I'm on the fence. There are a lot of indications that an election will take place in 2011, but there were plenty of indications that we were going to go in 2009 and 2010, too. While an election in 2011 would not surprise me, I would also not be surprised if this Parliament passes naturally in 2012.

Angus-Reid also asked respondents what outcome they would prefer, and what they think is most likely. While the results are interesting, they don't tell us anything new:A Conservative majority, aside from the "not sure" grouping likely made up of a lot of NDP and Bloc supporters, is the most popular option at 26%. A Liberal majority comes up second with 16%, a Liberal minority gets 13%, and a Conservative minority gets 10%.

Few Canadians, it seems, want the next election to have the same result as the last.

But these numbers aren't anything that Conservative supporters should be extra happy about. Adding up the two totals gives us 36% who prefer a Conservative government of some kind and 29% who prefer a Liberal government of some kind. That is, generally speaking, where the two parties currently are in voting intentions. The remaining 35% can be easily divided up into NDP, Bloc, and Green voters.

In terms of what is most likely, 37% are fans of ThreeHundredEight and believe that it is a Conservative minority. Another 12% believe a Conservative majority is in the cards, while 10% see a Liberal government forming after the next election and only 6% of very optimistic people see a Liberal majority as most likely.

This means that 47% of Canadians believe the next election will end up in a minority, while only 18% believe it will end up in a majority. And yet, they still want to head to the polls.

That 42% responded that they preferred a majority government is, I believe, absolutely irrelevant. Those who want a Conservative majority certainly don't want a Liberal majority, and vice-versa.

When asked whether respondents would be satisfied with various outcomes, it appears that about 1/3 of Canadians are just fine with whatever happens. If the next election ends up with a Conservative majority, 34% would be satisfied. If it ends up with a Conservative minority or an NDP-Liberal coalition that doesn't have the support of the Bloc, 31% would be satisfied.

It takes a little bit out of the argument that Canadians are 1) hoping for a Conservative majority or 2) are very afraid of a coalition government.

However, when the Bloc is entered into the equation, only 25% would be satisfied with the outcome, while 50% would be dissatisfied. Lumping in the Bloc with the coalition appears to make some political sense, but without any cross-tabs we can't know how many of the dissatisfieds are Bloc supporters who chafe at the idea of their party aiding in the governing of Canada and supporting two federalist parties.

The poll sets the stage for a 2011 election. It isn't an idea that turns Canadians off, despite their agreement that after it is all said and done, we'll probably have the exact same outcome as we did in 2008.

There will be no blog update tomorrow, or over the weekend. I should be back next week with some British Columbia and Manitoba provincial polls, as well as some other neat things. Merry Christmas to some of you, and for the rest of you have a good long-weekend-where-everything-is-closed.


  1. I wish you and other people would stop referring to possible outcomes as Conservative "minority" (or Liberal minority for that matter) when you really mean Conservative PLURALITY. We can all speculate on which single party will have the most seats - but that is a totally separate issues from what kind of actual government we get. There are all kinds of scenarios where the Tories have a "plurality" of seats, but the Liberals form a minority government of some kind - but these have less to do with election results than they do with what happens after the election.

  2. It's far more easier and, probably, accurate to talk about what is most likely to happen, rather than to pontificate about a Conservative-NDP coalition or a Liberal-Bloc merger.

    The fact of the matter is that if the Conservatives win a plurality of seats they are 99% likely to form a minority government. It could fall in a week and be replaced by a coalition, but that is besides the point.

  3. Eric said: Merry Christmas to some of you, and for the rest of you have a good long-weekend-where-everything-is-closed.

    A very apropos moment, then, to dig out this Ipsos poll from December 24, 2007 (which is likely still relevant today):

    “A new Ipsos Reid poll released today and conducted on behalf of CanWest News Service and Global Television reveals that most (94%) Canadians celebrate Christmas.”

    Merry Christmas Eric.

  4. Thanks for this Eric. Also, thanks for all the great work you've done this year. You really are Canada's Nate Silver! xD

  5. Éric: The fact of the matter is that if the Conservatives win a plurality of seats they are 99% likely to form a minority government.

    I'd go further: with almost anything short of a majority Liberal government, Stephen Harper is unlikely to voluntarily cede power. He's more likely to attempt a hail-Mary coalition.

    It could fall in a week and be replaced by a coalition, but that is besides the point.

    And here we part ways: the important issue isn't the government we have when the House resumes sitting, but rather the one we have after the immediate non-confidence vote. With that definition, a Liberal minority is far more likely than a Conservative minority.

    Éric, thanks for your effort, your humour, your impressive even-handedness, your tolerance of an unruly bunch and most of all for your insights. Even when I disagree with them, they still make me think. Best wishes for 2011.

  6. Guys, it's been really run. It's been nice to have some discussion about Canadian politics based on actual facts and statistics rather than just opinionated spin. While I doubt there will be an election in 2011, I look forward to a very interesting year in Canadian politics, and hope you guys will continue to contribute your most challenging and thought-provoking reactions to polls.

    Please enjoy the holidays and have a great start to the (hopefully recession-ending) new year.

  7. Éric: The fact of the matter is that if the Conservatives win a plurality of seats they are 99% likely to form a minority government.It could fall in a week and be replaced by a coalition, but that is besides the point.

    By that logic, if the next election results in anything other than a Liberal majority - there is a 99% chance that the Conservative will "form a majority government". As the incumbent party, they have a right to meet the house and try to stay in power regardless of whether they are the largest party or not. In 2006 if Paul Martin had wanted to - he could have tried to stay in power with a new minority government.

  8. I get your point, but you're splitting hairs. Until the Liberals and NDP start talking about the possibility of a coalition or working together under a Liberal government, I'm going to speak about what is most plausible.

    If the Liberals and NDP, together, form a majority in my projections I may change my language. Until then or until those two parties start actually talking about these hypotheticals, I'm not going to change.

  9. Eric,

    I think your analysis is spot on on this point. Unless Iggy and company campaign on the possibility of forming a coalition with the NDP (or the Bloc) the Liberals aren't going to form a government if the Tories win a plurality.

    And the Liberals aren't going to run on the prospect of forming a coalition because such a strategy would involve cutting their own throat. It would push right-wing Liberals into the embrace of the Tories (ensuring that the Tories clean-up in places like the 905-belt around Toronto). It would also push pragmatic left-wing voter who, despite their sympathies for the NDP, typically vote for the Liberals because they have a better chance to govern, to vote for the NDP (because, if the NDP and Liberals are going to be partners in a coalition, you might as well vote for the partner you prefer).

    And while I have my doubts about Iggy's political instincts, this point is so obvious that even Iggy gets it. From Today's Globe:
    “When we go into an election, I want to be saying to Canadians, if you want four more years of Mr. Harper, vote for (NDP Leader Jack) Layton or (Bloc Leader Gilles). Duceppe or (Green Party Leader Elizabeth) May, ... If you want to get rid of Mr. Harper and want a compassionate, responsible alternative, you’ve got to vote for the Liberals.”

    Anyone who thinks that the Liberals will try to put together a coalition isn't paying attention to what Iggy has done heretofore (i.e., reject the coalition in January 2009 and ever since - let's face it, if Iggy wanted to put together a coalition he could have done it at any time) or what he's saying now.

    Happy New Years.

  10. The election drums coming from the Liberal party is an expression of fatigue with the current situation.

    Them forcing an election where they will be decimated (leadership 2-1) is acceptance of the fact that they need to rebuild.

    They have to make sure that they don't merge with the NDP in this time of distress and become a socialist stump party in the Canadian tradition. If they move to the Left a new centrist party... perhaps the Green ... will emerge to fill the void.

    Canada need two centrist parties with realistic visions and ideas good for the whole country.

    Today the CPC is the only national party and if the NDP makes inroads in Quebec it is more of a national party than the Liberals. At least the NDP vision is equally bad for all the country.

  11. New Manitoba federal poll shows Winnipeg North dynamic accurate:

    CPC at '08 support. liberals up, NDP down.


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