Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Charest's personal numbers improve as election approaches

Léger Marketing and Le Devoir released a poll on the voting intentions of Quebecers on Saturday and Monday, indicating that at the provincial level things remain neck-and-neck. But while the Parti Québécois and Liberals are mostly treading water, Jean Charest's leadership and personal numbers were up significantly. That is the sort of thing that can decide a tight race.
Léger was last in the field May 19-21, and since then the Liberals are up a single point while the PQ has held steady. That gives the Liberals a narrow one-point margin over the Parti Québécois, 33% to 32%. Normally that kind of split can deliver the PQ a majority government, but it is slightly more complicated than that.

The Coalition Avenir Québec has dropped two points to 19%, while Québec Solidaire is down one point to 9%. The Greens and Option Nationale are unchanged at 4% and 1%, respectively.

There are two reasons why the Parti Québécois cannot pull a majority out of a one-point loss like they did in 1998. Firstly, the advantage they hold over francophones is not large enough. They have 38% support (-1) to 27% for the Liberals (+2), while the CAQ eats up 20% (-4) among this election-deciding demographic. Secondly, the PQ has not racked up a huge lead outside of Montreal and Quebec City. In the régions, the PQ holds only a four-point edge over the Liberals, 35% (-6) to 31% (+5). That is a big swing, and while the CAQ played the spoiler in the Argenteuil by-election for the Liberals, with 20% support (+1) they could play the spoiler for the PQ in a lot of other ridings throughout the province.

While that battle is going on in rural Quebec, the Liberals have a three-point lead in and around Montreal and a 14-point lead in Quebec City. However, the margin is narrowing in Montreal: the Liberals are down four points to 33% while the PQ is up four points to 30%. The CAQ is down four points to 17% while Québec Solidaire is down one to 9%.

The gap is widening in Quebec City, on the other hand, where the Liberals are up eight points to 38%. The CAQ has dropped nine to 24% and the PQ is down seven to 23%, giving the Liberals a lock on most of the seats in the provincial capital.

The Quebec provincial poll aggregate does include the numbers from Léger, including a more precise breakdown within the regions of Quebec. Léger gives the PQ a 16-point edge in western Quebec over the Liberals and a 20-point advantage in eastern Quebec. The Liberals, meanwhile, have a 16-point lead in central Quebec over the CAQ. But what is noteworthy are the numbers on and off the island of Montreal. The aggregate (which estimates support when numbers are lacking, as they are for the Montreal region) puts the Liberals well ahead on the island with 40% to the PQ's 24%, while Québec Solidaire is in third at 16%. Off the island, the race is closer: 34% for the PQ, 29% for the Liberals, and 24% for the CAQ.

Léger also released its numbers for the federal scene in Quebec. The New Democrats dominate with 52%, up five points from Léger's last federal poll of Apr. 2-4. The Bloc Québécois has dropped 11 points to only 18%, while the Conservatives are up four to 14% and the Liberals are up three to 13%.

For the NDP, that kind of landslide would deliver 67 of the province's 75 seats to the party, leaving only four for the Liberals, three for the Conservatives, and one seat for the Bloc.

Provincially, however, things are far more murky. These numbers deliver 58 seats apiece to the Parti Québécois and the Liberals. That is quite close to the 63 needed for a majority, suggesting that either party could come out on top with a small majority or a large minority government.

In this scenario, the CAQ's seven seats become extremely important. They can deliver a majority to either the PQ or the Liberals - the question is which. With only two seats, Québec Solidaire would not hold the balance of power.

Aside from Quebec City, where the Liberals win eight seats to the CAQ's two and the PQ's one, the election would be exceedingly close. In and around Montreal, the Liberals would win 30 seats to the PQ's 26, while in the rest of the province the PQ would win 31 seats to the Liberals 20 (and the CAQ's two).

Further complicating things, the CAQ is involved in 10 ridings where the projected margin is five points or less, the PQ is a factor in 20 of those ridings, and the Liberals are implicated in 23 close races. Assuming the parties win or lose all of these ridings where the margin is five points or less, the CAQ could win between four and 14 seats, the Parti Québécois between 45 and 65 seats, and the Liberals could win anywhere between 48 and 71 seats. That means a whole slew of outcomes (including, potentially, QS holding the balance of power) are more than plausible.

But Jean Charest has the advantage. In addition to his party's advantage, Charest's own personal ratings have improved. He is seen as the best person to be premier by 26% of Quebecers, a gain of eight points since May. Pauline Marois has dropped two points to 21% and François Legault is down four points to 19%. That is a big gap in what has been a race to the bottom for the last year or two.

And while Charest is still widely disliked (61% have a bad opinion of him), the number of people who said they have a good opinion of him increased by seven points since December to 30%. By comparison, Marois splits 34% to 53% and Amir Khadir, one of the two leaders of QS, splits 24% to 56% (a big drop since December). Legault still has the best numbers, at 47% good to 30% bad, but Mario Dumont also always had better personal approval ratings than his competitors. That worked for him in 2007, but only in 2007.

These good/bad numbers also point to where the parties have the potential to pick up new supporters. Fully 52% of Liberal voters have a good opinion of Legault, suggesting he needs to look to the PLQ and not the PQ for new support. The PQ and QS also overlap, as 43% of QS supporters have a good opinion of Marois and 43% of PQ supporters have a good opinion of Khadir.

The election is rumoured for September, and 55% of Quebecers like that idea (that sounds eerily close to a likely turnout rate). The Liberals have already put out a television ad reminiscent of Dalton McGuinty's plain-speaking ad from their 2011 campaign, while the PQ is putting together one of their own. The campaign may not officially start until mid-August, but it already seems like we're in the thick of it. With the numbers where they are, it could go down to the wire.


  1. Oh please, let's hope the turnout is higher than 55%...

    If PQ and PLQ hold same number of seats, Charest would have the first shot at a coalition. Would the CAQ go for it? I doubt CAQ voters would be very happy about that.

    Great job as always, Mr Grenier!

    1. My guess is that PLQ and CAQ would form a coalition government, possibly on the condition that a new premier is selected... with PQ and QS being the opposition. Especially since PLQ would more likely have a higher % vote than the PQ, in the case of a tie, it would be most fair to go with the plurality of Quebec voters.

    2. I can see the CAQ supporting either the PQ or the PLQ, but I can't see them entering into a formal coalition, particularly if they have a half-dozen seats or so.

    3. I can see that too Eric, but in the case of a tie, if the CAQ supports the PQ when the PLQ receives a greater percentage of the vote, they could receive a backlash.

    4. In such a scenario I can't see the CAQ enter into a formal coalition with either the PLQ/ PQ. It would be an unstable situation.

      By convention Charest remains as premier until defeated in the House. It gives the PLQ an opportunity to present a budget likely packed with enough CAQ policies to gain their votes.

      Anything could happen of course, with only 7 seats the CAQ members could be persuaded to cross the floor with the offers of cabinet posts by either Marois or Charest.

    5. You don't get to present a budget before testing the confidence of the chamber with a speech from the throne, so the PLQ couldn't just go straight to a budget.

    6. TS,

      Depending on how the Government introduces legislation in the House a vote on the budget could come before a vote on the Throne speech. The Government essentially controls the timing of government business, although opposition days (which can be moved) could be used to introduce confidence motions. The Throne speech itself could reference the budget thereby integrating the two.

      Quebec doesn't have a Throne speech anymore, separatists taken offence some years back. The premier and LG do address the House but, I do not know if they are put to a vote. I am unsure how the convention has developed, a speech by the premier alone would not automatically be a confidence motion since, in the case of both budget and Throne speech approval comes first from the Crown. But a vote very well may take place and be considered a confideence measure. So far I have not found such a reference.

    7. Derek, parliamentary convention require an initial test of confidence. I can't think of any case in which a government has proposed a substantive measure prior to formally testing the confidence of the chamber. A government has the right to continue to govern until it loses confidence, but it is also required to demonstrate confidence after an election.

    8. TS,

      An initial test of confidence could very well be a budget. There are no hard and fast rules mandating the first test be a vote on the reply to the Speech from the Throne.

      Our current Parliament introduced a budget immediately after the Throne speech (June 2011). Votes were held on both amendments and the budget before a formal vote was held on the reply to the Speech from the Throne. Indeed after reviewing Hansard I can find no evidence a formal vote took place on the Speech. In the context of a majority Government the Loyal Address of the House is a mere formality but, it demonstrates confidence votes can be any piece of Legislation. While a Throne Speech may be required to open Parliament the order of business is determined by Parliament alone. In this example the budget was the first test of confidence.

      This is not simply a Canadian convention.
      In the UK during the first session of the current Parliament second reading on bills occured while MPs were still debating the Loyal Address. The ability of Parliament to determine the order of debate and legislation is well known. Before every Throne Speech a pro forma bill is read to demonstrate the authority and independence of both Houses vis a vis the Crown.

      A Government is not required to demonstrate confidence. They hold the confidence of the Crown by virtue of their commission. A vote on a Throne speech is usually a formality. One reason they are an important event on the parliamentary calendar is because they often provide the first test of confidence in a Government.

      It is up to the opposition parties to demonstrate the Government has lost the confidence of the House in order for the commission to be removed. This was perhaps best demonstrated by the prorogation of 2008. The PM had lost the confidence of the House but, loss of confidence was not formally demonstrated so, the PM maintained the confidence of the Crown.

      In any case no doubt the Government must maintain the will of the House but, they are not required to demonstrate they hold the confidence after an election or any other time. Indeed, if they do not hold confidence this should become apparent almost from the beginning; election of an opposition Speaker, inability to have Government motions passed, the re-ordering of the order paper, appointment of committee chairs, defeat of Government bills on first reading, et cetera.

    9. "Quebec doesn't have a Throne speech anymore, separatists taken offence some years back." Not only the separatists, but also the Liberals: http://www.sptimes.com/2007/05/06/Worldandnation/Quebec_dredges_up_mon.shtml They're just following the people's wish to at least reduce the crown's role in the Quebecer government. And rightfully so.

    10. Jack,

      Thank you for the link. You are entitled to your opinions but, reducing the "crown's role" (sic) by limiting its duties may have unintended consequences. A Throne speech is a confidence motion since, it must be approved by the Crown before it is read. By eliminating it they reduce the number of automatic confidence measures a government may face. As per above the Premier does address the House. While such an address may be deemed a confidence matter such a designation is determined by the premier (unless a convention has developed to the contrary). Even if such a convention has developed I would theorise the vote would not be conclusive and that a formal motion of non-confidence would be granted if requested.

      Reducing the role of the Crown in effect reduces the opportunities to demonstrate the will of the House and responsible government. Such an outcome may not be in the best interest of Quebeckers.

    11. What actually got on my nerves was "separatists taken offence some years back". I gave you that link to show you that it's not only the "separatists" (I prefer to call them sovereigntists) who aren't that warm to the whole monarchy thing. That is my point that I think you should be seeing. I apologize if I went too far in my comment, so I'll stop here so we don't have to get into a personal debate on this website. For Éric's sake at least. Cheers!

  2. The Teflon Prov PM strikes again !

    1. I swear this man must be invincible.

    2. It really is unreal how many political lives Charest seems to have.

    3. I'd swear he made a deal with the devil.

    4. I know right? As much as I despise that man, I have admit he's rather cunning.

  3. Were/will the federal numbers (be) included in the polling averages banner?

    1. Leger's numbers are already included.

  4. Great in-depth analysis, but ...

    Is it possible to summarize the methodology of polls analyzed in these posts? Specifically, a) listing the sequence of questions asked b) whether the poll is online, uses land lines, uses cell phones, uses in-person interviews etc. c) whether these methods have been altered by the polling company d) brief commentary and analysis on how these factors may influence the results.

    When you look at small changes in the popularity of Charest, for example, all of these factors come immediately to mind. Simply changing the order of questions about a party's popularity and a leader's popularity can give you a change in the results.

    Adding this information consistently would put this blog yet another notch above the sloppy presentation of polls found in the media today.

    1. Leger uses an online panel and seems to do things consistently, so the methodology should not influence the poll-to-poll trends.

      I will keep this in mind in the future, though. Thanks.

    2. The link Eric put at the beginning of the story already goes to the text of Leger's report of the poll.

  5. "These good/bad numbers also point to where the parties have the potential to pick up new supporters. Fully 52% of Liberal voters have a good opinion of Legault, suggesting he needs to look to the PLQ and not the PQ for new support."

    The by-election in Argenteuil (after the Leger poll data was collected) confirms that. The Liberals lost because their support seems to have bled to other parties, but mostly to the CAQ.

    It would be interesting to analyze where the Liberal support went to in different polls within the Argenteuil riding. This riding is on the Ontario border, with a 15% anglophone population (that's high for "the regions" in Quebec). That population is concentrated in specific communities. By looking at the data poll by poll and comparing it to census data, you should be able to tell whether the shift to the CAQ is stronger among anglophones or francophones. If it was among francophones, Charest could be in deeper trouble in "the regions" than you might think.


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