Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Manitoba NDP extends lead

After Alberta's mindbogglingly long 41-year old PC dynasty, the government that has ruled the longest in Canada is Manitoba's: the New Democrats have been in power since 1999. Though things remain relatively close in this virtual two-party province, the NDP is still in a strong position despite 13 years in office.
Probe Research was last in the field June 6-29, and since then the New Democrats picked up one point to hit 45% support. That gave them a seven-point lead over the Progressive Conservatives, who were down two points to 38%.

The Liberals were down two points to 11% while the other parties (in this case, primarily the Greens) were up three points to 6%.

Aside from the doubling in support for the other parties, none of these shifts were statistically significant. But the numbers are not heading in the right direction for new PC leader Brian Pallister.

The NDP lead is magnified by their dominance in Winnipeg, where most of the province's seats are located. The New Democrats led with 52% in the city, followed by the Tories at 32% and the Liberals at 11%, representing a drop of five points. In the rest of Manitoba, the Progressive Conservatives dropped seven points to 46% and were trailed by the NDP at 35%, the Liberals at 10%, and other parties at 9% (a gain of six points).

The New Democrats also lead among both men and women and in all age groups and income brackets. The only demographic with a PC advantage (and that edge is only by two points) is among Manitobans with a high school education or less. The NDP leads among those with college or university degrees.

With this advantage in almost every segment of the Manitoban population, and particularly with their wide lead in Winnipeg, the New Democrats would cruise to another majority victory if an election were held today.
In fact, because of the way the vote splits between the city and the rest of the province, the NDP's seven point lead is overkill. The party could easily win even if they trailed the Progressive Conservatives province-wide by a few points. This gives them a tremendous advantage in any election. As Winnipeg goes, so does the Manitoba legislature.

And with these numbers, the NDP would win 37 seats to 18 for the Tories and two for the Liberals, almost unchanged from the current breakdown. The NDP would sweep the north and win 25 of the 31 seats in the capital, while the Tories would win 14 of 22 seats in southern Manitoba.

Unlike in most provinces, though, both the Premier and the opposition leader have positive approval ratings. 
Greg Selinger's are actually quite outstanding for a sitting premier: he has the approval of 50% of Manitobans, compared to 29% who disapprove of him.

Pallister still has to become better known by Manitobans, as almost half of respondents were not sure of what they thought of him. But 33% said they approved and only 19% disapproved, an almost identical proportion to Selinger's numbers when the undecideds are removed.

Liberal leader Jon Gerrard, who is on his way out but will only be replaced in October 2013, had a more mixed result. While 33% approved of Gerrard, 35% disapproved and another 32% were not sure. But Gerrard has led the party since 1998 and has represented his riding since 1999. So far, no big names are lining up to replace him. The prospects of a Liberal revival in Manitoba, then, seem quite low.

And that makes the challenge Pallister faces all the more difficult. Though his party would undoubtedly also lose some of their supporters to a revived Manitoba Liberal Party, historically the NDP has been hit hardest by stronger Liberal numbers. Pallister needs to whittle down NDP support in Winnipeg if he is to win, and if the Liberals continue to slide in the province his chances of doing that will slide as well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Detailed breakdown of Alberta federal support

On Friday, the Citizen Society Research Lab of Lethbridge College put out its yearly report on the voting intentions of Albertans. While the results are hardly surprising, they do give us the opportunity to look more closely at how support is divided throughout the province.
The poll by Lethbridge College is about a month old, despite it having been released only a few days ago. Lethbridge reports on a yearly basis, and compared with October 2011's results the Conservatives picked up 1.5 points to reach 59.2% support in the province. That puts them well ahead of the other parties.

The New Democrats slipped 5.6 points to 15.4% and the Liberals were down 0.8 points to 11.9%. The Greens were up 1.6 points to 7.5%.

Another 6% of Albertans, a gain of 3.3 points, said they would vote for another party. This is unfortunately high, and on first glance it appears to be the result of respondents saying they would vote for Wildrose. I say this because the best result for the other parties was in southern Alberta (11.7%), where Wildrose has its strongest concentration of support. If most of this "other" support is indeed for Wildrose, we can probably safely assume that those votes would go to the Conservative Party.

But I think pollsters should do a better job of weeding out these sorts of results, especially when they are using live callers (as Lethbridge did). A respondent who says they will vote for Wildrose is simply mistaken - they cannot vote for Wildrose in a federal election. I wrote about the odd results you can get from respondents back in 2010 when it comes to "the Others", and it just seems like a waste to even include them.

Back to the poll: Edmonton is the closest thing Alberta has to a battleground, and the poll suggests that the Conservatives had 52.8% support in the city. That puts them well ahead of the New Democrats, who registered 23.4%. The Liberals were third with 14.5%. This score for the NDP is not good enough to give them more than their one seat of Edmonton-Strathcona, so the Conservatives would likely win all but one of the seats in the province once again with these results.

The Liberals placed second in Calgary with 12.5% support, well behind the Tories' 67%. The New Democrats were third with 9.7%.

In northern Alberta, the Conservatives led with 60.4% while the NDP dropped 8.3 points over the last 12 months to 14.5%. The Liberals were third with 11.3%. In southern Alberta, the Tories led with 54.7% while the NDP was down 7.5 points to 14.5%. Excluding the high "others" result, the Greens placed third with 11.2% support.

Alberta remains the region of Canada most resistant to political change. The New Democrats could make big inroads in the next election in British Columbia, the Prairies, and Atlantic Canada, Ontario remains in flux among all three parties, and the Liberals are shaking things up in Quebec. Meanwhile, Alberta has hardly budged and the only real question at this stage is whether the New Democrats can manage to win a second seat in the province. Nothing lasts forever, though, and it is interesting to think about what it will take to finally move the dial a little.

Monday, October 29, 2012

PQ advantage in first post-election CROP poll

Last week, La Presse released the first CROP poll since the Sept. 4 election in Quebec. Though it showed little real change since the vote, the poll does suggest that both the Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire are in better positions than they were on election night.
CROP found that support for the Parti Québécois stood at 34%, two points up from their election result. The Liberals were down two points to 29% and the CAQ was down three points to 24%. Québec Solidaire was up five points to 11% support.

It would be incorrect to compare these results to CROP's final election poll, as the firm has reverted to its online panel after using live telephone callers during the campaign. It is not possible to know how this methodological change affects their numbers.

CROP gave the Parti Québécois a lead among francophones with 40% to the CAQ's 26%, and in the regions of Quebec with 38% to the Liberals' 25%. There was little change for the PQ (+2) or the Liberals (-4) in this part of the province, but the CAQ dropped seven points.

The Liberals led among non-francophones with 81%, well ahead of the CAQ at 14%. But François Legault's party led in Quebec City with 52% to the Liberals' 29% - an increase of 14 points since the election that came primarily at the expense of the PQ (down seven points).

The PQ and Liberals were tied at 33% apiece in and around Montreal. Compared to the election's results, there hasn't been any major shift in this region.
With these numbers, the Parti Québécois would win a majority government of 69 seats, 61 of them coming from outside the city centres of Montreal and Quebec City.

The Liberals would win 39 seats, two-thirds of them in and around Montreal, while the CAQ would win 14 seats, nine of them in Quebec City. Québec Solidaire would win three seats, up one from their current holdings in the National Assembly.

Satisfaction with Pauline Marois's new government stands at only 39%, with dissatisfaction at 55%. That is similar to Léger's recent finding, and while that is low for a new government it is a big improvement over the numbers that Jean Charest was able to put up in the final part of his administration.

Support for independence stood at only 34% in the poll, though 46% of Quebecers said they would vote for sovereigntist parties. In other words, one out of every four supporters of the PQ, Québec Solidaire, or Option Nationale would vote "no" in a new referendum, a rather high proportion. This would suggest that Marois has little to lose by focusing on governing the province, though that is not something that usually goes over well with the rank-and-file of the party.

The PQ may move forward with a budget this fall, rather than risk losing a confidence vote in the spring when the Liberals will have a new leader and the CAQ's position could have improved. At this stage, it is not hard to imagine the CAQ ensuring the PQ's survival, as the party has not taken advantage of the minority situation in the National Assembly just yet. The Liberals might be a little more gung-ho (some reports suggest that they are not in rebuilding mode, but are instead quite keen on a Round Two) but the possibility of a fall election seems incredibly remote. If the PQ can present their budget in the next two months, they have a good chance of surviving for at least another year.

Friday, October 26, 2012

NDP leads in Quebec, for now

A new poll was released yesterday by CROP via La Presse, indicating that the New Democrats are still in control of the situation in Quebec. But the poll also indicated that the NDP's dominance in the province could be threatened by a Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party.
CROP has been out of the field federally for some time, their last poll on record being from April. Since then, the New Democrats dropped 13 points to 38% (they were at 51% in CROP's polling after Thomas Mulcair won the leadership). That still put them well ahead of the Bloc Québécois, which gained three points to reach 21%.

The Liberals were up five points to 20% and the Conservatives were up three to 16%, while the Greens had 5% support.

The New Democrats held a statistically significant lead province-wide, but also among francophones (42% to the Bloc's 26%) and in the Montreal region (38% to the Bloc's 22%). The Liberals held a lead among non-francophones, edging out the Tories with 45% to 31% support. That is actually a bit of a mark against the New Democrats, who have generally been in a race with the Liberals for the favour of this demographic. It puts the NDP in a difficult position on the island of Montreal.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives had the edge in Quebec City with 39% to the NDP's 32%, while the NDP edged out the Liberals and Bloc with 39% in the rest of Quebec. The two other parties were tied at 21% apiece.

The landscape changes dramatically when Justin Trudeau is added to the mix, however.
With him at the helm of the Liberal Party, the NDP falls to second with 30% to the Liberals' 36%. That represents a 16 points gain for Trudeau and an eight point drop for the NDP.

The Bloc drops two points to 19% and the Conservatives drop five to 11%, proportionately a larger share of their supporters than the NDP loses to the Liberals.

Trudeau would dominate among non-francophones with 62% to the Conservatives' 19%, and would have the edge in every region of Quebec: 36% to the NDP's 32% in Montreal, 42% to the Tories' 28% in Quebec City, and 34% to the NDP's 32% in the rest of Quebec.

But the New Democrats would still have the support of francophones, with 34% to the Trudeau Liberals' 30%. With Trudeau's high score among non-francophones, it seems that the Liberals would have most of their Montreal-area support concentrated in the West Island, giving the NDP the advantage in the francophone parts of the island and the out-lying suburbs.

The gains the Liberals make under Trudeau are generally uniform, at between 13 and 17 points in the different regions and among the two linguistic groups. The 28-point gain made in Quebec City, coming almost equally from both the NDP and the Tories, is a little counter-intuitive, however.

In terms of seats, the current voting intentions would award 56 seats to the New Democrats on the proposed boundaries of the 78-seat map for Quebec, while 13 would go to the Liberals, six to the Conservatives, and three to the Bloc Québécois.

With the Trudeau numbers, the New Democrats would still win a plurality of seats with 39. The Liberals would win 32, the Bloc four, and the Conservatives three. The NDP's edge is due primarily to the francophone suburbs around Montreal.

As I point out in my article for The Huffington Post Canada on this new poll, there is a silver lining for the New Democrats in these numbers. Despite falling behind the Liberals in voting intentions, Thomas Mulcair still tops the list on who is the best person to be Prime Minister with 29% to Justin Trudeau's 25%. This suggests that Mulcair is still seen as the more qualified person for the job, an advantage that could be absolutely vital in an election campaign.

But the Liberals have a lot of wiggle room. A result of 36% would be very impressive for the Liberals after having struggled in the province ever since the Gomery inquiry. But even a result of 25%, better than Stéphane Dion managed in 2008, would be a good rebound for the Liberals in Quebec. It seems quite likely that Justin Trudeau should be able to manage at least that.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Three-way race in Ontario?

Another poll for the suddenly fascinating Ontario political scene was released earlier this week, this time by Innovative Research for TVO's The Agenda. The results show a very close three-way race where any party could come out on top.
Innovative Research was last in the field Oct. 27-Nov. 2, just after the October 2011 election. Since then, the Progressive Conservatives dropped two points to 32%, the New Democrats were up eight points to 31%, and the Liberals were down 11 points to 28%. At 9%, the Greens registered a five point gain.

Aside from the PC slip, all of these changes in support are statistically significant - though the actual significance of that is difficult to say considering Innovative's last poll is a year old. What is more interesting is that the margin of error is large enough to say that no party is definitively in front. Though the Tories have the edge, their advantage over the third-place Liberals is not even statistically significant. That means a very close race.
In fact, the race would be so close that no fewer than 11 ridings would feature three-way races, where the projected margin for the winner would be less than 10 points over the third place party. That means a very unpredictable outcome. Even the Greens could manage a seat win with these results.

But the model gives the Progressive Conservatives a minority government of 42 seats with these numbers, the seats coming almost exclusively from rural Ontario. The New Democrats win 33 seats while the Liberals win 32, all but six of them in and around Toronto.

Undoubtedly, things will shift as the Liberal leadership race gets underway, and Innovative asked some interesting questions concerning the race. For example, 18% of Ontarians said that they would definitely (8%) or probably vote Liberal in the next election, with 30% "not sure one way or the other". Put differently, that gives the Liberals a base of about 18% but the potential for as much as 48% of the vote.

That's a wide range, and is further confirmed by the 45% of respondents who said that the Ontario Liberals' policies and programs were working well or okay, and that they needed no or only minor changes. That makes for a large swathe of the population that is open to voting for the party, but it is worth noting that the proportion of respondents who said that the Liberals' policies and programs were working well and needed no changes was minuscule.

Innovative then asked about potential successors to Dalton McGuinty. Unfortunately, the apparent front-runner Sandra Pupatello was not included in the list. But coming out on top on whether a leader would make someone a lot or somewhat more likely to vote Liberal was Dwight Duncan, at a combined juggernaut of 13%. The only problem is that he has already said he won't run. David McGuinty, Deb Matthews, and Kathleen Wynne tied with 10% each.

A major problem for the Liberals, though, is that only David McGuinty (and some of that may have been people mistaking him for the Premier) and Dwight Duncan managed a majority of respondents who were able to recognize their names. Matthews had 51% non-recognition, while all others had over 60%.

In terms of who Ontarians prefer as leader, 42% don't have a clue and 26% said that they prefer no one. Of the rest, Duncan and Wynne led with 5%, followed by Matthews and McGuinty at 3% and Jim Watson (current mayor of Ottawa who has already ruled out a run) at 2%. Considering the small sample size, these numbers are hardly informative.

Among "core" and "potential" Liberals, however, Wynne averaged 14%, putting her ahead of Duncan (12%) and David McGuinty (7%). It will be interesting to see how things shift when the full list of candidates becomes known (and polled).

But it does not seem that the leadership race will make a huge difference for the Liberals. If voters' preferred candidate wins the race, it bumps up the proportion who say it would make them a lot or somewhat more likely to vote for the party to only 25%.

The goal, then, will be for the next leader to get as many as possible of those 45% of respondents who thought that the party's policies were good enough back into the Liberal fold. The question is whether too many of them are simply fatigued with the Ontario Liberals.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

PCs in majority territory

A new poll by Angus-Reid released by the Toronto Star on the weekend serves to confirm the sort of race that some other polls have pointed to in Ontario - that the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats are first and second in the province and that the Liberals trail in third. But the Tories' position at the top of the table is not as solid as it may appear.
This survey from Angus-Reid is the first from the polling firm since the October 2011 election, so it is impossible to discern any trends from the numbers. But they do seem to fall on the side of Forum and Environics, which have shown the Liberals in third in recent polls, rather than on the side of Nanos, which has seen the race as one between the Tories and the Liberals.

Angus-Reid found that the Progressive Conservatives were in front with 36% support, trailed by the New Democrats at 32%. The Liberals were in third were 26%, while the Greens had 5% support.

Angus-Reid's regionals are generally what you would expect with these numbers. The PCs were in front in eastern Ontario with 50%, in southwestern Ontario with 40%, and in the 905 Area Code around Toronto with 40%. The New Democrats were in front with 50% in northern Ontario and 45% in the Hamilton and Niagara region, while the Liberals had a narrow edge over the NDP in the 416 Area Code (Toronto itself) with 38%.

This gives each party some pockets of support, more or less in line with where each party was strongest in the 2011 provincial election. But the poll suggests that it is among women that the next election could be won or lost: while men preferred the Tories by a margin of 40% to 32% for the NDP and 22% for the Liberals, women were split three-ways. The New Democrats had the tiniest of edges with 32% support to 31% for the PCs and 30% for the Liberals.
The seat projection model for Ontario is still a province-wide swing model, so the regional numbers are not taken into account. But with the exception of the Hamilton/Niagara region, where the NDP would likely win a few more seats, the regional breakdown is likely unaffected.

With these numbers, the Progressive Conservatives would win a majority with 56 seats, primarily won in the rural and suburban parts of the province. The New Democrats would form the Official Opposition with 33 seats, while the Liberals would win 18 seats, almost all of them in and around Toronto.

But the PCs have been on track for a majority government before, only to lose it. Tim Hudak proved to not be the kind of compelling leader the Tories needed to replace the Liberals, and the problem does not appear to have gone away. While Dalton McGuinty's personal numbers in this survey are very bad (only 23% had a positive impression of him, compared to a 63% negative impression), he is on his way out (a decision supported by 69% of the population, though 66% oppose his decision to prorogue the legislature).

Tim Hudak garners a positive impression among only 26% of Ontarians, little more than McGuinty. His negative impression stands at 44% in this poll, while 30% say they are either not sure or have no impression of him. Those are not good personal numbers for a leader whose party is ahead in the polls. Andrea Horwath's numbers are far better: 49% positive, 22% negative, and 29% no impression/not sure. (Note that the numbers for Hudak, McGuinty, and Horwath are very close to Forum's latest approval/disapproval ratings for these three leaders.)
Though this would seem to give an opportunity to the NDP, the Liberals' roster of potential successors to McGuinty does not seem to tilt things in their favour.

A huge swathe of the population has little or no impression of some of the Ontario Liberals' brightest lights, at least in terms of the upcoming leadership race. A majority of Ontarians have a positive or negative impression of only Finance Minister Dwight Duncan - all others have scores of 50% or more on the "not sure/no impression" count.

Duncan's numbers aren't terrific, with a positive score of 23% and a negative one of 33%, though that puts him relatively on par with Hudak. Health Minister Deb Matthews comes second with a positive impression from 17% of Ontarians, but at 34% she has the highest negative score of those listed Liberals. Others who score highly for negative impressions are Education Minister Laurel Broten (27%, to 11% positive) and Energy Minister Chris Bentley (29% to 11% positive).

The best net rating belongs to Kathleen Wynne, who has a positive score of 16% to a negative one of 15%. But that still leaves 68% of respondents on the table, and they could go either way.

Other leadership contenders like Charles Sousa, Eric Hoskins, Glen Murray, and Yasir Naqvi are virtual unknowns to a huge majority of Ontarians. While that does not speak to their ability to win a leadership race, it leaves a lot of room for the opposition to define them if they do come out as the winners. Unlike their federal counterparts, who in Justin Trudeau appear to have someone who could potentially turn the Liberal ship around, the Ontario Liberals apparently have no saviour, hypothetical or otherwise, waiting in the wings.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Status quo in Quebec

The first poll to come out of Quebec since the September 4 election shows that little has changed - and that turns out to be better news for the Parti Québécois than for either the Liberals or the Coalition Avenir Québec.
The poll by Léger Marketing for Le Journal de Montréal puts the PQ at 32% support, unchanged since election night. The Liberals trailed with 30%, down a point, while the CAQ was down two points to 25%.

Québec Solidaire was up two points to 8% support, while Option Nationale and the Greens each had 2% support.

Even the regional results mirrored rather closely the results of the election - but not exactly. The PQ had the advantage in the Montreal region with 32% to the Liberals' 29% and the CAQ's 26%, whereas the Liberals had the edge with about 34% to 31% on election night.

In Quebec City, the CAQ led with 42% and was followed by the Liberals at 27% and the PQ at 20%. The parties had 38%, 31%, and 22% support in the capital in the election.

And in the rest of Quebec, the PQ was ahead with 36% to 30% for the Liberals and 23% for the CAQ in the poll, compared to their respective scores of 36%, 29%, and 27% on election night. But for smaller regional samples, these are all very close results.

Because of this, the poll probably gives us a good indication of how the vote broke down by language on September 4. Among francophones, Léger gave the PQ the lead with 38%, followed by the CAQ at 28% and the Liberals at 23%. Among non-francophones, the Liberals led with 59% to 14% for the CAQ and 11% for the PQ.
But with the PQ holding steady province-wide while the Liberals and CAQ take a small step backwards, the Parti Québécois expands their minority by five seats. With these numbers, the PQ would likely win 59 seats, with the Liberals being reduced to 44. The CAQ would win 19 seats, Québec Solidaire two, and Option Nationale one.

This would result in a rather split National Assembly, as the PQ, QS, and ON could combine for 62 seats - one short of half.

The Léger poll also shows, however, that the Liberals would have a much better shot with Philippe Couillard as their leader. With him at the helm, the Liberals and PQ would tie with 33% support apiece. The CAQ would suffer the most, dropping to 23%. This is a much better result for the Liberals than with either Raymond Bachand (34% PQ to 27% PLQ) or Pierre Moreau (33% PQ to 25% PLQ) as leader.

Couillard has increased his advantage in the race over Bachand and Moreau in Léger's polling. Among all Quebecers, he is the top choice at 37%, up 10 points since Léger's last poll from late September. Bachand and Moreau were both up four points, to 14% and 10% respectively.

PLQ leadership race
Among Liberal supporters, Couillard was up 14 points to 48%. That gives him a huge lead over Bachand (16%, up three points) and Moreau (12%, up five points). It is still very, very early going, but it is hard to see the Liberal establishment being so out of tune with their supporters as to select anyone other than Couillard with these numbers.

With the Parti Québécois governing in a minority, the next election could be just around the corner. The Liberals will choose their next leader in early 2013, giving them the opportunity to take their shiny new chief on the campaign trail in the spring, if the PQ's budget is voted down. Otherwise, we could be looking at a fall election. In any case, it seems quite likely that Quebecers will be heading back to the voting booths some time in 2013 so ThreeHundredEight will be tracking provincial voting intentions on an on-going basis. You can access the latest averages by clicking on the Quebec image at the top of the right-hand column, though currently this Léger poll is the only one in the calculation.

At this point, things are in a holding pattern. A few more months of PQ government and the PLQ leadership race should shake things up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Liberals surge in Nanos poll

Yesterday was a big day for Liberals, with a poll being released showing the federal party in second place nationwide and Dalton McGuinty announcing his plans to resign as leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario. Both pieces of news were met with a lot of surprise and wild speculation. That McGuinty will run for the federal leadership is about as likely as this new poll marking a real change in voting intentions in Canada - though neither is impossible.
Nanos Research was last in the field Sept. 4-9, and since then the Conservatives gained 0.9 points to hit 33.3% support. The Liberals picked up 5.5 points to move into second place with 30.1%, while the New Democrats were down 2.5 points to 27.9%.

The Bloc Québécois was at 4.7% and the Greens slipped 2.1 points to only 2.9%.

This poll shows a real three-way race, as the edge the Tories have over the Liberals is within the margin of error, as is the edge the Liberals have over the NDP. The shifts in support towards the Liberals and away from the Greens are outside of the margin of error, but caution should be exercised before Liberals start taking measurements for the curtains at 24 Sussex.

There are many innate, unintentional methodological reasons why a polling firm might return better results for one party than the consensus opinion of other firms. And the consensus, thin as it is, does point to an uptick in Liberal support since Justin Trudeau's candidacy for the party leadership was announced. But Nanos Research has had most of the best results for the Liberal Party since the May 2011 election.
Of the top 12 poll results for the Liberals since the last election, seven of them were from Nanos Research, including the top six. No other firm has had the Liberals at more than 26% since that time. That is not to say that Nanos has it wrong - they only over-estimated the Liberals by less than two points in their final poll of the 2011 campaign and were off of the Liberal result by 0.1 percentage points in the Ontario provincial election.

All this does suggest is that Liberal support in this poll may be inflated relative to the polling consensus. Again, this does not mean they are certainly not in second place nationwide, but rather that this apparent surge is less informative than it would be if it was coming from a different polling firm that has had traditionally low Liberal results.

Nevertheless, the poll does hint that Trudeau is having a positive effect on the Liberal Party's fortunes. But other surveys will be needed to confirm if the party is indeed enjoying a surge in support.

Regionally, the New Democrats still hold a lead in Quebec with 35.7%, putting them ahead of the Liberals at 25% and the Bloc Québécois at 17.8%. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have the lead in the Prairies (which includes Alberta in this poll) at 48.9% to 28.9% for the NDP (a gain of 10.5 points) and 20.4% for the Liberals.

The Liberals have the advantage in two provinces: Ontario and British Columbia. Seeing the party up in Ontario is not too shocking as they have been flirting with the high-20s for some time and the margin of error is quite large. British Columbia, on the other hand, is probably an outlier result - in the 76 other polls taken since the last election the Liberals have averaged only 17.9% in British Columbia.

The Liberals picked up 9.8 points in Ontario to reach 36.1% and were trailed by the Conservatives at 33.8% and the New Democrats at 23.9%, a drop of 8.7 points. In British Columbia, the Liberals were up 19.6 points to 40.6% and were followed closely by the Conservatives at 36.5%. The NDP was down 11.5 points to 19.6% and the Greens were down 9.2 points to 3.2% support.

The Conservatives had the advantage in Atlantic Canada with 39.2% to 29.9% for the NDP and 29.1% for the Liberals.
With these numbers, the Conservatives would win 136 seats and have the first crack at a minority government. They would likely fail, as the Liberals would win 107 seats and the NDP 94 seats, giving them a combined 201 seats in the proposed 338-seat House.

The Conservatives would win a decent number of seats in every region except Quebec, battling it out with the Liberals in British Columbia, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada. The New Democrats win more than half of theirs in Quebec, with disappointing results in B.C.

There was not much change in Nanos's Leadership Index, the combination of scores on questions of trust, competence, and vision for Canada. Stephen Harper's total score increased by 2.5 points to 95.9 (i.e., an average of 32% on each of the three questions), while Thomas Mulcair's was down 0.3 points to 47.7 and Bob Rae's was down five points to 33.1.

The Conservative results in this poll are rather consistent with what we have seen in other surveys, suggesting that the real swing vote lies between the Liberals and New Democrats. We should expect to see more strange results like this one as the Liberal leadership plays out. So far, this one is having the same effect as the NDP race did: a spurt of support at the outset (update: which may or may not have been anything real - much like this poll). But the New Democrats lost support as the race wore on, only for it to be recovered by Mulcair (and now on its way back?). Will the Liberals manage to keep the momentum going through to April?

Monday, October 15, 2012

B.C. NDP still in control

A new poll by Angus-Reid for CTV shows that the B.C. New Democrats still enjoy a massive lead over the B.C. Liberals. But with the B.C. Conservatives in free-fall, the Liberals may no longer be in danger of being outflanked on the right.
The poll shows that the New Democrats picked up three points since Angus-Reid's last poll of Sept. 10-11, and lead with 49% support. The Liberals gained one point to reach 26% while the Conservatives were down three points to 16%.

The B.C. Greens were down one point to 7% while 2% of respondents said they would vote for another party or independent candidate.

While none of these shifts in support appear to be statistically significant, this poll does fall into line with an emerging trend in favour of the B.C. Liberals. They seem to have moved away from the Conservatives, whose numbers are looking very weak.

The New Democrats lead throughout British Columbia, with 57% on Vancouver Island, 54% in the North, 47% in Vancouver, and 43% in the Interior. The Liberals are second with 29% in Vancouver, 26% in the Interior, 22% in the North, and 21% on Vancouver Island. The Conservatives are really only a factor in the Interior, where they have 22% support.

With these numbers, the B.C. New Democrats would likely win 71 seats and form a majority government. The B.C. Liberals would win 11 seats, two independents would be elected, and the B.C. Conservatives would win one seat.

While the Conservatives haven't taken the kind of hit in support that cannot be regained, the numbers for leader John Cummins are especially problematic for them.

Adrian Dix was seen as the best person to be Premier by 30% of British Columbians, up two points since September. Christy Clark was down one point to only 14%, while Cummins was down three points to 6%. If we take out the "none of the aboves" and undecideds, we see that Cummins is in an especially bad position: Dix gets 58%, Clark gets 27%, and Cummins gets only 12%.
The biggest problem is Cummins's approval rating. It stands at only 16%, equal to his party's support. But that represents a drop of six points since December. His disapproval rating has ballooned to 56%, up 11 points. That means that Cummins's net rating has gotten worse by 17 points, a huge change in just one month. Undoubtedly, the dissent within his own party and how he has dealt with it have hurt him considerably.

That doesn't mean Clark is out of the woods: her approval rating was down two points to 26% and her disapproval rating was up three to 65%. Dix held relatively steady: approval up one point to 46% and disapproval down one to 37%, a net improvement.

This is not a horrible poll for the B.C. Liberals, but they seem to be making their gains by default. Christy Clark's personal numbers haven't improved, though John Cummins's have gotten much worse. This would seem to suggest that Clark and the Liberals will be able to recuperate a lot of their lost support from the Conservatives in a campaign - but with the New Democrats at almost 1 in 2 support and Dix's personal numbers being so rosy, the discomfiture of Cummins is unlikely to save Clark alone.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bridging the gap between polls and results

The two elections in Alberta and Quebec in 2012 provided a very good demonstration of the limitations of polling, particularly in the current media landscape. While the polls themselves have had issues, the media has difficulty affording the kind of costly, in-depth polling that is necessary to have a clearer and more accurate picture of what is going on.

It can be frustrating for poll-watchers and it is especially frustrating when trying to track the trends during a campaign and forecast an outcome. The greatest utility of a site like is not prediction but rather a glimpse of what is going on during an election campaign, providing a good idea of what might happen, and, afterwards, some clues as to what actually happened.

Nevertheless, in addition to tracking what the polls are saying the site has always tried to forecast what the result of an election will be according to those polls. When the polling is good (for example in the 2008 Quebec and 2011 Manitoba elections) the forecast is good. But forecasting can be exceedingly difficult and nearly impossible when polls do not reflect the final outcome.

Bridging the gap between what the polls say and what voters actually do is a challenge that needs to be tackled.

In both the Alberta and Quebec campaigns, I adjusted the polling results in order to try to bridge that gap. The system used was one that would work in the majority of cases but not every time, meaning the model was making the safest bet but was still gambling. In the case of the Quebec election, betting that the polls would under-estimate the Liberals and over-estimate Québec Solidaire was correct. Betting that they would under-estimate the Parti Québécois was not. In Alberta, the adjustments for the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose were correct, but they needed to have been amped up to ridiculous (and, at the time, inexplicable) degrees.

Rather than continue with this sort of uniform adjustment, I will be using a little more subtlety and only making the kind of bets that will prove correct in the vast majority of cases. For example, in the 17 provincial and federal elections I have analyzed a party without seats in the legislature was greatly over-estimated in 16 of them. That is the kind of safe bet I am willing to make. Other adjustments, especially when a jurisdiction's history shows a stronger skew than the national average, might be made as well. Any adjustments that will be made for future projections will be clearly laid out from the outset.

In addition to this, there are the other kind of adjustments that simply must be made. For example, fringe parties are very predictable: their share of the vote in ridings where they present candidates does not change by more than a couple tenths of a percentage point (in Alberta and Quebec, the projected vote for "other" parties was off by 0.1 point). It is thus very easy to estimate how much of the vote fringe parties and independents will get province- or nation-wide based on the number of candidates they have on the ballot. When polls give the "Others" 2% of the vote instead of 1%, as the number of candidates might dictate, an adjustment is automatically made to distribute that extra one percentage point proportionately.

In the future, as was the case during the Quebec election, the poll average will be reported as well as the projection. But the poll average will not diverge from the projection to a significant degree, as the major parties are only likely to be gaining a few tenths of a percentage point due to corrections for fringe parties and larger parties without a seat in the legislature.

But there needs to be more than just this - a recognition of what we know (what the polls are saying) and what we don't know (how opinion will change, and what kind of error is creeping into the polling).

As my longtime readers know, I have always admired the work done by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight and his methods have always been a big inspiration for what I do. Our electoral systems are incredibly different so there is a big difference in how to do forecasting in our respective countries (538 struggled when they ventured into the 2010 British election, which uses the same sort of system as here in Canada). For one, because of the similarities between US elections (i.e. they take place at the same time every four years, there is (almost) always just two major candidates from two parties with relatively stable voting blocks, and there are economic issues that influence the ability of an incumbent or challenger to win) Silver has always focused on forecasting a future event, whereas this site has always been about translating what polls are saying would happen if an election took place "today".

One new feature that Silver has implemented is a "now-cast", using the same kind of idea of what kind of outcome could be expected if the US election were held today rather than on November 6. I like the idea of doing a "now-cast" as well as a forecast, so that is what this site will be doing as well.

But how to forecast a future event with polls that are often a few days old as soon as they are published? Unlike in the United States, where voting intentions can only go one way or the other and past elections provide a guide on how to forecast that, in Canada there are multiple parties and votes can go any which way. Whereas the US convention schedule at the end of the summer gives forecasters a good idea of what kind of surges to expect in August, Canadian elections can take place at any time of the year. What changes can we expect three months prior to an election in February compared to another held in September? And what about the rise of new parties and the disappearance of old ones?

All of this means that to forecast for a future event in Canada a different approach needs to be taken. The question of how to bridge the gap between the polls today and the election weeks or months from now remains.

I first investigated the number of undecideds in a poll as a measure for forecasting. Taking into account the number of undecideds may give a clue as to what kind of swing is still possible between any given day and the election.

But the examples of the Quebec and Alberta elections suggest that this sort of approach is not feasible. To begin with, different polling methodologies result in widely divergent numbers of undecideds. The final IVR Forum poll in the Quebec campaign had only 3% undecided, while Léger's online poll had 9% and CROP's telephone poll had 20%. Determining the true number of undecideds is, thus, quite difficult.

And what can be done with those numbers? There is no way to come to the election's results by swinging those 3% of undecideds in Forum's poll. With CROP, 50% of undecideds need to be given to the Liberals while that number rises to 70% in the Léger poll.

In Alberta, the same sort of discrepancy between numbers of undecideds occurred. One poll requires a 16-point swing on 9% undecided to get to the true result, while the final Léger poll (live-callers) needs 71% of its undecideds to go the Tories.

Clearly, undecideds aren't the source of all of the error between final polls and final results. Using it as a base to make forecasts will, thus, not be fruitful.

That brings me to a different approach for making forecasts, which is based on the simple (and intuitive) idea that polls can be expected to swing as much in the future as they have in the past. That is to say, if a poll shows that a party's support can swing by 10 points in a matter of two months, we can assume that the party's support could swing by 10 points in the next two months. This method is not dissimilar to the one I have used to calculate the projection ranges - it is based on past volatility to predict future volatility.

Forecasting the Quebec election
This method would have had good results in the Quebec election. The forecasted range for the PQ from June through to the September election would have always included the party's eventual result. The same would have occurred for the CAQ throughout almost all of the campaign, while the PLQ would have only slightly dipped below its forecasted range in the final days. But that kind of polling error is the sort that simply cannot be corrected without making baseless guesses.

As you can see on the chart, this sort of forecasting method generally narrows as the election approaches, but does widen if things start to get more volatile. I think this is a strong representation of both what can be expected in the future and the kind of uncertainty that exists during a campaign. It might be a very wide bar, but it is a recognition of what we don't know and should give a very good indication of likely outcomes.

Forecasting the Alberta election
The polling failures of the Alberta campaign would have still put the forecast off, but the error would have been far smaller than was the case at the time. But in the case of Alberta, it has to be accepted that no amount of reasonable adjustments or corrections could have called the Alberta election correctly with the information available.

The forecast range will be determined using the greatest difference between two polls going back as far as the amount of time that remains before the election. In other words, if the election is two weeks away the forecast range will be calculated using the largest discrepancy between two polls over the preceding two weeks. A simple mechanism to ensure that the results aren't too outlandish (or that they dip below 0%) will be to establish a floor and ceiling equal to 50% above or below the projected result or the highest or lowest poll in the allotted time period, whichever is higher (for the ceiling) or lower (for the floor).

This will prevent the forecast from swinging extraordinarily widely based on two outlier polls, but will also allow the forecast to move accordingly when other polls back up a new state of affairs.

In addition to this method for making a forecast, a "now-cast" will be calculated using's vote projection methodology that has been in place for some time. A "now-cast" range will be calculated using the margin of error of the average sample size of the projection. This will provide two useful measures: one an indication of what might be expected to change before the vote takes place, and the other a measurement of what the polls say will occur, taking into account standard sampling error. How this fluctuates in the run-up to a campaign should provide a good picture of how things are unfolding.

The projection model for the upcoming election in British Columbia will be launched some time next month, so in the interim I welcome questions, suggestions, and input before it is finalized for the launch. In the next few months, I will also be presenting some other changes to how polls are handled and how the projection will be calculated.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Trudeau tops leadership poll

Late last week, Harris-Decima released a new poll via The Canadian Press on the Liberal leadership race. The contest is still very much in its infancy (if it has even been born yet) but already the numbers are heavily favouring Justin Trudeau - just as they did for Thomas Mulcair throughout the NDP leadership race.
The poll shows that 36% of Canadians would be certain or likely to vote for the Liberals if Trudeau were their leader, a gain of three points since Harris-Decima last asked this question in June. That was double the number of his nearest (and most likely) competitor, Marc Garneau. He managed 18%, unchanged from June.

After Trudeau and Garneau, Mark Carney registered 16% certain or likely supporters, a gain of two points, while Denis Coderre (15%), Gerard Kennedy (14%), David McGuinty (13%), and Martha Hall Findlay (10%) all dropped two points each. They were followed by Deborah Coyne (10%), Martin Cauchon (9%), Geoff Regan (9%), David Bertschi (8%), and Joyce Murray (8%).

Based on the latest information, only Coyne, Bertschi, and Murray are good bets at a run against Trudeau and Garneau. Dominic Leblanc had 12% in this poll, but he has already ruled himself out as a candidate.

This poll would seem to suggest that any leader but Trudeau would cause a drop in support as compared to the 2011 election result, but things are rosier when you remove the "undecideds": 43% for Trudeau, 24% for Garneau, 22% for Carney, 21% for Coderre, and 19% for Kennedy. All the others result in a score of less than 19%.

The amount of data in the Harris-Decima report is relatively thin, but Trudeau is able to draw twice as much support from the New Democrats as he is from the Conservatives. Regionally, Trudeau scored 48% certain/likely voters in Atlantic Canada, 43% in Quebec, 40% in Ontario, 29% in British Columbia, 21% in the Prairies, and 14% in Alberta. These are not dissimilar results to the recent Forum poll.

Denis Coderre would get the support of 35% of Quebecers and Marc Garneau 25%, while Carney's best result was 21% in Atlantic Canada.

Not much contest for Trudeau, especially in Quebec where Garneau is not able to do much better than the Bob Rae-led Liberals. Of course, the leadership contest is just beginning and opinion will undoubtedly change as more candidates enter the fray and all of them, including Trudeau, are more thoroughly vetted. This is not about how Canadians would vote in 2015 but how they would vote now - and right now they would give Trudeau every opportunity to earn their support. Canadians might not know much about him yet, but arguably they know more about him than is usually the case for a new party leader. However, these sort of numbers for Trudeau are very near what looks like the Liberal ceiling - it will be a very difficult task to keep support this high if he does indeed win the race.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

September 2012 federal polling averages

Five polls surveying a total of 7,922 Canadians in September found that both the Conservatives and New Democrats took a slip from their August polling. That means that the Tories still hold a narrow lead.
The Conservatives averaged 33.5% in September, a drop of 1.9 points from August. The New Democrats, meanwhile, were down 1.5 points to 31.3%.

This represents three months of decline for the NDP at the national level.

The Liberals were up 1.5 points to 22.3% while the Bloc Québécois was up 0.8 points to 6.8%. The Greens, at 5.1%, were up 0.1 point. Other parties and independents averaged 1% support.

Federal averages
The most dramatic shifts took place in British Columbia, where the Conservatives picked up 2.4 points to lead with 37.4%. The New Democrats were down 5.7 points to 34%. The two parties have been heading in opposite directions for two consecutive months and this is the first time that the NDP has not led in B.C. since February. The Liberals were up 2.1 points to 18.5% and the Greens were up 0.1 point to 8.8%.

In Quebec, the New Democrats have slid by eight points since June and 3.5 points since August, dropping to 33.7%. The Bloc Québécois was up 2.8 points to 26.2%, their highest number since March. The Liberals were up 0.8 points to 21.5%, representing a gain of six points since June and their best result since February. The Conservatives were down 1.4 points to 14.8%.

The Conservatives continue to lead in Ontario but dropped 1.6 points to 36.9%. The New Democrats were up 0.1 point to 30% while the Liberals hit their highest result since March with a 2.6-point gain to 26.9%. The Greens were down 0.8 points to 5.3%.

In Alberta, the Conservatives were down 5.6 points to 57.3%. They were trailed by the NDP at 21.3% (+2.1) and the Liberals at 13.3% (-1.7). The Tories were also ahead in the Prairies with 45.5% (+0.8), while the NDP was down 2.4 points to 32.5% and the Liberals were up 2.3 points to 15.7%.

The New Democrats, who have held a steady lead since March, were ahead in Atlantic Canada with 39.5% (+2.3). The Conservatives were down 2.2 points to 28.2% and the Liberals were down 1.1 points to 27.7%.
With these numbers, the Conservatives would have won 152 seats in a September election, using the proposed boundaries of the 338-seat map. That is a drop of eight seats from August.

The New Democrats were down 14 seats from their August totals to 109, while the Liberals were up 14 seats to 63. The Bloc was up eight seats to 13 while the Greens would win one.

The Conservatives took a big hit in Ontario, dropping 13 seats to 64. But they made much of that up in British Columbia, where they picked up six seats. The New Democrats were down eight seats in both British Columbia and Quebec, while the Liberals were up 13 in Ontario.

Approval ratings
Only one poll had approval ratings out for the leaders, and they showed better results for Stephen Harper and worse results for Thomas Mulcair.

Now that the summer is behind us and the polling will - we can assume - pick-up, we can get a better idea of where Canadians stand. If we look back a year ago, we see that the New Democrats have been holding steady (dropping to 31.3% from 31.5%) but the Conservatives have slid by a considerable amount: they had 39.1% support in September 2011. The Liberals have taken the most advantage over the last 12 months, rising from 19.5% to 22.3%. Regionally, though, the only major difference is that the Conservatives have taken a big hit in Atlantic Canada.

The continuing saga of minority government in Quebec, the Liberal leadership race running through to April, and the increased focus on British Columbia as we near their May election will undoubtedly play a big role in how the federal numbers will move over the next few months. Where will things be in September 2013?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Opinions on free trade

The polling being a little sparse, the most interesting set of numbers to come out this week has to do with what Canadians think of free trade. I invite you to read my analysis of a new Nanos Research poll on the subject for The Huffington Post Canada here.

In short, Canadians do not have a consensus opinion on our free trade agreements with the United States and Mexico but are peachy keen on new ones with the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which does not include China).

The regional variations are not very surprising, but it is interesting that they emerge from the survey nevertheless. Take a look at the analysis.

That Canadians seem to be opening up to the idea of free trade with very foreign countries (concerns about the cultural infiltration of the United States is one of the reasons why Canadians have never warmed up to NAFTA completely) is in some way demonstrated by no major party in the House of Commons being an adamant opponent to it.

The Conservatives have tried to sign as many free trade agreements as possible and the Liberals are also in support of free trade. Under Thomas Mulcair, the New Democrats are opening up to the idea of free trade too, a turn towards the centre that - when looking at these Nanos numbers - makes a good deal of sense for them. Quebecers and British Columbians, the two electorates that I would consider the party's first two planks in an NDP government, are among Canada's most open to new free trade agreements and to our agreements currently in place. A more cautious approach, rather than their traditional opposition, may be the smartest one for the NDP to take.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Who will replace Charest?

The race for the Liberal leadership is heating up, and I'm not referring to Justin Trudeau. The Quebec Liberals are running the equivalent of a shotgun leadership race, as they hope to install their new leader by February 2013. Three candidates have already emerged, and together they have the support of a large part of the PLQ caucus.

A poll from Léger Marketing for Le Journal de Montréal gauged what Quebecers think about the race in its earliest days (it has yet to be officially launched) and found that one of the three candidates is the clear favourite of people in the province as well as supporters of the PLQ: Philippe Couillard.

Couillard will announce today his candidacy, joining Raymond Bachand and Pierre Moreau who have already announced their intentions to run. All three are former cabinet ministers, with Couillard having been the Health Minister, Bachand the Finance Minister, and Moreau the Transport Minister. Couillard held the job from 2003 to 2008, when he resigned as an MNA. Both Bachand and Moreau survived the last provincial election.
According to the Léger poll, 27% of Quebecers think that Couillard is the best candidate to take over the Liberal leadership, compared to 10% who said the same for Bachand and only 6% Moreau. The poll also included former Education Minister Line Beauchamp (8%) and Pierre Paradis (6%), but they are unlikely to run.

Among PLQ supporters, Couillard has a larger advantage with 34% to 13% for Bachand and only 7% for Moreau. PQ and CAQ voters also think Couillard is the best candidate.

But some caution needs to be exercised with these numbers. A large proportion of Quebecers do not know much about any of these three candidates. Fully 36% said that they did not know anything about Couillard or enough to form an opinion, while 37% said the same for Bachand. Moreau has the biggest challenge, as 68 of Quebecers (and 71% of Liberal voters) did not know him. And while 51% and 48% of PLQ supporters said that Couillard and Bachand, respectively, were good options as leader, only 22% said the same for Moreau.

Nevertheless, Moreau does have some support within the caucus. He has the endorsement of some nine MNAs, including Pierre Arcand, Julie Boulet, and Robert Poëti. Bachand has the support of four MNAs: Christine St-Pierre, Guy Ouellette, Lise Thériault (who some saw as a good candidate to replace Charest), and Danielle St-Amand.

Couillard, who is considered to have more charisma than his two rivals (especially Bachand), has the advantage of not having been in government for Charest's last term. Bachand, on the other hand, was deeply involved in the tuition fee hikes and Moreau was often used as a bit of an attack dog for the Liberals. Couillard also has good support from caucus, including Sam Hamad, Kathleen Weil, Marc Tanguay, Henri-François Gautrin, and the last Health Minister Yves Bolduc, among others, putting his caucus support in the double-digits. Benoit Pelletier, seen as one of the potential contenders for the leadership, has also given the nod to Couillard.

This kind of support is especially important in the Quebec Liberal race as the leader will be chosen by delegates from each of the province's 125 ridings. Party members will not be directly voting for the leader, meaning organization and organizational support will decide who wins. With strong caucus support in addition to public support, Philippe Couillard looks like the front-runner to replace Jean Charest as the race begins.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tories lead in Forum poll

In a poll released late last week, Forum Research gave The National Post some good headlines by showing that a Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party would be able to win an election. But in addition to those numbers, Forum also conducted a normal poll and found the Conservatives leading the NDP by five points.
Forum was last in the field Aug. 22 and since then the Conservatives picked up one point to hit 35% support. The NDP dropped four points to 30%, while the Liberals were up three points to 25%.

The Bloc Québécois was unchanged at 6% while the Greens were down one to only 3% support.

The gain of three points by the Liberals and the loss of four by the NDP is statistically significant, as is the lead the Conservatives hold nationwide.

But if you are looking for similar trends with the Environics poll from yesterday, there aren't any. Compared to Forum's poll from June, the Tories are up five, the Liberals three, and the NDP is down seven. Between Environics' June and September polls, the NDP held steady, the Liberals gained one, and the Tories dropped two.

The Conservatives led in Ontario in this poll with 37%, trailed by the NDP at 30% and the Liberals at 28%.

The Liberals narrowly held the advantage in Quebec with 30%, a gain of seven points. This is an odd-ball result, though we have seen signs of some Liberal strength in Quebec in recent polls. At the same time, we have also seen them in the mid-teens. It would seem that the provincial election may be throwing a bit of confusion into the Quebec electorate.

The Conservatives led in Alberta with 60% to the NDP's 20%, while they also held the edge in British Columbia (43% to 33%) and the Prairies (47% to 33%). The two parties were tied in Atlantic Canada with 34% apiece.

Of note is the very low 2% result for the Greens in British Columbia, representing a drop of six points since late August. In virtually every poll, however, B.C. has been the strongest region for the Greens. This is likely a statistical fluke.
With these numbers, the Conservatives would win 161 seats on the proposed boundaries of the new 338-seat map, putting them eight short of a majority. The New Democrats would win 91 seats, the Liberals 75, and the Bloc Québécois 11.

Stephen Harper's personal numbers improved in the Forum poll, with his approval rating increasing by three points to 39% and his disapproval rating dropping three points to 54%. That is a net gain of six points.

Thomas Mulcair, meanwhile, had a net drop of eight points as his approval rating slipped four points to 37% and his disapproval rating rose by four points to 35%. This puts Harper in the unusual position of being the leader with the highest approval rating.

Bob Rae's approval/disapproval rating hardly budged at 31% to 40%, but his approval rating among Liberal supporters dropped 15 points to only 52%. This could be due to the impending leadership race.

Speaking of which, Forum asked respondents of their survey how they would vote if Justin Trudeau led the Liberal Party. The results were striking: the Liberals would take 39% of the vote, while the Conservatives would drop to 32% and the NDP would plummet to 20%. The Liberals would win Ontario with 40%, Quebec with 43%, and Atlantic Canada with 53%, while placing second in B.C. (33%), Alberta (28%), and the Prairies (27%).

These are dangerous numbers for the Conservatives and New Democrats. This sort of hypothetical poll is based on a lot of assumptions, and there are a myriad of cases of potential leaders polling very well before their numbers come back to earth after they actually get the job.

But the Conservatives lose three points to the Liberals because of Trudeau, while the NDP loses 10 - one-third of their support. Trudeau takes support from both parties everywhere, meaning that he is not only a danger to the NDP but also the Tories.

The poll shows that Canadians are receptive to the idea of a Trudeau-led Liberal Party. If Trudeau does win, it will be up to him to get those people to support an actual Trudeau-led Liberal Party. Those votes are far from being in the bag, but the poll does suggest that Trudeau has the potential to do well, and that Canadians haven't written off the Liberal Party.

But there is little meat on the Trudeau leadership bones. What can really be taken away from this poll is just how soft that Conservative and NDP support really is. The Tories don't lose as many votes as the NDP, but about 10% of their supporters are quick to jump ship, suggesting that a good portion of the Conservative voting block is looking for a more moderate option that isn't the NDP. They especially take a hit in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia.

More significantly, the NDP loses one-third of its supporters in the blink of an eye, particularly in Ontario and Quebec. That is hugely problematic, as it suggests that much of their new-found support is based entirely on the party being the more plausible alternative to the Conservatives. With a hypothetical Trudeau leadership, the NDP is pushed back to its pre-2011 levels. It should not be that easy.

Whether Justin Trudeau will actually win all of those voters over to the Liberal Party is another thing entirely. This poll is less about Trudeau's strength than it is about the weakness of the Conservatives and New Democrats. This goes with my view that Canadians are generally fed-up with their political leaders (Ontario and Quebec are two good examples of that) and given the option of something fresh and interesting they can be shaken out of their stupor. If Trudeau wins and turns out to be a politician like any other one, or a complete flop, then Canadians will probably return to the May 2011 dynamic. But if he doesn't, I think that Harper and Mulcair will have a serious problem on their hands.

Monday, October 1, 2012

NDP leads in Environics poll

Last week, Environics released a new survey showing the New Democrats holding a four-point lead over the Conservatives. The numbers in the poll were particularly striking in Ontario, where the NDP was also pegged with the advantage.
Environics was last in the field Jun. 12-23, and since then the New Democrats held steady with 35% support. The Conservatives were down two points to 31% while the Liberals were up one point to 20% in the poll.

The Bloc Québécois was up two points to 9% while the Greens were down one to 5%.

It is worth noting that shortly after the Environics poll was released another poll emerged from Forum Research that gave the Tories a four-point advantage. I will take a closer look at that poll tomorrow, but it is already included in the weighted federal poll averages at the top of this page.

None of the shifts in support since the June Environics poll are outside the margin of error, while the NDP's lead is equal to the margin of error on this sort of gap between the two parties.

The most significant shifts took place in Ontario, where the NDP gained six points to top the table at 36%. The Conservatives fell eight points to 32%, while the Liberals were at 26%. This is a rather spectacular result for the New Democrats, who have struggled in Ontario of late. This result from Environics could be a bit of an outlier in that regard. But with the provincial scene in flux, it could very well be that the federal one is as well.

In Quebec, the New Democrats fell seven points to 37% while the Bloc was up by that amount to close to within four points with 33%. This sort of result has been replicated in several recent polls, suggesting that the PQ's provincial victory may be rubbing off on the Bloc. If that is the case, we should probably expect the Bloc's support to dip in coming weeks.

The Conservatives led in Alberta with 55%, while the New Democrats trailed at 23%. The Liberals gained seven points to hit 15% in the province.

The New Democrats led in Atlantic Canada with 44%, while the Conservatives were given the advantage in the Prairies with 49% and British Columbia with 42%.
Despite the four-point NDP lead, the Conservatives still would win a plurality of seats with 132 on the proposed boundaries of the new 338-seat map. The New Democrats win 119, the Liberals 61, the Bloc Québécois 25, and the Greens one.

The reason is simple: the NDP's vote in Ontario is not efficient enough to make up for the loss of (potential) gains in British Columbia and the Prairies, where the NDP has usually been doing better in the polls. And losing out on so many seats in Quebec to the Bloc makes a huge difference. The new boundaries also disadvantage the NDP somewhat (particularly due to the extra seats in B.C. and Alberta) - on the current boundaries the Tories would take 121 seats to the NDP's 114.

But with the NDP and Liberals being able to combine for 180 seats on the expanded map (and 169 on the current one), the Conservatives would be unlikely to hold on to power for much longer.

Despite a less-than-advantageous regional breakdown, this is a good poll for the New Democrats. They need to make inroads in Ontario in order to win the next election, but they also need to hold on to their vote in Quebec and make small (but seemingly easier) gains in the West. If the Tories are losing support in Ontario but re-gaining the advantage in B.C. and the Prairies, the party could be returning to its traditional base, one that is good enough to win an election but not enough to win a majority.