Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NDP holds wide lead over divided right in B.C.

Though the B.C. New Democrats have been leading in British Columbia for some time, the margin between them and the governing Liberals appear to be widening. Two polls released since the beginning of April put that gap at 20 points or more. They also put the Liberals and the B.C. Conservatives in a tie. On the eve of two by-elections, this means that Christy Clark is in dire straits.
The most recent survey was conducted by Forum Research on Apr. 11. They had last been in the field on Mar. 19, and since then the New Democrats have slipped one point to 46%. That is not much of a problem for Adrian Dix, however, as that still gives him a 23-point lead over the Liberals, up two points to 23%.

The Conservatives are also up two points to 23%, putting them in a tie with the government. The Greens, meanwhile, are down one to 8%.

The NDP has uniform support across the province, leading in the Interior and North with 43% (-5), Vancouver and the Lower Mainland with 45% (-1), and on Vancouver Island with 50% (unchanged).

The Liberals and Conservatives, too, have generally uniform support. But the Conservatives have the edge in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland at 24% (+3) and in the Interior and North, where they also have 24% support. The Liberals, however, are second on Vancouver Island with 22%, up three points. They are also up three points in the Interior and North to 20% support.

If the Greens and Conservatives were closer to their 2009 levels of support, the New Democrats would still likely win with 46% province-wide. With the Conservatives dead-even with the Liberals, it is a landslide.
Angus-Reid's poll is somewhat older, having been taken at the end of March. But the poll comes to the same conclusions, with the New Democrats at 43%, a gain of one point since Angus-Reid's Jan. 27-29 poll.

The real indication of how things have changed over the last few months, however, is that the Liberals are down five points to 23% while the Conservatives are up four points to that level of support. The swing has been taking place almost entirely between these two parties.

The Greens are up two to 8%. That means Angus-Reid and Forum's results are identical, except for the 43% to 46% disparity for the NDP.

But regionally, things were less uniform in Angus-Reid's polling. The New Democrats lead with 54% in the North (+11), 51% on Vancouver Island (unchanged), and 46% in Metro Vancouver (+4). They are second to the Conservatives in the Interior with 30%, a drop of seven points.

The Conservatives lead with 32% (+12) in that part of the province, where most of their growth has taken place. They are also second on Vancouver Island with 20% (+8), while the Liberals place second in Metro Vancouver with 24% (-3) and in the North with 23% (-4). But the margins of error are much smaller in the regional samples, meaning that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have a statistically significant edge over one another in any part of British Columbia.

In seats, however, the Liberals get the slight edge for the role of the Official Opposition. Nevertheless, in both Angus-Reid and Forum polls the New Democrats would romp to a huge majority of 66 (Angus-Reid) or 71 (Forum) seats.

The Liberals win 12 seats with Angus-Reid's numbers, while the Conservatives take five seats. With Forum's results, the Liberals win eight seats and the Conservatives four.

But neither of these two parties have particularly popular leaders. While Adrian Dix tops the list on the Best Premier question with 25% in Angus-Reid's polling, a drop of one point since January, Clark is down five points to 17%. John Cummins of the Conservatives is up four to 12%.

Both Clark and Cummins have negative approval ratings. Clark's approval stands at between 26% and 32% depending on the poll, compared to a disapproval of between 59% and 60%. Cummins has an approval rating of 28% in both polls, while his disapproval stands at between 35% and 38%. This gives Christy Clark a negative net rating of about 31 points, with Cummins at around -9.

Dix, on the other hand, has an approval rating of between 38% and 45% and a disapproval rating of between 35% and 40%. His net rating is an average of +4. Certainly not gangbusters, but heads and shoulders above his two rivals.

The odds are that his party will also come out on top in tomorrow's two by-elections in Chilliwack-Hope and Port Moody-Coquitlam. If we apply these two polls to the swing model for these two individual ridings, we get the following results (not a prediction!):

New Democrats: 41-43%
Liberals: 32%
Conservatives: 26-27%

New Democrats: 46%
Liberals: 28-30%
Conservatives: 24-26%

Of course, by-elections can be unpredictable. I will be especially looking to see how the Conservatives do. These ridings are not in the parts of the province where the Conservatives should be expected to do best, but both of these polls show that the party is competitive (at least compared to the Liberals) throughout British Columbia. Will their vote turn out? Are they a real alternative option in the province? We'll find out tomorrow night.

Neither of these seats belong to the New Democrats. It will thus be a coup if they win both, but as they are almost assured of a good result they will have a positive headline whether they win them or not. Expectations for the Liberals are already low, so the damage will be somewhat mitigated if they lose one of them. If she wins both, she may be able to start turning things around for her party. If she loses both, the decline will continue. And for the Conservatives, anything over 20% will show they are the real deal.

But neither Dix nor Cummins have nearly as much riding on these results as the premier. By-elections can be odd little one-off events that have no wider meaning, but the effect the results will have on the political mood in the province could be significant.


  1. I wouldn't call it a coup if the NDP wins those byelections. The only byelection won by a governing party in the last 30 years was Christy Clark's byelection last year. What will be more tricky is who comes third.

    1. Any day you can sweep by-elections when your party is not the incumbent is a good news day!

  2. Ah, you may be unfamiliar with local conditions in Chilliwack/Hope. While technically in the Lower Mainland/Metro area for the purposes of these polls, the riding trends strongly small-c conservative with a heavy church-going presence. The outcome is likely to be much closer with the Conservatives having a strong shot at the win, notwithstanding the regional poll results.

    1. I gotta agree with Anonymous here. Technically Chilliwack-Hope isn't even part of Metro Vancouver - it's part of the Fraser Valley Regional District, and that's a much more conservative place that Metro Vancouver. The BC Liberal candidate even when canvassing on horseback ( I think most peoples' expectations are for the BC Conservatives to finish strong here - though whether or not that's enough to get ahead of the NDP or BC Liberals remains to be seen.

      I think the BC Liberals are going to do better than expected here too though. Laurie Throness' conservative credentials are impeccable, and he's extremely charismatic in person. I wouldn't be surprised to see a BC Liberal win here based on his strength as a candidate.

    2. I agree Anon. The Conservatives could have a shot here thanks to the so-called, Bible Belt affect. I think the NDP have their best shot in Port Moody-Coquitlam. But their candidate in Chilliwack-Hope (O'Mahoney) busted her hump during the federal election and got a surprisingly strong second. She could benefit from a split right vote and take the seat also. Either way, it should be an interesting appetizer to the main event next spring.

    3. I would agree. I see Chilliwack as a two-way race between the NDP and Conservatives.

      The Liberals finishing third will be bad for them, but the Conservatives winning would be even worse.

    4. I believe Robbins put out a poll in Chilliwack-Hope showing the NDP 35 BCC 34 BCL 28.

  3. Eric, re Anonymous 9:28's point about specific local trends in Chilliwack-Hope, do you have any information about how the riding votes when compared to regional numbers? Do you still have access to polls from the 2009 election to compare how it voted then compared to regional polling for the Lower Mainland?

    1. I don't have access to any polls that aren't already available elsewhere. My own detailed tracking of polls (including regional breakdowns) only goes back to the end of 2010 provincially.

  4. My money is unfortunately on the NDP for Chilliwack. During my recent drive through much of the riding I saw the NDP had the balance of signage posted on private property, versus all the Liberal and Conservative and anonymous libertarian signs that were posted on public space.

  5. Signs don't mean a thing, and I say that as a New Democrat. I have worked in pleny of campaigns where the opposition had more signs on private property where we smoked em!

    I hope for New Dem wins, but if you are trying to predict using signage, rolling the dice would work just as well as a predictor.

    Art Cramer

    1. Signs are only useful as a predictor when there is a dramatic change from how signs were in the prior election. If houses that, election after election, had Liberal signs suddenly have Conservative signs, that can mean something. It is a weak indicator, but in those specific kinds of circumstances, it can have some value.

    2. It is a little anecdotal, though, since even if you travel a lot within the riding you are likely only seeing a small fraction of the lawn signs.

    3. I know that signage is of little value on its own, but combined with all the other data presented, i'm gonna gonna go with the NDP

  6. Below are the 2009 election results for Chilliwack Hope


    LIB Barry Penner
    53.49% ...
    NDP Gwen O'Mahony

    CON Hans Mulder

    GRN Guy Durnin

    First off, the Greens aren`t running a candidate, those Green voters will NOT go to the Cons or the Liberals, Gwen O`Mahony received just over 33%...Now remember, the BC Liberals weren`t hated(near as much) in May 2009..

    The Green votes will go to O`Mahony, her base support is 33%, add the Green vote to that total..38.87 %...

    I guarantee that the BC Liberal`s vote won`t completely collapse in Chilliwack-Hope...But as you can see Gwen is already well over 1/3rd of the vote, almost 40% in fact..

    BC Liberals have lost half their vote, but here we go again, at least 5% of the BC Liberal vote support has gone to the NDP, maybe more, John Cummins is from the old Reform part of the Conservatives, abortion, cut Government services, privatize everything, religious dominant thought processes..

    Also, there is a very strong Environmental vote in Chillwack-Hope, with Enbridge threatening and now Kinder Morgan, I suggest that many centrist voters from the Liberals would rather go NDP than Harper`s Reformer`s farm team, not to mention Harper`s pension and health care cuts...Still with the environment, Gordon Campbell in 2009 had hoodwinked BCer`s(some) into thinking he was green, carbon tax, carbon trading and offsets, Liberals have thrown out all of their green credentials with LNG, fracking, incinerators, Fish lake, now the assault on the ALR, and more IPPs...

    I`m adding another 4% points of support to Gwen O`Mahony, giving her a total of..

    42% of the vote, a clear winner...Yes indeed, Gwen O`Mahony will win Chilliwack hope, an NDP sweep in by-elections.

  7. It would interesting to know... Does the BC NDP plan on adopting a proportional representation system if they are elected. I know that there are many people in BC that support such a change, from what I have heard in the media. Does anybody know if the NDP is promising to bring this change in and how do BC residents feel about that?

    1. They could try! We've had two referenda on a fairly well designed PR system and they both narrowly failed. Given the lack of political benefit to be had from such a policy, I don't know if they'll attempt it (especially since said reform is associated with the Campbell government). I think people here generally support a more proportional system, but there is a glaring lack of public awareness on the issue, and thus little overt support or impetus to do anything.

    2. Matthew, the referenda (or at least the first one) only failed because a ludicrously high bar was imposed on them. The requirement to get 60% overall and 50% in 60% of ridings was something most referenda could never hope to meet. And yet in the 2005 referendum, the result was 57.69% for Yes, and 50% in 60% was achieved, so by any rational standard, BC supported the change to STV.

  8. Hi Eric, my name's Richard. I'm a researcher from London.

    Do you know where I can find voting intentions data for Canada going back to 2006? I'm preferably looking for data from a few different pollsters if possible.

    Would be really grateful if you (or anyone else) could point me in the right direction.

    Many thanks,


    1. The Wikipedia pages for the 2008 and 2011 federal elections have pretty good records going back to the 2006 election. I know it isn't the best of sources, but it might be a good start.

  9. WOW your model's numbers for Chilliwack-Hope are almost spot on right now. Well done, sir.

    1. Agree. Good work Eric (and Grant G). I wonder whether O'Mahony can hold onto Chilliwack-Hope next May, especially if the Liberal vote collapses and goes Conservative. She's the first NDP to ever win this constituency, so no small accomplishment. Right-wing splits are a lovely thing to behold.


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