Monday, April 18, 2011

NDP in the race for second

It's been the busiest Monday so far in the campaign for polls, and the buzz is all around the huge NDP numbers being put up nationally and in Quebec. So, after going over the polls that were added to the projection this morning from EKOS Research, Forum Research, Angus-Reid, Léger Marketing, and Nanos Research, I'll take a look at the New Democrats in Quebec and what kind of gains they might be able to make - and why it is so difficult to figure out where they'll be.
Note that this graphic only includes today's Nanos poll, and not the ones that were released on Saturday and Sunday. Since today's poll incorporates much of that data, it would seem wise to only put up the most recent numbers.

What is interesting from these five polls is that there is a fair degree of consistency, especially when you consider the margins of error and different methodologies: Forum and EKOS use an IVR system, Angus and Léger have online panels, and Nanos is a traditional telephone pollster. Yet all of them show a healthy Conservative lead (from between 7.5 and 12 points), though no longer one that would produce a majority.

The Liberal results are also relatively consistent, ranging between 25% and 30%. The party hardest to pin down is the NDP, though all pollsters put the party at a good level of support. But whether they are on track for a repeat of their strong 2008 performance (EKOS, Nanos) or on track for a historic election (Forum, Angus, Léger) appears to be within the margin of error.

There does need to be some delaying on Jack Layton's plans to make Stornoway energy efficient, like he has done with his own home in Toronto. Two of the pollsters (Forum and Angus-Reid) which have the New Democrats over 20% also had the New Democrats over 20% when they last reported, so the growth is not necessarily statistically significant. Even Léger was pegging the NDP higher than other parties when they last reported. We see in Nanos that the NDP has dropped over the last few days, so there does not appear to be a consensus opinion that the New Democrats are seriously about to replace the Liberals as Canada's second party. We need more data, though two new polls from Abacus and Environics today are showing the NDP at over 20% as well.

When we get down into the regional reports, a few things jump out. The New Democrats are doing well across the board in British Columbia, Alberta, and the Prairies. Strong performances in BC are especially noteworthy. They are also in second in Quebec in every poll, and are starting to show some life again in Atlantic Canada.

The race in Ontario no longer seems to be as close as it was about a week ago, as the NDP has returned to traditional levels of support at the expense of the Liberals. Indeed, the Liberals have dropped for four days straight in Ontario in Nanos's daily tracking.

And a quick note about an Oshawa riding poll that was forwarded to me by the Liberal Party in the riding. Of course, as it was commissioned by the party itself it needs to be taken with a big grain of salt, but after removing the undecideds we get 51% for Colin Carrie, the Conservative MP, 23% for James Morton, the Liberal candidate, and 20% for Chris Buckley of the NDP. These are not very different from 2008's result, except that the NDP is down about 10 points in the riding and the Conservatives are up about six. As mentioned, read with caution. It was taken on April 16 and surveyed 630 people by telephone.

Mustachioed Kiss - The NDP in Quebec

At the request of the CBC's Kady O'Malley - and how could I dare say no - I've taken a look at the NDP's electoral chances in Quebec.

Clearly, the polls are showing that the New Democrats are on the upswing. The three polls released this morning put the party between 23% and 26% in the province, roughly twice the level of support the NDP had in 2008.

This should not come as a surprise. Jack Layton was already very well liked in the province and, after two good French-language performances on Tout le monde en parle and in the debate, Quebecers are finally ready to turn that sympathy into votes for the party. The NDP has changed its tactics in Quebec, giving the province more wiggle-room in what has traditionally been a centralizing platform. And as the NDP shares much of the social democratic values of the Bloc Québécois, the party is a natural fit for many Quebecers.

But which Quebecers? And where?

This is a difficult question to answer. The NDP has been polling well in Quebec for months, with Quebec-based pollsters like Léger Marketing and CROP putting the NDP at around 20% well before the campaign began. But their regional breakdowns always spread the party's support equally among francophones and anglophones, in and around Montreal, Quebec City, and the rest of Quebec.

So where does this surge come from? If the party manages to capture 24% of the vote in Quebec, but spreads it equally among all regions, they have a good chance of only winning a handful of seats. Pinpointing where those seats would come is very difficult, particularly because the NDP has gone from a distant fourth to a strong second.

We saw this before in 2006. Then, the Conservatives went from 9% to 24% support in the province. During the campaign no one thought the Tories could win more than half-a-dozen seats, but then they went and won 10. However, in retrospect this should not have come as much of a surprise. The party's support was concentrated in Quebec City, meaning they could win those 10 seats while barely getting into the double-digits in the rest of the province.

The pockets of NDP support are not so clearly defined, and in fact may be limited to individual ridings. This makes it very difficult to project their potential seat wins, as the projection model becomes far less accurate the deeper down you go.

What can be said, however, is that with their relatively homogenous support in the province we can expect the NDP to win a few seats here and there, put up good numbers in a few others, and play the spoiler. The NDP's uptick in support in the projection, from 12% to 18%, nicely corresponds with most of the combined five-point drop of the Liberals and Bloc. As the NDP has been polling well among both francophones and anglophones, we can safely assume that the NDP will be generally taking social democratic, soft-nationalist francophone votes from the Bloc outside of Montreal and anglophone, federalist votes from the Liberals on the island (with a bit of cross-pollination, of course).

How would this translate into seats? In order to answer Kady's request, I ran the three polls from Nanos, Léger, and Angus-Reid individually through the model. The result was somewhat surprising, which you can see in the chart below. The bracketed numbers gives the NDP the seats in which they were within 5% of the winner. It can act as a bit of a ceiling.
What is really useful about these three polls is that they reflect two different scenarios. Léger sees the Liberals and Conservatives holding relatively steady, while the Bloc drops. Angus-Reid and Nanos show the Bloc holding steady while the Liberals and Conservatives drop.

In the Léger poll, the NDP would win Gatineau, Jeanne-Le Ber, Outremont, and Westmount - Ville-Marie, or two seats from the Bloc and one from the Liberals. The NDP has a good candidate in Jeanne-Le Ber in the form of Tyrone Benskin, while the Westmount - Ville-Marie result might be a bit of an outlier. The NDP does well in the projection in this riding because of the strong performance of journalist Anne Lagacé-Dowson in 2008.

The NDP would be within five points of the winner in Portneuf - Jacques-Cartier and Pontiac, primarily because of vote splitting. They would also be within five points in Hull-Aylmer, but not over the top because the Liberals put up a good provincial number in this scenario. The NDP would also be within 5% in Drummond, due to a four-way race similar to 2008's in Gatineau.

Léger, then, puts the NDP range at between 4 and 8 seats, with the Bloc suffering most. In fact, the Conservatives and Liberals take advantage of this weakness in a few ridings.

Angus-Reid is a completely different situation, as the Tories and Liberals make more room for the NDP. The Bloc flies above the three federalist parties and manages to pick-up seats, despite being at 36%.

The NDP would win Gatineau, Hull-Aylmer, Pontiac, Jeanne-Le Ber, Westmount - Ville-Marie, and Outremont in this scenario. This gives them two pockets of support: three adjacent ridings in the Outaouais and three more in downtown Montreal.

The NDP would also be able to benefit from vote splitting in Drummond and Saint-Lambert, two ridings in which the party would be within five points of the Bloc winner. They would also be within range of Laval - Les Îles, where the Liberals have no incumbent.

Angus-Reid pegs the NDP range at between 6 and 9 seats in the projection. In other words, it appears the NDP has more to gain if they can win seats off the backs of the Liberals and Conservatives than at the expense of the Bloc.

Finally, Nanos has a bit of a middling scenario, with the NDP winning the same six seats as with Angus-Reid but not being within five points of the winner in any other riding.

One riding that has often been mentioned as a potential NDP pick-up but did not come up in this analysis is that of Abitibi - Baie-James - Nunavik - Eeyou. There are several reasons for this.

The NDP only had 8% support in the riding in 2008. For the NDP to win they really need to benefit from a complete transformation of the vote in this riding, something which my projection model is unable to replicate. This does not mean it won't happen.

But I'm personally not convinced that it is likely. Roméo Saganash is a fabulous candidate for the NDP and is well-known in the area for his work with the region's aboriginal population, of which he is a member. But First Nations have not traditionally voted in great numbers, which poses a challenge for Saganash. If he increases the turnout in this riding and takes some votes from the Bloc and (to a lesser extent) the Liberals, then he has a very good chance of pulling off an upset. But it would be a big upset. Nevertheless, Abitibi - Baie-James - Nunavik - Eeyou can act as a sort of counterweight to the unlikely scenarios that elect an NDP candidate in ridings like Pontiac or Westmount - Ville-Marie.

In addition to Newfoundland & Labrador, where the ABC campaign of 2008 muddies the water, Quebec could turn out to be the most difficult province to accurately project on May 2. The results in the province were supposed to be a foregone conclusion when the campaign began, but with two weeks left it looks like Quebec may have a few surprises in store on election night.


  1. Great article.

  2. This is such an awesome, careful analysis! Great job (and next time, don't be afraid to write two different posts! we'll still read both.).

  3. If the NDP do make this big breakthrough and pass the Grits in vote % (doubt they'll reach in seats - bizarre system we use isn't it) will we see a jump in the odds of them merging with the Liberals or a drop? If they are equal partners one would think it would make it easier for NDP'ers to do it, and Liberals would hope to take over the new party. Mix in if the Greens are really at Nanos levels and the incentive to merge would skyrocket to PC/Alliance levels I'd suspect.

  4. Why does your projection show the NDP at 18.0% in Quebec, when all the recent polls (Nanos - 23%, Leger - 24%, Forum - 23%, EKOS - 23.7%, Angus Reid - 26%) have them higher than that?

  5. Anonymous 16:42,

    That's because the projection model is not just an average of the newest polls, it's the weighted average of all recent polls.

    This prevents the model from swinging wildly from poll to poll. There needs to be consistent, sustained trends for the model to move.

    Consider that Harris-Decima today has the NDP back down to 15%.

  6. I wonder how Sun TV is going to treat the NDP? That'll be a wildcard that could make a difference with their poll numbers out west.

    I must say that Avaaz, Peter, Margaret Atwood and a lot of other groups/people must be pretty annoyed today with Sun's launch.

    Let's see how it shakes things up!

  7. I'm surprised that NDP/Liberal vote splitting in Papineau isn't going to benefit the Bloc more than your projection suggests.

  8. Wow! Beautiful. That final half re actual seats the NDP could grab depending on poll, plus the Nunavik riding is pure poetry. Thanks! Will be spending a lot of time with this. Doug Johnson Hatlem

  9. Ekos poll ending April 17 has NDP at 20%

  10. John said: "If the NDP do make this big breakthrough and pass the Grits in vote % (doubt they'll reach in seats - bizarre system we use isn't it) will we see a jump in the odds of them merging with the Liberals or a drop? If they are equal partners one would think it would make it easier for NDP'ers to do it, and Liberals would hope to take over the new party."

    Sure, a merger of the grits and the NDP would be pretty appealing to the NDP if they though they'd be the senior partner - but query how keen the Liberals would be on that (or on how likely that outcome would be in fact).

    Moreover, if the NDP makes a big breakthrough, why would they neccesarily be keen to saddle themselves with the Liberals, if they thought that, if they could continue to exploit the breakthrough in the future against a weakened Liberal party (ideally replacing them with an actual left-wing party). I mean, apart from ideological differences, what kept the PCs and the Reform/Alliance apart for 11 years was that each party believed that they were just an election away from knocking off the other. They only merged when it became apparent to all concerned that that wasn't going to happen (and, in fairness, as the ideological gaps between the two narrowed).

    If the NDP makes a break-through in this election, I don't see them being all that keen to merge with (or sell-out to, depending on your pursuasion) the Liberals.

  11. The Liberals should become like the FDP in Germany (aka "the party of doctors and dentists") - a small third party that is socially liberal and very rightwing and libertarian on economics and concentrate on getting votes from upper class urban professionals.

  12. DL said...
    The Liberals should become like the FDP in Germany (aka "the party of doctors and dentists") - a small third party that is socially liberal and very rightwing and libertarian on economics and concentrate on getting votes from upper class urban professionals.

    Whaddaya mean "should become"?

  13. Eric - You've become the home of the good of the Canadian political internet! I hope you're not having to filter out too many posts, because that would mess with my vision of everyone here being awesome, smart, interesting, positive and contributory.

    Even the pushy ones here are mostly smart, on-topic and not too jerky.

    One aspect of the NDP's significant advances in Quebec - in my mind, they're "significant" regardless of whether they mean 1,2,6 or 20 seats - is that the increase means a huge financial benefit due to the election-financing laws. While I'm sure they would happily trade NDP votes in safe Bloc seats for actual MPs if they somehow could, it's worth noting that there are an awful lot of Quebecers out there, so a 5% uptick is an awful lot of toonies being thrown their way in the next election (as compared to, say, a 5% uptick in New Brunswick or Saskatchewan.)

  14. I've lived in the Pontiac as well as Westmount Ville Marie. The NDP aren't going to win either of those ridings.

    Also to project the NDP might be at +5% with MOE is a stretch within a stretch. There support is already the softest in these polls, with Angus Reid saying 41% of their vote may switch.

    The most likely scenario is for their vote to go down within the MOE not up, or to even collapse further than that.

  15. Wow, that new Ekos poll is really interesting. If the trends detected in this poll (and in the AR poll that came out this morning) are real and keep up (both, big IFs), we could be looking at a fundamental re-alignment of the Canadian political spectrum. This could be a Liberal equivalent of the 1993 election (though Liberal support is too geographically concentrated for them to be reduced to 2 seats).

    Moreover, these polls are coming out at exactly the wrong time for the Liberals. Their strategy appears to be to pursuade Canadians that Stephen Harper and the Tories are a gang of troglodytes and to position themselves as the only credible alternative. In the past, this has been a reasonably effective strategy (both federally and in Ontario - although the latest round of ads are probably too over-the-top to be effective).

    But the strategy only works in the Liberals are well ahead of the NDP in the polls. With the NDP closing quickly on the Liberals (or even being perceived as closing on the Liberals, even if they aren't) it could backfire. Given a choice between the NDP and the Liberals in terms of who will "save healthcare" (or whatever nonsense the Liberals are spouting), the NDP wins hands down (and, as an aside, the Tories are going out of their way to reinforce that point, by pointing to the health care cuts made by the Chretien government). Jack Layton can (and will) point to polls like this as reinforcing his story that the NDP is the real alternative to the Tories (and truthfully, in Quebec, BC, Man/Sask, he's right). Morever, and this is Layton's ace in the hole, he'll point to the last 5 years of Liberal support for the Tories as evidence that the Liberals can't do that job.

    Essentially, the Liberals are outflanked - if they turn their guns on the Tories on "soft" issues like health care, the NDP stands to be the beneficiary. If they turn their guns on the NDP, the Tories get a free ride to a majority government (and besides, how can they credibly attack the NDP, they've stolen half their platform).

    Interesting times.

  16. Environics Says:

    Torries 39
    Grits 24
    Dippers 22
    Bloq 9

    The telephone poll of 965 eligible voters was conducted from April 12 to 17, 2011 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

  17. Shouldnt a more even split between the LPC and NDP help the CPC with vote splitting?

  18. I really like this site. I never get the feeling that the numbers are being manipulated to try to favor one party or another, the way I often do from other sources.

    Out of curiosity, is it at all possible that a surge in NDP support in Quebec could benefit the Conservatives? I mean, they're a socially left-wing party that seem to be more likely to compete for votes with the Bloc and the Liberals. Are there no close races in rural areas where the NDP could play a spoiler role?

  19. There certainly are - but mostly in the context of the Conservatives keeping seats they might otherwise lose. In the three scenarios above, the Conservatives are down anywhere from one to four points, yet they manage to keep most of their seats.

  20. Environics Questions (English):

    "If a Canadian federal election were to be held today, which party’s candidate would you
    vote for?

    [If “Undecided” ask] Perhaps you have not yet made up your mind; is there nevertheless a
    party you might be inclined to support?"

    it's great when polls only have two questions. Asking questions before the vote intention question such as EKOS is highly suspect.

    What amazes me is that in the States they will ask like 24 questions on polls and people answer them, with question 15 or 16 being who are you going to vote for. I can't believe anyone answers these polls.


  22. Is there any scenario where the NDP could pull off the same kind of unexpected election success in Quebec as the the ADQ did provincially in 2007?

  23. Éric,

    Your Pontiac riding projection is pure fantasy. The Bloc candidate, Maude Tremblay, is a first year University of Ottawa student, the NDP candidate, Mathieu Ravignat, is a former Marxist Leninist candidate who was thrown in as a warm body on April 12th (and you have him a solid second place) and the Green party candidate is no where to be found (or can't be reached). I'm getting lot's of red flags looking at this one example. I hope you are closer in other ridings.


  24. EKOS is now using a "likelihood of voting" screen. The differences in their latest poll are Conservative (+0.8), Liberal (+0.9), NDP (-0.3), BQ (+0.3), Green (-1.5)

  25. Will SUN NEWS have an impact on the Election's outcome ??

  26. Could you comment, please.
    In this article the NDP numbers for Quebec and Montreal seem unbelievably high. In Montreal, particularly.

    "Coming out of the French debate, the Bloc's support in Quebec fell two points to 29 per cent and the NDP rose to 23.7 per cent - only 5.3 percentage points back, according to an Ekos Research poll. The Liberals were at 22.4 per cent while the Conservatives dropped to 17.6 per cent. In the greater Montreal area, the numbers were even more striking, with the Bloc support falling from 40.5 per cent to 22.6, while the NDP surged from 20 per cent to 30.1 per cent.

    According to the latest Leger Marketing poll for Agence QMI, Quebecers have switched their affections to Layton, trusting him even more than Duceppe.

  27. Anonymous 09:01,

    Sample sizes for the CMAs in EKOS polling are relatively small, so the MOE is quite large. It will be something to watch, however.


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