Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NDP support drops in Abacus poll

Yesterday, Abacus Data released their latest national survey suggesting that the New Democrats have taken a big hit over the last two months, almost entirely to the benefit of the Liberals. But the Liberals were already starting from quite low in Abacus's polling, meaning that the net effect is a wider Conservative lead rather than a three-way contest.
Abacus was last in the field Sept. 14-18, and since then the Conservatives picked-up one point to lead with 36% support. The New Democrats fell six points to 29%, while the Liberals were up five points to 22%. These latter two are statistically significant shifts in support, and the margin between these two parties has been narrowing in most recent polls.

The Bloc Québécois and Greens were unchanged at 7% and 6%, respectively.

Abacus conducts its polling using the online panel run by Angus-Reid. Their report includes both weighted and unweighted sample counts for the regional distribution, though not for other demographic categories. Nevertheless, Abacus is always very transparent about their polls when approached.

The gender gap is not nearly as wide in this survey as we have seen in some others: the Tories lead by eight among men and six among women.

It also worth noting that a majority of respondents now think that the country is headed in the right direction, up 10 points to 51% since September.

The Conservatives led in this poll with 43% in Ontario, followed by the New Democrats at 28% and the Liberals at 23%. That 43% number is a very big one for the Tories - they have been pegged at or above 40% in only six of the last 36 polls in the province.

The Tories also led in Alberta with 60%, followed by the NDP at 18% (-11) and the Liberals at 17% (+11). In the Prairies, the Conservatives led with 49% to 27% for the NDP (-16) and 16% for the Liberals.

In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois actually moved ahead with 31%. The NDP fell nine points to 30%, while the Liberals were up eight points to 21%. The Tories brought up the rear with 14%.

The province appears to be going through (another) period of flux. If we look at the last 10 polls done in Quebec (stretching back to the end of August), we see that the NDP has averaged about 33.8% support. But in the 10 polls before that (stretching back to mid-June), the party averaged 39.5%. In contrast, the Liberals averaged 17.4% in the older polls but 22.4% in the newer ones. They appear to have gained about five points, almost all of it at the expense of the New Democrats. That should be worrying to Thomas Mulcair.

But the party was ahead in British Columbia with 40% to the Tories' 34% and the Liberals' 19%, and edged out the Liberals in Atlantic Canada with 36% to 31% (+12). The Conservatives were third with 25%.
With these numbers, the Conservatives would likely win around 167 seats on the proposed boundaries of the 338-seat map. That puts them three short of an outright majority, but that margin is close enough that the Tories could easily pull it off.

The New Democrats win 82 seats and the Liberals win 50, while the Bloc takes 38 seats and the Greens keep their one.

That swing in Quebec is hugely important, as though the Bloc did not make any real gains they move ahead in many ridings simply because of the NDP's slip. A lot of them would be incredibly close, however, so the potential for a dozen or so seats to go back to the NDP is not out of the question. But that is somewhat besides the point - the Conservatives aren't at play in Quebec.

The real problem in this poll for the opposition is Ontario, where the Conservatives win 85 seats. The Tories are about where they were on election night in this survey, but the Liberals are several points down - reducing their seat haul further.

All around, the numbers are quite good for Stephen Harper in this poll. In addition to the increase of people who think the country is headed in the right direction, his job approval rating increase by three points to 39%, while his disapproval dropped to 44%. His favourability was unchanged at 35%, but his unfavourability was down four points to 46%. Mulcair has better overall numbers (29% favourable to 24% unfavourable), but this poll suggest a steep decline in Mulcair's favourability rating (and an increase of his neutral rating by five points to 36%).

The Conservatives need to rebuild a few bridges in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, but have a far less formidable task ahead of them than either the Liberals or the NDP. Being this far behind in Ontario is a big problem, and neither party has a chance of unseating the Tories (at least, on their own) unless one of them dominates in Quebec like the NDP did in 2011. The Bloc's vote in the province seems somewhat tied to the support for the provincial Parti Québécois, so how Quebec's provincial politics will shake out over the next three years (which will almost certainly feature another election) could be very important.


  1. Éric, I'm liking how you've started reporting the probability of a party winning the election as a function of its lead in the polling average. Should give you some extra ammo to defend yourself in the case of an "unforeseen" result on election night. Another page out of Nate Silver's book? ;)


    1. Indeed! I'll be launching the BC model soon, and it includes a lot more focus on probability. I think it is a good way to go - much more honest than simply putting up hard numbers.

      The difference is that Silver relies on simulations to determine his probabilities, while I am relying more on historical outcomes. I will explain in more detail once the model launches.

  2. Éric, how do you interpret the very different numbers that Abacus routinely puts up compared with Forum, Nanos and others? The only similarity I note is in the general direction of the trends and the relative placement of the parties. And have you looked at the most recent polling in Calgary Centre, which now seems to show a three-way race shaping up?

    1. The trends are probably most important, at this stage it is not of great concern that the findings of various firms are off by a few percentage points. If this was the case a week before an election, then I would be very concerned. On the whole, though, they are generally in the ballpark.

      As to Calgary Centre, yes I saw that poll. An interesting race if that is what is really going on, but riding polls tend to have a higher degree of inaccuracy. I've updated the By-Election Barometer (link in right-hand column) accordingly.

  3. The Tories have 36% support from decided voters versus 29% for the NDP and 22% for the Liberals in the Abacus Data poll, conducted in November 2012. Can Not wait for the blade straight and steel true of the CPC to do battle in the election of 2015!

  4. Éric, could not agree more about the probabilities and emulations (in some places)of Nate Silver. I do miss the individual riding by riding predictions however, though perhaps that is more work than it is worth. I'm sure you keep getting asked this but what two new ridings keep going Liberal in Alberta?

    1. Edmonton McDougal surely?
    2. Edmonton Griesbach or Calgary Confederation?

    Keep up the good work!


    1. I only post riding-by-riding projections during an election campaign. I don't think it is much use to post the numbers for individual polls - especially when you have small samples of 100 people or so in some regions. That means huge MOEs, which then means even bigger MOEs on the riding-by-riding numbers.

      The two ridings most likely to flip to the Liberals are Calgary McCall and Edmonton McDougall.

  5. Although I do think Abacus is professional, they are the Rasmussen of Canada and have a fairly tight relationship with Sun Media. I have no doubt the Justin factor is in play now. How much we will see if other polls confirm Abacus.

    There seems to be a very fluid relationship developing on the progressive side of the spectrum between NDP and Liberal voters that switch fairly easily towards the one best positioned to battle the Tories.


  6. Why is the CPC so high and the LPC so low in the Abacus polls? Is it because more Tory supporters fill out polls on the internet than Grit supporters?

  7. Can you give current seats as well as proposed boundaries? Thanks.

    1. I don't expect it to happen. But I hope it does, because the commission has already proposed changes to the proposed boundaries, so these boundaries aren't final yet.

  8. Eric,

    Abacus invited people from the Angus Reid forum to participate. "A random sample of panelists from the Angus Reid Forum was invited to participate in the survey" Would this not be weighted more toward people who had strong leanings? Ie less enthusiastic people would not bother to respond.

    If so it should account for stronger CPC numbers as they are generally much stronger in their commitment to their party.

    1. Most online polls are done this way, and there is no indication that Conservative supporters are more enthusiastic about voting Conservative than other votes.

    2. Thats not what Conservatives say. They say their support is rock solid and the other is mushy.

    3. I'm betting the next non online poll has a different story to tell. Just as they have been for the last while.

    4. I believe the term for Harper support is generally "rock solid" Have not heard that term used for any of the other parties.

      Its more likely rock solid vote is more enthusiastic than support that is not.

  9. Ipsos Reid today says CPC 34 NDP 30 Libs 24

    More likely than Abacus results.

    CPC no change
    Libs +8

    Libs big gains in Ontario and Quebec.

    The question was if an election were held today who would you vote for. Trudeau was not factored into the question other than what was already in the minds of the polled. If he was factored it would likely have been even higher as other polls have shown.

  10. These days the Tories have the Tory vote, very solid in the mid 30s. The movement is overwhelmingly between the Liberals and the NDP amongst progressives who are anti-Tory. They seem to trying to figure out which champion can take the Tories down but they are split, exctly what the Tories want. The arrival of Justin prevents an NDP government and creates a Tory dynasty and, as such is a major diservice to the progressive movement.

    What Canada needs is Manitoba politics writ large across the nation. A dominant NDP folled by a strong alternative PC party and one seat for the Liberals.

    Most political scientists call this 'mature' politics. One party for business + allies, one party for Labour + allies and that is really all you need.

    They documant the decline of the Manitoba Liberal Party shedding 2/3 of its vote to the NDP and 1/3 to the Tories.

    The old Keith Davey strategy for the Liberals "campaign from the left but govern from the right" is manipulation and needs to be called out.



    1. The Harper strategy of govern from the left and campaign from the right needs to be called out as well. Harper has been an unmitigated failure as a conservative.

    2. I have never heard mature and NDP in the same breathe!

      I really don't think the Manitoba approach is anything to be proud of. The province had some good years between 2000-2012 but overall their economic growth has fallen far behind other Western provinces and Ontario post-Second World War.

      Winnipeggers may be exceptionally kindhearted and friendly but, the City is hardly a bastion of culture, business, academics or sports. Its greatest accomplishment is a floodway.

      What you propose is a two-party system. As such you advocate limiting choice in an increasingly diverse Canada-politics as well as people are complex so why should our political choices be as simplistic as "A" or "B"? One only need look at Washington to see what an inflexible two party system creates; gridlock, an increasingly dysfunctional system (a budget has not passed in 3 years), a public that increasingly distrusts and is disappointed with politicians and ironic as it may be incumbency becomes an almost guarantee of re-election. Many good words can be said in favour of institutional memory but, democracy works best when it is competitive and able to bring forth necessary reforms. An entrenched incumbency is little different than aristocracy.

    3. Anonymous18 November, 2012 23:06,

      Harper has been an unmitigated failure as a liberal too.

    4. William, I hardly think that running down Winnipeg (from a position of patent lack of knowledge) is a legitimate retort or any means of appraising Manitoba's recent governments.

      As for two-party systems, yeah, they're awful, not that multi-party systems are any guarantee of democracy - power is invested in other institutions beyond official political parties, and to a greater degree, and these largely lie beyond the reach of the vast majority of people anyway.

    5. chimurenga,

      I apologise if my words caused hurt. I inartfully expressed my point.

      I simply wanted to state if the Manitoba system works so well why are the results so mediocre. At the start of the last century Winnipeg was on track to out pace Chicago in industry, commerce, innovation and importance but, the outcomes since 1900 have been disappointing.

      I do not know if the two party system is responsible for the decline but, what I think is fair to say is that the recent success of the last decade is more the result of good governance and conscientious politicians than the two party system.


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