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.

36 comments:

  1. Sample size? Margin of error?

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    1. Those are are in the graphic (600, +/- 4%).

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    2. That would actually make it statistically the same poll as the last one you looked at, wouldn't it? So maybe that would explain it.

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  2. What I see in those numbers is a clear NDP led coalition.

    Libs will support just to keep Hudak/Harris from gaining power.

    Hudak in power would be a major disaster !

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    1. I think that would depend on who becomes the next leader of the Liberals. A more centre-right leader could prefer to support the PCs over the NDP.

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    2. Actually no Eric. What the next party leader wants is almost irrelevant to a party that is used to being in power and the majority of whom are distinctly centre-left.

      Leaders serve at the pleasure of the party not the other way around !

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    3. Problem for the Liberals is they can't be seen propping either party for too long. If they support the NDP, the right-leaning Liberals will jump to the PCs. If they support the PC, the left-leaning Liberals will jump to the NDP.

      Overall the outlook does not look good for the Liberals under a minority government scenario.

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    4. William Boweser25 October, 2012 13:50

      I agree with Eric a more conservative leader may feel Hudak offers more in terms of similar policies. Or for strategic reasons may feel supporting the Tories will shore up Liberal support or help diminish NDP popularity.

      The over-arching problem I see with a Lib-NDP coalition is both parties are going after the same voters. In this way a NDP-Lib coalition (which for the record I do not think likely) ultimately would lead to the supremacy of one party over the other.

      The more likely outcome is simply a minority government. This has been the traditional practice throughout the Commonwealth, as opposed to coalitions a far more European invention.

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  3. For the sake of stability I think Ontario will lean towards either of the opposition parties during the campaign, I think a slim Horwath majority will be the result of a spring election.
    -Taylor

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    1. And that is a really positive view which I can support. Thanks.

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    2. This really is the perfect storm for the Liberals: a polarized electorate, scandal, abuse of power, an alienated base, and no real successor to McGuinty, who represented the quiet majority of centrists and was really a moderating voice between the centre-left and centre-right flanks of the party. Hudak has a popularity ceiling of around 36% while Horwath has the momentum and personal popularity to back her up, basically most voters who have and will abandon the Liberals jumps to her ship. Unless every Liberal decides to vote PC strategically or vice versa there's no stopping her. There's no looking past it whether you support her policies or not (I think this will be fantastic).
      -Taylor

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    3. A Horwath majority will be difficult (not impossible), especially as the NDP is extremely weak in large portions of the province where the race is still between Liberals and Conservatives.

      Victories in Bramalea-Gore-Malton and Kitchener-Waterloo show that the NDP can be successful in uncharted territories if they have strong candidates and good grassroots organization. But can they pull it off in another 35 to 40 ridings? (they got 18 ridings and need to win 36 more for a majority)

      I would welcome a NDP government in Ontario, it would be a breath of fresh air. However, I do want a future NDP government to have a strong grassroots foundation with quality candidates. I hope Andrea Horwath attract a few star candidates for the next election. David Miller? Maybe a few NDP MPs will run provincially if they are confident they will become cabinet members?

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    4. Taylor,

      As evidenced through the last federal election most "Liberals" who jump ship almost evenly split themselves between the Tories and Dippers.

      Horwath certainly has charisma but, this idea that all Liberals' second choice is the NDP is fanciful.

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    5. Since the Provincial election in 2011, The NDP has jumped from 22% to the low 30%s while the Tories have remained static. That speaks for itself.
      -Taylor

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    6. Not really Taylor. According to this poll the Tories are down 6 points and Liberal down 8 while the NDP is up 7 from the last election . I think you need to look at the cold hard truth; the NDP is receiving most of their 7 point bounce from the Tories!

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  4. The federal Liberals had little hesitation in rejecting a coalition and propping up Harper for two years...I have little doubt that the Ontario Liberals will happily prop up Hudak if it means keeping the NDP out of power. You read it here!

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    1. Applying a federal parties actions to a provincial party is always the action of ignorance.

      Names are the same, the rest is different !!

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    2. Peter,

      Surely even you must admit overlap exists! Two former premiers have gone on to become PM and many more provincial politicians have moved to the federal scene and vice versa. Ujjal Dosanjh, (your buddy) Stockwell Day, John Reynolds, Bill Blaikie, the list goes on. The Ontario Liberal party and federal Liberal party are particularly close which perhaps explains the ease with which Gerard Kennedy moved from queen's Park to Parliament Hill.

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    3. It was much harder for the federal Liberals to justify a coalition because they would have had to make a deal with the Bloc as well. Lib+NDP was not a majority of seats.

      No such problem in Ontario.

      As for the leadership race, I don't know very much about any of them, but Kathleen Wynne seems to have an honest face so I'll be keeping an eye on her.

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  5. Charles Harrison25 October, 2012 14:12

    Éric, which seats did the NDP win? They won so few I think they must've only won strong seats!

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    1. NDP strength in Hamilton Niagara, 416, and the north. But they are competitive everywhere except East. With these numbers they would make major breakthrough in SouthWest.

      JKennethY

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  6. Three way race would definitely make things interesting.

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    1. Charles Harrison28 October, 2012 17:34

      It's been interesting since 1990 when Rae became premier.

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  7. This kind of scenario would be highly unstable given that the Liberals probably won't give their full support to either the NDP or the PCs (to avoid alienating parts of their base), meaning that the PC minority government might have to rely on the NDP to pass legistlation (which is unlikely).

    The NDP and PCs are too polarized to actually compromise (note that the only time they agreed on something was on the wage freeze bill, which was "too moderate" for either party), so anything other than a majority government of any stripe would produce an unstable government.

    Of course, theoretically a Liberal minority would work as the Liberals could find support from either party on different issues, but considering the current circumstances, it would be unlikely either opposition party would want to support the Liberals.

    As for a coalition government, it would probably not happen because if the Liberals were swept out of office, they would probably want to stay in opposition for a while to refresh the party and remove baggage from their previous time in government.

    At this time, it is impossible to see the NDP winning a majority without having at least 40% support since their vote is very inefficient. Even if they held all their previous seats from the last election and won all the seats they were within 15% of winning, they would still fall short of a majority by at least 20 seats.

    So, PC government it is. Give the PCs a chance to show their true colours.

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    1. The thing about a sudden change in support for a party is that it is unclear where it will show up. Parties don't always "surge" where they have been historically strong. If that was the case, the FNDP would have seen major seat gains in BC, Ontario and NS in the last federal election, not in Quebec. Kitchener-Waterloo is an excellent example. The NDP had never been over 20% there before winning the by-election. It wouldn't have been predicted as a seat that their rising provincial support would put in play for them. To base calculations solely off of where a party has done well before is going to miss a big part of the picture.

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    2. "Give the PCs a chance to show their true colours."

      People in Ontario still don't know who the PCs are after Harris and Eves?! And hasn't Hudak said enough to know where he's at?

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    3. chim

      Hudak sure as Hell has !!

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  8. A PC minority wouldn't be able to show their true colours on major cutbacks. In fact a PC minority could be very unstable even if they attempted modest cost-cutting measures.

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    1. Weren't the federal Conservative minority governments stable? The Ontario Conservatives are coming from the same place, politically and strategically, as their federal counterparts. They'll simply push through whatever they can get away with. (And the Liberals have already shown that proroguing can be transplanted to the provincial level without raising an eyebrow).

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  9. As the Liberals declined in Manitoba, their votes went 2/3 NDP 1/3 PC. Liberals are not evenly split, more are left-of-centre, fewer are right-of-centre,

    Doug

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  10. Eric, which ridings are Hamilton/Niagara? You always count 10, whereas it seems to me there are 8 (3 w Hamilton in the name, 2 w Niagara in the name, ADFW, St. Catharines, Welland).

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    1. Add Halton and Burlington to the list.

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    2. So does that make the 5th NDP seat Niagara Falls? Is the remaining Lib seat ADFW or St. Kitts? I suppose the PCs pick up the other? Or maybe PCs take the Falls and the NDP takes.... I'm not sure they barely play in any other seat of those 10....

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  11. I think it's worth noting - in reference to a number of comments here - that while a probable majority of Liberal party supporters tack to the centre-left, the party leadership, policy-makers and MPPs are much further to the right. There's no question - based on their record - that the Liberal Party would support most Conservative policy over NDP policy. So, a Conservative minority might well be stable, with the Liberals propping them up on a case-by-case basis (more likely than a coalition or other formal arrangement), simply because those two parties have more in common than either of them does with the NDP.

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    1. Assuming that is true, the Liberals backing of a Tory minority will be cheered to the rafters at the NDP convention. The progressive voters will abandon the Liberals for this treason and they will be pummeled in the next election.

      We don't need to guess. Ask Nick Clegg in the UK how supporting Cameron's Tories is working out. Labour is back in 1st place and the Liberals are being heavily punished for backing the wrong horse.

      Doug

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    2. You're absolutely right about MP's & McGuinty heading right, or rather being absorbed by the corporate Borg. McGuinty actually out-Harpered Harper with his "rip up contracts" idea, and pro-by-rogue to "govern" in secret with out the inconvenience of voting.

      I'll be voting NDP. Hudak = Harper

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