Thursday, March 31, 2011

Liberals and NDP trade support in new Nanos poll

Polling for the campaign is still a little slow off the mark, but Nanos Research has been wasting no time. Today we've been treated to the second report from their daily tracking, and it shows a shift in support that is verging on the statistically significant.

This tracking poll was in the field as recently as yesterday, a day that had the Liberals talking about giving Canadians the opportunity to top up their CPP contributions, the NDP about raising corporate tax rates, and the Conservatives... Why can't I ever remember what the Conservatives proposed?

You might think I'm trying to be funny, but I'm not. This is the second day in the row I've wracked my brain to come up with the previous day's Conservative campaign pledge, only to come up with nothing. And I watch CPAC, Newsnet, CBCNN, RDI, and read the news online throughout the day. Why isn't it sticking with me?

The Liberals have started the campaign strongly, coming out with big proposals that capture attention. The NDP, too, are very specific about what they want to do and have managed to hit a populist chord. But the Tories haven't been as clear. Often they are repeating the relatively uninspiring things that were in the budget, and until more recently Stephen Harper's campaign speeches were focusing more on the "coalition" than on what his party is proposing to Canadians.

Yesterday, the debate over the debate, an NDP candidate dropping out, and problems with Tory volunteers grabbed more headlines than anything Harper had to say. This is a problem.

A quick search tells me that the Conservatives promised to conclude free trade deals with the European Union by 2012 and India by 2013.

Could this be one of the reasons the Liberals are improving in the polls? Yesterday's numbers for the Liberals must have been very high to see such a huge change in support, or their numbers on Monday were very low.
But it isn't the Conservatives who are suffering. In fact, in this poll of 1,200 Canadians (21.7% of whom were undecided) conducted for CTV and The Globe and Mail, the Tories have gained 0.7 points nationally.

The NDP is the party on the decline, at least in this poll. They've dropped 3.7 points to 15.9%, a significant number as with their levels of support the margin of error for the change in their results in these two polls is about 3.4%.

The Liberals have gained four points and now stand at 32.7% (their highest result in my model). However, the margin of error for the Liberal results in these two polls is about +/- 4.4%, so this gain is just inside the MOE.

Generally speaking, Conservative numbers are solid and consistent. But what is going on below them is far more noteworthy.

Regionally, the Liberals are doing very well in the West. They are up 4.1 points in BC and now trail the Conservatives by 32.3% to 42%. In Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, the Liberals are at 33.7%, a gain of 9.6 points since yesterday, only a few points behind the Conservatives (47.5%). Is this really happening? We need some more polling data to figure that out.

What is startling in this poll is the Conservative performance in Ontario: 47.5%. That is a gigantic number for the Tories. Here, the Liberals remained steady but the NDP dropped, while in Quebec the Liberals are up three points to 25.8%, a very high result for them. The NDP dropped 4.3 points to 13.5%.

And in Atlantic Canada, the Liberals are soaring at 47.9%, up 8.5 points. These are big swings that could, admittedly, be due to the sampling margins of error, but we are also in a campaign and things can change quickly.

I did not do a full seat projection for this one poll, as I can't use the Prairie numbers. But the Conservatives would win as many as 61 seats in Ontario with this poll, compared to 30 for the Liberals and 15 for the NDP. In Quebec and Atlantic Canada, however, the Liberals would make up for their Ontario weakness: 17 seats in Quebec and 22 in Atlantic Canada. The end result would probably find the parties generally where they were when the government fell, with fewer seats for the Bloc Québécois.

In addition to this national poll, I included the riding level polls from Segma Recherche into the model. The poll was conducted just before the campaign began. It had the Bloc ahead in Beauport - Limoilou, Louis-Hébert, Charlesbourg - Haute-Saint-Charles, and Québec. In all but Louis-Hébert the lead was 13 points over the Tories. The Conservatives lead in Louis-Saint-Laurent by nine points. Check out the PDF for more details.

Note: Nanos Research asked respondents "For those parties you would consider voting federally, could you please rank your top two current local preferences?"