Friday, February 18, 2011

Conservatives make big gain in new projection

With all of the hubbub surrounding the latest polling results, a projection update seems timely. As I have an article for The Globe and Mail appearing on Monday about political marketing, a projection update couldn't wait any longer. And the shift is significant.Compared to my last projection of February 7, the Conservatives have gained 1.1 points nationally, giving them six more seats. That now puts them at 144 in total, a gain of one seat over their current standing in the House of Commons, not counting the seats recently vacated by Jim Prentice and Jay Hill.

The Liberals, on the other hand, are sinking. They've dropped a full point and are down four seats to 92. That still represents a gain of 15 seats compared to now.

The New Democrats are down 0.4 points to 15.1%, and have dropped one seat in the projection to 20. That's a loss of 16 seats.

The Bloc Québécois is up 0.1 points to 10.0%, while the Greens are up 0.2 points to 8.5%. This projection is, of course, an indication of what Canadians could expect if an election were held today.

Regionally, the Conservatives have gained everywhere except in British Columbia. We'll start there.

The Conservatives are down one point to 38.4% in the province, and are trailed by the Liberals. They're up 1.3 points to 26%. The New Democrats, meanwhile, are down 0.5 points to 21.2% and the Greens are up 0.1 points to 12.1%. The Conservatives would win 22 seats (-1 from February 7th), the Liberals 10 (+1), and the NDP four (unchanged).

In Alberta, the Conservatives have gained 0.8 points and are projected to be at 60.8% support. The Liberals are down 0.8 points to 18.9%, while the NDP is up one point to 10.7%. The Greens are down 0.4 points to 7.8%. The Conservatives would win 27 seats and the Liberals one, unchanged from the last projection.

The Conservatives have gained 0.5 points in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and lead with 46.6%. The Liberals are down 0.2 points to 24% in the Prairies, while the NDP is down 0.5 points to 20.2%. The Greens, at 7.5%, have gained 0.3 points. The Conservatives would win 21 seats, the Liberals five, and the New Democrats two, unchanged from last time.

Ontario is showing some real movement, with the Conservatives gaining 2.1 points and getting over the 40% mark. They now lead with 40.4%, while the Liberals have dropped 1.5 points to 35.2%. The New Democrats are down 0.9 points to only 14.2%, while the Greens are up 0.2 points to 9%. The Conservatives are projected to win 54 seats (+4), the Liberals 42 (-3), and the New Democrats 10 (-1).

In Quebec, the Bloc has dropped 0.3 points but still leads with 39.7%. The Liberals have slipped one point to 20.4%, while the Conservatives are up a point to 19%. The New Democrats have gained 0.6 points and stand at 13.7%, and the Greens are down 0.2 points to 6.3%. The Bloc is projected to win 52 seats (-1), while the Liberals would win 14 (unchanged), the Conservatives would win eight (+1), and the New Democrats would win one (unchanged).

Finally, in Atlantic Canada the lead has swapped. The Conservatives are now in front with 36.2% (+2.3), representing their largest gain in the country. It follows that the Liberals would have their largest loss in the country, as they have dropped 3.4 points to 35.8%. It wasn't so long ago that the Liberals were well over 40%. The New Democrats are showing a little life, and have gained 0.7 points. They are now at 19.5%, ahead of the Greens who are up 0.8 points to 6.3%. The Conservatives are projected to win 11 seats in the region, up two, while the Liberals would win 18 (-2) and the New Democrats three.

The one lifeline for the Liberals in all of this is the weakness of the New Democrats. My projection for them is relatively low, but it is difficult to see the New Democrats making significant gains or keeping the seats they currently hold when they have dropped five points in British Columbia, five points in the Prairies, four points in Ontario, and six points in Atlantic Canada. At 15.1% nationally, the New Democrats would be at their lowest level of support since the 2000 election.

But if the Conservatives are able to maintain this level of support, they will enter the next election campaign from a very strong position. They can stand to lose some support and still form government, and would be well within reach of a slim majority. Will this make the Conservatives more bullish, pushing them to engineer the downfall of their government? I think not - while a majority is a possibility, it is not anywhere near a certainty or even a likelihood. Far safer to continue governing as if they have a majority, which they have done for several years.

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