Thursday, May 3, 2012

NDP leads Conservatives by three

A new survey by Harris-Decima for The Canadian Press puts the New Democrats three points up on the Conservatives, making this the fourth of the last eight polls putting the Tories and NDP neck-and-neck or giving the New Democrats the lead.
Unfortunately, Harris-Decima will not be releasing any of the regional results outside of Ontario and Quebec.

Nationally, however, the New Democrats are up one point from Harris-Decima's Mar. 22-Apr. 2 poll and now lead with 33% support. The Conservatives are down four points to 30%.

Though this puts the lead well within the margin of error, a three point edge is nevertheless a strong indicator that the NDP is very likely in front.

The Liberals are up one point to 20%, while the Greens are unchanged at 8% support. The Bloc Québécois has 7% at the national level.

The race is a very close one in Ontario, where the Conservatives have dropped a statistically significant eight points to reach 33%, only two points up on the NDP (themselves up by five points). The Liberals have gained three points and have 27% support, while the Greens are at 7%.

In Quebec, the New Democrats are unchanged at 39% support while the Bloc Québécois is up five points to 29%. The Liberals are steady at 14% while the Conservatives are down four points to only 10% support.

The Bloc number is an interesting one. Since Thomas Mulcair became leader of the NDP, the Bloc's support has been registered at anywhere between 16% and 29%. On the one hand, the Bloc is in serious danger of being dealt a final death blow, on the other hand they are in a decent position. During the NDP interregnum, the Bloc's support picked up and the polls were in general agreement. But before the NDP dropped in Quebec, we were having the same problem in judging the Bloc's support. It would appear that we are returning to that uncertainty.

It is worth noting that with this Harris-Decima poll, the weighted federal poll averages (at the top of this page) now put the Conservatives and the New Democrats dead even at 33% apiece.

Though Harris-Decima has opted not to release all of their information (full transparency is always best, but it is up to them and their media partners in the end), it is still possible to do a rough seat projection by applying the national swing from the 2011 election to the mystery provinces.

UPDATE: Harris-Decima tells me that they decided not to release the regional data for anything other than Ontario and Quebec because of small sample sizes. Harris-Decima normally conducts polling over two-week periods with samples of 2,000, but in this particular case they only did a poll of 1,000. I am told that they will return to their usual larger polls with more detailed breakdowns next time.

Although it is possible that the actual results of the Harris-Decima poll, say, give the NDP a big lead in British Columbia that would change things to a significant degree, with a more even-keeled application of the shifts in support from the last election the seat projection for this poll demonstrates the problem the New Democrats have with vote efficiency.

Though leading by three points, this poll would deliver only 113 seats to the New Democrats and 128 to the Conservatives, with the Liberals at 57, the Bloc Québécois winning nine, and the Greens holding one.

The problem is, as always, Ontario and the West. The Conservatives' big advantage in Alberta and the Prairies is made up for by the NDP's sweeping of Quebec, but Ontario is a thorn in the NDP's side. They need to have a significant lead over the Conservatives in order to take a big chunk of the seats.

Instead, the Conservatives win 50 seats in Ontario with this poll and three in Quebec, with 75 seats being won in the rest of the country (where we do not know the real results of Harris-Decima's poll).

The New Democrats win 27 seats in Ontario and 56 in Quebec, with the remaining 30 being won in the rest of the country.

The Liberals win 29 seats in Ontario, seven in Quebec, and 21 in the rest of the country.

In a 338-seat House, the Conservatives likely take 144 to 121 for the NDP and 62 for the Liberals. This increases the share of seats the Conservatives hold.

Nevertheless, the New Democrats would likely emerge from these results leading a government, as they could potentially combine with the Liberals for a majority. Perhaps that is enough for the NDP, and as they would have won the popular vote in this hypothetical election their legitimacy would be difficult to question.

Though Ontario is still problematic for the NDP, trailing by two points is the best result I have for them in my records going back to the beginning of 2010 (and undoubtedly long before that as well). If other polls confirm that the Conservatives and New Democrats are running neck-and-neck in this battleground province, then we can say that the NDP is heading in the right direction.

But they need more than a neck-and-neck race if they are to definitively topple the Conservatives. Though it is quite possible that the New Democrats could out-perform expectations in Ontario if they do start getting close to the Tories, the numbers are hard to find for the kind of swing they need. At least eight more seats in Ontario would need to swing from the Conservatives to the NDP with these numbers, and though I can identify eight potential swing seats for the NDP in Ontario over-and-above the projected results, I can only identify eight seats and they start to push the boundaries of plausibility. The party still has a long way to go.

47 comments:

  1. What could be the reason that Harris-Decima didn't release regional results outside of Quebec and Ontario?

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    1. Perhaps it is on principle because the samples are small (they usually do 2,000-people polls over two weeks, rather than this 1,000-people poll over four days), perhaps they had wonky results, maybe they just did not want to distract attention. No idea, but I did ask.

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    2. As updated in the post, I was correct in my first guest - sample sizes are the reason.

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  2. If the Libs can recover in Ontario (not entirely unrealistic given their provincial election win there) it is theoretically possible for the Cons to fall to 3rd across the country.
    What would it do to politics in Canada if the top 2 parties were the NDP and the Lib? Changes the debate considerably, no? Why throw your vote away on the Cons, who are on the way out, when its really a 2-way race between orange & red?
    In that scenario, voters who waver back & forth between Libs & Cons have a strong motivation to move back to LPC (assuming they get their act together) and the whole political landscape in this county makes a monumental shift. I wouldn't have thought it possible before the last election, but campaigns matter, and both the Federal and Alberta elections I think have proven that things can change in strange ways.

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    1. This is a dream. For the CPC to fall to third nationally, assuming a simple CPC to LPC swing, the Libs would have to pick up about 4.5 percentage points of the CPC vote. Polls over the years since the merger of the PCs and Canadian Alliance have established pretty firmly that there is a floor of at, or just below, 30% for Conservative support. For that to change, there would need to be some kind of earthshaking political event.

      It would also require the Libs to move dramatically to the right, because the votes available for them to pick up from the CPC are the blue Liberal/red Tory constituency. The CPC is doing the Liberals some favours in this regard by having a series of scandals that damage the basic brand of the CPC as being sound fiscal managers, but something more will be needed.

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    2. When the NDP were on top in 1987, it was with the LPC in 2nd and the governing PCs a distant third. Of course, a year later that whole equation got turned on its head.

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    3. The Conservatives have actually placed third federally before. They survived.

      Mike Harris even came third his first election as leader, with the NDP in first and the Liberals in second. I seem to recall him winning two majorities after that.

      Politics are more fluid than most people realize IMHO.

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  3. Looking at the chart of monthly poll averages, this is a tie for the lowest the CPC has ever been, and the first time they have not led in the poll averages June 2009. It seems like the scandals are finally, finally, sticking to the CPC. Perhaps they came to fast and too thick to dodge them all this time.

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  4. That last paragraph, of course, could have been written almost verbatim in summer 1990. It was very unclear back then where the seats would come from for the NDP, and they ended up winning really weird, unpredictable seats like Hastings-Peterborough and Victoria-Haliburton.

    It's much too early to speculate on which seats are plausible or implausible targets for the NDP in 2015.

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    1. I was referring to the NDP at these levels of support - i.e., at 31% to 33% for the Tories in Ontario it is difficult to find the eight seats that the NDP would need to swing their way to get a plurality over the Conservatives.

      If the NDP ends up at 35% to 30% for the CPC in Ontario, then of course it is a whole different set of seats I'd be looking at.

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    2. Peterborough was often an area of NDP strength decades ago, as well....Walter Pitman.

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    3. Even if you can't find the seats necessarily, there may be idiosyncratic races that would be impossible for you to predict.

      Also, are numbers for the sub-regions in Ontario available for many pollsters?

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    4. Sure, but then it also requires that the model calls all the NDP seats correctly AND the "swing" seats all go the NDP's way. It asks a lot.

      No, sub-regions are almost never included in breakdowns, unless the poll is of one province only. Samples are usually too small at the national level for sub-regional breakdowns.

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    5. That's too bad, as that would be useful information to see if the NDP's support in Ontario was becoming more efficiently distributed.

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  5. For sure there will be some wiggling between now and the 2015 elections, but the trend is certainly the NDP's friend.

    Of course if the Tories get a death blow, then the 2015 elections could be quite exciting :)

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  6. You all do realize there are two things going on here at the same time ?

    The first being the normal disenchantment with the ruling party, that means part of the CPC drop is there.

    Second is the NDP distinctly moving towards the centre. Their rhetoric and performance in the House and elsewhere is very much laying the "ultra-left socialists" thing to bed.

    So this is going to be a very interesting trip !!

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  7. @Eric

    Any ideal why the graph in the PDF for the Ontario section shows the NDP higher than the CPC, even though the numbers say different?


    EM

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    1. Probably an error in the lines, as you can see the coloured dots at the end of the graph are in the correct places.

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    2. Could it also be that they did some kind of nightly tracking of the poll results and worked that into the graph, i.e. the graph is showing the trend in the latest sample, not just the final result?

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  8. The Libs would probably loose all their seats in Quebec as in places like Papineau and Bourassa, Bloc support would go the NDP's way.
    So the NDP seat count in Quebec would go up to between 60-70 seats. Combine that with an NDP pick-up here and there in the Maritimes and prairies and the NDP would probably come out tied with the Conservatives seat wise.

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    1. The NDP needs to be a lot higher than 39% to start picking off Liberal seats.

      With these levels of support the Liberals would likely win seven seats, as I mentioned in this post.

      And I do have the NDP picking up a few seats in Atlantic Canada and the Prairies already...

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    2. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter if the seats are essentially tied or if the NDP are 10-20 seats back of the CPC if the NDP has won the popular vote. Winning the popular vote provides democratic legitimacy to the House refusing to vote confidence in a Harper minority trying to meet the House after the election. Of course such a move has constitutional legitimacy, but it is much harder to argue against when the second party by seats was the first party by vote.

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    3. A riding like Bourassa is just a personal fiefdom for Denis Coderre. Once he quits to run for mayor of Montreal, the Liberal vote there will crash like it did in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca when Keith Martin quit.

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  9. The next few years will probably be a back and forth between the NDP and the Conservative. By crunch time 2015 liberal support will depend on how the Conservatives are doing in terms of general popularity, and the Bloc has no hope at all regardless of placing high in polls. The Mulcair technique is so far working wonders, throwing out ideology and simply calling for "uniting progressives". There's still a left wing streak in the party, but there's a definite call for a national anyone but Harper government.
    -Taylor

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  10. The conservative brand is finally showing signs of weakness. Thanks to themselves. Harper said that the best thing for Canada is a strong conservative majority. He got his wish didn't he! He didn't factor in that if he gets his majority, he and the CPC are exposed. No more blaming the liberals and NDP for holding them back, no more blaming the liberals and NDP for forcing them to do this and that etc. Harper and his cronies could basically do anything they wanted, despite the opposition.

    If trends continue and this is not mostly due to the "Mulcair honeymoon" but people are finally starting to realize what a terrible choice they made last May, there might not be a need for a coalition of the NDP and liberals. The NDP appear to be doing just fine by themselves and could possibly form the government in 2015. Maybe even sooner if it is soon decided that the CPC are unfit to govern due to the multiple scandals!

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  11. With their solid majority, the Conservative brand isn't even relevant again for another couple of years.

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    1. "With their solid majority, the Conservative brand isn't even relevant again for another couple of years."

      Brian Mulroney, circa 1990.

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    2. Sure it matters, the idea of branding is to associate an idea in the public mind over time with your brand. Positive brands don't make themselves overnight.

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    3. Sorry, Ira, but that is insipid. People form impressions over time. A "kick the bums out" mood doesn't develop over night. Just like the country didn't decide to kick the Liberals out in one fell swoop in 2004, but rather did it in a couple of stages. The most damaging thing is what is reflected in the Nanos leadership index. Canadians' opinion of Harper has cratered, and he is losing the advantage of being incumbent PM in that regard.

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    4. It didn't matter that Brian Mulroney was unpopular in 1990. It mattered that he was unpopular in 1992. And even then his party could have won in 1993 election if Kim Campbell hadn't run such a bad campaign.

      Jean Charest should be enough to teach us that political fortunes can change a lot in two or three years.

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    5. But there are counter-examples as well. Was not the NDP in Ontario under Rae very unpopular long before they were soundly defeated in 1995?

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    6. I agree that incumbents can make a comeback Ira, but you can't dispute that sagging poll numbers do make it harder to win re-election. It's not insurmountable, just more difficult.

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    7. I feel too that there's a big difference between a party's decisions being unpopular and its brand being unpopular. The former is much easier to fix. The latter...

      All you need to look at is the decline of the Liberals from 2002 on. Their actual governing was never all that unpopular, but the growing perception of a party that was divided and corrupt still removed them from power.

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    8. Exactly Ryan, Harper is cratering now because his brand has been damaged with the lies and fraud and his personal numbers are going down because of his unpopular governing style.

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  12. so much speculation over a poll 1/4 of the way into the term. you can not predict ANYTHING. all you can say is that NDP are for real. anything else is pretty much just enjoying the sound of your own voice.

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  13. Sadly, people tend to forget such event. I think Quebec prime minister prove that you could be totaly unpopular and form government upon government.

    Conservative are ruling like they should, put forward the unpopular and agenda stuff, then they will try to rule quietly before giving little thing left in right in their final year. The quiet part should start next Autumn.

    This trend only serve the purpose of giving the NPD sometime to consolidate theirs foundations in Quebec. And form a future team of capable minister, giving them media attention. Both are important. And they are doing it, good for them.

    Meanwhile, polls are only interesting as they give an insight on how Canada like a Conservative government free to do all of his agenda. Well, most of it anyways.

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  14. Never likely to ever repeat itself in an election. Its the Mulcair honeymoon period but when Canadians see what the NDP real agenda is they will run mile (or should that be 1.69km).

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    1. So the fear mongering begins, or continues. Let's try appeasement to Hitler again? Oh; that was British Conservative Chamberlain in 1938; or Canadian Liberal PM King visiting Hitler in 1937 and relieved by the Munich Agreement. How about something more contemporary like keeping the Canadian health care system from resembling that in the US...Canadians would run from that!! Right.

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  15. any poll that shows a marked shift like this without giving regional breakdowns is suspect in my opinion. The fact that they didn't release breakdowns outside of ontario and quebec tells me they had some results out west that are somewhat unbelievable. of course, if they showed the NDP ahead in alberta, everyone would know the numbers are bogus, so they didn't release it to try and lend credibility to their national numbers.

    H-D is notoriously unreliable and I'd be very reticent to place any stock in this poll at all.

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    1. Harris-Decima has one of the better track records in my ranking of pollsters going back to 2003.

      Considering Allan Gregg, who recently criticized the industry and how the media reports poll, is affiliated with HD, I'm not too surprised they decided not to release their small sample regional numbers.

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  16. ...and yet they perpetually understate conservative numbers. in both 2008 and 2011, they underestimated conservative support by ~3.5% and between elections, always see the most precipitous drops of support for conservative parties between elections. I couldn't find your house-effects chart anymore, but from what I've seen, H-D tends to have a left-leaning bias.

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    1. Decima overstated Conservative support in 2006 and understated Liberal support. How do you reconcile that with your narrative of a left-wing bias?

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    2. I can qualify it with "in recent history..." . Just because they did the opposite 6 years ago doesn't negate a trend over the past few elections.

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    3. None of this under/overstating matters. The trend is there. Harper is dropping significantly in the polls. His recent behavior has cost him dearly and I do not think he can recover from this. When Harper became a Twitter laughingstock over the Nazi comment, that was his death.

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  17. Where is it that is included under the "praries"?

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    1. Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Surely that is obvious by process of elimination, since both Alberta and Ontario have separate entries.

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    2. But that leaves the territories.

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