Friday, December 2, 2011

Liberals in second?

With an election almost four years away, the stakes are low. But are the Liberals really back in second place?

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada site here.

Nanos released a new poll earlier this week. Putting the Liberals in second place ahead of the New Democrats, it got some attention.
Nanos was last in the field October 20-24, and since then the Conservatives have dropped 2.1 points. They stand at 35.6% in this poll, a level of support the party was very familiar with for the year prior to the May 2011 election.

The Liberals, at 28.1%, have gained 4.7 points while the New Democrats, with 27.3%, have dropped 2.7 points.

The Bloc Québécois and Greens are at 3.9% apiece.

The most interesting result is in Ontario, where the Liberals are up 8.3 points to 38.8%. The Conservatives are down 5.2 points to 37.2%, while the NDP is down 2.9 points to 19.6%. This is a remarkable result for the Liberals, but it is difficult to attribute this to the Ontario election. The big jump in Liberal support has come since that late October poll, which was done well after the provincial vote. There could be a bit of delay, but it doesn't seem to explain away all of this increase. It appears that Ontario is reverting to its pre-2011 status of the Liberals and Tories neck-and-neck and the NDP at 20% or lower. An Ontario-based NDP leader like Brian Topp, Peggy Nash, or Paul Dewar might help in that department.

In Quebec, Nanos confirms what four others polls have shown: the NDP is below 40%. They've dropped 7.4 points to 37.7%, while the Liberals are up 5.4 points to 23.6%. That is a much higher result than other polls have shown. The Conservatives are up five points to 20.1% while the Bloc is up 0.7 points to 15.9%. Nanos continues to be the only pollster showing the Bloc at such a low level of support.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives are down a point in British Columbia but still lead with 39.4%. The New Democrats are up 2.7 points to 28.8% while the Liberals are down 5.8 points to 20.4%. The three-way race in Atlantic Canada continues, while in the Prairies (which Nanos lumps Alberta into) the Conservatives are down 7.3 points to 48.6%. The NDP is down 2.2 points to 24.3% while the Liberals are up 6.6 points to 21%.

In the 308-seat House of Commons, the Conservatives win 132 seats with these poll numbers. The New Democrats take 94 seats and the Liberals 81, with one seat going to the Greens in British Columbia.

The Conservatives win 20 seats in British Columbia, 25 in Alberta, 17 in the Prairies, 46 in Ontario, nine in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The New Democrats win 11 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, six in the Prairies, 17 in Ontario, 52 in Quebec, six in Atlantic Canada and one in the north.

The Liberals win four seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, five in the Prairies, 43 in Ontario, 14 in Quebec, 12 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

Yes, two Liberal seats in Alberta. In vain, I will try to head-off the incredulity that this will cause. I already see the "two Liberal seats in Alberta?!?!" comments coming.

Nanos doesn't separate Alberta from the two other Prairie provinces like every other pollster does. Because of this, I need to separate the results myself, and doing so with this poll gives the Conservatives 52% and the Liberals 18% in Alberta. This means a drop of more than 1/5th for the Tories and a doubling of Liberal support. With that happening, the Liberals gain Calgary Northeast and Edmonton Centre.

Do I think this would actually happen? No. But that is what the numbers show. Double the support of the Liberals and drop the Tories by almost one quarter, and, surprise surprise, the Conservatives don't sweep everything but Edmonton-Strathcona.

With a 338-seat House of Commons, a quick estimate gives the Conservatives 148 seats, the New Democrats 100 seats, and the Liberals 89, with the Greens still winning one.

This is only one poll, and there isn't enough information yet to say that the Liberals have definitely moved into second place, or even whether they are in a tight race with the NDP. Yes, the next election is almost four years away and, yes, the NDP has no leader, but this poll is what it is. What it suggests is that the Liberals are not dead and do have potential to make a comeback, while the Conservative lead is quite wobbly.

17 comments:

  1. Except all the polls underestimate the Conservatives these days. Even provincially its been happening a bit.

    Election day behaviour and the results of a single poll have never been more divergent.

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  2. I assume two of the Bloc leadership candidates would be defeated by Liberals?

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  3. For the Liberals to actually be in a strong second, they have to create a statistically significant lead in Ontario and Atlantic Canada and be competitive in BC. Unless the Liberals get over 30% in Québec, an NDP drop would just benefit the Conservatives outside Montréal.

    However, it is inevitable that the Liberals will return to second place in 2015 because fatigue (and anger/disgust) with the Conservatives would mean more support for the Liberals because the NDP has lost Jack Layton (and the replacements would probably not be able to keep all its support)and Bob Rae is doing a superb job of de-facto Official Opposition leader.

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  4. "Except all the polls underestimate the Conservatives these days. Even provincially its been happening a bit."

    Except that they don't. in the 2004 and 2006 elections the polls all OVER-estimated Conservative support. The polls also pointed to a PC win in ontario and insytead they were crushed. I saw no "under-estimate" of Tory support in MB or NL. In BC in 2009 the provincial equivalent of the CPC - the BC Liberals were vastly overestimated by all the polls - what was supposed to be a double digit lead over the NDP melted down to a 3% lead.

    Get your facts right!

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  5. This poll demonstrates that the Liberals and NDP should not be thinking about a merger. Perhaps cooperation but defiantly not merger. In this scenario, I wonder if the Liberals with 81 seats would agree to prop up or be a junior coalition parter to a 94-seat NDP.

    Much of the Liberal gains are coming from people that voted for the Tories in Ontario. These voters are likely lean to the right on fiscal issues and would probably swing back and forth from Liberals and Tories.

    Tory strategists should take note, that Liberal and NDP combined vote total is 55.4%, that is almost twenty points ahead of the Tories! I suspect if trends continue, the Tories would start fear mongering the "high tax, socialist" NDP, in order to sway the moderate and right-leaning Liberals in the Tory camp.

    - Maple

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  6. Interestingly, the polls over the past few federal elections have tended to under-represent whichever party previous formed government. Conservatives in 2008/2011 Liberals in 2004/2006.

    DL, if you are going to complain about somebody getting the facts wrong, make sure your facts are right.

    Only one of the polls listed on Wikipedia showed the Ontario Tories in the lead. So I don't know why you think the polls pointed to a Tory victory.

    The polling percentages for BC liberals were actually fairly accurate. What wasn't accurate was the NDP vote which appeared to benefit from tactical green voting.

    In New Brunswick, the last poll from all polling companies was below the actual election day number. So you certainly could argue for under-representation there.

    I'm not arguing that there is a consistent trend of under-representation. But please, if you want to argue against it, know what the data actually says.

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  7. I'm pretty sure the liberal honeymoon will be over once Topp or Mulcair becomes leader of the NDP, however, if the Grits get a competent, bilingual leader like Trudeau or LeBlanc, they could create a red wave east of Manitoba.

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  8. DL let me stop you right there.

    I said "these days". Nobody cares what the polling was doing in 2006 !

    In '04 they over-estimated the CPC, in '06 it was about right, and then it was like 3 points in 2008 and closer to 5 under in 2011.

    The trendline is clear !!

    And NO the PC's were not "crushed" in Ontario, they virtually tied the Liberals.

    And they outperformed Eric's projection !

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  9. @Anonymous 4:24

    In all of those elections it was within the margin over error for Nanos. Their may have been a systemic bias against the Conservatives in some polls, but I don't think there's any evidence for Nanos. I personally put them on the top tier for pollsters I find the most credible, along with Angus Reid.

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  10. "I'm pretty sure the liberal honeymoon will be over once Topp or Mulcair becomes leader of the NDP, however, if the Grits get a competent, bilingual leader like Trudeau or LeBlanc, they could create a red wave east of Manitoba."

    Really? You think if Brian Topp, who has proposed raising taxes by upwards of 50%, became leader he would be able to take away a significant amount of support from the Liberals?

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  11. I would question the effectiveness of the Liberal vote in Ontario. They seem to be getting pushed into pockets. That and the Tory machine is very very good at micro targeting, something neither the NDP nor the Liberals will be able to match in 2015.

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  12. @Anonymous 17:45

    Yah, I agree. I think the NDP are going to go from having the strongest leader to having the weakest leader. Unless they get Mulcair but he's really only impressive in Quebec.

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  13. "I said "these days". Nobody cares what the polling was doing in 2006!"

    Fine, but if we are speculating about the 2015 election four years from now - who knows whether polls in 2015 will under- of over-estimate anyone in particular.

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  14. @Anonymous 17:45, as far as I know, Topp is basically proposing creating a new higher income bracket and increasing the taxation rate on that. This isn't something that will negatively affect most people and the resulting revenue will help balance the books and maybe even help reduce income inequality back to the level of a few decades ago (read "The Spirit Level" for evidence of how corrosive high income inequality is for a society).

    Frankly, I think it's a pretty courageous and sensible position to take, speaking as someone who voted Liberal in the federal election.

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  15. The increase in corporate taxes is where he loses me. There are plenty of countries (well, 6) that are both more prosperous than us and more equal, and they tend to have lower corporate taxes, and higher VAT and income taxes.

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