Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Neck-and-neck in Ontario in new polls

For many, the real election campaign begins tonight with the leaders' debate. I hope that will be the case, because the campaign hasn't been all that lively up to this point. Considering that, one is led to believe that the debate will have to have some exciting moments. Michael Ignatieff likely can't win this election without a good performance tonight, so he has to do something to grab Canadians' attention.

The two newest polls from Harris-Decima and Nanos Research confirm that. The Conservative lead is between nine and 12 points in these polls, and translated into seats these results would likely hand Stephen Harper another strong minority government. But the race is getting close in Ontario.
Neither Harris-Decima nor Nanos show any topline national variations of any great significance. Harris-Decima has the Conservatives up five points since their last poll in early April, but that is just inside the margin of error for comparing the Conservatives' results in Harris-Decima's last two polls. But it is nevertheless a big jump, and the truth is always more likely to be the poll's actual result than the outside limits of its margin of error.

Harris-Decima releases their information in two different datasets: one over the last week and the other over the last two weeks. They only provide the most recent results at the national level, in Ontario, and in Quebec. Those were taken between April 7 and 10, very similar to the Nanos poll taken between April 9 and 11. It is likely no coincidence, then, that Harris-Decima and Nanos both came to similar conclusions for these dates.

The race in Ontario really is very close, as Harris-Decima puts the Conservatives at 38% and the Liberals at 37%, that after pegging the two parties at 43% and 32% in early April. Nanos finds them at 41% and 39%, meaning that statistically speaking both polling firms have virtually identical results.

This close race did not exist at the beginning of the campaign. If we reach back to my post on March 28, the first Monday of the campaign, you can see that the gap between the two parties in Ontario stood at between six and 15 points. Today, the gap is one or two. A few more polls like this, and the projection will begin to hand seats back to the Liberals in droves.

But we should not forget that Forum Research and Ipsos Reid found large Conservative leads in Ontario. So whether the race has truly closed is up for some debate.

Of note in Ontario is that the NDP has gained for three consecutive days in Nanos's daily tracking poll. Of course, that might be the result of having a particularly bad day or two for the NDP sometime late last week when Nanos put the NDP at only 8%.

These two polls also come to relatively similar conclusions in Quebec, where the Bloc Québécois is weakening (HD has them down eight points!). They both put the Conservatives in second and the Liberals in third, far from their doldrums earlier in the campaign. They disagree on where the NDP stands, but I get the impression that the support level of the NDP in Quebec will be the biggest point of contention between all pollsters for the rest of the campaign. Where the NDP's numbers go after Wednesday's French-language debate will be interesting to watch.

I decided to plug Harris-Decima's poll numbers into my projection model to see whether the Conservatives really are in majority territory at 40%. My gut told me no, as the race was too close in Ontario, and the model says the same thing.

Based solely on the results of this Harris-Decima poll, ThreeHundredEight.com projects 144 seats for the Conservatives, 87 for the Liberals, 44 for the Bloc Québécois, 32 for the New Democrats, and one independent (André Arthur).

The Conservatives would do well in the West, as they always do, and take 12 seats in Quebec and another 12 in Atlantic Canada. But they can't win a majority with only 48 seats in Ontario.

The Liberals would win 44 there, along with 17 in Quebec, 16 in Atlantic Canada, and nine in the West. The bulk of the NDP's seats would come in Ontario (14) and British Columbia (7).

If the real campaign starts today, the Liberals have a lot of work cut out for them. They certainly haven't tanked but they haven't gained much, either. Two weeks are down and little has changed. Three weeks remain before the vote is held, and the Conservatives still look poised to win handily. Will tonight change any of that?

I'll be on Twitter (@308dotcom) during the debate, sharing my reaction to the two-hour slugfest. Hope to see you there!

The questions asked by each of the pollsters are as follows: "For those parties you would consider voting federally, could you please rank your top two current local preferences?" (Nanos). Question asked by Harris-Decima not available.


  1. Well having sat through three quarters of the debate I've only got one thing to say.

    GO Gilles because you've blown Harper right out of the water time after time !! Think about going NATIONAL !!

  2. That was an interesting debate. Poor stammering Ignatieff and his lack of facts.. Layton did very well, Harper held his own, and Duceppe... Need I say more?


  3. Oh cool they did a poll on who won the debate!


    Harper = 37%,
    Ignatieff = 21%

    I wonder what Layton and Duceppe got?

    Peter your impressions don't seem to jive with what Canadians are thinking at large.

    Good night for Harper over all i'd wager. Cool!

  4. Not so neck and neck according to the Compass Poll released to QMI. 21 point lead and 17 point lead in Ontario for the Conservatives. From what I hear, they are also closing the gap in Toronto and are gaining in the 905 region.


  5. http://www.globalnews.ca/decisioncanada/story.html?id=4604903

    Wow Harper appears to have rocked the debate according to this poll!

    Eric i'm curious, on twitter you have Harper the worst mark of the night.

    Was that your personal opinion as an individual reacting to his ideas or a prediction of how you thought Canadians would respond ??

  6. Compas Research Poll, 13 April

    Tories lead nationally by 21%.

    In what pollster Conrad Winn calls one of the most interesting revelations, the New Democrats are doing relatively well in Quebec.

    The Conservatives are fighting it out for first place in Quebec City and Eastern Quebec; the NDP is a contender in Montreal and the rest of Quebec, the poll says.

    "New Democrats have been praying for openings in Quebec for half a century," Winn said. "It's like a man lost in the desert praying for rain. Occasionally, the prayer works."

    Bloc support in Quebec tops that of the second place Conservatives by 12 percentage points.

    In Ontario, the Conservatives lead the Liberals by 17 points, although they trail in Toronto. The NDP has strength in the northern part of the province.

  7. Harper played rope a dope all night repeating his worn out untruths, ignatieff revealed Harper for the fraud he is, Layton nailed both of them and Duceppe evicerated Harper.


  8. Anon

    "Harper played rope a dope all night repeating his worn out untruths, Ignatieff revealed Harper for the fraud he is, Layton nailed both of them and Duceppe eviscerated Harper."

    Yep, except I would say Layton flubbed. Duceppe was deadly though and the number of times Harper looked like a deer in the headlights was staggering !!

  9. Ok citing a Sun newspaper chain's poll is hardly providing accurate information. Perhaps polling Fox news might yield even better results for the Torys.
    Nice to want to spin things for whatever party you support but when it is from a biased source you lose any change of being believed

  10. The Sun polls are, quite frankly - ridiculous. The debate one is an online "click" poll which has no validity. And a 21 point lead for the CPC is asinine.

  11. There was a knock out punch and the Liberal war room and Liberal supporters in the media do not understand it.

    I think that for 90% of voters that are not politically aware the big moment in this debate was Harper saying that Canadians are more interested in jobs and the economy and not the constant bickering.

    Ignatieff then lectured him on the fact that it is not bickering but democracy.

    The nominally engaged Canadian voter would overwhelmingly agree with Harper that parliament has been bickering since the 2008 votes were counted. They are not interested in speakers rulings, commons committee censures and contempt of democracy charges that Mr. Ignatieff was selling as the reason we needed an election.

    Really really big win for Harper. Gets his message of fiscal competence and economic stewardship out front and reduces Ignatieff to theoretical philosophical discussion on the theory of democracy (Yawn)

    Ironically the sound bite of Ignatieff’s lecture on democracy versus bickering is in the highlight reel as an example of Ignatieff scoring points.

    Every time it is played regular Canadians will be deciding to end the bickering and vote for a Harper a majority.

    Other point was that Layton and Ignatieff were too comfortable with Duceppe. Only Harper challenged him on his near racist comments on the ghetto causing policy of Canadian Multiculturalism.

    The Ipso Reid poll of 2,365 after the debate had Harper winning with 42% - Layton - 25 and Ignatieff at 23

    The only thing that will now stop a CP majority is if the final AG report says that some of the $50M of G8 spending went into Harper's personal bank account.

  12. I would have thought that a TV talk host would have been more teachable on the body language and posture required for the debates.

    The Liberal team knew the debates were coming and could have easily predicted what Harper was going to deliver, but Mr. Ignatieff looked awkward with jerky motions and impatient gestures… hands on hips, signalling to the moderator like he was a snob at a fancy restaurant.

    He also got tangled in his verbiage and looked like he lost his train of thought a few times and fell back to his comfortable repeated phrases.

    He has looked much better on the campaign where the media have been pulling for him.

    He looked 64 years old and that he knew better than his handlers.

    In 2008 Harper was the clear loser in the debates….. mainly due to the format and having two nothing to lose attack dogs after him. This year he was much better prepared for whatever Duceppe would throw at him.

    The fact that Duceppe so openly dislikes (hates?) Harper will gain Harper some votes in the RoC as he seems to scare the heck out of the separatists.

    I hope that Ignatieff figures out that the Liberals can win 7 extra seats in Quebec if he is able to stand up to Duceppe in the French debates.

  13. Unreason:

    "They are not interested in speakers rulings, commons committee censures and contempt of democracy charges that Mr. Ignatieff was selling as the reason we needed an election.:

    Only in your mind, the public is engaged, they know what damage Harper has done. They are NOT interested in more damage.

  14. I wasn't going to respond to Peter as he was one of a handful of people who thought Duceppe didn't embarrass himself.

    If Duceppe performs at the same level tonight the Bloc will lose their 12-14 close ridings. The Quebec protest vote will go NDP.

    The average Canadian is far more concerned about jobs and the economy.... poll after poll has shown this.... in most polls the erosion of democracy does not even register as an issue, even in 2011 the environment is a more important issue. The top issues by far are Jobs, economy and Health care. If the government can deliver jobs and a healthy economy then it can afford to support Health care.

    If Ignatieff keeps focusing on the democratic deficit for the rest of the election the Liberal supporters will look back fondly on Dion's leadership.... where ran on an issue that at least was debatable.


COMMENT MODERATION POLICY - Please be respectful when commenting. If choosing to remain anonymous, please sign your comment with some sort of pseudonym to avoid confusion. Please do not use any derogatory terms for fellow commenters, parties, or politicians. Inflammatory and overly partisan comments will not be posted. PLEASE KEEP DISCUSSION ON TOPIC.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.