Thursday, September 22, 2011

Liberals might not have hit rock bottom in 2011 election

A poll released by Léger Marketing earlier this week shows that the federal race is still very much between the Conservatives and the New Democrats, but also that the Liberals could potentially sink even further.

A full detailed report of the poll is not available on the Léger Marketing site (which is rare), but it was mentioned in various news reports. A helpful journalist sent along the report to me at my request. A CROP poll on the voting intentions of Quebecers was also released this week, and is included in the graph below.

In the Léger poll, the Conservatives stand at 39% support, compared to 33% for the New Democrats and 17% for the Liberals.

The Greens stood at 6%, while the Bloc took 5%.

This is the first federal Léger poll since the election was held on May 2.

In Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta, this poll is not much different from the results of that vote. Notable, though, is that the New Democrats are holding steady in Quebec and have marginally improved their position in Ontario. Both are important provinces for the NDP moving forward.

The results in Quebec are not very different from Léger's last poll in the province, conducted in June. Since that poll, the NDP has dropped three points, the Bloc has gained one, the Conservatives have gained four, and the Liberals have dropped three. None of these changes are especially significant, but it does suggest that the passing of Jack Layton has had no real effect on NDP support in the province.

British Columbia is interesting, as it echoes the recent Nanos poll putting the New Democrats and Tories in a statistical tie but with the NDP holding the edge. This is going to be a very, very important province for the New Democrats.

Elsewhere, we can see that the NDP is holding an unrealistic lead in small-sample Atlantic Canada, and that the Tories are doing well in the Prairies.

CROP found a very similar result in Quebec, but had the NDP at 46% and the Bloc at 17%. Where the Bloc's support stands is a subject of some dispute, as Nanos had them at 10%. Perhaps most significantly, virtually every poll released since the election has the Bloc at or below their vote share on election night.

CROP last released data on the federal situation in mid-August, just before Jack Layton passed away. Since then, the NDP is up six points, the Conservatives are down three, the Bloc is down three, and the Liberals are up two. The NDP's gain is statistically significant, providing further indication that NDP support in Quebec is not nearly as fragile as almost everyone has thought it would be.

This poll results in another Conservative majority with the New Democrats as the Official Opposition. The Tories drop one net seat and win 165 overall, while the New Democrats bump up their seat total from 103 (including Toronto-Danforth, that is) to 115. The Bloc holds on to its four seats while Elizabeth May is re-elected in Saanich-Gulf Islands.

But the Liberals lose 11 seats in this poll, taking only 23. An even more nightmarish scenario than the one in May can still play out for the Liberals in the future.

The Conservatives win 17 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 25 in the Prairies, 69 in Ontario, eight in Quebec, 17 in Atlantic Canada, and two in the North.

The New Democrats win 14 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, two in the Prairies, 24 in Ontario, 60 in Quebec, 13 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Liberals win four seats in British Columbia, one in the Prairies, 13 in Ontario, three in Quebec, and two in Atlantic Canada.

The CROP poll would result in 61 seats for the NDP, eight for the Conservatives, five for the Liberals, and one for the Bloc Québécois. That would transform the national projection into 165 Tories, 116 New Democrats, 25 Liberals, and one seat apiece for the Bloc and Greens.

UPDATE: I should point out, as was done by a commenter, that much of the Liberal seat woe is due to an unlikely result in Atlantic Canada, where sample sizes are small (79, in this case). But even if the Liberals were at, say, 25% or so in the region they would still be somewhere around 17% and 18% nationally and in trouble in Quebec.

Yes, the New Democrats are still leaderless and, yes, the next election is four years away. But the sky has not yet fallen on the NDP and Canadians haven't yet recoiled from electing a Conservative majority. Believe it or not, real work will have to be done by the parties in order to move public opinion!


  1. The main reason for the drop comes from Quebec (-5), and Atlantic Canada (-10).... but the latter is extremely volatile thanks to the small sample size.

    I mean, yes, if we fell to 14% in the region, certainly we'd be in deep trouble and that's definitely a nightmare scenario. But if not for that regional drop, the Liberals would lose only one seat (net), and drop to 33.

    To me, the sample size for Atlantic Canada throws into doubt how much this poll would change things for the Liberals. We're stable nearly everywhere else, never losing more than 5% in any other region.

    I feel the Liberals have stabilized at their current level, rather than drifted towards the nightmare scenario. That is, unless we're actually at 14% in the Atlantic region.

  2. Yeah, Atlantic Canada is the biggest source of problems for the Liberals in this scenario, but don't discount Quebec so easily. They have been weak in almost every poll, and since most of their races are against the Conservatives and New Democrats, both apparently on the rise in Quebec, it is easy to imagine the Liberals dropping to the 20s in seats because of that province alone.

  3. I do not think poll numbers will change much until the NDP and Liberals elect their new leaders AND the Tories have their huge stumble (every government goes through one of these in a majority situation).

    Atlantic Canada is very important to the Liberal Party, along with Greater Toronto and Greater Montreal its one of the last bastions of Liberal support.

    I do not know how the Liberals will rebuild in Quebec, and especially Western Canada. In the recent election the Liberals were third and fourth place in most Quebec and Western ridings, which shows that our former "natural governing party" needs a lot of rebuilding to do.

    - Maple

  4. It's a given that eventually the electorate will tire of the CPC and dump them, maybe as soon as 2015, but it's absolutely imperative to the party that the Liberals are completely wiped off the map by then. If the race is completely between the NDP and CPC the CPC will form government on at the very least a 50 per cent rotational basis, likely more than that because Canadians tend to be more center or center right than left. If the Libs are around, even with 2 seats as the Tories were 20 years ago, that'll allow a comeback as voters tire of the whiplash parliaments, with the strong left-right split. Besides the Libs will do worse before they get better, and that probably will not much before they elect a new leader. By then, 2 years from now?,Canadians might be more accepting of the party as an alternative to the CPC.

  5. --pinkobme.

    I believe Canadians are more center, center-left; unlike our neighbours directly to the south.

  6. Dear Eric, would you please post the riding-by-riding breakdown?

  7. I don't have anything done up for that.

  8. I'm always interested in analysis, but I don't think much can be read into polls on federal parties right now. An election is a long, long way off, the NDP are presumably still riding a high wave of sympathy after Jack Layton's death, and really none of the parties has had much time to do anything to change the way voters see them since the election.

    A year or two from now when the Conservatives have actually enacted policies, the NDP has had time to show how they function as opposition and both the NDP and Liberals have new leaders, maybe we can start to see which way public opinion is going. For now, these polls are interesting but it is hard to believe that they have any bearing on reality.

  9. I am not convinced that on the ground the Liberals can gain any seats in BC. Their vote may be up in this poll in BC, but they no longer have the advantage of incumbency in the ones I assume they can win.

    They gained a lot from strategic voting in the seats they held in the past from NDP voters. Without that factor they will be hard pressed to regain any seats.

    Much more likely is that the Liberals will lose the two remaining seats in BC. Long term BC has been much more of a two party vote than three way races. People will most likely vote for or against the government and the against means the NDP. The none of the above really is the Green party.

  10. Let us step back a bit.

    1) The Ontario Liberals are closer to the Federal NDP than to the Federal Liberals. How does this play out if McGuinty wins another majority and continues to do a decent job in the province? The Ontario Government hasn't been exciting, but it has been competent.

    2) The Bloc and the NDP are similar on a lot of policy issues, which is why so many voters were willing to switch from what I can see.

    3) The NDP is going to get a lot of good PR as the official opposition.

    4) Bob Rae as interim leader of the Liberals is a disaster. He is going to remind Ontarians that the Federal NDP had nothing to do with the terrible provincial NDP government Ontario had.

    As far as I know I'm the only person who predicted that the NDP would gain over a hundred seats before the election. I'm going to step out on a limb and predict that unless the Liberals call their leadership campaign fast, and get Rae out of sight, that Ontario is going to clue in that the Federal NDP doesn't have anything to do with the Ontario Bob Rae Government, and they might decide to take a chance on voting orange.

    Of course the next election is a long way off. We don't know who will suffer the worst case of foot in mouth disease.

    But we also know that in four years another percentage of the older generation won't be around to vote. If the younger generation shows up at the polls, it will shake things up.


  11. Wayne Borean,

    In what world have the Ontario Liberals become closer to the federal NDP than the federal Liberals? That has never been the case, and it certainly isn't now.

  12. Volkov,

    Wayne Borean has a point. Federally, the Liberals have moved to the right and become less "libertarian" for lack of a better word. Provincially, the Liberals have moved to the left to try to cannibalize the NDP's support (not that it seems to be working). That has been combined with rightward movement by the Ontario NDP in an effort to eat into the Liberal left flank (which the polls suggest seems to be working at least somewhat). So the situation we have is a centre-right Liberal Party federally and a centre-centre-left Liberal Party provincially and a left-centre-left NDP provincially.

    While it may not be a slam dunk, there is at least a reasonable argument that the Ontario Liberals are closer to the ONDP than they are to the Liberal Party of Canada.

    1. How have the federal Liberals become less libertarian? If anything the federal Liberals have become more progressive on social issues.

  13. One factor is that we have really just gone through a quiet summer and the House just recently resumed (which starts to bring political news back to the forefront). So that might contribute to the lack of major movement in the polls.

    I think that economic worries much actually also dampen the attention given to politics because the news is just too grim (makes it hard to really blame anyone or see alternatives as providing any real hope of fixing the problems). But I guess a lot will be dependent on how the various leaders and parties respond to the growing economic "crisis".

  14. So you're telling me the provincial Liberals, who introduced the HST, have given consistent corporate and income tax cuts, and have repeatedly backed off from the major overhaul of social welfare.... that party is apparently closer to the NDP, the party which holds positions that are antithesis of those positions, and is farther away from the party which holds the exact same positions.


    And how the heck do people continually assume the federal Liberals are to the right now? People keep saying this but I fail to see the proof, because there is none. Heck, as someone who could be considered so somewhat of a centre-right Liberal, I'd love to see some shifts back from where we drifted under Ignatieff!

    And the OLP is certainly not very far left, nowhere near the provincial NDP nor the federal NDP. I work with these people - you would think I would catch winds of that. They're activists, sure - but they're not Dippers.

  15. I'd laugh if a poll comes out that would drop the Liberals below official party status. That would likely be a serious wakeup call for the party, and a true sign the end might be near for them.

  16. What I'm saying is that there is an arguable case to be made. Are there policy disagreements between the OLP and the ONDP? Of course there are. No one has said they are the same. But look at environmental policy, philosophy on tackling the deficit and transit policy, and you see an OLP moving leftward, while at the same time the ONDP is moving into the centre on a lot of these same issues. There is not insubstantial convergence happening, which is not accidental.

    As for the LPC, it moved to the right on foreign policy, on trade policy, on defence policy and on environmental policy. And you can't seriously claim that the LPC occupies the same space on the left/right spectrum that it did before the Chretien/Martin years. The LPC of Trudeau was definitely a party of the centre-left, but with deficit reduction approach adopted under Chretien and Martin, the party definitely moved to the centre-right. It is still a party of the centre, but now it is the centre-right, not the centre left. This leaves a policy divide between the LPC and OLP.

    I'm not saying, and I don't think Wayne was saying, that the OLP is substantially closer to ONDP than to LPC, but there is at least an arguable case that the divide between OLP and ONDP is now at least somewhat smaller than that between OLP and ONDP.

  17. Yeah, the final "ONDP" in my last paragraph should have read "OLP".

  18. I still disagree. The OLP and the LPC are highly similar on most aspects of policy, and are much closer together than the OLP is to any variation of the Dippers.

    And really, how can you compare what the LPC believes in foreign policy and defense - two areas the OLP doesn't concern itself with? Have you seen McGuinty shouting about the Afghanistan war lately?

    And on environmentalism - how have the parties drifted apart? Last time I checked, the LPC was wildly supportive of the actions taken by the OLP. Heck, during Dion's reign it was the OLP that decided to distance themselves from the LPC, thanks to the carbon tax!

    I also fail to see how the LPC has shifted right on that issue - because they support the oil sands? If supporting the oil sands, alongside the heavy regulation and calls to slow down some, makes one right-wing, then what would that make Harper and co.? Then again, obviously that evil rightist Peter Lougheed supports calls to slow down too...

    No. There is an argument to be had, yes, but it's pretty clear which side would win. The LPC and OLP have few policy differences. The major difference I find is in their levels of activism; the LPC by nature are more cautious on reform than the OLP. But, then again, look where it's gotten the latter at some points.


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