Friday, August 24, 2012

Charest continues to trail in Sherbrooke

Over the last few years, elections in Quebec have featured riding-level polling to a degree that is rarely seen in any other jurisdiction in Canada. About one-third of ridings in Quebec were individually polled in the 2011 federal election, compared to a handful in the rest of the country. Riding polls in the 2008 provincial election were also common. Ten ridings have been polled so far in this campaign.

The riding poll in Sherbrooke released in the second week of the campaign captured the most attention, as it put Jean Charest behind the PQ's Serge Cardin by 15 points. It certainly put a damper on the Liberal campaign, and is likely one of the reasons why Charest has visited his riding several times over the last few weeks. Those visits do not seem to have helped, as Segma Recherche was back in the field this week and found that Charest still trails by double-digits.
Segma was last in the field in Sherbrooke on August 6-8, and since then there has been very little change in the voting intentions of people in the riding.

Cardin is down one point to 45% while Charest is up two to 33%, insignificant amounts of change in a poll with a margin of error of +/- 4.3%. Despite the relatively high margin of error, however, Serge Cardin's lead is statistically significant.

The CAQ is down one point to 10% in the riding, while Québec Solidaire is up one point to 7%. Option Nationale is up one to 3% and the Greens are unchanged at 2%, while the Parti indépendantiste's candidate sits at 1% support.

Riding polls have been off before, but this is a rather considerable gap between Serge Cardin and Jean Charest. The premier's chances are worsened by the fact that Segma has demonstrated consistent results over two polls. It could very well be that voters in Sherbrooke fully intend to oust Charest from office themselves, regardless of what happens in the rest of the province.

Segma Recherche also polled the riding of Saint-Maurice for Le Nouvelliste, a riding somewhat up for grabs due to the retirement of the incumbent PQ MNA. Nevertheless, Luc Trudel of the Parti Québécois is holding firm with 42%, virtually unchanged from the 43% the PQ took in 2008.

The Liberal candidate, Robert Pilotte, has 26% support (down 12 points from the last election) while Pierre Giguère of the CAQ is at 22% (the ADQ took 15% in 2008).

They are followed at length by Québec Solidaire (5%), and Option Nationale (2%). An independent candidate and the Parti unité nationale share 3% support.

The poll in Saint-Maurice is not surprising, as the PQ is the incumbent party and they are doing much better than the Liberals among francophones. 

But do these two polls suggest that the Forum poll from earlier this week might have been wrong-headed?

The current projection, which incorporates the results of the Forum poll, gives the PQ 38% in Sherbrooke with the Liberals trailing at 35%. It places Québec Solidaire at 12% and the CAQ at 10%. The current projection in Saint-Maurice is 39% for the PQ, 33% for the PLQ, and 19% for the CAQ.

The projection, then, over-estimates Liberal support and under-estimates support for the PQ. If we remove Forum's poll from the equation entirely, the projection turns out to be much closer for both ridings. In Sherbrooke, it would instead be 43% PQ, 30% PLQ, 10% CAQ, and 7% QS. In Saint-Maurice, it would be 43% PQ, 28% PLQ, and 19% CAQ.

In other words, these two Segma riding polls seem to suggest that the surge in Liberal support recorded by Forum Research did not take place - or that it dissipated over the course of the three one-on-one debates. The projection for individual ridings has matched up to the results of Segma's polling quite well so far in this campaign. It could be coincidental that they do not match up so closely this time around, or it could be that the Forum poll was indeed off the mark. Undoubtedly, Léger Marketing and CROP will report in the next few days and clear the matter up.