Tuesday, September 25, 2012

B.C. Conservatives drop amid leadership woes

Late last week, Ipsos-Reid released a new poll on the provincial voting intentions of British Columbians. The poll was taken earlier this month at a time when questions were being raised about John Cummins' leadership. He survived the call for a leadership vote over the weekend, but already the uncertainty seems to have hurt his party.
The B.C. New Democrats led by a wide margin in this poll with 49% support, an increase of one point since Ipsos-Reid was last in the field June 5-11. The B.C. Liberals picked up three points to hit 32%, while the B.C. Conservatives were down four points to 12%. The Greens remained stable at 6% support.

The changes in support for the NDP and Liberals were statistically insignificant - not so for the drop of the Conservatives. With a very difficult weekend for the party (low turnout in the vote on leadership, a less-than-impressive win for Cummins, and the loss of their only MLA, John van Dongen) it will be interesting to see if the Conservatives will lose further support.

As I discussed yesterday, the 32% support for the B.C. Liberals is deceptively high. Compared to Angus-Reid and Forum Research, the two other firms most active in the province, Ipsos-Reid has awarded the Liberals higher scores to the tune of about six points per poll. That is not to say that the B.C. Liberals are not at 32% - Ipsos could be gauging the B.C. electorate more accurately than their rivals - simply that things have remained relatively stable for the Liberals over the summer.

In any case, no matter who is doing the polling the end result is a massive NDP landslide. Voter turnout is unlikely to swing things dramatically either, as the New Democrats have majority support among those aged 35 or older in this poll. Those are the people who are most likely to vote on Election Day.

Interestingly, though, the New Democrats are not doing so well among men. While they held a 33-point lead among women (57% to 24%), they were only up by a single point among men (41% to 40%). This could be a mere statistical fluke, but it does have the potential to be problematic for Adrian Dix.

The New Democrats held leads in Metropolitan Vancouver (52% to 32%) and on Vancouver Island (57% to 24%), having gained three and four points, respectively, since June. The Liberals were steady in these two regions.

In the North and the Interior, however, the New Democrats were down five points to 40% while the Liberals were up eight to 36%. This is the only region of the province where the NDP lead is not statistically significant. We saw similar numbers in the recent Angus-Reid poll, suggesting that this part of British Columbia will be the most competitive. It is also the region where the B.C. Conservatives have the most support. A few three-way races can be expected in the Interior.

With these numbers, the B.C. New Democrats would win a majority government of 64 seats. The B.C. Liberals would form the Official Opposition with 20, and one independent would be elected. The B.C. Conservatives would be shut-out, just short of where they need to be to win a couple of seats.

The problem could indeed be John Cummins. His personal numbers are far below those of Adrian Dix and even Christy Clark. Whereas Clark has an approval rating of 33%, Cummins' is only 23%. He has a much lower disapproval rating at 40% to Clark's 60%, but that is due primarily to the 37% of British Columbians who are unsure of their opinion of him. Remove them from the equation (and the 7% who are unsure of Clark), and you get very similar numbers.

Dix has better numbers than his party, with an approval rating of 51% and a disapproval rating of only 34%. He is also the favourite person to be Premier at 35% to Clark's 22% and Cummins' 9%. But these numbers may not be as telling as they appear - if we remove the "don't knows" we get numbers that are almost identical to the voting intention results.

Less than eight months remain before British Columbians go to the polls and the B.C. Liberals have been unable to move the dial by more than a tick or two (in either direction) for quite some time. Eight months ago, the B.C. New Democrats were enjoying a 14-point lead over the Liberals. That lead is now between 17 and 21 points. Can the Liberals really manage to turn things around and gain two or three points per month on the NDP by May 2013? Unless some sort of game-changing event takes place, it seems very unlikely.


  1. Until someone drives a stake through the heart of the Liberal party in BC, I would not take them lightly. More lives than the proverbial cat. If I'm not mistaken the NDP had a substabtial lead over the campbell led Libs last time too, only to have them rise Pheonix (or vampire) like in the last couple of months to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

    I believe the NDP lead is about 7 or 8 points higher than last time at this point, but Mr.Dix should be prepared for a long and dirty fight. BC politics at it's finest!


    1. I don't think the NDP ever had a good lead over the Liberals during Campbell's reign until the very end, like 2010-2011.

      But you're right, the BC Liberals aren't dead yet, though at this point the doctors are ready to call it. Clark has been such a poor choice for Premier so far - not a good sign for centrist Liberals in the province. George Abbott might've been the better standard bearer, why didn't anyone back him?

    2. The NDP had a significant lead during the 2008-2009 period hovering around 45%. James' loss at the last election was one of the sour points of her detractors that eventually made her resign the leadership. The problem with NDP support both last time and at present is it is a de facto vote as opposed to outright support for their policies. The electorate in BC may be more fluid than the polls portray.

    3. I think you'd have had the same woes with anyone. The brand has been damaged. We'll see how the next few months go though.

    4. And JKennethY is correct. The NDP enjoyed some pretty substantial leads over Campbell between elections leading into 2005 and 2009 too.

    5. Trouble is the BC libs are NOT a centrist party. Don't know how centrists in BC can consider supporting them.


    6. I consider myself a centrist and I support the BC Liberals. Under the BC NDP economic growth lagged behind the Canadian average and the poverty rate increased. Under the BC Liberals the economy grew faster than the Canadian average and poverty decreased. What else matters?

      Could things have been better? Sure. There's plenty of room for improvement, particularly on poverty. The fact that the NDP campaigned against what was a net tax cut for the poor in the HST referendum doesn't make me want to vote for them though. The carbon tax was another net tax for the poor, not to mention a great thing for the environment, and the NDP campaigned against that too.

      Maybe the NDP will change. Maybe they'll stop trying to score political points by hurting the poor and the environment. I doubt it though.

    7. JKY,

      The BC Liberals are fairly centrist ergo, the carbon tax, Great Bear Rain Forest and other parks, Substantial and greater progress on FN treaties than the NDP, electoral reform (twice), parliamentary reform (fixed election dates, set date Throne Speech and budget), kept the ALR and ICBC.

      Sure they have executed right wing policies; BC Rail, contracting out unionised workers, reducing income tax but, they are the conservative party in the Province.

      By contrast when the NDP was last in office we saw the Government give ship building contracts to their union friends (Fast Ferries) and build a Skytrain line exclusively through NDP ridings; resulting in far lower ridership than otherwise would be the case had the Millenium line been built in areas in need of transit services.

      Reviewing the body of evidence I think it clear the BC Liberal party is a centre-right political body. By contrast the BCNDP by virtue of their constitution is a radical socialist organisation bent on re-possessing and re-distributing wealth.

  2. Clark and the rest of the Liberal Party need to send a thank-you card attached to a big box of chocolates to the Conservative brain trust who thought now was a good time for a leadershiip review. That being said, I think the Liberal bounce is likely about as high as it's going to get, depending on how badly the Cons slip. I don't think it'll be enough to save their government though. I do however agree with JKennethY though. This is going to be ugly. There's already a Liberal sponsored Dix web site up and running somewhere, and surprise, surprise, it's not flattering. And you can expect them to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Dix and the NDP.

    1. I agree on all counts.


  3. The loss of their only MLA is a really big deal. This gives the other parties cause to exclude them from debates, if they so choose (though the NDP might actually want them in the debate).

    And, for the record, I predicted a George Abbott victory in the leadership race. I expected Falcon and Clark to occupy the two extremes, only to have Abbott come up the middle (like Ed Stelmach did in Alberta, winning from third when neither Ted Morton nor Jim Dinning could collect enough support).

    My prediction was not correct, but perhaps it would have been better had it been. But I doubt it. Clark hasn't showered hierself in glory as Premier, but she took office trailing horrifically in the polls after Campbell first convinced BCers he'd lied to them about the HST, and then proceeded to announce anything and everything in an attempt to make it better. Once Bill Vander Zalm showed up to drive the Liberals as Villains narrative, I think their 2013 defeat was already assured.

    1. Ira, I've read several comments to news stories about Van Dongen's about face that suggest he was working as a double agent all the time. His job, if you beleive the rumours, was to sew discontent within the PCs. If that's true, he did a good job of it. I agree though that the Libs likely don't have enough momentum to save them from disaster in May.

    2. I suspect you're right that Abbott (or possibly de Jong) was Condorcet winner.

    3. No way in hell Pinkobme. Look at what Van Dongen was doing dredging up this BC rail nonsense. He's just someone who doesn't get along well with others.

    4. I didn't say I agreed with the chatter about Van Dongen being a double agent, just that it was an interesting rumour, Ryan. But if it were true, certainly he would abruptly resign by standing up in the Legislature and slamming Clark as he did,as a smoke screen. And he'd blow smoke about the BC Rail fiasco. And the BC Rail "nonsense" is not nonsense Ryan, something fishy definitely seems to have been going on there.

  4. So much for the "free entreprise" coalition between the BC Liberals and BC Conservatives.


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