Monday, November 5, 2012

Ontario race remains between PCs and NDP

A new poll was released on Friday showing that the Ontario Liberals are in dire straits, no matter who takes over the party. And that means that, for the time being, the real contest is between the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats.
Forum was last in the field in Ontario on Sept. 25, and since then the Tories were unchanged at 37% support. The New Democrats were down three points to 32% while the Liberals were up two points to 22%.

The Greens were unchanged at 7% support.

Whereas the last poll from Forum showed a gap between the PCs and NDP that was within the margin of error, this poll gave the Tories a statistically significant lead. But that significance does not extend to any region of the province except eastern Ontario - all the others are close enough to give us an indication of only who is probably ahead, rather than definitively.

The disparity between men and women in this poll is telling. The Tories held a 43% to 29% lead over the NDP among men but the NDP was up five points (35% to 30%) among women. The New Democrats will need to close the gap among male voters in order to put themselves back in a dead heat with the Tories.

But there is something to note about this poll, similar to what I highlighted in Forum's last federal poll. The real problem is that Forum does not included unweighted and weighted samples in their reports (and they are not alone), which makes it difficult to determine what is actually going on. For instance, Forum says on one of its charts that the number of undecideds in this poll was 13%. But it also says that the total sample was 1,102 Ontarians and that, on the voting intentions question, the sample of respondents was 1,047. If the numbers of undecideds is really 13%, then the number of decided/leaning respondents who answered the voting intentions question should have been 959.

And on the question of how respondents voted in the last election, the numbers are off of the actual results - most strongly for the New Democrats, who were five points below their election result. By my rough calculation of Forum's numbers, if the sample was weighted by past voting behaviour the PC lead would be reduced to three points instead of five. But perhaps Forum is already taking this into account in their final numbers. When I asked if that was the case, I was told that this information is proprietary. That is certainly their prerogative, but it doesn't clear things up much.

Another interesting thing to note is that if you add up the sample sizes of how people said they voted in the last election, you end up with 1,008, or 96% of 1,047. In other words, 96% of respondents said they voted in the last election. That means that the sample Forum compiled either has a lot of fibbers (turnout was 49%) or a lot of forgetful people, and that it is probably not representative of the entire population. It might be representative of the voting population, though.
With the numbers in this poll, the Progressive Conservatives would likely win a majority government of around 60 seats, with strong results in rural Ontario but also a few pick-ups in Toronto as well. The New Democrats would win 37 seats and the Liberals only 10, nine of them in and around Toronto.

The poll also included some information on how Ontarians would vote depending on who was leading the party. Forum reported their numbers with the undecideds still included, but if we remove them we get the following results:

Gerard Kennedy - 24%
Eric Hoskins - 19%
Kathleen Wynne - 18%
Glen Murray - 18%
Sandra Pupatello - 17%
Deb Matthews - 17%
Charles Sousa - 15%

The poll also included Laurel Broten, but she has ruled herself out. What the poll suggests is that only Kennedy would improve the Liberals' current numbers, while they would fall with all of the others. Undoubtedly, this is due to Kennedy being a higher profile candidate. The others on the list are not nearly as well known, but their numbers would likely improve somewhat if they actually became leader.

This leaders question actually shows that the real swing voter in Ontario right now is on the fence between the New Democrats and the Liberals. The numbers hardly budged for the Tories no matter who was on the ballot, but those lower-performing Liberals added to the NDP's tally. It would seem to suggest that the Liberals would do better with a left-wing candidate (like Kennedy or Wynne) rather than one from the right (like Pupatello). But, in the end, if the Liberals get themselves back into a competitive position they will need to win votes from the Tories as well.

As of writing, Glen Murray is the only candidate officially in the race for the Liberal leadership. That list will likely get much longer very soon. How it all plays out between now and January, and then how the new leader will do in the short time before the next election, will be interesting to see.

28 comments:

  1. The unions better wake up and throw their money and volunteers at the NDP or its going to be lights out for their movement under a PC majority. Maybe that is a good thing?

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    1. In that case, big business better start throwing their money at the PCs or else it's finally going to be lights out for their movement under an NDP majority. Maybe a little people power is a good thing?
      -Taylor

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    2. Big business have been steadily throwing money at the PCs (and Liberals) for decades.

      Big unions have been steadily throwing money at the NDP (and Liberals) for decades.

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    3. Yeah, and who has more money and influence? Please don't suggest it's the unions... Furthermore, when was the last time you saw a union-owned newspaper/news outlet?

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  2. I must say, Éric, as a result of feverishly following the current U.S. election on sites like FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics, it does indeed appear as though pollsters in the U.S. are held to a much higher standard of rigour and transparency than in Canada. One thing that's very noticeable is how virtually all of them explicitly distinguish between results for "all registered voters" vs. "likely voters".

    In Canada it seems the pollsters never clearly let you know whether their numbers represent the former or the latter, although I think I've occasionally come across vague statements in pollster releases to the effect that results are weighted by likelihood to vote (Abacus Data, maybe?).

    The only Canadian pollster I've ever seen explicitly distinguish between "all" and "likely" is EKOS in the last Ontario election: in their final poll, for instance, they showed Lib 37.7 Con 31.5 NDP 23.3 among "all" voters and Lib 38.6 Con 34.0 NDP 21.1 among "likely voters". But beyond that example, I'm not seeing this practice catching on here.

    I'd be interested to hear your general thoughts on this as a Canadian poll analyst, if you have a moment to jot them down. Cheers.

    Dom

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    1. My thoughts? I'm jealous of the rich amount of data that is available in the United States, and there is a lot of room for improvement here in Canada.

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    2. I'm guessing part of the problem is that there aren't nearly as many polling firms in Canada as in the U.S., thus competition in the industry remains relatively low and there's less pressure to improve standards. If anything, it's therefore probably a good thing that the number of pollsters in Canada is slowly but steadily increasing.

      Dom

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    3. Theoretically, yes. But what is happening is that the competition is mainly about who is the cheapest.

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    4. On more thought:

      You mention that a suspicious aspect of this Forum poll is that the results seem to suggest a 96% turnout last election whereas the actual turnout was 49%. I would argue that a fair proportion of people who receive IVR polling calls probably hang up immediately and that non-voters are probably more likely to do so than voters. It would also be nice for the sake of transparency if pollsters revealed how many people they contacted flat-out refused to partake in the survey.

      Dom

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  3. For the results in eastern Ontario not sure where the NDP would get there second seat. Ottawa Centre has some NDP history but not sure where the second seat would come though

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    1. Maybe they can squeeze out a victory in Ottawa-Vanier, Ottawa South or Kingston and the Islands. I would say those are the three Eastern Ontario ridings where the NDP have a possibility at the moment.

      Then again, Eastern Ontario looks like the weakest ground for the NDP. Even Ottawa Centre will be difficult with popular constituency MPP Yasir Naqvi.

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    2. If memory serves, the NDP once held Kingston and the islands (ca. 1988)...

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  4. Yes I think it is time for the Unions to get the pickle out.

    The worst possible outcome for them would be a Hudak majority !!

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  5. Also in the US people register as Republicans or Democrats and in most states you have to take the initiative to get on the voters list. In Canada we have a permanent voters list and every eligible Canadians is (in theory at least) automatically registered to vote and if they are not on the list anyone can get on the list on election day with a piece of ID

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    1. DL,

      You are slightly mistaken. Every eligible Canadian voter is not automatically on the electoral roll. We are not registered automatically but, can get registered through tax returns and other government programs both provincially and federally. The list itself is continuously updated.

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  6. If the Liberals don't nominate a Wynne or a Kennedy from their progressive wing and that new premier does not repudiate their entire austerity program they are finished. Don Guy makes me roll on the floor saying at the Liberal conference, "without the unions we will just find another constituency for our program." 80% of the people who like austerity are known as "Tories" and will not shift to support the Liberals. There is no constituency for austerity except the Tories.

    Even at this point a Wynne or a Kennedy would find it very difficult to totally repudiate austerity without provoking a party split.

    They are in a real jackpot but it is a jackpot of their own making.

    If they don't move sharply to the left where their voters are they can expect Kitchener-Waterloo results all over the place.

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    1. I agree with you on the political side, but Ontario can't afford to keep giving its civil servants such generous raises. Move right and lose or move left, bankrupt the province THEN lose... Hopefully a better option will present itself.

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  7. Good analysis, one quibble.

    The NDP numbers didn't go down with *any* prospective OLP Leader. Which seems to indicate some candidates may stop the bleeding but none can turn the tide.

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    1. Did Kennedy draw from the Greens, or was it the Tories? It'd make sense for a lot of Green support to really be pissed off Liberals...

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    2. From undecided. Conservative vote went up a point. (Greens go down 1 point.)

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  8. The deficit was not created by the public service. The budget was virtually balanced in 2007 before Wall Street fell apart. The deficit was 100% created by stimulus and corporate bail outs. The public sector has no roll in fixing it.

    The Liberal voters and the Liberal Party are not in the same place which gives the Liberals
    voters an opportunity to kick the tires of the NDP.

    Doug



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  9. The unions will not buy the Liberal line that "you must support us or you will get the Tories who are worse." They will go "all in" with Horwath and the NDP unless the Liberals recind Bill 115, back off on wage controls. The argument, " good cop bad cop" seldom works in politics when there is a 3rd option running over 30% in the polls.

    You will soon here " a vote for the Liberals will elect the Tories" at both the federal and provincial levels.

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    1. ONe point about union advocacy... Rarely has union support for one party (typically, the NDP) correlated with union membership support for the same party... maybe that's changing now, but then again, a far smaller percentage of the workforce is unionised (thanks to Mulroney, Chretien, Martin, Harper)...

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  10. I am interested to know if there was a breakdown of what seats in the GTA and in Toronto might possibly go PC?

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    1. Charles Harrison06 November, 2012 14:56

      I'd suggest you look at the PDF.

      It's at https://www.forumresearch.com/forms/News%20Archives/News%20Releases/66583_Ontario_Political_Issues_%28Forum_Research%29_%2820121101%29.pdf

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  11. If 5 seats in 416 go Tory look for Willowdale, Etobicoke Centre, 2-3 seats in Scarborough possibly Eglinton-Lawrence.

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  12. Union households are 2X more likely to vote NDP than non-union households. You never get them all but then again, many business households vote NDP.

    Doug

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  13. Do you remember "Working Families Coalition"? Tim Hudak does. He and PC complained bitterly that it was a pro-Liberal front and therefore expenses should be charged to Grits. He lost.

    The Liberals will simply not have that kind of support next time. It was paid for by teachers, nurses, construction unions and firefighters. Unless they kiss and make up with unions they will be thrown under the bus.

    Liberals in Kitchenr Waterloo know what that looks like.

    Doug

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