Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week 5 Ceilings

01/05/11 UPDATE: The final projection update will be posted at the end of the day when all of the final polls of the campaign have been made public. 

The final week's ceilings are dramatic. So let me take this opportunity to calm everyone down - these are not actual projections of likely outcomes. These are best-case-scenario ceilings. I am not projecting any of these scenarios to actually take place.

The ceilings are established by taking the best regional results for each party from all of the polls released during the week, and running seat projections with those results. Of course, these calculations are greatly influenced by the smaller samples of regional polls. But we can still draw some useful information from these ceilings, as it is unlikely that the parties are capable of outpacing the best polls when you consider that the best polls are likely a few points higher than reality thanks to the MOE.

The Conservative ceiling is based on the party capturing about 44% of the national vote, split into the regions thusly: 45% in British Columbia, 74% in Alberta, 55% in the Prairies, 48% in Ontario, 18% in Quebec, and 48% in Atlantic Canada.

That would give the Tories 23 seats in British Columbia, 28 in Alberta, 23 in the Prairies, 66 in Ontario, eight in Quebec, and 18 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 167. That is a majority government, and generally where they have been in the ceilings throughout the campaign.

The New Democrats, with 73 seats, form the Official Opposition. The Liberals win only 45 seats and the Bloc is reduced to 23.

This is not an outlandish scenario, as the results in British Columbia, the Prairies, and Quebec are well within the norm. Sweeping Alberta is also quite likely. But the Conservatives would need to capture historic levels of support in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, which seems less likely to occur.

For the Liberals, their ceiling is based on taking 28% support nationally: 26% in British Columbia, 17% in Alberta, 21% in the Prairies, 34% in Ontario, 22% in Quebec, and 38% in Atlantic Canada.

That would give the party 84 seats, with six coming from British Columbia, two from the Prairies, 42 from Ontario, 15 from Quebec, and 18 from Atlantic Canada. That allows them to retain their status as the Official Opposition, but is really only a growth of seven seats from their standings when the government fell - and I remind you that this is a ceiling.

The Conservatives would win 131 seats, the New Democrats 63, and the Bloc 30. With a combined 147 seats, we'd likely see the Liberals and NDP govern.

These levels of support are not unusual for the Liberals, but compared to their usual levels of support in the last week of polling even this is an unlikely outcome.
The New Democratic ceiling assumes the party takes 37% of the vote nationally: 39% in British Columbia, 21% in Alberta, 40% in the Prairies, 34% in Ontario, 45% in Quebec, and 46% in Atlantic Canada.

This would give the party 16 seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, nine in the Prairies, 27 in Ontario, 56 in Quebec, and 15 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 126.

The Conservatives would still win 142 seats and get the first crack at forming government. The Liberals would be reduced to only 29 seats, but with the NDP could combine for a majority of 155. The Bloc would lose official party status with only 11 seats in the House of Commons.

I do not believe this to be a likely outcome, especially considering the unnaturally high levels of support the NDP had in a few polls in the Prairies, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada. But if this campaign has taught us anything, it's that nothing is impossible.

I will have a projection update tomorrow afternoon. That will be my final post before the election takes place on Monday.

More NDP gains, closing on Liberals

Four national polls (EKOS, Angus-Reid, Nanos, Ipsos-Reid) were added to the projection this morning. Unfortunately, I didn't get the details of the newest Léger poll before I ran the numbers so it will have to be included in tomorrow's final update, which should also include the latest numbers from at least three other new polls that will be released between now and then.
The Conservative slide in national support has stopped, and they are up 0.1 point to 36.8% in the projection. They are unchanged at 144 seats.

The New Democrats have gained 1.3 points nationally and have moved into second with 25.1% support. They are also up six seats to 59, which still places them in third.

The Liberals are down 0.9 points to 24.1% and five seats to 65, while the Bloc Québécois is down to 7.1% nationally. They are also down one seat to 40 in Quebec. Unless the final polls added to the projection are radically different, we can expect the Bloc to drop below 40 seats tomorrow.

The Greens are down 0.3 points to 5.7% and remain at no seats.

Regionally, the Conservatives made big gains in Alberta and the Prairies, and finally stopped dropping in Ontario. They are down in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, however.

The New Democrats are still making big gains in the projection, with increases between 1.1 and 2.4 points in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. At 31%, they've moved comfortably ahead in Quebec and are even starting to challenge the Tories and Liberals in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals are down everywhere, dropping about a point in British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada, while the Bloc is down slightly in Quebec to 29.8%.

Eight seats have changed hands in the projection.

In British Columbia, Conservative candidate Troy DeSouza is now projected to take Esquimalt - Juan de Fuca from the Liberals, while the NDP's Ronna-Rae Leonard is now the projected winner in Vancouver Island North, a Conservative riding.

In Ontario, Alicia Gordon of the Conservatives is now favoured in Kingston and the Islands.

In Quebec, the New Democrats have captured four more ridings. Raymond Côté is projected to win Beauport - Limoilou (Conservative), Hélène Leblanc is projected to take LaSalle - Émard (Liberal), Isabelle Morin is projected to win Notre-Dame-de-Grâce - Lachine (Liberal), and Alexandre Boulerice is projected to win Rosemont - La Petite-Patrie (Bloc).

And in Atlantic Canada, Ryan Cleary of the New Democrats is now the projected winner in St. John's South - Mount Pearl.

The final week's ceilings will be posted later this afternoon, with the final projection being posted tomorrow late in the day in order to capture every last poll.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Yet more Quebec riding polls

The three national polls added to the projection this morning (Harris-Decima, EKOS, Nanos) have little original to say, though that in and of itself is something. The New Democrats are still in second, the Conservatives are still looking weak in front, and the Liberals are still looking like the old New Democrats. A few days remain, and it seems unlikely the polls will be showing anything other than this state of affairs over the weekend.
Where these three very similar polls differ most is of great importance. EKOS shows a large Conservative lead in Ontario that would likely result in a huge swathe of Tory seats. Nanos shows a closer race that would likely result in a similar landscape as in 2008. And then Harris-Decima puts the Liberals marginally ahead of the Conservatives, meaning the landscape in Ontario would be greatly changed.

How this all shakes out over the weekend and what emerges from it on Monday will decide the campaign. While Quebec will provide us with the most surprises and determine whether Jack Layton moves into Stornoway on Tuesday, Ontario will determine whether we have a minority or majority government. A minority means another election in two or three years and the possibility of either the New Democrats or Liberals forming a government after a Conservative defeat in the House of Commons. A majority means no election until October 2015, and by then all four parties could have different leaders or the polls could be showing something completely unthinkable today.

How will Ontarians vote? Will the Conservatives put up a big lead? Will they benefit from vote splitting? Will the Liberals show surprising strength? We don't know the answers to these questions, and we haven't had a single riding poll from Ontario during this five week campaign to help us answer them. But we have had riding polls for fully 1/3rd of all ridings in Quebec, thanks in part to a new blast from CROP and Cible Recherche.
Ten - count 'em, ten - riding polls. And Cible Recherche put up another one today for Berthier - Maskinongé (which puts the Bloc ahead of the NDP by seven points). The first poll in this graph was conducted in Trois-Rivières, a Bloc riding ready to vote NDP despite only 24% of voters being able to name the NDP candidate (Robert Aubin). At 42%, that's a 33-point bump for the NDP.

Throughout the Quebec City region, CROP found the New Democrats to be extremely competitive. They are leading in Beauport - Limoilou, Charlesbourg - Haute-Saint-Charles, Louis-Hébert, and Portneuf - Jacques-Cartier, while being tied or closely trailing in Louis-Saint-Laurent and Québec. In other words, the NDP could sweep Quebec City, this after supporting ran in the 9% to 13% range in the 2008 election. The New Democrats could, depending on what happens elsewhere, block a Conservative majority in Quebec City of all places.

Moving over to the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, we see the NDP with a good degree of support but only challenging in Jonquière - Alma, where Claude Patry trails Jean-Pierre Blackburn by two points. While this riding did have a very inaccurate riding poll done for it in 2008, we've now seen two independent polls done for this riding showing that Blackburn is being hotly trailed.

This poll also shows that the Bloc is capable of holding on to some of its ridings. It is running neck-and-neck with the NDP in Louis-Hébert and Québec and has a good lead in Chicoutimi - Le Fjord. In close races like those in Quebec City, the Bloc's existing organization will be key, as will that of the Conservative Party. Polls published in the media like these may certainly demoralize the troops - but it could also galvanize them to get those votes out.

Note that Le Devoir will be publishing my seat projections tomorrow in a slightly different format. As I intend to post updates here on the site on Saturday and Sunday, with Sunday being my final projection, the newspaper will be publishing seat ranges for each of the parties in order not to have two sets of different numbers out in the ether. The Globe and Mail will be doing the same on Sunday, as those projections will be supplied to the newspaper tomorrow and so would have been different from my own projections here on ThreeHundredEight on Sunday. The ranges will give you a good idea of what the possible likely outcomes of Monday night could be, rather than the precise, riding-by-riding breakdown I will have for you on Sunday.

New Democrats up, Liberals and Bloc down

Three new national polls (not including this morning's EKOS) and a stunning 10 new riding polls have been added to the projection. It has created quite a bit of movement, but still not as much as I'd like to see. Nevertheless, the New Democrats are growing by leaps and bounds and are starting to knock-off Conservative seats in British Columbia and even Quebec.
Nationally, the Conservatives are down 0.2 points to 36.7% but they have gained one seat. They are now projected to win 144 in total. The Liberals are down again by 0.4 points to 25%, while the New Democrats are up 0.9 points to 23.8%. The Liberals have dropped four seats and are now projected to win 70, while the NDP is up six seats to 53.

The Bloc Québécois is at 7.2% nationally and has dropped two seats to 41. That is still a high number considering they are now projected to be at 29.9% support in Quebec. While this is the result of the slow movement of my projection model, I think it will also end up capturing the problem the NDP will face getting the vote out and keeping it there in Quebec.

Note that I will be doing another update here on ThreeHundredEight tomorrow, with my final projection being put up on this site on Sunday.

The Conservatives are wobbling, but they are still firmly in the lead. They've dropped about a third of a point in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec, but have gained that much in Atlantic Canada while being stable in the Prairies.

A drop of 0.7 points in Ontario, however, hurts the party. They are now about where they were in 2008, making new seat gains difficult as the Liberals are also about at their 2008 level of support.

In fact, Ontario is the only part of the country where the Liberals are not in free fall. They've dropped big out West, are down another 0.2 points in Quebec, and are close to losing the lead to the Tories in Atlantic Canada.

The Bloc continues to suffer and has dropped below 30% support in Quebec.

The New Democrats, on the other hand, are up 2.2 points in the province to 29.6%. That is their best result in the country. They also gained 0.7 points in Ontario and 0.9 points in British Columbia. They still have some room for growth.

Eight seats have changed hands.

In North Vancouver, the Conservative incumbent Andrew Saxton is now projected to retain his seat. It had been held by the Liberals in the projection for the entire campaign. Also in British Columbia, the New Democrats are now projected to win Surrey North, a Conservative riding. Jasbir Sandhu is the NDP candidate there.

In Atlantic Canada, former Nova Scotia NDP leader Robert Chisholm is now projected to win Dartmouth - Cole Harbour from the Liberals, while former PC cabinet minister John Ottenheimer is ahead again in Random - Burin - St. George's.

And in Quebec, the New Democrats have wrested Portneuf - Jacques-Cartier from independent, Conservative-endorsed MP André Arthur, a state of affairs confirmed by today's CROP poll. The New Democrats have also taken Laval - Les Îles from the Liberals (François Pilon is the NDP candidate) and two seats from the Bloc: Laval (José Nunez-Melo) and Châteauguay - Saint-Constant (Sylvain Chicoine).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Conservatives struggling in Quebec

The three national polls added to the model this morning (EKOS, NanosForum) are all telling the same story. And one of those things is that the Conservatives are struggling in Quebec. A few riding polls indicate that this weakness could even put some of their fortress seats at the mercy of the - yep - NDP.
The topline numbers of these three polls are almost identical: the Conservatives around 35%, the NDP around 29%, and the Liberals around 22%. The New Democrats are strongly in second in the two westernmost provinces, and the situation in Ontario is looking dangerous for the Liberals. In Atlantic Canada we have a three-way race, while in Quebec the New Democrats are enjoying a 10-17 point lead over the Bloc Québécois.

But look at the Conservative numbers in Quebec: between 14% and 16%. That is well below their 2008 performance and means the loss of about a quarter of their support. Perhaps they are bleeding that support away to other parties in regions in which they are not a factor. Maybe - but two polls conducted for the Journal de Lévis just when the NDP were beginning to take off indicate that even in the Quebec City region the Tories are suffering.

Let me re-iterate that point. These polls were conducted between April 12-16. The NDP really began to take off starting on April 17. Nevertheless, in the polls conducted for Lévis - Bellechasse and Lotbinière - Chutes-de-la-Chaudière the NDP is polling at 23%.

In Lévis - Bellechasse that represents a growth of 12 points since the 2008 election, while in Lotbinière - Chutes-de-la-Chaudière that is a 10-point gain. Worse for the Tories is that Steven Blaney in the former and Jacques Gourde in the latter have seen their vote drop by eight (Blaney) and 12 (Gourde) points, and this before the Conservatives dropped to the mid-teens in the provincial polls.

In neither of these ridings, however, has the Bloc appeared to lose support. That may not be the case almost two weeks later, but it is remarkable that these two polls were showing New Democratic gains at the hands of the Conservatives before the party took off in the province, and not the Bloc. It is just speculation, but with the large margins of error in these Axiome polls and with the NDP gains in the province as a whole, for all we know the NDP could be leading in these two very Conservative ridings by now.
They are demonstrably leading in Hull-Aylmer, the riding just across the river from Parliament Hill in Gatineau. The riding has famously been Liberal for about a century, but the latest poll from Segma Recherche (conducted April 20-23, so recently) shows the New Democrats opening up a 13-point lead over Liberal incumbent Marcel Proulx.

At 29%, that is a drop of eight points for the Liberals. But at 42%, the NDP has gained 22 points since the 2008 election. The Bloc is down to only 13%, meaning the NDP has taken about the same amount of support from the Liberals as from the Bloc. The party really does cross the divide. The Conservatives are also down. But with this poll Hull-Aylmer looks like a very safe bet for the NDP, and adds fuel to the fire for a potential NDP victory in neighbouring Pontiac.

That brings us to two polls done in the Gaspésie by Segma Recherche for the Journal Graffici. Note that these polls are old, taken between April 6-13. At that time the NDP was roughly at 18% support in Quebec, so still well below their current levels but nevertheless doing respectably.

Nevertheless, the NDP was still at only 5% to 11% support in these two ridings. Even if we double this support, as the NDP has apparently done in the province as a whole since these polls were taken, we still have the NDP out of the race. This is an indication that the NDP will not be able to win just any riding in Quebec.

But what is more surprising is that in the case of Haute-Gaspésie - La Mitis - Matane - Matapédia the Liberals were only polling at 24%. They've sunk in the province since then, so they are unlikely to be doing better now. That's quite a drop from 36% in 2008. The Conservatives are still at about the same level they were in 2008 in this riding, but that has to be a disappointment as the Tories thought they had a good shot with a decent candidate.

Though the Bloc was only at about 36% or so in the provincial polls when this riding poll was taken, the Bloc had grown its support by about 11 points in the riding since the last election. This might not be a surprise, as the previous Bloc MP was a bit of a no-show. Jean-François Fortin, a local mayor, was leading the riding in this poll with 49%.

In Gaspésie - Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the Liberal and Conservative vote had dropped by quite a bit to the benefit of the Bloc's new candidate, Daniel Côté. At 48%, it is unlikely that the recent drop in support the Bloc has seen in the province has put this particular candidate in danger. The NDP was only at 11% in this riding when the poll was taken.

Taken all together, these five riding polls tell us something about what is going on in Quebec. Firstly, the Liberals are completely out of it, even in ridings where they were supposed to be competitive.

The Bloc is looking in rough shape and can lose a lot of its support in NDP-winnable ridings, but they do still have a base of support to fall back upon (the two Quebec City-area ridings and those in the Gaspésie demonstrate that). For the NDP, they have the potential to be competitive in surprise locations (Lévis, Lotbinière) and win in others (Hull-Aylmer), but still have a long way to go in other parts of the province. It is unlikely the Bloc will be reduced to single-digits in seats.

And for the Conservatives, even their fortresses are at risk. The seats held by Blaney and Gourde are among the safest for the Tories in Quebec, yet they look threatened by the NDP's surge. And the polls in Hull-Aylmer and the Gaspésie show that the Conservatives can disappear in ridings in which they never had more than an outside shot at winning.

What this means is that the New Democrats are in a terrific position to win a great number of seats in Quebec on Monday. All of the other parties are looking weak, even in their strongholds. Now the NDP just has to hope (because that's all they can do with the means they have in the province) that Quebecers go out and vote.

Conservatives drifting from majority

Three new national polls from EKOS, Nanos, and Forum have been added to the model, along with five new riding polls conducted in Quebec. The result is another gain for the New Democrats, mostly at the expense of the Conservative Party.
The Conservatives are now down 0.3 points to 36.9% nationally, and have dropped three seats to only 143. That is where they stood when the election began, but in practice it is even lower as two safe Conservative seats were vacant at the dissolution of the House of Commons.

The Liberals are down 0.4 points to 25.4% and one seat to 74. The New Democrats are up 0.9 points to 22.9% and four seats to 47, moving them into third position in the projection. More seats are on the way for the NDP, though.

The Bloc Québécois is down to 7.5% nationally but is steady at 43 seats, a number they will not hold on to for many more days. The Greens are unchanged at 6%.

The problems facing the Conservatives are clear in the regional breakdown. While they are holding steady in the two westernmost provinces, they are down big in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada, and are losing ground in Ontario and Quebec.

The Liberals are also in trouble, with big drops in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. They are holding steady in Atlantic Canada but that is little consolation. The party would be losing many seats in Ontario if the Conservatives weren't on the decline in the province as well.

For the Bloc, they are down again to 31.4% and will continue to drop like a stone. They are reaching the point in the projection where they will begin to lose seats in bunches, primarily to the NDP.

The New Democrats, meanwhile, continue to gain everywhere, up about a point in every part of the country except British Columbia. They made another giant leap forward in Quebec and are now trailing the Bloc by only four points.

Six seats changed hands, all in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

The New Democrats picked up Brossard - La Prairie and Saint-Lambert in Quebec, the first from the Liberals and the second from the Bloc. Hoang Mai and Sadia Groguhé are now the respective favourites.

The Bloc has retaken Haute-Gaspésie - La Mitis - Matane - Matapédia from the Liberals, thanks in large part to a riding poll added to the model which had Jean-François Fortin of the Bloc in the lead.

In Nova Scotia, the New Democrats have taken two seats from the Conservatives: Central Nova and South Shore - St. Margaret's. David Parker is the new favourite in Peter MacKay's seat, while former NDP MP Gordon Earle is the favourite in South Shore - St. Margaret's.

The Liberals have also regained a seat themsevles, taking Random - Burin - St. George's back from the Tories in Newfoundland & Labrador.

The New Democrats are still moving forward in the projection and will undoubtedly take second spot in the popular vote projecton before May 2nd. Seats in which the NDP trails by five points or less in the projection include:

Surrey North (CPC), Vancouver Island North (CPC), Saskatoon - Rosetown - Biggar (CPC), Brome - Missisquoi (BQ), Châteauguay - Saint-Constant (BQ), Laurier - Sainte-Marie (BQ), Laval (BQ), Laval - Les Îles (LPC), Notre-Dame-de-Grâce - Lachine (LPC), Dartmouth - Cole Harbour (LPC), St. John's South - Mount Pearl (LPC), Nunavut (CPC).

If the NDP took all of these seats they would have 59 in the projection. All else being equal, the Conservatives would be reduced to 139, the Liberals to 70, and the Bloc Québécois to 39.

Note that of the 11 ridings listed as being within five points for the New Democrats yesterday, the NDP captured four of them, and another five were added to the list today.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quebec results pulling NDP along in ROC

Four national polls are surprisingly consistent on the situation in Quebec while disagreeing with one another greatly on what is happening in Ontario. But what seems to be clear in these polls from Innovative, EKOS, Nanos, and Angus-Reid is that the rest of Canada is starting to jump on the NDP's Quebec bandwagon.
Whether that bandwagon leads us to a Conservative majority or minority government, however, appears to be within the margin of error.

With the Conservatives around 38% and the Liberals and New Democrats spliting the vote relatively evenly between them, as Innovative and Nanos show, we can expect the Tories to pull a majority government out of the mess. But if the Conservatives are instead at 34-35% with the NDP nipping at their heels, as EKOS and Angus-Reid indicate, then we can expect a re-run of the 2006 election with the New Democrats taking the place of Paul Martin's Liberals.

What is fascinating about these two scenarios is that they have extremely diverging consequences but are both drawn from polls that are not inconsistent, considering their margins of error. We're in such unknown territory that the election result is still very much in the air.

But what's happening to the Conservatives? Even in Nanos's polling the Tories have dropped. Ipsos-Reid might come along this week pegging the Conservatives at 40% or more, but every recent poll points to a drop for the Conservatives. Whether this is being caused by centrist Tories moving over to the Liberals to stop the orange tide or populist Conservatives jumping in with the New Democrats is impossible to say. But the Conservatives are starting to see a strong mandate slip away. They may still win a majority, but it could conceivably come with a smaller share of the vote than in 2008.

Across the polls, not all taken on the same dates but all overlapping, we can see some consistencies. In British Columbia, the New Democrats are clearly back in second and above their 2008 performance. They're currently around 28-30%, whereas they have also grabbed the runner-up position in Alberta as well.

In Quebec, all of the polls are remarkably similar on the NDP's score. These four polls put the party between 36% and 38%, an incredibly consistent result considering the margin of error in Quebec can be as high as six points. The Bloc's support level varies more (24% to 29%), as do that of the Liberals (14% to 20%) and the Conservatives (14% to 18%). They do seem to be indicating that the Tories are stumbling in the province.

But Ontario and Atlantic Canada appear to be toss-ups. That shouldn't be too much of a surprise in Atlantic Canada as the sample sizes are small, but even that region is starting to look erratic by its standards.

Ontario is all over the map. The Conservatives might have a huge lead, the Liberals might be hanging tough, or the NDP might be on track to historic levels of support. We may have to wait a few more days for Ontario to straighten up, or this might be a hint of some new volatility in the province.

A few riding polls from yesterday also caught my attention. There was a poll done by Oracle for the Green Party in the riding of Saanich - Gulf Islands. Polls conducted for parties, and especially those made public by parties, should be treated with suspicion. I do still add them to the model, though at a reduced 10% weighting, compared to 25% for media-funded riding polls.

This particular poll puts Elizabeth May ahead of Gary Lunn at 45% to 38%, with the Liberals and New Democrats out of the race at 9% apiece. The poll was taken on April 18-19 and surveyed 389 people. It has a margin of error of 4.9%, 19 times out of 20. It means the two main parties are statistically tied.

Of course, political parties don't release their privately funded polls without reason. For all we know, the Greens have been polling constantly and this is the first poll to put them in front.

The other riding poll that was brought to my attention was apparently conducted by Léger Marketing in the riding of Lac-Saint-Louis for the Conservative Party. The only information we have is via Ian MacDonald, a columnist. It was taken "after the debates" and included 500 people. Presumeably provided to Mr. MacDonald by Larry Smith's campaign, it puts the Liberals ahead 36% to 30% in the riding, a much closer race than an earlier poll showed. It pegs the NDP at 17%, but the level of support that the Bloc and Green candidates have in the riding is unknown. For that reason it wasn't added to the projection model. Polls need more than a vague mention in a column, particularly when they are paid for and provided by a political party.

Nevertheless, if true these two polls indicate that Saanich - Gulf Islands and Lac-Saint-Louis could be close ridings on Monday night. They were already ones to watch, but now we have more reason to watch closely.

Tomorrow, it looks like we'll have polls from Nanos Research, EKOS Research, Forum Research, and Segma Recherche to add to the model. Hopefully more will pop up. From what I'm being told we can expect a lot of polls over the last four days of the campaign.

NDP takes another seat, and why they might not win 50 more

Several national polls were added to the projection this morning. There's the EKOS poll from yesterday and the Angus-Reid and Nanos polls from today, along with numbers from Innovative and Oracle. The net result is one seat gain by the New Democrats, who are now tied with the Bloc Québécois at 43 apiece.

But the Angus-Reid poll puts the NDP closer to the Conservatives than they are the Liberals, and we've now seen over a half-dozen polls released in less than a week showing the New Democrats in second place. My projection still has them in third. There are a few reasons for this.

Most importantly, this is simply how the projection model is designed. It is meant to react slowly to new trends until they can be shown to be consistent and prolonged. With the NDP surge coming at the tail end of the campaign this might be coming too quickly and too late for my projection model to capture it completely. That's a limitation of the math - but is it also perhaps a reflection of what might actually happen on Monday night?

While the latest poll numbers would seem to strongly disagree with my projection, I actually believe my own numbers are closer to what the result will be in five days.

If the polls are right, we are witnessing a transformation of Canadian politics. That shouldn't be taken lightly. The potential results of 2011 have been compared to the 1993 election, but even that parallel might not be on the money.

The emergence of the Bloc Québécois transformed politics in Quebec, but considering what was going on at the time in the province it was an almost inevitable result. Supporters of the Parti Québécois were easily transferable over to the Bloc Québécois and support for sovereignty was running hot.

In the West, anger over how the region had been treated by the mainstream parties boosted the Reform Party to prominence. That it would be so effective was certainly a surprise, but that this sort of populist right-wing conservatism could find wide support in the western provinces is not outlandish. And, in the end, the Reform/Canadian Alliance was reborn into the Conservative Party, so it's almost like Western Canadians never left the conservative movement - the Progressive Conservative Party just left the conservative movement for a decade.

Now, the Liberal Party is to be crushed at the polls and be replaced by a party further to the left, but not for any particularly compelling reason besides the notion that Canadians like Jack Layton more than they do Michael Ignatieff. This hasn't been a campaign about the policies pursued by these two parties, and likeability may not be enough to get first-time New Democratic voters out to the polls. And this is a major problem.

The biggest boost the party has been getting in the country is in Quebec. In fact, more than half of the NDP's boost in support is located in Quebec. But according to their own people in the province, they don't have a local organization worth its salt in more than six or eight ridings. If they win elsewhere, it will be due to their rising support and not their own local efforts. A swell of sympathy for the party might get them 25% in a lot of ridings in Quebec, but in order to get them up and over the 30% mark that puts them in contention they will need more than a likable leader in the face of the well-oiled and experienced ground organizations of the Bloc, Liberals, and Conservatives.

And that is the difference between voting intentions and actual votes. Voting Conservative or Liberal or Bloc is nothing new for a lot of voters, so saying they intend to vote for those parties is not a stretch. Saying they will vote for the NDP, a party that they have likely never voted for in the past, is far less likely to hold true when they reach the ballot box.

The 1988 federal election is often cited as an example of when NDP support couldn't carry over to election night. In fact, the party dropped roughly seven points between the start of the election and voting day.

But I feel that the 2010 British election is a far better example. In that election, the Liberal Democrats were coasting in the polls, tied for second with Labour. While the Liberal Democrats are a centrist party, they do have a similar reputation in Britain as the New Democrats do in Canada: a third party with a likable leader, but a party lacking the gravitas of a government-in-waiting and a full slate of good candidates.

In the run up to the election, pundits had the Liberal Democrats making a historic breakthrough, taking them back to the days when they were a force in British politics. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight had the Liberal Democrats at 103 seats in his final projection. Other projectors had the Liberal Democrats winning a similar number of seats.

In the end, the Liberal Democrat vote toppled by about 4-5 points compared to their standings in the polls, and they only won 57 seats - which actually represented a loss for the party. The polls overestimated Liberal Democrat support and the party's weak organization failed against the stronger ones of the Conservatives and Labour. And, in the end, old voting habits were hard to break.

And that's why we shouldn't be so sure that these levels of support for the New Democrats will hold on Monday night. It isn't because the pollsters are wrong - they are tracking voting intentions after all. But correctly capturing the ability of these intentions to turn into votes is a very different thing for a party like the New Democrats, despite polls showing respondents "certain" to vote for them and unlikely to change their minds. Polls tracking the likelihood of Canadians actually voting often overestimate turnout by as much as a third.

UPDATE: A few commenters brought up the example of the ADQ's breakthrough in Quebec in 2007. It is a good counter-example, but I don't think the situation is the same. Mario Dumont was a fixture in Quebec politics for more than 13 years by the time of the 2007 election, and his party was following in the footsteps of the Conservatives' breakthrough in the province the year before. As Mario Dumont and Stephen Harper saw eye-to-eye on many issues, he seemed like a good premier for the province in the context of a Conservative federal government. And Quebecers who voted Tory in 2006 did not have to go very far on the spectrum to vote ADQ in 2007. The NDP is not in a similar situation in Quebec in 2011, though parralels in terms of the lack of organizational infrastructure and a strong team of candidates do exist.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the projection. The Conservatives are down 0.3 points to 37.2%, the Liberals are down 0.6 points to 25.8%, and the New Democrats are up 1.1 points to 22%. They have also captured a seat from the Bloc, and are now projected to win 43. The Conservatives and Liberals are unchanged at 146 and 75 seats, respectively.

Regionally, the growth of the NDP is clear. They are up big in the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, and are also taking steps forward in British Columbia and Alberta.

The Conservatives are mostly dropping, as are the Liberals. But the Grits are spared losing a swathe of seats to the Tories - for now - as both parties are dropping at roughly the same rate where it matters.

The one seat to change hands is Drummond, formerly held by the Bloc. François Choquette of the NDP is now the projected winner.

Several other seats are very close to turning orange. In the West, the NDP is trailing by five points or less in Surrey North, Vancouver Island North, Nunavut, and Saskatoon - Rosetown - Biggar, all Tory seats.

They are not within that range in any seats in Ontario, but several in Quebec (Brossard - La Prairie, Laval - Les Iles, and Saint-Lambert) and Atlantic Canada (Central Nova, Dartmouth - Cole Harbour, South Shore - St. Margaret's, and St. John's South - Mount Pearl) are trending towards the New Democrats.

If they capture all of those seats, the NDP would be at 54 in total, with the Conservatives at 140, the Liberals at 71, and the Bloc at 42. So there is still plenty of room for growth for the NDP in the short term. Capturing another 50 or so, however, will be difficult.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three-way race in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean

New polls from Environics and EKOS were added to the projection this morning, but already EKOS has updated their latest missive. That particular poll will be dealt with tomorrow. For now, we'll focus on yesterday's numbers.

We'll also take a look at four riding polls conducted in Quebec, three of them in the Saguenay region and one in the Centre-du-Québec/Eastern Townships. The ridings in the Kingdom of the Saguenay show some very interesting races between the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois, and the New Democrats.
These two national polls were taken on different days, so their findings aren't exactly comparable. But at the national level it is worth noting that they both peg the New Democrats in second, ahead of the Liberals.

But for Environics this result isn't strikingly different than their poll from April 12-17. At that point, they had the spread as 39% for the Tories, 24% for the Liberals, and 22% for the NDP. Since then the NDP has gained three points and the Liberals have lost two, but neither of those variations are statistically significant.

The same does not go for EKOS, however. Since their April 18-20 poll, the NDP has grown by 3.3 points - just outside of the margin of error for comparing the NDP's support over two polls. The Liberals have dropped one point to 23.7% while the Conservatives are down 0.7 points to 33.7%.

The NDP's growth comes in both Ontario and Quebec, where the party is up 3.3 points and 7.3 points, respectively. In Quebec, the NDP has taken the lead forcefully, pushing the Bloc down two points to 25.2%. Note that the Conservatives are down to 14.7% while the Liberals are at a very low 13.1%.

It is a similar story in the Environics poll. Since April 12-17, they have the NDP up 15 points in Quebec to 41%, followed by the Bloc at 28% (-9). The Liberals (15%) and Conservatives (12%) are hardly in it at all.

And that has been a bit of an overlooked state of affairs in Quebec. The Conservatives are not doing very well. Are nationalist Quebecers moving back to the Bloc now that the NDP seems to be on the upswing?

Perhaps some riding polls from the province will shed some light on the situation. And, really, thank you Quebec for providing so many riding polls in this election. The rest of the country has really been lazy!
Let's start with the poll for Richmond - Arthabaska, a riding that straddles the Centre-du-Québec (Victoriaville) and part of the Eastern Townships. The poll was conducted by local firm Cara Telecom for La Nouvelle Union. The Bloc has a big lead here with 47%, virtually unchanged from 2008. The Conservative candidate, Jean-Philippe Bachand, is second with 21% but that represents a drop of eight points for the Tories since the last election. The NDP has gained 11 and stands at 20%, demonstrating how some of the NDP's new found support in the province will not translate into seats in every part of the province.

While Richmond - Arthabaska is a bit of a landslide, the two ridings in Saguenay are very close. Conducted for Le Courrier du Saguenay, and a smattering of other local papers, by Segma, the poll found that in Chicoutimi - Le Fjord and Jonquière - Alma, the two ridings that make up the city of Saguenay and outlying regions, there is a three-way race.

In Chicoutimi - Le Fjord, the incumbent Bloc candidate Robert Bouchard is leading with 35%, a drop of six points since the last election. He is followed closely by the Conservative Carol Néron at 29%, a drop of five for that party. Running in a surprising third is the New Democrat Dany Morin at 23%, a gain of 15 points.

It is much the same story in Jonquière - Alma, represented by Conservative cabinet minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn. He is still leading with 36%, but that is a drop of 17 points. The NDP's Claude Patry (a local labour leader) is running second at 30%, an astonishing 25-point gain for the party. The Bloc is in third at 26%, a drop of 12 points. The NDP spoke grandiosely at the beginning of the campaign about Patry's likelihood of being elected, but it now looks like it wasn't an unreasonable proposition.

Roberval - Lac-Saint-Jean, which was supposed to be a target seat for the Bloc, looks safely in the hands of Conservative incumbent Denis Lebel with 54%, a gain of 10 points since the last election. The Bloc is well behind at 28%, a drop of 12 points.

These three riding polls in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region show just how far the NDP surge has reached. Where they have a decent candidate, they can come from absolutely nowhere to be competitive. And even when they don't have a particularly good candidate they can still push 20%. But while the NDP is performing excellently in Quebec, the Bloc is certainly not out of it, and Conservative incumbents still appear to be on the road to re-election.

Another thing to take from all four of these riding polls is the complete non-existence of the Liberals, though none of these ridings were particularly good for them in 2008.

The projection compares more or less well with these riding polls. Richmond - Arthabaska was very close, all of the parties in the projection being within five points of the poll. Chicoutimi - Le Fjord was also very close, all parties being with two points except for the NDP, which was off by seven.

Jonquière - Alma and Roberval - Lac-Saint-Jean compared less favourably. In the former, the difference ranged from eight to 20 points for the three main parties, while in the latter that range was within four points for the NDP, Liberals and Green but within 11 for the Tories and Bloc.

NDP gallops forward

Two new national polls were added to the model this morning, along with three new riding polls conducted in Quebec. All of these polls are responsible for some shift in the projection, but there have also been a few changes made to my weighting system.

I realized that the poll-weighting tests I had run for the 2006 and 2008 elections were done slightly incorrectly. Rather than only include complete polls like I am doing in this election, my tests included each day of a daily tracking poll. What this did was fill the model with only newer polls, whereas the system I am using actually includes more older polls.

However, I don't tweak my model arbitrarily or because things "don't look right". I need numbers and evidence to back-up any changes to the model. So, I ran some new tests modeling the 2006 election (which has some similarities with the current election because of the sudden swing in support) and found that the best course of action would be to reduce each passing day's weight by 7% rather than 4%. This ages polls more quickly. I also decided to remove the "correction" that was added to the projection to take into account how the polls had been inaccurate in past elections. In the end, the tests ran better without this correction. The correction was very small, and for the most part the growth that the Green Party has been given today is due to that. The other parties were only marginally effected.

So, while some of the changes in this update are artificially influenced, most change can be attributed to the new polls. Let's get to it!
The Conservatives have dropped 1.1 points to 37.5% and have dropped five seats to 146. The Liberals, meanwhile, are also down 1.1 points (to 26.4%) but are unchanged at 75 seats. The New Democrats are up 1.8 points to 20.9% and six seats to 42.

The Bloc Québécois is down 0.3 points nationally to 7.8% and one seat to 44. The Greens are up 0.6 points to 6.1% but remain seatless. André Arthur is the lone independent projected to be elected.

The combination of increased aging, new polls, and the removal of the small correction has led to some major changes at the regional level.

The Conservatives have dropped a point or so in each region, but they are especially hurt by the drop of 1.3 points in Quebec. They are down to 18.7% there.

The Liberals dropped less out west but a lot in Atlantic Canada. Their drops in Quebec and Ontario are especially problematic.

The New Democrats rose everywhere, most importantly in British Columbia, Atlantic Canada, and Quebec. There, they grew their support by 3.5 points in the projection. They are now at 24.2%, only 8.5 points behind the Bloc Québécois, which has dropped 1.4 points to only 32.7%.

In terms of seats, there have been quite a few changes.

In British Columbia, the NDP candidate Kennedy Stewart is now favoured in Burnaby - Douglas, the seat previously held by retired NDP MP Bill Siksay. The Conservatives had been projected to win it earlier.

In Ontario, the Liberals are projected to once again win Ajax - Pickering (Mark Holland) and Brampton - Springdale (Ruby Dhalla), while New Democratic incumbent Malcolm Allen is the projected winner once again in Welland. These are all pick-ups from the Conservatives.

The Liberals move ahead in the two Toronto-area ridings because the incumbent factor has moved from a penalty (incurred when a party is gaining in a province) to a bonus (added when a party is losing in a province compared to the 2008 election).

But it is in Quebec where the most changes have occurred. The New Democrats have picked up four seats, one each from Bloc and Conservatives and two from the Liberals.

The NDP has picked-up two ridings in the Outaouais: Hull-Aylmer from the Liberals and Pontiac from the Conservatives. Nycole Turmel and Mathieu Ravignat are now the respective projected winners.

On the island of Montreal, the NDP has moved ahead in Jeanne-Le Ber (Tyrone Benskin) and Westmout - Ville-Marie (Joanne Corbeil).

Now, it may be surprising to see the NDP knocking off a star Liberal MP and a Conservative cabinet minister. With the NDP soaring into new territory in Quebec, it is very difficult to predict which ridings will be swept away in the orange tide.

But Lawrence Cannon has never exactly been a consensus choice in Pontiac, and the NDP is leading in Montreal, according to several polls. A minister that has never sought headlines and an astronaut opposition MP are not immune from sweeping change. Recall that even the Prime Minister was defeated in her riding in the 1993 election. And the six seats now projected to vote NDP in Quebec are divided into two blocks of three adjacent seats. It seems relatively sensible that support would spill over from one riding to the other. But there is no doubt that the NDP's rise in Quebec will make things difficult for seat projectors on May 2nd.

Monday, April 25, 2011

NDP bon deuxième in two Quebec riding polls

There's only one national poll to review today, but there are two riding polls that have been added to the mix over the weekend. They were both taken in Quebec and they both show that the New Democrats are competitive. However, aside from the polls for Gatineau and Outremont we have yet to see the New Democrats leading in any individual Quebec riding polls. Might they be the runners-up across the province?
First, the Nanos poll. This poll was taken on April 21, 23, and 24. If we compare it to the last complete Nanos poll, taken April 18-20, we can see that the Conservatives are still holding steady. They are up only 0.2 points to 39.2%.

The Liberals, however, have dropped 1.1 points in the past four days and now stand at 25.6%, only two points ahead of the NDP. They have gained 1.5 points over that time period.

These variations are not statistically significant, but they are part of a discernible trend.

In Ontario, the Liberal vote has collapsed. It has dropped 7.1 points since April 18-20 and now stands at only 29.3%. The Conservatives are up three to 47.8% while the NDP is up 2.3 points to 16.9%, still below their 2008 performance. With a split like this, the Conservatives will have no problem winning a majority.

In Quebec, the NDP's rise is palpable. They're up 6.8 points to 30.2%, followed closely by the Bloc at 27.4% (-4.6). The Liberals are up 1.2 points to 22%, while the Conservatives are down 3.4 points to only 14.1%. That is a very low mark for them, though with the Bloc as weak as it is the Tories should still be able to elect most of their incumbent MPs.

Looking at Nanos's daily tracking charts, we can see that the Liberals have been dropping steadily for almost a week in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. The Bloc has also dropped for five straight days. The NDP has been rising in Ontario, but they still have some ways to go before they can win new seats.

The same goes for the NDP in Quebec, at least according to two new riding polls.

The first was conducted by Segma Recherche for La Voix de l'Est, a newspaper based in Granby. It shows the Bloc's Christelle Bogota (who left the NDP shortly before the campaign began) leading with 32%. That is only a drop of three points since the 2008 election, however.

The New Democrat Pierre Jacob is not far behind with 26%, an increase of 17 points since the last election. Apparently the NDP's vote grew with each day of the poll and by the end of it Jacob was leading, but we're talking a daily sample of 100 or so people.

The Liberals, at 26%, are also in the race, but that is a drop of seven points. The Conservatives are also down seven points to 11%.

But this poll does show how the New Democrats are competitive in ridings that would not have been considered likely pick-ups for them before the campaign began. But the Bloc vote appears solid in the riding, despite the provincial drop in support.

The projection was within four points for the Bloc, Liberals, and Greens in this riding, but underestimated the NDP vote by 10 points. This could be a common refrain on election night, but the NDP still has some ways to go in my projection model. We just need a few more days.
The other riding poll was conducted for Chambly - Borduas, a riding east of the island of Montreal. In this poll, Yves Lessard of the Bloc has a comfortable lead with 37% support but that is a drop of 13 points since 2008. The New Democrats have taken up some of the slack, and their candidate Matthew Dubé is running second with 24%, up 10 points since the 2008 election.

What is most interesting about this riding is the presence of an independent: Jean-François Mercier. He's a well-known actor/comedian with a somewhat rough sense of humour. Nevertheless, 15% of the riding's residents intend to vote for him. According to the poll, about half of his vote comes from former Bloc supporters.

The Liberals are running third with Mercier at 15%, generally where they were in 2008. The Conservatives are down about eight points to 7%.

Aside from Mercier, the projection was good for this riding. It was only off by one point for the Liberals and the NDP (that is an especially good sign), though it was off by eight points for the Bloc and six for the Conservatives. That is mostly attributable to the unpredictable nature of Mercier's candidacy.

These polls tell two different stories for the Bloc but just one for the NDP. In Brome - Missisquoi the ability of the Bloc to hold on to its vote is demonstrated, while in Chambly - Borduas we see Bloc supporters jumping to a slightly ridiculous option. But combined with the Bloc's dropping support in Brome - Missisquoi over the four days of the sample, we can speculate that the Bloc's support is proving to be very soft. Perhaps after voting Bloc for almost two decades many Quebecers are starting to become curious about other options.

And in both ridings we see that the other option is the NDP. They are the most popular federalist option in these two ridings, a real strength considering that the NDP appears to be drawing support from social democratic sovereigntists (or soft nationalists) as well. And when we consider the margin of error, the NDP has a good shot in Brome - Missisquoi and several of the other ridings that have been highlighted in these riding polls.

On the other hand, the NDP has yet to be shown in the lead in a riding other than their two main targets: Gatineau and Outremont. Getting 20%-30% of the vote in a dozen or two ridings might be very likely for the NDP on May 2nd, but getting over that 30% mark and actually winning could be too much for a party with a weak ground game in the province.

The NDP's main opponent in Quebec has a relatively well-oiled machine, and has the apparatus of the Parti Québécois from which to draw. The Conservatives were able to win seats in 2006 out of the blue, but the provincial Liberals were helping them and it is far easier to elect government MPs.

The parallels between the Tory breakthrough in 2006 and the potential NDP breakthrough in 2011 might be more limited than it appears on first glance.

Conservatives return to 151

With the long Easter weekend intervening in the election campaign, few polls have been released in the past few days. Nanos reported yesterday on a three-day roll up that excluded Friday, and they did the same today. But they won't be reporting tomorrow, as their pollsters have the day off today. Accordingly, the projection hasn't moved around much. But every polling firm should report at least once this week, so it will be a roller coaster ride.
The Conservatives are still at 38.6%, where they have been for most of the campaign. They are up one seat to 151. The Liberals are up 0.1 point to 27.5% but are down one seat to 75. The New Democrats are up 0.1 point to 19.1%, but are unchanged at 36 seats.

The Bloc Québécois is down to 8.1% and unchanged at 45 seats while the Greens are down to 5.5%.

The Conservatives gained in two key regions: half-a-point in Ontario and almost a full point in Atlantic Canada. They are now actually in the lead (by the slimmest of margins) on the East Coast.

For the Liberals, they lost in Ontario and Atlantic Canada but did make decent gains in British Columbia and Quebec. Speaking of which, Michael Ignatieff was on Tout le monde en parle last night and did well enough. He was most helped out by Dominique Michel, a well-known celebrity in Quebec (so well-known, in fact, that she and not Ignatieff was the first guest), who endorsed the Liberal leader as he was sitting right next to her. Had she said instead that she was supporting the Bloc or the NDP, it would have been devastating.

The New Democrats were stable but made another big gain in Quebec. They're now at 20.7% there and a few seats are on the tipping point, Jeanne-Le Ber in particular.

The pain continues for the Bloc, down 0.3 points to only 34.1%. They're being dragged down with every passing day and every new poll.

The one seat that changed hands was in Newfoundland & Labrador. Conservative candidate John Ottenheimer is now the projected winner in Random - Burin - St. George's over Liberal incumbent Judy Foote. Ottenheimer is a former provincial cabinet minister who retired from provincial politics in 2007.

A few other Atlantic Canadian seats are on the bubble. The gap is less than five points in the projection in Moncton - Riverview - Dieppe (Liberals lead, Conservatives trail), Saint John (CPC lead, LPC trail), West Nova (CPC lead, LPC trail), and Egmont (CPC lead, LPC trail). But if the Conservatives continue to gain while the Liberals lose, seats like Madawaska - Restigouche, Malpeque, and St. John's South - Mount Pearl could turn blue - enough to push the Tories to 154 seats in all. For the New Democrats, they might have a shot in St. John's South - Mount Pearl, South Shore - St. Margaret's, and Dartmouth - Cole Harbour. One of those seats is held by the Tories, and the first is a three-way race. So in some individual ridings out east the NDP can play a role in defeating Conservatives, along with Liberals.

Check back later today for a look at the Nanos poll and two riding polls released over the weekend in Quebec.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Week 4 Ceilings

This fourth week of the campaign has been, without a doubt, the most interesting. We've seen polls flail wildly but what has been unmistakable is that the NDP is making some gains - some huge gains.

Up to this point, I only looked at the ceilings of the Conservatives and the Liberals. One reason was in order to save some time, but the main reason was because the ceilings give us some ability to answer two important questions: can the Conservatives form a majority? Can the Liberal form a minority?

But after receiving many, many requests for NDP ceilings and in light of the NDP's gains, I think a third interesting question deserves an answer: can the NDP form the Official Opposition?

The ceilings are established by taking the best regional results for each party from all of the polls released during the week, and running seat projections with those results. Of course, these calculations are greatly influenced by the smaller samples of regional polls. But we can still draw some useful information from these ceilings, as it is unlikely that the parties are capable of outpacing the best polls when you consider that the best polls are likely a few points higher than reality thanks to the MOE.

Before getting to the NDP, let's take a look at the Conservative ceiling. It does provide a glimpse of one potential consequence of the NDP's gains, and that is a Conservative majority.

Based on receiving 45% of the vote nationally (48% in British Columbia, 72% in Alberta, 62% in the Prairies, 46% in Ontario, 24% in Quebec, and 44% in Atlantic Canada) the Conservative ceiling is 170 seats, or a comfortable majority government.

This is a drop of eight seats since last week, but is generally where the Tories have been since the start of the campaign. The Conservatives win 24 seats in British Columbia, 28 in Alberta, 24 in the Prairies, 61 in Ontario, 15 in Quebec, and 17 in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals, with 61 seats, still form the Official Opposition while the New Democrats, with 43 seats, take third-party spot. The Bloc is reduced to 33 seats, while one independent is elected.

The poll used for Quebec featured a real four-way split (28% NDP, 27% BQ, 24% CPC, 20% LPC) and demonstrates how wonky that can be in a first-past-the-post system: 33 seats for the Bloc, 15 each for the Liberals and Conservatives, and 11 for the NDP.

The Liberal ceiling is based on 31% national support (34% in British Columbia, 22% in Alberta, 23% in the Prairies, 37% in Ontario, 24% in Quebec, and 41% in Atlantic Canada). With this level of support, the Liberals would win 91 seats, 10 fewer than their ceiling from last week and very far from a minority.

The Liberals win 11 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, four in the Prairies, 38 in Ontario, 18 in Quebec, and 18 in Atlantic Canada.

With 138 seats, the Conservatives still outpace the combined total of the Liberals and NDP (35). The Bloc, with 43 seats, retains third-party standing.
And now the New Democrats. It's been a stellar week, and though I haven't gone back to run the numbers I can say with confidence that we wouldn't have seen anything close to this week's ceiling for the NDP earlier in the campaign.

With 29% of the vote (32% in British Columbia, 22% in Alberta, 35% in the Prairies, 24% in Ontario, 36% in Quebec, and 38% in Atlantic Canada), the New Democrats would win 83 seats. Yes, that's right. They would win 11 in British Columbia, two in Alberta, eight in the Prairies, 19 in Ontario, 31 in Quebec, and 11 in Atlantic Canada. It would be about twice their historic best.

The Conservatives would still win 145 seats and have first crack at a minority government. The Liberals would be reduced to 50 seats while the Bloc Québécois would win only 30. Jack Layton becomes the Leader of the Official Opposition, and the first man the Governor-General turns to if the Conservatives are unable to get a Throne Speech or budget passed.

The NDP's numbers west of Quebec are not outlandish, but those in Quebec and in Atlantic Canada are a bit of a stretch. Or are they? The NDP certainly has been up in the polls in Quebec and it isn't unusual to imagine Atlantic Canadians jumping on the bandwagon.

This scenario has the NDP winning the most seats in Quebec, but even if we prune that back a little to 20 seats and cut their Atlantic Canadian gains in half, we still have a scenario where the NDP forms the Official Opposition. So this possibility isn't based solely on a rogue poll.
The chart above shows how the Conservatives have been holding steady, and how the Liberals' hopes have diminished as the campaign goes on. The New Democrats' best-case-scenario before the campaign was only 45 seats, and in Week 4 they stand ready to supplant the Liberals. It is really quite remarkable.

Week 5 will be determinant. Has the NDP peaked too soon? Will the sort of pull-back we have often seen when the Conservatives have approached majority territory happen to the NDP? It's possible many former Bloc and Liberal supporters will return to the fold once they see that their traditional parties are about to be humiliated.

Or, will voters now see the NDP as the alternative and flock to the orange banner? This campaign was supposed to be a snorer, but instead it looks like it could be the most surprising finish since 1993.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tight race for second as Conservatives coast untroubled

The four newest polls all show the same thing: the Liberals and New Democrats are now statistically tied at the national level while the Conservatives enjoy an unassailable double-digit lead.
These polls from Angus-Reid, EKOS, Forum, Ipsos-Reid, and Nanos add more fuel to the fire as to whether this will be a historic election for the NDP and a historic defeat for the Liberals. But while all of this goes on at the margins, the Conservatives remain on track to win another minority - or even a majority.

The Ipsos-Reid poll for Postmedia grabbed the most attention yesterday, as it put the Liberals at an incredibly low 21%, behind the NDP at 24% and the Conservatives at 43%. There is little in other polls to argue that the Conservatives really are that far ahead, and when you compare it to Ipsos's last poll taken April 5-7 you see that the variation has been within the MOE.

That isn't the case for the Liberals and NDP, however, who are down and up five points each.

Far more interesting are the EKOS and Nanos polls, and how they have shifted over the last few days. EKOS's last poll was taken April 15-17, and since then the NDP has gained 4.7 points, mostly at the expense of the Conservatives (down three). In Quebec, the NDP is up six points while the Bloc is down 4.7.

Nanos shows something similar, with the NDP up 6.4 points over the last three days at the national level. However, Nanos has support being drawn from both the Tories (down two) and the Liberals (down 4.1). In Quebec, Nanos has the Bloc down 4.4 points and the NDP up 3.3. But unlike EKOS, Nanos still has the Bloc ahead of the NDP in Quebec.

All of these polls also show that the New Democrats are doing very well in British Columbia, though primarily at the expense of the Liberals. So let's take a look at how polling has evolved in the West Coast province since the start of the campaign.

Generally speaking, the campaign in British Columbia has been relatively flat. Or at least it was until the 16th and 17th, the weekend immediately after the debate that coincided with the BC NDP's choice of a new leader.

The Conservatives have been humming along at a good pace around 42%. For much of the campaign the Liberals and NDP have been locked in a battle for second, but the Liberals had the upper-hand.

But over the last weekend that shifted, and the Liberals dropped from roughly 25% to around 19%, generally where they were in 2008. The NDP has jumped up to over 27% support in the province, meaning the NDP is set to improve upon its 2008 performance.

You can click on the chart to the left for the detailed breakdown of all polls conducted in British Columbia since the campaign began.

Along with the Liberals, the Greens have been struggling in what is supposed to be their best province. From the 12% range where they were when the campaign began, the party has sunk consistently. In today's Nanos they were at only 4%, but over the last few days they've averaged about 7%. That is still worse than 2008, and does not bode well for Elizabeth May's chances in Saanich - Gulf Islands. Gone are the days when the Greens routinely polled over 15% in the province.

While the polls haven't changed too much in British Columbia since the 2008 election, some of the personnel changes that have taken place in the province (Keith Martin, Bill Siksay, Jay Hill, Chuck Strahl, Stockwell Day, etc.) mean the people that British Columbians send to Ottawa won't be the same. And the retirement of these MPs, some of them in some close races (Esquimalt - Juan de Fuca and Burnaby - Douglas in particular) does make the potential outcome in the province difficult to predict.

Drip, drip, drip - Conservatives and NDP make gains

Five new polls have been added to the projection and the slow progression of the New Democrats in the model continues. Polls from Angus-Reid, EKOS, Forum, Ipsos-Reid, and Nanos were added this morning.

There might be quite a few of you impatient with how slowly this projection moves, but I have to point out that the stellar NDP growth in Quebec and in Canada as a whole is quite new - just days old, even - and the projection model will take some time to buy that this is really what is going on and that it is something that will stick. But I assure you that if the NDP and Liberals are still tied at the national level on May 1, they will also be in the model. In fact, if this current rate of increase and decrease continues at the same pace, the New Democrats will pass the Liberals in national support late next week.

But if things reverse themselves - and to paraphrase Paul Wells, in Canadian politics the least interesting thing to happen is the most likely - the model's caution will be well-rewarded. And if they don't, there is still enough time for it to be reflected in the final projection.
Nevertheless, there still have been some major changes in the last 24 hours. The Conservatives remain stuck at 38.6%, but they have gained three seats and are now projected to win 150. The Liberals are down 0.5 points to 27.4% and four seats to 76, back under their standing at the fall of the government.

The New Democrats are up 0.8 points to 19% and one seat to 36, while the Bloc Québécois is down 0.2 points nationally to 8.2%. They remain at 45 seats, with the Greens unchanged at 5.7%.

The remarkable growth of the NDP can be seen in this regional breakdown. They are up about a full point in British Columbia, the Prairies, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, an amazing amount of change in only one day. They are also up 0.5 points in Ontario and 0.3 points in Alberta.

Much of this has come at the expense of the Liberals, who are down 0.1 points in the Prairies, 0.3 points in Quebec, 0.4 points in Alberta, 0.5 points in Ontario, 0.8 points in Atlantic Canada, and 1.2 points in British Columbia. This has allowed the Conservatives to take a few seats from the Liberals, despite losing support in Ontario and remaining flat in Atlantic Canada.

In Quebec, the Bloc has dropped 0.6 points to 34.4%, while the NDP is now second in the province with 20.2%. Nothing like this has ever happened in the 30 months that I have been doing projections, so its significance cannot be understated.

The Conservatives pick-up two seats in Ontario and one in Atlantic Canada from the Liberals. The two Ontario seats are Brampton - Springdale and Kitchener - Waterloo, where Parm Gill and Peter Braid are now the respective favourites. In Atlantic Canada, incumbent Conservative Gail Shea is once again projected to win Egmont on Prince Edward Island.

The New Democrats have picked up their seat in British Columbia. Don Davies, the incumbent, is the projected winner in Vancouver Kingsway.

In this case, the Liberals suffer most from the NDP surge. But who will be the next to fall?

There are 15 seats in the projection where the NDP is within 10 points of the leader. Two of those seats are held by the Bloc Québécois, five by the Liberals, and eight by the Conservatives. So the NDP could be a bit of an equal opportunity spoiler. But in a lot of close Conservative-Liberal seats, the NDP's increase in support could turn more than a few ridings over to Stephen Harper.

UPDATE: Projection with last week of polls only

As I've explained on numerous occasions, my projection model works slowly. It is skeptical to new trends until they can be proven over many polls and many days. But what if we just take the last week's worth of polls?

The result isn't incredibly different. Nationally, with only the last week of polls, I would project 152 seats for the Conservatives, 71 for the Liberals, 44 for the Bloc Québécois, and 40 for the NDP. In Quebec, which is where everything is happening, the Bloc would win 44, the Liberals 14, the Conservatives 11, and the NDP five. Remember that several of the polls over the last week pegged the NDP at less than 20% in Quebec, and Nanos still has them behind the Bloc, with Ipsos putting the gap between the two parties at one point. So a consensus remains elusive.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Smattering of riding polls and a poll of some interest in Quebec

A bit of an odd day for polls. This morning I added an older Innovative Research poll to the model, today's Nanos, the eye-popping CROP, a partial EKOS, and five riding polls. In the end it caused little change.

Before we get into it, a word about the EKOS poll. It was a bit of a partial report, comprising two days of their full poll which was released today. Those results will be added tomorrow, replacing the national and Quebec numbers added to the projection this morning. At first I was quite confused, and understandably so. iPolitics listed the poll as being conducted from April 18-21, which was quite impossible as it was put up on their site at 12:03 AM on April 21. The EKOS graphic accompanying the article listed the dates as April 18-20, but even that was apparently inaccurate. Because of all this (which, after some inquiries, appears to be nothing but a series of typos and misunderstandings), I haven't included the EKOS poll in the graphic below. As it will be replaced tomorrow by the more recent report, I'll discuss it then.
First off, note that Innovative and Nanos conducted their polls on completely different days. So we shouldn't be comparing them. And secondly, Innovative and CROP are both online pollsters.

We'll start with the older Innovative poll, which has remarkably no change since the last IRG poll taken between April 8-11. All of the national numbers are the same, except the Greens lost one point. The same in Ontario, while in Quebec the Tories have picked up one and the Bloc has dropped one. So, Innovative sees no movement whatsoever.

Now Nanos's poll is a bit more interesting. If we compare it to their last three day poll (April 15-17), we see the Conservatives holding steady (-0.8). The Liberals, however, are down 3.1 points nationally while the NDP is up 4.7 points - in three days. That is a statistically significant shift in support for the NDP.

But it isn't happening in Ontario, where variations were all within 0.4 points. It is taking place in British Columbia, the Prairies, and Atlantic Canada. In Quebec, the NDP is up only 0.4 points and the Liberals 2.5, with the Bloc dropping 3.8 points.

And that poses a bit of a conundrum for the CROP poll. Both Innovative and Nanos were in the field on the same days as CROP, yet they averaged 35% for the Bloc and 20% for the NDP, instead of the 36% for the NDP and the 31% for the Bloc that CROP found. So there is some disagreement of where the NDP stands in Quebec.

On CROP's side of the ledger are two new polls from EKOS and Forum, both showing the NDP and Bloc at similar levels of support as in the CROP poll. So, in the end these three polls might be capturing something real that Nanos and Innovative have not.

But this isn't the first time CROP has come out with an eye-catching poll at odds with others. In mid-March, CROP pegged the Liberals at only 11% in the province. No one else put the party that low.

So, we will have to wait and see what other pollsters find, but three polls released on the same day putting the NDP in front is nothing to scoff at. This could be the new reality.

Now to the riding polls, conducted by Segma Recherche for Le Droit and La Tribune and by Telelink for NTV News. Some pieces of information were missing in the media reports for these polls, and in the Telelink polls I portioned out the undecideds.

We'll start in Sherbrooke, where the only remarkable thing is that Serge Cardin is as far ahead as he is. This was not a riding likely to switch over, and it appears it will stay that way.

In Gatineau, however, Segma has reversed a previous finding that put the NDP well behind the pack. Now Françoise Boivin leads the Bloc's Richard Nadeau 33% to 29%, a lead that ballooned over the last few days in response to reports from Le Devoir over why she left the Liberal Party a few years ago.

This shows that the NDP can win some seats, that province-wide support can be translated into individual victories. But the race is still very close, and technically with the margin of error it is still a three-way race.

The projection was very close to what Segma reported in Gatineau (32% NDP, 28% BQ, 21% LPC, 16% CPC), while in Sherbrooke I didn't have the Bloc that high, with quite a bit of reason. The polls have been added to the model, with this newer Segma replacing the one on the eve of the campaign.

Over in Newfoundland & Labrador, Jack Harris is quite safe in St. John's East with 69% support. The Conservatives are well behind. Some people felt that the NDP would have more of a race on their hands here, but this does not seem to be the case. Comparing it to the projection prior to the inclusion of this poll, I was quite close: within five points for both the NDP and Conservatives. I overestimated Liberal support by eight points, however.

St. John's South - Mount Pearl has been touted as a three-way race, and this poll confirms that it certainly is. The NDP are doing quite well here, but the Liberals still hold the advantage - though with the MOE it could go either way. Here again the projection was performing well, with the Liberal and Conservative numbers pegged within four points of the poll. The NDP was underestimated by seven points, however, though I did have it as a Liberal seat.

Finally, Avalon. This riding has caught some attention in my projection, as I was projecting a Conservative landslide. This is because of the way the model works. In Newfoundland, Tory support has shot up and as that growth is applied proportionately, an already strong performance by the Conservatives in 2008 was buoyed greatly, perhaps more than it should've been. But I was within four points for the Conservatives in the other two ridings, so it appears Avalon is an exception.

In any case, Telelink has the race very close: 48% for the Liberals and 44% for the Conservatives. This indicates that the Liberals are still a strong party in Newfoundland, but that the Conservative rebound in the province is real. The last 10 days of the campaign could send these numbers in any direction. And with things as close as they are to a majority, these two Newfoundland seats could be extremely important on election night.