Two polls released this week show the gap between the Parti Québécois and the Liberals has narrowed to virtual nothingness, with one survey putting the parties in a tie and the other giving the Liberals a two-point lead.
CROP was last in the field Mar. 15-19, and since then the PQ has dropped six points to 28%, behind the Liberals who are unchanged at 30%. The CAQ is up one point to 25%, while Québec Solidaire trails with 8% support.
That is a big drop for the Parti Québécois in only a month, and it took place throughout the province.
They still lead among francophones, but they are down nine points to 32%. They are at 32% as well in the regions of Quebec, a drop of 10 points.
The Liberals lead among non-francophones with 69% (-7) and in Montreal with 34%, down two points. The Coalition Avenir Québec is ahead in Quebec City with 40%, a gain of three points.
But this points to a close race everywhere - the margin between first and third among francophones is only 10 points, and in no part of the province does one party hold a very significant lead (Quebec City has a small sample size).
Forum shows the race neck-and-neck at 35% apiece for the PQ and the Liberals, but the CAQ is well behind with only 16%.
The PQ leads among francophones with 39% support and in the regions of Quebec with about 42%. The Liberals are ahead with 69% among non-francophones, 41% in Montreal, and 32% in Quebec City.
But Forum and CROP only really agree that the race between the PQ and the Liberals is close, and that the Liberals have the edge in Montreal and the PQ in the regions. Apart from that, there is little that is similar with CROP's polling.
And if we compare the trends by looking back at Forum's poll taken on Mar. 21, the disagreements are even greater. Though Forum has the PQ down six points since that poll, echoing CROP's drop, they have the Liberals up six points and the CAQ down three.
Forum sees the Liberals up in Montreal and the PQ and CAQ down, while Forum has the Liberals and PQ down and the CAQ up. In Quebec City, the CAQ is either way behind with 20% and dropping (Forum) or at 40% and gaining (CROP).
It either points to a large degree of volatility, or some odd results. What we can say definitively, however, is that the Parti Québécois has lost support over the last month and that they are effectively tied with the Liberals.
The PQ wins 15 seats in Montreal, one in Quebec City, and 33 in the rest of the province, while the Liberals win 32 in Montreal, three in Quebec City, and 11 in the rest of the province. The CAQ manages nine seats in and around Montreal, seven in Quebec City, and 12 in the regions.
With Forum's numbers, however, the PQ wins 60 seats to the Liberals' 58, with only five going to the CAQ. It is really the difference in opinion on where CAQ stands that separates the two polls.
In this scenario, the PQ wins 21 seats in Montreal, two in Quebec City, and 37 in the rest of the province. The Liberals win 35 seats in Montreal, seven in Quebec City, and 16 in the rest of the province, while the CAQ wins two seats in Quebec City and three in the regions.
It is difficult to bring these two polls together, but what does seem clear is that the Liberals have a big advantage in Montreal, while the Parti Québécois wins their seats primarily outside of the two cities. That makes the battleground the suburbs in between, and the role the CAQ plays becomes important at that point. If they are doing as well as they are in CROP's polling, then the suburbs become a three-way contest and the party can challenge the PQ in some of the more conservative rural parts of Quebec. If the CAQ is doing as badly as they are in Forum's polling, than they won't be a factor at all.
But Quebecers seem ready for an election. Forum puts support for a new vote at 49%, which is quite high. Satisfaction with the government is still incredibly low, and Charest's personal approval rating is lower than either Marois's or Legault's. Nevertheless, incumbents have won all seven of the provincial and federal elections held in the last 12 months.