Monday, November 26, 2012

Two similar federal polls

Last week, both Nanos Research and Forum Research released their latest numbers, and both polls gave a very similar picture of the federal race. That picture suggests a roughly five-point Conservative lead, with the Liberals and New Democrats neck-and-neck for second place. Further along in this post is a breakdown of tonight's by-election races.
We'll start with the Nanos poll. The firm was last in the field Oct. 4-11, and since then the Conservatives picked up 0.5 points to reach 33.8%. The Liberals were down 1.1 points to 29%, while the New Democrats were down 0.7 points to 27.2%.

The Bloc Québécois was up 0.2 points to 4.9%, while the Greens were up 0.8 points to 3.7%.

None of these shifts appear to be outside the margin of error, while the Conservative edge is just inside of it.

The Conservatives led in the Prairies, which in Nanos's polling includes Alberta, with 48.4%, followed by the NDP at 28.1% and the Liberals at 19.2%.

The Tories were also given the edge in Ontario with 39.7% support, compared to 33.3% for the Liberals and only 19.9% for the NDP. That is a very low score for the New Democrats in Ontario, but it is not unusual for Nanos to have these sorts of numbers.

At 39.4%, the Conservatives were ahead of the New Democrats (29.3%) in British Columbia, while the Liberals were down 14.8 points to 25.8% in the province. The last Nanos poll had the Liberals at 40.6% in B.C. It looked like an outlier at the time, and it is quite clear now that it was.

The Tories narrowly edged out the Liberals in Atlantic Canada with 34.9% to 34.7%, with the NDP down to 26.4% support.

The New Democrats did place first in Quebec with 33.6%, just ahead of the Liberals who were up to 31.6%. The Bloc Québécois was third with 19.3% while the Conservatives were down to only 11.5%.
Forum's national numbers were very similar to the ones put out by Nanos, seemingly confirming the state of the race.

Since Forum's last poll of Oct. 27, the Conservatives picked up two points and led with 33% support. The NDP was down four points to 28%, putting them tied with the Liberals, who were up one point. The Bloc and Greens were unchanged at 6% and 4%, respectively.

The drop by the NDP is noteworthy, while the Tories and Liberals were statistically unchanged.

The Conservatives led in Alberta with 61%, followed by the Liberals at 20% and the NDP at 15%. The Tories also led in the Prairies with 50%, a gain of 15 points, while the NDP was down 24 points to 24% and the Liberals placed third with 20%.

The Conservatives also had the advantage in Ontario with 34%, followed closely by the Liberals at 31% and the NDP at 29%. The Conservatives were also ahead in British Columbia with 42% (+15). The NDP was down to 34% and the Liberals were down 10 points to 16%.

The Liberals edged out the NDP in Quebec with 33% to 29%, while the Bloc had 22% and the Conservatives 14%. The Liberals were also in front in Atlantic Canada with 36% to the NDP's 34% and the Tories' 26%.

It is perhaps worth noting that neither of these polls included details on unweighted sample sizes.
The Forum poll would have resulted in the Conservatives winning about 145 seats on the proposed boundaries of the new 338-seat map. The Liberals would win 98 seats and the NDP 84 seats, with 10 going to the Bloc and one to the Greens.

For the NDP, falling behind the Liberals in Quebec and placing third in Ontario scuttles their chances of finishing ahead of the Liberals in the seat count. The close race in Ontario is, in large part, what deprives the Tories of a majority.
The results of the Nanos poll are quite similar, with the Conservatives winning 146 seats, the Liberals 97, the NDP 93, and the Bloc only two.

Again, Ontario and (to a lesser extent) Quebec is the reason for the third-place finish for the NDP. The Conservatives are hurt more in this poll, however, by their lower results on the Prairies.

Forum also included some polling on a Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party, finding that his leadership would vault the party into first place with 39% support, dropping the Tories to 30% and the NDP to only 23%. The Trudeau Liberals would lead by significant margins in Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada and edge out the NDP in Alberta and the Prairies. In terms of seats, this would deliver 159 to the Liberals (10 short of a majority), 122 to the Conservatives, and 46 to the NDP.

More realistically, both Forum and Nanos had some personal ratings for current party leaders. Forum found that Stephen Harper's approval rating stood at 36%, compared to 55% disapproval. That is virtually unchanged from their last poll. Bob Rae's were also relatively steady, at 35% approval to 33% disapproval.

Thomas Mulcair's numbers worsened, his approval rating falling five points to 33% and his disapproval rating increasing four points to 34%. His approval rating among NDP voters stands at only 59%, compared to Harper's approval rating of 86% among Conservative voters (Rae sits at 57% among Liberals).

Nanos also registered decreasing numbers for Mulcair in their leadership index, but not to a significant degree. Harper managed 30% on trust, 41% on competence, and 33% on vision, giving him a total score of 104.2 points, a gain of 8.3 since Nanos's last poll. Mulcair scored 16%, 12%, and 18%, respectively, putting his leadership index at 43.6, down 4.1 points. Rae was up 4.6 points to 37.7, while Elizabeth May was Nanos's biggest gainer, jumping 7.6 points to 23.7 points.

As a share of points, Harper was well ahead with 48% to 20% for Mulcair, 17% for Rae, and 11% for May.

By-Elections tonight

Federal by-elections will be taking place tonight in Durham, Victoria, and Calgary Centre. The By-Election Barometer has a breakdown of the by-election races. Durham is forecast as a Strong Conservative riding, giving the Tories a 95% chance or higher of winning. Victoria is a Strong NDP riding, while Calgary Centre is a Likely Conservative win. The polls have indicated a close race there, but they have all put Joan Crockatt in the lead and the riding itself leans heavily towards the Tories.

In terms of specific vote share forecasts, I have seen criticisms that my confidence intervals are quite large. This is a recognition that, when it comes to by-elections, we know very little. In fact, it is quite unusual that we have had two polls done in Victoria and Durham and four in Calgary Centre during their respective campaigns. But these races are quickly evolving, and two weeks separates Forum's last polls in Victoria and Durham from today's vote. The last polls in Calgary Centre were done about a week ago, or even earlier.

During the Republican primaries, which were heavily polled, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight still had 20-point confidence intervals in his forecasts in Iowa for the leading candidates, and that kind of forecasted range was common throughout the primaries. The results were usually close to his median forecast, but not always. With more information going into these by-elections, it would be much easier to make tighter forecasts.

The race in Durham seems the most straightforward, and the forecast gives Erin O'Toole between 40% and 55% support, to between 19% and 30% for Larry O'Connor of the NDP. Grant Hume of the Liberals is expected to finish with between 15% and 25% of the vote, while the Greens could get between 4% and 10%. O'Connor does have some name-recognition in the riding so the potential for a stronger finish is there, but it seems a near certainty that O'Toole will win. The rolling average margin of victory, based on the swing from province-wide polling, stands at 16.8 points. In a normal election campaign, a call based on that size of margin would be right 81% of the time.

Victoria is another riding that shouldn't have any surprises. Murray Rankin of the NDP is forecast to take between 40% and 62% of the vote, while Donald Galloway is expected to place second with between 10% and 30%. The Liberals should finish third with between 13% and 25%, with the Conservatives taking between 10% and 25%. The rolling average margin of victory of 25.8 points would result in a correct call in a general election 90% of the time.

Calgary Centre is the real race to watch tonight. The polls have been close and the campaigning has been fierce. How will it all shake out tonight? What role will turnout play? Will strategic voting decide the result? This is, without a doubt, the most difficult by-election to call of the three and one of the most interesting in recent memory. The forecast is for Joan Crockatt of the Tories to take between 30% and 55% of the vote, with Harvey Locke of the Liberals placing second with between 24% and 37%. Chris Turner of the Greens could also do quite well, with a forecasted result of between 10% and 30%. The NDP should finish fourth with between 5% and 20%. The average margin in the provincial polls is 14 points, which would result in the right call 77% of the time. But the margin was five points in the last two riding polls - the kind of call that the model would only have 60% confidence in making. The forecast still expects a Conservative victory, but it would also not be surprised if Crockatt does not win.


  1. Thomas Mulcair started strong, but he seemed to fizzling in the last couple of months. The NDP poll numbers are nothing to worry about at the 27-28% range, but it is Mulcair's declining approval rating that could prove to be of a concern.

    Next spring once the Liberal leader is elected, the NDP needs to do something drastic to steal thunder from the new Liberal leader. They should start rolling out ambitious policies that can attract voters for the 2015 election. Maybe a promise of marijuana decriminalization or abolishing the senate during the first year of a NDP government?

    Mulcair is not connecting with voters, epically outside of Quebec. The Liberals will eventually turn on Mulcair painting him as a weak federalist and a sympathizer of Quebec sovereignty. Both parties are liekly try to paint each other as anti-Alberta or anti-West too.

    1. The mainstream media have settled (since the summer) on a policy of under-reporting Mulcair and the NDP, while simultaneously spamming Justin Trudeau... The effect promotes the perception that the NDP is doing nothing and that Trudeau and the Liberals are dynamic. A look at what is actually happening in Parliament might reverse this perception... Agreed that the NDP will have to do something splashy - but I don't think either pot-decriminalisation or senate abolition are substantive enough issues to make a difference (though I think those are both perfectly reasonable policies in general terms). I think the NDP, most of all, has to resist any temptation to sound more Liberal (such a drift would doom them to irrelevancy) and should stay the course, further pushing their progressive, alternative policies. There's still a good chance Justin will pop his foot in his mouth (again) and I have low expectations for him in any debate/policy statement setting...

    2. Ah yes, when all else fails, Conservatives blame the media for their problems - oh, wait, its the NDP doing it now! Not a surprise, given how little difference there is in their attitudes sometimes...

      The fact is that the NDP have done nothing, and will continue to do nothing, so long as we continue to have a stable majority government. Its just how things are, there isn't any big scandal and no minority Parliament. The main opposition is going to lose out no matter what. The only reason the Liberals have press is because of the leadership race and the attendant Trudeau with it.

      If the roles were reversed, then the NDP would have tonnes of press... oh wait, they already got tonnes over the period between Mulcair's win and now! Its just how things are, and I expect come the end of the "Liberal honeymoon," whoever it may be for, things may settle back.

      But don't blame the media. It makes you look petty and just waiting for an excuse to come by. The third party's leadership race wouldn't be an issue if the NDP actually did something newsworthy to counteract it, but no, you folks just sit on your haunches. Useful.

    3. A good deal of the media bias in this country is related to how much they are fed and by whom. In the case of the current government they more or less ignore the Parliamentary Press Gallery and as such are treated with a measure of hostility for it. If the NDP or any other party wants good press give the media a story to tell. As it is now Trudeau is a story and drives readership which in my opinion explains the light treatment he has received over his disgraceful comments about Alberta.

    4. The media are not a mere reflection of the political world as it really is, they are a participant in that world – and in no way a neutral participant. They are subject to economic and political factors and designs. Dig deep enough and you can find references to plenty of actions undertaken by Mulcair and the NDP, but when these have been reported it’s been as though they are still the third party, not the Official Opposition. I could retrieve plenty of examples of news stories citing Liberal opposition to Tory policies or statements this fall wherein the NDP is either not mentioned or mentioned as though they were minor participants in the discussion – which is a misleading representation of reality. The Justin Trudeau stories ride on top of that phenomenon. Last year, yes, the media covered the NDP leadership race (which was actually a race, in contrast to the current Liberal pre-contest/anointment), when Liberal statements were reported at that time (which was often) they were, at least, the statements of the third party.

    5. I find charges of media bias to be quite tiresome. I suspect most in the media are just like me, and what they care about is telling an accurate and compelling story. If journalists wanted to cheer-lead for one party or another, they would have gotten involved in politics (the pay is better).

    6. The media cover Trudeau because Trudeau's exciting (or horrifying, depending where you are), and he draws an audience. If Mulcair wants more coverage, he's going to have to do something that people care about more than they care about the promise/threat that is Justin Trudeau.

    7. Well Éric, all i can say is that you're in the business of analysing polls, not the media. I don't claim the media is a monolith, and I can plainly see that many journalists simply write stories based on what they believe to be a fair and accurate view of the world, and many do a fine job, but most reporters can't help but be affected by the situation they are in - their stories are coloured by convention and by the choices their publishers make and by their publishers' (often unspoken) preferences. In this way, for example, we all 'know' that Conservative and Liberal policies are better for the economy than NDP policies - that they are less likely to increase debt - even though the evidence is demonstrably contrary to that 'knowledge'. So I find dismissive complaints that 'charges of media bias [are] tiresome' equally tiresome. I've spent a good twenty five years analysing media - there's a large and well-founded body of published analysis that can't be brushed aside with a comment like 'tiresome', any more than I can dismiss your statistical analysis as mere fiddling with numbers... Many people here respect your work, perhaps you'd show some respect for media analysis by reading some of it.

    8. Well, that isn't exactly what you were saying. Your statement that the "mainstream media has settled on a policy of under-reporting Mulcair and the NDP..." you implied some sort of planned campaign to undermine the NDP by the MSM.

      If you didn't intend to put forward a tin-foil hat conspiracy theory as your argument, you should be more careful in how you express yourself.

    9. That reads harsher than I intended, but I just don't think it is fair when the media is painted with such a broad brush.

    10. It's a blog comment, not a book. So it appears like a broad brush. 'Settled on' doesn't imply a back room conspiracy. You read more into my comment than I said... Media bias, like any bias, has a lot of shades and contours. There actually are cases of direct media manipulation - i.e. conspiracies (think of the craven case of Murdoch's News International phone-hacking scandal). Mostly, media bias is something done without conscious effort... it just seems 'natural' to write a story a certain way. For example, it seemed natural to (greatly) underestimate the rise of the NDP in the last federal election - even as the evidence kept mounting.

  2. What are the regionals for Forum's Trudeau polling?

    1. See here, p.8:


  3. Canadians find in the nanos poll that Prime Minister Harper is the most competent at 41%.
    Because his strong stable majority govt rises above the mud and the slaugther that the NDP and LPC do to one another. In their political oppositional war, to see who will win second place. Canadians look to Harper govt as stable, with a begign calm, a prime minister of brains and ingenuity that gets things done. Canadians may not like Harper but they respect a govt that is going calmly forward while a lot of the world is marooned in debt doom.

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    2. Good one chimurenga

      Eric I thought we were finished with the Anonymous nonsense ??

  4. The NDP have to destroy the Liberals or be revealed as a 1 term fluke never 2 obtain even 2nd place again & Liberals have to avoid being destroyed.

  5. Did the Green Party throw tons of its resources into Calgary Centre and Victoria? Or is this typical byelection weird voting?

    1. In Alberta over the last three years or so the federal Greens have polled strongly - sometimes ahead of the NDP. And, of course, the Greens enjoy their greatest support in BC. I reckon there’s still some by-election weirdness, but resting on a foundation of Green support.


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