Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tories drop in new EKOS poll, fall back to earth in Ontario

Once again, EKOS is out in front with a poll showing a new shift in voting intentions. When EKOS came out with a 12.5-point lead for the Conservatives two weeks ago, they were roundly criticized and their results questioned.

At the time, I argued that EKOS's results were not unreasonable, and a bevy of other pollsters came forward to confirm what EKOS was seeing. Now, as the polling firm pegs the lead at only 5.1 points, I can't help but wonder whether EKOS is going to be the first to identify a new shift again or whether the other pollsters will not confirm EKOS's findings this time in the coming weeks.Compared to that last poll, the Conservatives have dropped 4.9 points and now lead with only 32.4%. The Liberals, at 27.3%, have gained 2.5 points.

This IVR telephone poll has a margin of error of +/- 1.9%, 19 times out of 20. That puts these shifts outside normal statistical variation.

The other parties are wobbling within the margins, however. The New Democrats are up 0.6 points to 14.8%, the Greens are up 1.2 points to 11.9%, and the Bloc Québécois is up 0.6 points to 10.5%.

Note that, despite the large "Other" response (3%), that is no different than last time.

It can be posited that this drop could be the consequences of the Bev Oda affair, or it could be because the Conservatives tend to fall away from majority territory as soon as they come close to it. We can't really say, though Angus-Reid did find that 58% of Canadians believe Mrs. Oda should resign from cabinet. However, Angus-Reid neglected to first ask whether Canadians were aware of the controversy, spurring a few from the Ottawa press gallery to suggest that Canadians would demand the resignation of Len Blork, were they asked.

You can follow Len Blork, Minister of Grains and Oil Seeds (a plum portfolio if there ever was one!), on Twitter here. Despite the allegations, I'm projecting that the incumbency effect likely means he can hold on to his Nipawin seat.

Anyway, drilling down into the regionals we see that the main source of the Conservative drop has been in Ontario (MOE +/- 3.3%), where the party has handed over the lead back to the Liberals. They stand at 36.4%, up 6.1 points, while the Conservatives trail at 35.9%, down 5.6 points. The New Democrats are up 0.6 points to 14.2%. The Liberals are leading with 44.6% in Toronto, followed by the Tories at 31.9%. In Ottawa, the Conservatives are leading 39.6% to 38.5%.

In Quebec (MOE +/- 3.5%), the Bloc has gained 1.2 points and leads with 39.9%. The Liberals are up 2.6 points to 18.8%, while the Conservatives are down 3.9 points to 16.2%. It appears that this drop, outside of the MOE, is noteworthy. The New Democrats, meanwhile, are down 0.5 points to 11.4%. The Bloc leads in Montreal with 39.1%, followed by the Liberals at 22%.

The Conservatives are down 4.5 points to 32.9% in British Columbia (MOE +/- 7.1%), while the New Democrats are up 6.7 points to 25.2%. The Liberals have dropped 5.6 points to 20.9%, within striking distance of the Greens, who are up 5.9 points to 19.4%. All of these variations, however, are within the MOE. The Conservatives are leading in Vancouver with 39.3%, followed by the Liberals at 24.2%.

In Atlantic Canada (MOE +/- 7.5%), the Conservatives are leading with 36.8% (+4.7). The Liberals trail with 30.2% (-6.9), while the Greens are up 7.6 points to 16.8%. The New Democrats have dropped to fourth, down 4.6 points to 14.3%.

The Conservatives are down 12.3 points in Alberta (MOE +/- 7.5%) to 52.1%, trailed by the Liberals at 24.4% (+9.9). The Greens are up nine points to 17%, while the NDP is down 5.3 points to 5.7%. The Conservatives are leading in Calgary with 59%, followed by the Greens (!) at 20%.

Finally, in the Prairies (MOE +/- 8.3%) the Conservatives are down 2.5 points to 42.3%, but still hold a good lead over the NDP at 27.8% (+9.9) and the Liberals at 21.4% (-4.4).

With this poll, ThreeHundredEight would project 18 Conservative seats in British Columbia, 26 in Alberta, 20 in the Prairies, 46 in Ontario, six in Quebec, and 12 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 129. That is a drop of 22 seats from EKOS's last poll.

The Liberals would win six seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, four in the Prairies, 49 in Ontario, 13 in Quebec, and 18 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 94, an increase of 11.

The Bloc Québécois would win 55 seats in Quebec, a gain of one over two weeks ago.

The New Democrats would win 11 seats in British Columbia, none in Alberta, four in the Prairies, 11 in Ontario, one in Quebec, and two in Atlantic Canada for a total of 29, a gain of nine seats.

The Greens would win one seat in British Columbia.

For regular readers, note that the new projection model is up and running for the British Columbian projections. All other regions are using the older model. I am open to individual, specific questions about these riding projections for British Columbia.

Will this poll dampen electoral speculation? Perhaps among the media, but at this point the party leaders probably have a good idea whether they are going to go into an election or not, and unless the polls become horribly bad (or terrifically good) for one of them I don't think they will be changing their minds. Political parties may not make their decisions based on public polls, but public perception is important, and opinion polls do play a role in shaping public perception of whether a particular political party is a "winner" or a "loser".

In the end, we will need to wait and see whether any other polling firms confirm this Conservative drop. There are some very high Green results in this poll, which probably need to be chalked up to the MOE. But since the overall shift in favour of the Greens is only to the tune of 1.2 points nationally, their results should not be considered a major factor in this shift.