Monday, April 30, 2012

Tories narrowly lead NDP

A year after the federal election, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats are almost neck-and-neck in national voting intentions. But while the gain for the main opposition party is well within the norm, the Prime Minister has lost more support than he did one year after his election victories in 2006 and 2008.

A weighted average of all public polls puts Conservative support at 34 per cent nationwide and narrowly ahead of the New Democrats, who trail with 32.9 per cent support. This represents a gain of 2.3 points over the last year for the NDP but a loss of 5.6 points for the Conservatives since the election. Compared to Mr. Harper’s past performances, this is a dramatic drop.

You can read the rest of the article, which includes a seat projection, at The Globe and Mail website here.

These latest set of numbers are heavily based upon the two latest polls by Nanos Research and Forum Research, reported by the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, respectively. Both put the gap between the Conservatives and the New Democrats at between two and three points, the only difference being that the Tories led in the first and the NDP in the second. This, effectively, makes them almost tied.

What better time, then, to begin tracking federal voting intentions. The chart at the top of this page shows the weighted average of all federal polls. These are unadjusted - they are simply the average weighted by date, sample size, and record of polling firm accuracy. They serve as a good one-stop to see how the parties are doing. I will update these numbers as new polls are released, and the chart will be moved off to the right-hand column once the projection for the next provincial election (Quebec) is ready.

With more than three years to go before the next federal election, clearly the stakes are somewhat low. But Canadian politics is now a bit of a marathon (every party admits the campaigning continues between the writs), and it should be fascinating to watch how party support rises and falls over the next few years.

Some might consider that the numbers are meaningless this far out from an election. To them I say that the public opinion of Canadians is never meaningless, and that these federal polls act as an on-going barometer of what Canadians think of what the parties are doing. Those that, for instance, dismissed the NDP's decline in Quebec during the leadership race were dangerously dismissing the dissatisfaction Quebecers were having with that leadership race and the potential for anyone but Thomas Mulcair to come out on top. Those who today dismiss the Conservative slip are ignoring that a good deal of Canadians who had previously supported the Tories are unhappy with what the government is doing. These are important things to know - and what's best is that the polls are an objective measure.

I will not be maintaining an on-going seat projection. Along with the time it takes to keep a seat projection up to date, there is the problem of the boundary changes. Only once the new seats are decided and the votes have been transposed will I begin to consider maintaining an on-going projection. In the meantime, these check-ins with the Globe and Mail, projections for individual polls, and the seat projections that go along with the monthly poll averages should more than suffice!