Friday, May 20, 2011

BC Liberals and NDP neck-and-neck, but advantage Clark

A new poll from Ipsos-Reid on the political situation in British Columbia shows that the BC Liberals and BC New Democrats are virtually tied, but if we look deeper into the bowels of the poll we can see that new Premier Christy Clark has the leg-up on her NDP opponent.

This Ipsos-Reid poll used an interesting methodology. While 1,200 British Columbians were polled in all, half were contacted via telephone and half via Ipsos's online panel. It's a sort of hybrid poll, and I wonder if this is something that we might see more of in the future. It could bring together the best of both methods.

According to the poll's findings, the BC Liberals are leading with 41%, closely trailed by the BC New Democrats who are at 39%.

The BC Conservatives come up in third with 10%, with the Greens in fourth at 8%. That is a good result for the Conservatives, and perhaps is an indication of the effect of having John Cummins, former BC MP for the federal Conservatives, as their future leader. His recent comments on homosexuality certainly won't help him increase his party's base, however.

The BC Liberals are leading in the Lower Mainland, the Southern Interior, and the North, while the NDP is ahead on Vancouver Island. With 19%, the Conservatives had their best result in the North, while the best Green result was in the Southern Interior.

Note: An earlier version of this post had mistakenly given the Green Party the same regional support levels as the BC Conservatives. Apologies.

It is a slim, statistically insignificant lead for Mrs. Clark, but a few other questions asked by Ipsos-Reid show why the BC Liberals are in a better position. Asked how likely they were to vote for each party, 48% of respondents said they were somewhat or very likely to vote for the BC Liberals, indicating the party still has some room for growth.

On the other hand, the BC New Democrats are nearer to their ceiling: 43% said they were somewhat or very likely to vote for them.

There is also some potential for growth for the Greens and Conservatives, who had a "likely" response of 25% and 24%, respectively.

In terms of who would make the best premier, 47% said Christy Clark. That makes her more popular than her own party. Adrian Dix of the BC NDP, on the other hand, garnered only 25% on this question. That is not a good sign for the NDP.

Technically, an election is not scheduled until 2013. That would give the NDP plenty of time to solidify their support. But rumour is that Clark may call an election this year, though her recent squeaker of a by-election win may cause her to be more cautious. British Columbians, however, seem game for an election: 46% said that a new one should be held this year, and this in a poll held only one week after the federal election.

The BC Liberal vote being more efficient, ThreeHundredEight projects that with this poll Christy Clark would win 47 seats and hold on to her majority government. That is a drop of two seats from what her party currently holds in the legislature, those gains going to Adrian Dix and the NDP, which would win 37 seats and be returned to the opposition benches.

Nevertheless, this is a very close margin for the BC Liberals. And considering what happened in the federal campaign, this is not the kind of lead that can be taken to the bank. The BC Liberals have a majority government and while it appears that Clark would be more likely than not to win a new mandate on her own, it is most definitely not a sure bet. Whether British Columbians head to the polls for the second time this year may depend on how much of a gambler Mrs. Clark is.


  1. Why are the Greens and Conservatives tied in every region but the Cons lead the Greens by two?

  2. Probably due to rounding.

  3. No, it is because I made an error. Will fix.

  4. IF I was the BC NDP, I'd be very happy with this poll. Christy Clark is still in her honeymoon after winning the leadership and is still get nothing but hagiographical coverage by the media that just fawns over the fact that she can actually smile. Dix is still an unknown to the vast majority of the electorate. If the NDP can be in a virtual tie with the Liberals when its pitting an unknown against someone who has been relentlessly built up by the media - I think that's a good sign. Dix has no where to go but up and Clark has no where to go but down. There are already signs that she's all style and no substance and is very erratic...give it a few more months and she will be well on ther way to being another Kim Campbell.

  5. Dix could stay where he is or go down, those are other options. Being an unknown doesn't mean your numbers will go up once people get to know you - Michael Ignatieff is an example of that.

    We'll see, though. If Clark calls an election soon, there is a good chance that opinions of Dix won't change in 4-5 weeks.

  6. Most people think that if there is an early election in BC it won't be until September at the earliest. Clark also has no go through the HST referendum - which i think she regards as being akin to having needles stuck through her eye-balls. Most people have no opinion of Dix - positive or negative (unlike Ignatieff who was clearly a turn-off from the word go). The main "stereotype" about Dix is that he's extremely intelligent but doesn't have much of a sense of humour - ask Stephen Harper how much a liability that is?

  7. AverageCanuck20 May, 2011 12:18

    Dix = Glen Clark.

    Instead of choosing a moderate they went with the least popular option for BC NDP leader.

    Contra DL a lot of people do know about him and his past. Those who don't are instantly turned off when they do find out.

    Remember that the NDP was reduced to 2 seats because BC HATED the last time it was in government. Anything that reminds us of that is toxic.

    Also Clark's coverage has been very cutting, especially the whole Basi Virk thing.

  8. DL - I disagree. Clark was selected as leader before Dix was selected as leader, so if anyone should stil be enjoying a bump it would be Dix, not Clark.

    Though that may be muddied somewhat by Clark's recent by-election win (slim though it was).

    As I've said to Clark's people when they've called me, a choice between a Keynesian and a Marxist is no choice at all. And with Cummins now looking like a moralistic dinosaur, I'm horribly depressed by my political options in BC.

  9. I'd also like to point out that the current BC government passed a fixed election date law several years ago, and if Christy Clark calls an election now she'll effectively be violating it.

    I gave Stephen Harper a lot more leeway with his because he was governing with a minority, but Clark's majority is secure.

  10. "Clark was selected as leader before Dix was selected as leader, so if anyone should stil be enjoying a bump it would be Dix, not Clark."

    Clark became premier and got immediately weeks worth of fawning, sycophantic saturation publicity. Someone new becoming opposition leader doesn't attract even 10% of the coverage of a new Premier - plus the BC NDP leadership was decided right in the middle of federal election campaign - so it got very little publicity.

    I really that some hardcore right-wingers claim to recall this "guilt by association" of Dix and the Clark government. But obviously that sentiment is not very prevalent since according to Ipsos - about 75% of the province either has a positive impression of him or has no impression at all - he's basically a blank slate.

  11. AverageCanuck20 May, 2011 20:52

    Guilt by association ?

    Try just plain guilt, as in forced to resign because he forged documents related to the casino scandal that landed Clark in hot water.

    3 years as chief of staff to Glen Clark is a pretty big target on his back.

    He's the Mark Holland of BC politics in terms of his rabid approach.

    2 out of 3 the three NDP leadership contenders were respected, well liked moderates.

    Then there's idealogue Adrian Dix !

  12. DL - You could't possibly live in BC?! Ontario perhaps???!!

    FWIW, both Dix and Farnworth have had very high profiles for the BC NDP in the BC media over the past 5+ years.

    In fact, previous Ipsos and ARS polls from a few months back have shown that Dix is well known and also concurrently had a high negative approval rating.

    That fact has been further re-inforced by the current Ipsos finding that Clark has a 47% rating for "best premier" (higher that the Liberals vote share) and Dix only has a 25% rating for same. (lower than the NDP vote share). Shades of Iggy federally in those numbers.

    Mustel also released a BC provincial poll today:

    Liberal - 37%
    NDP - 35%
    Conservative - 18%
    Green - 9%

    That BC Cons vote has increased by 16% since the last election and yet the Liberals still are in the lead.

    Most of that Cons vote would likely collapse into the Liberal fold during an election if the Green collapse into the NDP is any indication during the 2009 BC election.

    BTW, just after Clark was named the new Liberal leader/premier, the federal election was called. Frankly, I suspect that the BC electorate's attention has been focused upon the federal scene (has not entirely shifted back yet) and that has probably skewed these provincial results to an extent.

    In that vein, both the BC Conservative and BC NDP numbers realistically seem a tad too high.

    A better BC political snapshot will more likely come in September with the federal election long out of the way and out of people's minds.

  13. It's worth remembering that the Liberals tend to rack up huge victories in places like Richmond, West/North Vancouver and the Fraser Valley - meaning the NDP can be a couple of points below and still win more seats. In fact, that's exactly what happened in 1996.

  14. Jonny Quest (Luke), you predicted a few months ago that this was 1986 all over again. That like 2 months after Vander Zalm was elected leader of the Socreds, the first poll after Ms Clark was elected would show the BC Liberals close to 60% if the NDP went with a left-wing leader like Dix.

    The NDP did choose Dix yet Ipsos and Mustel have the two parties in a statistical tie. And according to Ipsos, only 20% of the population have a negative impression of him. The memo scandal of 15 years ago doesn't signify when the BC Liberal scandals, especially BC Rail, are stacked up against it. And unlike some of the scandals, Ms Clark herself was a central figure in the BC Rail scandal.

    The close by-election win for Ms Clark in Point Grey was when there was no Conservative running. if there had been, she would have lost.

    As for the 1990's, the NDP was re-elected in 1996 in spite of the Liberals 2% ahead in popular vote. Funnily enough, the numbers were the same as the Ipsos poll. Except instead of Reform and the PDA the other two parties are now the Conservatives and the Greens.

    The NDP still lead among women and the hostility over Carole James' ouster is fading quickly. The NDP will no doubt be able to count on its usual level of support, around 40%. The BC Liberals (or whatever name they switch to) on the other hand won't as they have the Conservatives to deal with now and a lot of anti-HST people will go there.

    As the Ipsos poll said, given the current state of BC politics, most NDPers are hoping for an election, most Liberals aren't.

  15. Did someone say Dix was mostly an unknown? Come on. Dix is as unknown as Gordon Campbell. We all know Dix from the 1990s and his time as the Health critic. He was the absolute worst choice the BC NDP could make and as the voters are reminded of the 1990s I suspect you'll see the NDP drop in the polls severely. I, for one, would never, ever vote for Dix under any circumstances.

  16. I don't imagine Premier Clark will call an election any time soon. She'll want to see how this GST vote shakes out and what sort of backlash follows if the government gets its way. Although it's lost some steam lately, the anti-GST lobby is still strong and The Zalm has started whipping it up again lately in anticipation of next month's vote. I also wouldn't argue that Cummins' homophobic remarks will hurt him. They hit the mark in his target constituency, BC's politically active bible belt, which by the way is a hot-bed of anti-GST feelings. Remember the man was a former Tory MP. He understands incrementalism. He'll build support one target constituency at a time, starting with the religious, anti-tax Reformers. And that will hurt the Liberals far more than the NDP.
    As for Dix being too tainted or too left, well before May 2, no one thought the Layton NDP had a hope in hell of becoming opposition, but here they are.

  17. Oh Lord, I must have had a flash-back to 20 years ago. In my above comment please replace GST with HST.

  18. Eric,

    I would have to quibble with your suggestion that Cummins' remarks will limit his growth potential. A 2002 survey showed that Canadians outside Quebec opposed same-sex marriage 47-42. I think it's reasonable to assume that at least half of those opposed would also believe that homosexuality is a choice. (A poll on that very question in the US showed that 47 per cent of Americans believe homosexuality is a choice, a figure high enough to almost certainly include a chunk of Democrats).

    In that case, at least 20 per cent of the population should agree with Cummins' remarks. Given the historically polarized nature of BC politics, I would suggest that the number is actually fair bit higher in BC.

    The fact that most people no longer feel free to express these sentiments in public discourse (witness Cummins' immediate retraction) probably galvanizes those who agree with Cummins, because of their frustration with lack of freedom of speech. A commenter above described Cummins' comments as "homophobic", even though Cummins said nothing about his ability to interact with gay and lesbian people. If I'm opposed to free trade, does that make me "trade-phobic"? If I respectfully disagree with a person's opinion on anything, does that automatically make me fear or hate them?

    This may also explain why pre-election polling has consistently underestimated popular support for Reform/Alliance/Conservatives in almost every election since 1993.


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