Friday, July 27, 2012

Internal polls show tight race in Quebec

Beggars can't be choosers, and considering that we are mere days from an election call in Quebec and haven't seen a poll since mid-June, we are definitely beggars. The media, too, is starving for some numbers, considering that two internal party polls made headlines yesterday.

There are few polling firms in Canada that conduct polls both for the media and for political parties and release both sets of data to the public. For that reason, I haven't often had to grapple with the conundrum of whether to include polls ordered by political parties in my projections.

There is little reason to seriously doubt internal polls, particularly when they are conducted by real firms that would not want to sully their reputations (political polling is but a small part of what opinion polling firms do), but the information that is made available is usually quite limited. For example, we are rarely privy to the other questions asked in the polls, and if the voting intentions question was asked after some political questions, the results could be skewed. And, of course, there is the problem that political parties tend to only release their internal numbers when they are positive. You won't see a party release their internal numbers that show them losing support, meaning that by including only the good internal polls that parties release the aggregate might also be skewed in their favour.

For that reason, as a rule I don't include internal party polls in the projection. And, in any case, there is rarely the opportunity to - internal polls are often only partially leaked, meaning a lot of the information is unknown. For example, with these two internal polls released yesterday, the voting intentions of between 15% and 16% of Quebecers are unreported and there is no regional data.
The two polls released yesterday were done for the Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec. The poll done for the PQ puts them ahead by three points, while the poll done for the CAQ shows them in a much tighter race with the other parties.

There is nothing suspicious or unusual in these numbers as they generally fall in line with what Léger reported in June, but surely it is a coincidence that the Parti Québécois felt it should release a poll that gave it a marginal provincial lead and a wide lead among francophones, while the CAQ did not mind seeing their CROP poll leaked as it put them within six and seven points of the two front-runners and comfortably second among francophones.

On the other hand, it is hardly impressive that the PQ's internal poll gave them a lead over the Liberals that is within the margin of error, while the internal CAQ numbers put the party only significantly behind, rather than completely out of it. Nevertheless, the CAQ was apparently quite excited about the result, considering CROP was in the field until July 25 and the poll was leaked on July 26.

What the two internal polls show is that the situation in Quebec has not changed very much since the last polling conducted by Léger Marketing. If we average out these two polls, we get the PQ at 31.5%, the Liberals at 30.5%, and the CAQ at 22.5%, rather close to ThreeHundredEight's current poll average of 32.1%, 32.5%, and 19.6%, respectively.

The francophone vote, however, may be shifting slightly. These polls give the Parti Québécois an average support of 37% among this important electorate, compared to 25.5% for the CAQ and 23.5% for the Liberals. While the PQ's support among francophones looks unchanged (ThreeHundredEight's current poll average for the PQ among francophones is also 37%), the Liberals are down from their average of 26.7%. The CAQ is up from 21.4%. If the CAQ is polling that high among francophone voters, that gives them a much better shot of winning some seats on the outskirts of Montreal and in central Quebec.

But these being internal polls, they really only give us a hint at what might be going on in the province. We will have to wait for the inevitable media polls by Léger Marketing and CROP to get a clearer picture of the situation.


  1. For weeks I have been waiting for a poll to come out and I get this sort of tease. Sometimes the mystery is fun, yet it drives you crazy not knowing the current trends. Those figures would definitely result a minority government. Given that the PQ still holds a good chunk of the francophone voters, it has a small advantage over all, yet the polls, despite their dubious nature, surely show that all three parties are not to be taken lightly.

  2. I'm curious to see what would happen with a narrow PQ minority. Would the libs and CAQ form a coalition? I cant imagine they would let the PQ form gov, undo the tuition hikes and go for a referendum.

    1. If the CAQ and the Liberals form a majority, I just can't see how the PQ, even if they form the government, could go for a referendum. They'd need majority in the National Assembly to do that. As for undoing the tuition hikes, it would be complicated as they would have to pass a new budget, but not impossible.

    2. They won't go for one when there is little interest having one. They're not that stupid.

    3. Legault is still a sovereignist, and so are almost all of the members of the party. The ADQ (the predecessor of the ADQ) supported the "Yes" side in the last referendum. In a minority situation, you don't know if they'll support a referendum; but you'd know they'd be on the "Yes" side if there was one.

    4. The PQ are on record as having no intention of undoing the tuition hikes, their stated policy is merely to phase them in more slowly. This is one reason the polls are so close, there's no significant difference between the PQ and the PLQ (apart from the red herring issue of a referendum).

  3. Keep in mind that as the incumbent premier Charest has the right to try to stay in power and pass a Throne Speech - even if he has fewer seats than the PQ. He could make a deal with CAQ to stay in power.

  4. DL, in theory, yes, in practice, no. The party with the most seats will be asked to form a government first. Doesnt mean that a Lib-CAQ deal is out of the question, though.

    Im curious, are we going to see these internals modeled into seat counts?

    1. No, I need regional information for seat projections.

    2. Anon: 20:15,

      I am afraid you are incorrect. An incumbent premier has the right to test the confidence of the House. The Lieutenant Governor only asks the leader of the party with the most seats to form government if; the premier has first resigned or if the premier does not run for re-election-in short if the office is vacant.

      The most recent example of such a situation I can think of is the 2010 Australia election. The Coalition Liberal and National parties had 73 seats compared to the Labour Government's 72. However Julia Gillard remained in office until Parliament was recalled and subsequently won a number of confidence measures with the support of independents.

      The 1925 election in Canada is another case in point. The Conservatives won a plurality of seats but, WLMK did not resign and was able to remain in office until cobbling an alliance with the Progressives on confidence measures.

      It should be noted that David Cameron of the UK was only asked to form a government 3 days after the election once Gordon Brown had tended his resignation to the Queen.

      I would be happy to provide further details should you have an interest.

  5. In the case of a minority government, there would be no chance of a coalition.

    All three big parties would see themselves as potentially winning a majority in the next election, and none would risk looking like the junior partner to one of the other two. Also, the PQ and Liberals hate each other and Francois Legault wants to be premier, not just a cabinet minister (he could have easily joined one of the two other parties rather than start a new party if he wanted to be a minister again.)

    I suppose there is a tiny possibility of a PQ-Quebec Solidaire coalition if the PQ is one or two seats short of a plurality or majority.

  6. Retired in BC30 July, 2012 10:31

    Just looking at the varied parties at play in Quebec it is hard not to acknowledge deepen the comparison of Quebec to Greece.

    Maybe that is a function of having a major portion of a "nations" funding coming from a benevolent outside source.

    In both Greece and Quebec there a bunch of parties with strong stances that no one can understand.

    We can only hope that they can provide the same entertainment as the Greek "leaders" water throwing, face slapping "debates".

  7. Let's imagine that we get a National Assembly that is something like PQ 55 seats, Liberals 50 seats CAP 18 seats and QS 2...AND that the Liberals got a slightly higher percentage of the popular vote than the PQ...I think it would be a no-brainer that Charest would stay in power with a minority government and he would try to do to CAQ what he did to the ADQ under similar circumstances in 2007-08.

    1. Assuming Charest still keeps his seat. He nearly lost it back in 2007.

  8. Of course in BC you have Christy Clark - Canada's whackiest, zaniest premier and the BC Conservative led by that troglodyte John name a few. And, BC gave us nutbars like Bill VanderZalm too. maybe people in glass houses should not throw stones.


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