Thursday, March 29, 2012

NDP leads, B.C. Conservatives making inroads

Two polls on the provincial voting intentions of British Columbians were released recently, indicating that the B.C. New Democrats hold a wide lead over the governing B.C. Liberals. The size of that lead is in serious dispute, but one common trend is that the B.C. Conservatives have displaced the Liberals as the main alternative to the NDP in the British Columbia Interior.
Mustel Group, a B.C.-based polling firm, was last in the field back in September, though I have no record of that poll aside from Mustel's trends chart. But since then, the B.C. New Democrats have slipped two points to 42% while the B.C. Liberals are up two points to 34%.

That's an eight point lead, generally the kind of gap we've seen in polls by other firms like Justason, Ipsos-Reid, and Angus-Reid.

Mustel has the B.C. Conservatives up three points to 17% while the Greens are down four to 6%.

Regionally, the New Democrats hold a wide lead on Vancouver Island and are more narrowly edging out the Liberals in Metro Vancouver.

But in the Interior, the NDP is second - behind the Conservatives. They stand at 33%, a big number for them in what should be expected to be their strongest region. This has resulted in the Liberals being pushed down to third, a significant development. The Conservatives have just picked up their first MLA due to floor crosser John van Dongen, but his riding of Abbotsford South is not exactly in the Interior.

Nevertheless, things are on the upswing for the Conservatives. They are still not a factor in Vancouver or on the Island, but if they can put together a performance like this in the Interior they could win a swathe of seats.
Forum Research agrees. They were last in the field on 22 February and since then they have the NDP up five points to 47%, their highest score in any poll since the end of 2010.

Forum has the Liberals down three points to 21%, tied with the Conservatives who are down one point.

The Greens are down one point to 9%.

So, Forum sees the gap not at eight points but instead at 26. This is not the first time that Forum disagrees so strongly with what other polls are showing.

Nevertheless, there are some consistencies with Mustel's poll: the NDP is dominant on Vancouver Island and lead in Vancouver, while in the Interior/North the Conservatives are polling ahead of the Liberals. In fact, since the Liberals are their major rival for votes, this sort of split in the Interior/North is probably better for the Conservatives than being slightly ahead in a three-way race.

Both of these polls result in an NDP majority, but the make-up of the opposition and the size of that majority is radically different.

With Mustel's numbers, which are probably more likely in the case of an election when the better organization and fundraising of the B.C. Liberals can be brought to bear, the New Democrats win 49 seats, compared to 32 for the Liberals, three for the Conservatives, and one independent.

But with Forum's numbers, which are more reflective of a complete sea-change in B.C. politics, the New Democrats win a massive 76-seat majority. The Conservatives form the Official Opposition with only four seats, while the Liberals win three and two independents are elected.

It seems quite clear, no matter what the gap between the NDP and the Liberals, that Adrian Dix's party is comfortably ahead of Christy Clark's. Their personal numbers seem to back that up: Dix has an approval rating of 39% to 36% disapproval, according to Forum, while Clark has a dismal 26% to 60% split. This jives quite well with Angus-Reid's recent survey that put Clark's approval rating at only 33% to 58% disapproving and gave Dix a 47% to 37% split.

Leadership can make or break a party's fortunes. Adrian Dix can ride these numbers to government in May 2013, but Clark needs to turn the tide, and fast. People's opinion of her may be set by the time the next election rolls around.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Alberta Tories flirting with minority

Two more polls were released today for the Alberta election campaign, and both indicate that the race between the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose is on.

The margin between the Tories and Wildrose has now shrunk to only 1.4 points, according to ThreeHundredEight.com's projection. The PCs still lead with 36.6%, but are trailed very closely by Wildrose, who now stand at 35.2%. That is a slip of 2.2 points for the Tories and a gain of three points for Wildrose.

But with these new surveys the polling volatility has increased, as they are starting to tell different stories. Léger's poll puts the margin at almost four points with the PCs ahead, while Forum puts Wildrose 10 points up on the Tories. Forum's poll is the only poll so far conducted after the election call, but it was also in the field on only one day, which can disproportionately swing the mood of the electorate depending on what was in the news.

Because of this degree of uncertainty, the ranges have widened to between 33% and 40% for the Tories and between 31% and 39% for Wildrose. In other words, it is possible that Danielle Smith's party is indeed ahead.

The Progressive Conservatives are still projected to win a majority with 47 seats, but that is down eight from only yesterday and three seats more than the bare minimum for a majority government. Wildrose is projected to win 35, but due to polling volatility it is possible that Wildrose could win a majority if an election were held today. Their ranges run the full gamut of between 16 and 62 seats. Hopefully the polls will tighten up a little before election day.

The Liberals and New Democrats have each taken a step backwards, with the Liberals dropping 0.5 points to 13% and the NDP dropping 0.9 points to 11.1%.

Regionally, Wildrose has gained two points in Calgary (they now lead with 39.8%), 4.4 points in Edmonton (they sit second at 26.2%), and six points in the rest of Alberta (they lead with 41.6%).  The Tories have dropped 0.9 points in Edmonton to hit 37.4%, and are also down 1.9 points in Calgary (to 34.7%) and 4.7 points in the rest of Alberta (to 36.5%).

The Liberals dropped 1.4 points in Edmonton and now sit in third with 16.9%, while the New Democrats were down 1.6 points in the provincial capital to 15.3%.

Forum's poll, however, puts Wildrose ahead in every party of the province - including Edmonton. Forum was last in the field on 13 February, and since then Wildrose has gained 11 points and is leading in this survey with 41%.

The Progressive Conservatives are down six points to 31%, the Liberals are down two points to 12%, the NDP is down two points to 11%, and the Alberta Party is steady at 2% support.

Since that mid-February poll, Wildrose has made double-digit gains almost everywhere: 11 points in Calgary, Edmonton, and southern Alberta, and nine points in northern Alberta. There is hardly a race whatsoever in Calgary, while the party is doing very well outside the two main centres. The Tories are still competitive in this poll in Edmonton, but to be down in the one part of the province that gives them an inherent advantage over Wildrose is absolutely disastrous for Alison Redford.

We'll need to see if other post-writ polls confirm this state of affairs. If they do, then the Tories are in grave danger of losing this election.
Léger's poll, which was taken before the election was called and at around the same time as yesterday's polls from ThinkHQ and Ipsos-Reid, shows the Progressive Conservatives at 37.4%, almost four points ahead of Wildrose, who sit at 33.6%.

Léger was last in the field 13-18 January, and since then the Tories have lost about 16 points, a huge drop in support. That Léger poll had disagreed with some other surveys showing a closer race, but now Léger is well within what others have recorded.

Wildrose has gained 18 points since mid-January, while the Liberals are up one and the NDP is down two.

Here, we see a close race in Calgary and the rural parts of the province, and the Tories well ahead in Edmonton with Wildrose in second. This is what the other pre-writ surveys indicated.

Have things changed so drastically in the course of only a few days? It is too early to tell. What is certain is that the Progressive Conservatives definitely have a fight on their hands. But Wildrose may have peaked too early - if Albertans see that Danielle Smith might become the next Premier, we could see supporters of the Liberals and NDP flock to the more centrist PCs under Alison Redford. Or, if Albertans decide that 41 years is enough of one-party rule, this may be the first sign that Wildrose is on track for a landslide.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wildrose closes gap as campaign begins

New surveys by ThinkHQ and Ipsos-Reid, taken shortly before the Alberta election was officially called yesterday, indicate that the Wildrose Party has significantly closed the gap over the past weeks.

The margin between the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose is now projected to be only 6.6 points, with the Tories sitting at 38.8% and Wildrose at 32.2%. Since 13 March, the Tories have remained stable but Wildrose has picked up 4.6 points. The two parties' ranges almost overlap, with polling volatility indicating that Wildrose could get as much as 36.7% of the vote, compared to a low of 36.8% for the Tories.

The result is that the Progressive Conservatives are now projected to win 55 seats, down from 65 in mid-March. That still puts them well over the bar for a majority government, but their low range reaches down to 42 seats, just short of a majority. The good news for Alison Redford, however, is that Wildrose is now projected to win no more than 36 seats, suggesting that the Tories will be able to hold on to power with these levels of support.

Wildrose has picked up an extra ten seats since the last projection, and are now projected to win 27. They are no longer in danger of placing behind the Liberals, who are projected to win one seat. They could win as many as six, however, tying them with the high range of the New Democrats. But the NDP is projected to win four seats, putting them in third place in the legislature.

Calgary is where Wildrose's gains have been concentrated, as they have picked up 5.4 points and now lead in the city with a projected 37.8% support. That's enough to give them 16 seats in the city, pushing the Tories down to 11 seats with 36.6% of the vote. The PCs have dropped two points in Calgary while the Liberals are down almost three to only 13.1% support.

Calgary does appear to be the major battlefield as this race begins. Though a few seats are at play in Edmonton, the stakes there have more to do with the performances of the Liberals and the NDP. But if Wildrose is going to have any hope of winning this election, they need to make major gains in Calgary, in addition to the rural parts of the province where they might be expected to have an easier time of it.

As the chart shows, Wildrose has slowly progressed upwards in Calgary since the beginning of February, their recent bump coming primarily at the expense of the Liberals, but also of the Tories. Whether or not Danielle Smith is actually stealing votes directly away from the Liberals is impossible to know, but it could be that some Liberal voters are moving to the Tories to stop Wildrose, while some right-wing Tory voters are moving to Wildrose to defeat the government.

The biggest drop in PC support, however, has come in Edmonton. The party is down 3.6 points there to 38.3%, though that still puts them well ahead of Wildrose, who have moved into second place with a 2.6 gain to hit 21.8%. They are now projected to win two seats in the Edmonton CMA, a breakthrough in and of itself. The New Democrats have also taken a step forward in the provincial capital, gaining 2.1 points to reach 16.9%. The NDP's high range is 20.4%, giving them the potential to finish second in Edmonton.

In the rest of the province, the two parties on the left of the Alberta spectrum have taken a big hit, with a drop of 2.6 points for the NDP and 2.9 points for the Liberals, who are now projected to finish fourth in the region. Both the Tories (+4.5) and Wildrose (+3.1) have made gains in this part of the province.
The poll from ThinkHQ is the newest and largest to be added to the projection, and since the firm was last in the field between 16-20 February, the Progressive Conservatives have dropped six points to 36%. Wildrose is up four to 33%, while the NDP and Liberals are tied at 13% (unchanged for the NDP, up one for the Liberals).

The Tories have lost support since mid-February in both Calgary and Edmonton, primarily to the benefit of Wildrose and the NDP. The PCs placed second in Calgary in this poll, while only holding an eight-point lead in Edmonton.

The results for the rest of Alberta were not released, but my estimate puts the Tories slightly ahead of Wildrose for this poll, with the Liberals and NDP well behind.

The negative personal numbers for Alison Redford in this survey give us an indication of why the PCs have taken a hit on the eve of the campaign.
Ipsos-Reid's survey ended on the same day as ThinkHQ's, but stretched back a little further. Ipsos-Reid hasn't been in the field for some time, and in its first poll of the year puts the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose tied at 38% apiece. The NDP trails in third with 12% while the Liberals are at 11%.

Here again, we see that Wildrose has moved ahead in Calgary and is running in second in Edmonton. Ipsos-Reid puts Wildrose also in the lead in the rural parts of the province, but narrowly.

These two polls suggest that Wildrose is making important gains, particularly in Calgary, just as the campaign gets underway. Danielle Smith has the momentum, but is still a long way from over-taking the Tories in a definitive fashion. The party needs to win a lot more seats in Calgary and outside the two main cities to have any hope of winning the election, a prospect that will remain dim unless they can make some inroads in the provincial capital.

But the campaign is just beginning, and these surveys are showing that it will be an interesting race. The Progressive Conservatives hold the inside track thanks to their lead in Edmonton and their inherent advantage in organization, fundraising, and incumbency, but that advantage is far from decisive.

Monday, March 26, 2012

PQ in majority territory

Last week, two new polls on the provincial voting intentions of Quebecers were released and both showed that the Parti Québécois is on track to win a majority of the seats in the National Assembly. Whether or not that has put off any plans that Jean Charest might have had for a spring election, we will soon find out.
We'll start with the Forum poll, which is the most recent. Forum was last in the field 23 February, and since then the Parti Québécois has picked up two points and now leads with a commanding 41% of the vote.

The Liberals are up one point to 29% while the CAQ is unchanged at a woeful 19% support.

Québec Solidaire sits at 8% while the Greens are at 4%.

Forum has lately pegged PQ support higher than the other two active polling firms, CROP and Léger. But in terms of a trend, Forum is squarely with those two others by finding the PQ on the upswing.

The Parti Québécois leads among francophones with 45% (+2) and in every region of the province: Montreal (37%, +2), Quebec City (35%, +5), the north shore (46%, -1), and the south shore (47%, +1). They stand in second place among non-francophones (which, it should be pointed out, does include speakers of neither French nor English) with 9% (-3).

The Liberals are leading among non-francophones with 68%, up seven points since late February. They are second among francophones with 24%, a drop of one point, and are second in Montreal (32%, -1), Quebec City (29%, -4), the north shore (25%, -2), and the south shore (26%, +2).

The CAQ is running third among both linguistic groups and in every part of the province.

Forum finds that Pauline Marois has the best leadership approval rating at 42%, with 46% disapproving of her performance. François Legault is second with a 32% to 44% split, while Jean Charest has an approval rating of only 26%, with 66% disapproving.

Among their own supporters, however, all leaders are doing generally well: 84% of CAQ voters approve of Legault, 80% of Liberal supporters approve of Charest, and 79% of PQ voters approve of Marois.
Now to the CROP poll, which was taken a few days before Forum's survey.

CROP was last in the field 17-21 February and since then the Parti Québécois has gained four points and sits at 34%, ahead of the Liberals at 30% (+1) and the CAQ at 24% (-2).

Québec Solidaire is down three points to 5%, while the Greens are up two to 5%. Option Nationale has only 1% support.

This poll is more in line with Léger's recent survey, and continues the trend of PQ gain, PLQ stability, and CAQ loss. QS also seems to be making more room for the PQ.

The Parti Québécois is ahead among francophones with 41%, a gain of five points. They also lead outside of Montreal and Quebec City with 42% support, a gain of seven points. They are running second in Montreal (29%, +3) and Quebec City (30%, -1).

The Liberals are leading among non-francophones with 77% (-6) and in Montreal with 36% (-1).

The CAQ is ahead in Quebec City with 37%, a drop of three points, and is second among francophones with 29% (-2) and in the rest of Quebec (28%, unchanged).

François Legault and Pauline Marois are tied on the question of who is the favourite choice for Premier, with 21% apiece. Jean Charest is not far behind with 19%. Support for independence sits at 43%, a gain of three points.

These polls are quite different in that the PQ leads by either four or 12 points, but they both result in a majority government for Pauline Marois.

With CROP's numbers, the PQ wins 63 seats, the Liberals 38, the CAQ 22, and Québec Solidaire two.

With Forum's numbers, the PQ wins 80 seats, the Liberals 34, the CAQ nine, and Québec Solidaire two.

In the CROP poll, the PQ wins 21 seats in Montreal, two in Quebec City, and 40 in the rest of Quebec. They win 31 seats in Montreal, four in Quebec City, and 45 in the rest of Quebec with Forum's numbers.

The Liberals would win 32 seats in Montreal, two in Quebec City, and four in the rest of Quebec with CROP's results, and 25 seats in Montreal, three in Quebec City, and six in the rest of Quebec with Forum's.

The CAQ wins 3/0 in Montreal, 7/4 in Quebec City, and 12/5 in the rest of Quebec with the results of CROP and Forum's polls, respectively.

I tend to believe that CROP and Léger are closer to the reality in Quebec: that the Parti Québécois is leading but that they are far from the runaway favourite that Forum has concluded over the past few months. What is certain is that the CAQ is dropping, and dropping fast. The Parti Québécois has benefited in two ways: firstly, by taking the support of francophones who had been supporting Legault, and secondly, by winning support back from Québec Solidaire now that the PQ is looking like a winner once again.

Forum's poll was taken shortly after the budget was announced last week, and CROP's was taken shortly before the budget. It is too early to say that the budget has not changed anything, but it is the kind of budget that is unlikely to be a game-changer. With his Liberals stuck and the PQ so far ahead among the francophone electorate, one would assume that Jean Charest will not be calling an election this spring. But with the inquiry into corruption in the construction industry starting in the fall and likely to continue well into next spring, Charest's window is starting to get very small. By the fall of 2013, he would be forced to call an election no matter where his party stands in the polls.

Being within range of the PQ might be the best he can hope for between now and the end of next year. Will he come to the same conclusion before the summer? Will he bank on a summer campaign to take advantage of low turnout? Or will he hold on to power as long as he can? We'll find out soon enough.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Live blogging the NDP Leadership Convention

Welcome to ThreeHundredEight.com's live-blog of the NDP Leadership Convention. During the course of the day, I'll be updating the site with ballot-by-ballot results, changes to the endorsement rankings as candidates drop off, and estimates of where the votes are going from one ballot to the next.

You can refresh the site (updates will be made to this post) or you can follow me on Twitter, where I will be tweeting when new updates are posted.

With seven candidates and five with a real chance of winning, this could be a long day as candidates drop off one-by-one. It should also be a very interesting day.

21:52 - Thomas Mulcair wins with 57.2% of the vote (final update)

After the fourth and final ballot, and as expected, Thomas Mulcair has emerged as the winner of the NDP leadership convention, taking 57.2% of the vote. Final turnout, not aided by trouble with the voting that may have been the result of denial-of-service attacks, was around 45% of the 131,000 members eligible, after hitting a high of just under 50% on the first ballot.
Brian Topp finished with a respectable 42.8% of the vote, performing pretty well on the final ballot. Topp doubled his share from the first round, while Mulcair increased his by a little less than that. But it was a steady increase for Mulcair, from 30.3% to 38.3% to 43.8% and finally to 57.2%. What happened on that final ballot?
Though there was undoubtedly some cross-pollination between the Mulcair and Topp camps, Thomas Mulcair won by taking 53.7% of the new votes cast in the final round. His total increased by 6,393 votes. Topp took the remaining 46.3%, a surprisingly close division of Nathan Cullen's supporters, increasing his total by 5,507 votes. It seems that Cullen's positioning towards co-operation with the Liberals (which plays to Mulcair's place on the spectrum) and his geography as a British Columbian (which played to Topp's strength) divided the vote between the two candidates. It made the ending a lot closer than it might have otherwise been.

And that ends what has been an unexpectedly long day! In the end, the delays and seeming inevitability of Mulcair's victory starting after the second ballot took a bit of the buzz out of the convention. But when all the votes were counted, Mulcair received a very respectable share of the vote on the final ballot, more than Jack Layton managed in 2003 (though against many more candidates) and only a few ticks below Ed Broadbent's share in 1975.

What does this mean going forward? In the short term, the polls indicate that the New Democrats will not be hurt whatsoever outside of Quebec with Mulcair at the helm, and in Quebec the party should be expected to move back into first place ahead of the Bloc Québécois. After that? Who knows, 2015 is a long way away.

Thanks to everyone who checked in today! 

20:10 - Caucus falls behind Mulcair

Seeing the writing on the wall, the NDP caucus has overwhelmingly now fallen in line behind Thomas Mulcair. Since the third ballot, he picked up the support of Brian Masse, Megan Leslie, Denise Savoie, Dennis Bevington, Elaine Michaud, Bruce Hyer, and Fin Donnelly. Alexa McDonough, who originally endorsed Peggy Nash before aligning with Nathan Cullen, has also gone over to the Mulcair camp. Something like four out of every five aligned MPs have now endorsed Mulcair. The remainder are either former candidates or have remained neutral.
The result is that Mulcair's share of the endorsement points has now ballooned to 65.1% of the total. Will Mulcair actually get that much? I'd say that is unlikely. Something more along the lines of 55% to 60% is most probable. But it does give an indication of how the caucus, in addition to other party luminaries, has gone over to Thomas Mulcair.

19:15 - Lack of enthusiasm for final options?

Thomas Mulcair faces off against Brian Topp in the final round, but neither appears to be entering the final ballot with a great deal of enthusiastic support. Mulcair's growth has been steady and significant, but rather slow for someone who has been perceived as the frontrunner for quite some time.

Topp, despite receiving enthusiastic support from the party establishment, has been unable to really put together a large block of support from the membership. His growth was anemic on the second ballot and not nearly large enough on the third to give him any chance of winning.

Cullen landed some big names between ballots, but he still managed to out-perform the expectations of the endorsement system, registering almost 25% support. Topp is finally fulfilling some of his potential, while for the first time Mulcair scored beneath his share of the endorsement points. But I can't help but feel that had it been Cullen on the final ballot, a wave of enthusiasm could have swept his way. His campaign had the most momentum going into today, and it was maintained throughout the voting. It just wasn't enough in the end.

And in the end, despite all of the talk about grassroots campaigning and the like, the two best options from the perspective of the party establishment are going to end up on the final ballot. In that sense, I think the endorsement rankings have acted as a good baseline for comparison.

Mulcair is already announcing endorsements from MPs, including at least one that had remained neutral throughout the campaign, so it looks like the system will end up picking the right winner. But Brian Topp's failure to attract new supporters today is a telling sign of why he isn't closer to Thomas Mulcair going into the final ballot. That is not to say that between-ballot endorsements would have swung the balance towards Topp, but rather the lack of any interest to give him that support indicated a lack of faith in his ability to pull this one off.

18:53 - Mulcair insurmountable?

Though Mulcair did not take enough of Nash's votes to put this away on the third ballot, Topp did not take enough of it to put the outcome in doubt, either.
Thomas Mulcair captured 43.8% of the vote on the third ballot, picking up 3,586 votes in the process. He came up 3,880 votes short of winning a majority.

Brian Topp took 31.6% of the vote, making the largest leap in support and picking up 4,198 votes. He is 11,546 short of a majority, showing just how much more he needs to gain in order to win.

Put more simply, Brian Topp needs to take 75% of Nathan Cullen's votes in order to win. Such a huge swing is simply not going to happen.

Nathan Cullen ended up with 24.6% of the vote, a very good score considering where his campaign began. He captured 2,977 new votes on this last ballot.

Mulcair's ballot by ballot growth has been solid, as he has managed to pick up between 1/3rd and 2/5ths of votes on the table each time. It hasn't been enough to really put this away definitively, and with the votes not going any which way in any large degree so far, we can probably expect Cullen's supporters to split more evenly than what Topp would need to win.

But if Mulcair takes about 60% of Cullen's supporters, which seems plausible, he will end up with about 59% support overall, a good score on a final ballot. But even if it splits 50/50, Mulcair is still likely to walk away with 56% - a clear mandate going forward.

18:21 - Topp takes largest share of Nash votes, but not enough

The third ballot results are finally in, and Brian Topp has taken the largest share of Peggy Nash's support. But he did not take enough to have a shot at over-taking Thomas Mulcair on the fourth ballot, who seems sure to win.
Brian Topp took about 39% of the new votes cast in this third ballot, far greater than the second choice support he received on the second ballot. But it was not nearly the 60% or more that he needed to have any hope of over-taking Mulcair, who is likely to get the bulk of Nathan Cullen's voters.

Mulcair took 33.3% of the new votes, enough to ensure that he will be able to win on the fourth ballot. Nash was widely seen as the labour candidate, and to receive one-third support from that wing of the party is a pretty good sign that Thomas Mulcair is not the candidate of only one part of the NDP spectrum.

Nathan Cullen still did very well, taking over a quarter of Nash's votes. But it wasn't enough, though it was very unlikely that Cullen could survive to the final ballot. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Two more federal polls, Conservatives lead by three or eight

After the headline-grabbing poll from Environics yesterday, Angus-Reid and Harris-Decima submitted their entries in order to further muddy the waters. Both show a Conservative lead, but the size of it varies considerably. They both show the New Democrats at just under 30% support, which seems to be the consensus across every poll, but their position in Quebec remains uncertain.
Let's start with the poll from Angus-Reid, which is the most recent. The firm was last in the field 20-21 January and since then the Conservatives have slipped two points to 37% support.

The New Democrats trail eight points behind with 29%, up one point since the January survey.

The Liberals are down one to 21% while the Bloc Québécois is up three points to 8%. The Greens have dropped one point to 4%.

The Conservatives lead in every region except Quebec: 40% in Ontario (-2), 43% in British Columbia (+9), 56% in Alberta (-9), 36% in Atlantic Canada (+6), and 51% in the Prairies (-21).

The New Democrats lead in Quebec with 33%, unchanged from the January poll. They are running second in British Columbia (33%, -7), Alberta (25%, +8), Atlantic Canada (34%, -4), and the Prairies (32%, +12).

The Liberals placed second in Ontario with 30%, an increase of one point, while the Bloc Québécois is second in Quebec with 31%, a gain of eight points.

It is interesting to note that, despite the Conservatives leading and only slipping slightly, Stephen Harper's personal numbers have taken a tumble: 37% of respondents said their opinion of him has worsened. That is more than double the 18% who said the same of Bob Rae.

The Angus-Reid survey also included some NDP leadership numbers, in terms of which candidate would make Canadians more likely to vote for the NDP. No surprises in the results: Thomas Mulcair got 12% while Brian Topp and Peggy Nash placed second with 4%. The rest of the candidates were slightly behind, but we're talking margin of error differences.

Regionally, Atlantic Canadians appear giddy to vote for the NDP no matter which candidate wins, as everyone but Mulcair had their best result in that region. Mulcair had his best result in Quebec (34%), while Topp had his second best in the Prairies (8%), Nash in Alberta (5%), Paul Dewar in the Prairies (5%), and Nathan Cullen in British Columbia (7%).
Now to the Harris-Decima poll, which was in the field the day before Angus-Reid, but also the 11 days before that. Harris-Decima was last in the field 12-22 January, so at about the same time as Angus-Reid's previous poll.

Since Harris-Decima's last survey, the Conservatives have dropped one point to 31%. They hold a lead of three points over the NDP, down one point to 28%. The Liberals are down one point to 24%, while the Bloc Québécois is up three to 8%. The Greens are unchanged at 7%.

The Conservatives lead in Ontario with 33% (-2), Alberta with 58% (-3), and the Prairies with 47% (+12). They are running second in British Columbia (33%, +3).

The New Democrats lead in British Columbia with 35% (-7) and Atlantic Canada with 34% (+7), and trail in second in Quebec (26%, -6) and the Prairies (31%, -4).

The Liberals are second in Ontario with 30% (-4), Alberta with 14% (-3), and Atlantic Canada with 33% (-1). The Bloc Québécois leads in Quebec with 34%, a gain of 12 points.

These are not exactly consistent results. Harris-Decima is more in line with Environics's poll, while Angus-Reid is more in line with the other polls that have been out the last two weeks. What to make of it?

The field days are quite different, in addition to the methodologies employed. Both show general stability and the truth likely lies somewhere in between their results, but at this stage opinion seems to be still somewhat foggy with the next election so far away and the NDP leadership campaign waiting to come to a close. It seems safe to conclude, however, that the NDP and Conservatives are probably not tied after all.

The differences make us search for consistencies. Both Angus-Reid and Harris-Decima were in the field around the same time in their last two surveys, giving us the ability to look at some trends. Are there any?

Nationally, we see the Conservatives and the Liberals both taking a step backwards. This seems consistent with some other polls, where we have seen the Liberals moving away from the mid-20s and the Conservatives from the high-30s.

Both polls show the Conservatives losing ground in Ontario and Alberta, while gaining in British Columbia. The New Democrats have lost since January in both polls in British Columbia, but have gained in Alberta. The Liberals are down in both polls in Alberta and Atlantic Canada, while the Bloc Québécois is up significantly in Quebec. That seems to be the main point of agreement across every poll.

More generally, they both show relatively close races in British Columbia (between the Tories and the NDP) and Atlantic Canada (between all three parties). They both show the NDP competitive, but still well behind, the Tories in the Prairies. And they all show the NDP running third in Ontario, and in a neck-and-neck race with the Bloc in Quebec. That last bit of agreement has the most important implications.

The seat projection for these two polls shows why. One would expect the Harris-Decima poll, with the narrow margin between the NDP and the Tories, to have the best result for the Official Opposition. But no - trailing the Bloc by eight points in Quebec means the NDP's ranks in the province are decimated. Holding steady at the national level is all well and good, but if it is the result of small gains in the rest of the country making up for losses in Quebec, the NDP just doesn't win the seats required to make good the drop in the province.

Angus-Reid's results would give the Conservatives 142 seats, the New Democrats 83, the Liberals 58, and the Bloc Québécois 25. The Greens were too weak in British Columbia to re-elect Elizabeth May.

Harris-Decima's results would give the Conservatives 127 seats, the New Democrats 67, the Liberals 67, the Bloc Québécois 46, and the Greens one.

Quite a difference in results. Angus-Reid keeps the NDP in the Official Opposition role but unable to combine with the Liberals to out-number the Tories. Harris-Decima puts the NDP's status in question, while giving the Liberals and New Democrats enough seats to out-vote the Conservatives. But in both cases, the support of the Bloc Québécois would be needed for any working coalition.

The regional breakdown is as follows, with Angus-Reid first and Harris-Decima second:

Conservatives win 21/17 seats in British Columbia, 26/27 in Alberta, 20/19 in the Prairies, 58/46 in Ontario, 8/4 in Quebec, 8/13 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. Their 338-seat total would be 159/142.

The New Democrats win 11/13 seats in British Columbia, 2/1 in Alberta, 7/6 in the Prairies, 22/26 in Ontario, 32/12 in Quebec, eight in Atlantic Canada and one in the north. On the 338-seat map, the totals would be 89/73.

The Liberals win 4/5 seats in British Columbia, 1/3 in the Prairies, 26/34 in Ontario, 10/13 in Quebec, 16/11 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. In the expanded House, they win 64/74.

If we take the best and worst regional results for the parties in these polls, we get an idea of a high and low range: 121 to 148 seats for the Conservatives, 61 to 89 seats for the New Democrats, and 53 to 72 seats for the Liberals.

In this context, it is difficult to see the Harris-Decima poll as a positive one for the New Democrats. They would probably be better off with the results from Angus-Reid, despite the wide gap between themselves and the governing Conservatives.

The polls certainly do not provide a lot of clarity as to what is going on. This is why I intend to start tracking the polls and maintaining an on-going vote aggregation (a more detailed version of my monthly averages), for the sole reason of making some sense of the numbers. I hope to have this up and running soon.

I had promised an update to the NDP endorsement rankings, but the only new endorsements to emerge since Wednesday were the six Nova Scotia MLAs plumping for Thomas Mulcair. I'll instead provide an updated tally tomorrow morning, when I begin my live-blogging (though here from home) of the NDP leadership convention, starting at around 9:30 AM. I intend to have plenty of charts and numbers to give you throughout the day as we track what is going on in Toronto.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Conservatives and NDP draw even, Tories win on points

A new poll has caused a bit of stir today, as Environics puts the Conservatives and the New Democrats dead even at 30% apiece. But the NDP needs to be ahead of the Conservatives in some key regions in order to win as many seats as the governing party.
Environics has not been in the field, or at least has not released a poll, since well before the 2 May 2011 vote. Being able to look at the trends would have been helpful in this case.

The Conservatives and NDP are tied with 30% support each, a mark more of Conservative decline than NDP strength. Resilience, however, is another thing entirely as the party has generally held steady since last year's election.

The Liberals are stuck at 20% while the Bloc Québécois stands at 8% nationally, ahead of the Greens who sit at 7% support.

Somewhat problematic is the large result for the Others: 5%. Anything over 1% is unlikely in a general election, putting the remaining 4% in limbo. Adding that 4% to the Conservative result would give us a poll more in line with what other surveys have shown, but it seems like a big stretch to hand one party all of that extra support. If that "Other" result splits 50/25/25 between the Tories and the two main opposition parties, we're still looking at a very close result. Even if it splits 75/25 between the Tories and the NDP, this is still a within-the-margin-of-error gap between the two parties.

The Conservatives are leading in Ontario with 34%, Alberta with 58%, and in the Prairies with 43%. They are trailing in second in British Columbia (30%) and Atlantic Canada (28%).

The New Democrats are ahead in Quebec with 34%, British Columbia with 38%, and Atlantic Canada with 40%, while trailing in second with 19% in Alberta and 31% in the Prairies.

The Liberals are not ahead in any region, but stand in second in Ontario at 27%, one point up on the NDP. The Bloc Québécois trails the NDP with 30% in Quebec.

There is nothing outlandish with these regional results. The NDP has led in several polls on both coasts, and a close race hovering around 30% between the NDP and the BQ seems to be the norm of late. A weaker Conservative result in Ontario has also been a recent feature of polling, while there is nothing unusual in Alberta and the Prairies. In other words, no red flags in this poll.

What might explain this big Conservative decline? It is tempting to point to robo-calls and an impending austerity budget. But this Environics poll needs to be confirmed by some other surveys before we can come to any conclusions, as it stands alone at this point. It is, however, the newest set of data on record (outside of Quebec, at least, see below) so it could be the start of a new trend. The choice of leader at this weekend's NDP convention may or may not clinch this new state of affairs.

However, the NDP vote is not nearly as efficient as that of the Conservatives, who still take the lion's share of seats in Western Canada and almost half of them in Ontario. With these levels of support, the Conservatives win 128 seats to 104 for the New Democrats, 58 for the Liberals, 17 for the Bloc Québécois, and one for the Greens.

It is noteworthy, however, that despite the Bloc returning to official party status the NDP and Liberals are strong enough to combine for a majority government without needing the support of the Bloc and all the political baggage that brings.

The Conservatives win 14 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 19 in the Prairies, 52 in Ontario, four in Quebec, 11 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. They would likely win 143 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons, increasing their share from 41.6% to 42.3%.

The New Democrats win 16 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, six in the Prairies, 24 in Ontario, 45 in Quebec, 11 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. That would be upped to 113 seats in the expanded Commons, but their share would decrease from 33.8% to 33.4%.

The Liberals win five seats in British Columbia, three in the Prairies, 30 in Ontario, nine in Quebec, 10 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. They would likely win 63 seats on the larger map, their share decreasing from 18.8% to 18.6%. The NDP and Liberals could still combine for a Bloc-less majority, however.

With the convention this weekend, this is certainly a bit of good news for the New Democrats. But they still have a ways to go. They need to be doing much better in Ontario, where they still trail in third, in order to surpass the Conservatives.

Quebec, however, remains key. Though the NDP and Liberals could get away with these 17 Bloc seats, the NDP would do far better to have those 13 BQ gains in their own hands. And, as a more recent CROP poll indicates, things are still very much in the air.
CROP was last in the field 17-21 February 2012, and since then the New Democrats have slipped two points to 29% in Quebec. They still hold a lead over the Bloc Québécois, however, though the party has gained four points to hit 28% support.

The Liberals are also up, gaining two points to reach 22% while the Conservatives are down three points to 19% support.

The New Democrats are ahead in the Montreal region with 31%, but that is still a drop of two points since mid-February. They are trailing in second to the Bloc Québécois among francophones (30%, -1) and in the regions of Quebec (28%, -3).

The Bloc Québécois has 33% support among francophones, up four points since the last poll, and hold a wide lead in the regions with 36%, a gain of nine points.

The Liberals lead among non-francophones with 40%, a gain of six points. They are also running second in Montreal (25%, +3) and in Quebec City (24%, +7), which is a bit of a shocker.

The Conservatives are ahead in Quebec City with 33% (-4) and place second among non-francophones with 28% (-4).

With these results, the Bloc Québécois would win 27 seats to 22 for the NDP, 15 for the Liberals, and 11 for the Conservatives. This is a very different result from Environics's poll, and would transform the projection for their national numbers to 135 Conservatives, 81 New Democrats, 64 Liberals, and 27 Bloc MPs. This means the NDP and Liberals could combine for only 145 seats, short of a majority and so requiring the support of the Bloc Québécois.

This is why Quebec is so important to the New Democrats. If they are to form a government on their own, they absolutely need Quebec before they can even think of making the gains required in the rest of the country. If they are to form a government in tandem with the Liberals, they still need to hold on to the bulk of their Quebec seats, otherwise the Bloc wins too many for the two parties to govern without the support of the politically toxic BQ.

Poll after poll indicates that Thomas Mulcair is the NDP's best hope for Quebec, but there is nothing that says that a Brian Topp or a Peggy Nash, for instance, would not be able to gain traction in the province over the next three years. But the question with them is whether they can gain the support the party needs in the province, whereas Mulcair merely has to maintain the support that polls indicate he would have. The easier task is obvious.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mulcair widens edge in final week

With the NDP leadership campaign coming to a close on the weekend, endorsements have been coming fast and furious over the last seven days. While all six major candidates have received at least one endorsement this week, Thomas Mulcair has taken the lion's share and continues to lead the field.
His most important endorsement of the week came from Jack Harris, MP for St. John's East and leader of the NDP in Newfoundland and Labrador from 1992 to 2006. Harris was joined by Christopher Mitchelmore, an NDP MHA from the province, and CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador, a 6,000-strong union that had originally endorsed Robert Chisholm.

Mulcair also received a good chunk of support from Ontario, with the endorsements of Ontario MPPs France Gélinas, Michael Prue, and Teresa Armstrong. It's worth noting that Prue had run for the Ontario NDP leadership in 2009. Two former MPs from the province, Steven Langdon and John Paul Harney, also endorsed Mulcair for the leadership.

Ashton, Cullen, Dewar, Mulcair
Out west, Buckley Belanger (Saskatchewan MLA) and Piers McDonald, NDP Premier of Yukon from 1996 to 2000, threw their support behind Mulcair.

Nathan Cullen landed the next most important endorsement after Jack Harris, that of Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Bruce Hyer, who is currently in his second term.

Niki Ashton announced her first major endorsement in some time, receiving the support of Ontario MPP Sarah Campbell. She represents the riding of Kenora-Rainy River, which actually borders Ashton's Churchill riding in Manitoba.

Paul Dewar also announced a provincial endorsement, having gotten the support of Nova Scotia MLA Howard Epstein.

Nash, Singh, Topp
It was an interesting week for Brian Topp, as Ed Broadbent came out against Thomas Mulcair's leadership bid. To put a sharper point on it, Topp was able to welcome the support of Sana Hassainia, the MP for Verchères-Les Patriotes. She had originally endorsed Mulcair, and from what I can tell is the first and only endorsement-switcher of the campaign.


Topp also received the endorsement of Maureen MacDonald, MLA in Nova Scotia and Health Minister in Darrell Dexter's NDP government. She had originally endorsed Robert Chisholm, who has since endorsed Mulcair. As half of Chisholm's endorsers who have not endorsed another candidate are given to Mulcair, the support of Hassainia and MacDonald actually results in Topp stealing endorsement points away from his chief rival.

Peggy Nash had two provincial endorsements to announce this past week, that of Cindy Forster (Ontario) and Leonard Preyra (Nova Scotia).

(Click here to learn more about the endorsement system and here for how the points are awarded. And, as always, you can right-click the lists of endorsers and open in a new tab or window to magnify them.)

Thomas Mulcair has made a net gain of 13.2 endorsement points since last week, putting him at 28.7% of the total. That is a 1.8 percentage point gain. This is his highest share of endorsement points in the campaign.

Brian Topp has gained three points but has dropped 0.4 percentage points to 26.5%.

Peggy Nash gained 1.5 points but dropped 0.5 percentage points to 23.4%. The gap between her and Topp widened by 1.5 points and 0.1 percentage points this past week.

Paul Dewar put up 0.5 new endorsement points but dropped 0.4 percentage points to only 12.8%, his lowest since January 25.

Nathan Cullen was the week's biggest gainer after Mulcair, thanks to Hyer's five points. It means he gained 0.4 percentage points, and now sits at 5.6% of the total.

Ashton gained one endorsement point and held steady with 3% of all endorsement points, while Martin Singh (who endorsed Mulcair as his second choice) remains endorsement-less.

I may be starting to sound like a broken record, but I think Nathan Cullen is likely to get much more than 5.6% of votes on the first ballot. He appears to be a candidate in the style of a Christy Clark or Alison Redford, that is to say one that has wide support among the membership but very little support among the establishment. A poll released by Forum at the end of February appears to back this up, as it indicated that 28% of NDP supporters in British Columbia favoured Cullen for the leadership of the party. Of course, NDP supporters are not the same as NDP members, but Cullen does have more financial support in British Columbia than all other candidates combined. That Cullen is probably the first (or at least second) choice of B.C. NDP members is important considering that British Columbia has the largest share of the NDP members in the country.

In that poll, Thomas Mulcair finished second among NDP supporters in British Columbia with 21%, while Brian Topp was not far behind at 19%. Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar were well behind with 13% and 11% support, respectively, while Niki Ashton stood at 7% and Martin Singh at only 2% of decided NDP supporters.

This is just one indication of how scattered NDP support will likely be on the first ballot. Let's assume every member in B.C. votes (they won't, but let's go with it anyway) and that Cullen gets 28% of those ballots. That is 11,200 votes out of the 131,000 ballots that could be cast by the weekend, enough alone to give Cullen 8.5% support within the party nationwide. A good score, but if Mulcair receives 21% of the votes from B.C., or 8,400, he can add that to the 11,480 votes he might get in Quebec (using Forum's latest poll where Mulcair had 82% support among NDP voters, and again assuming 100% turnout) and walk away with 15.2% of the party's votes, based on these two provinces alone.

With the exception of Quebec, we're likely to see this pattern repeated throughout the country. Brian Topp will probably get the most votes from Saskatchewan, but the other candidates will take a good share as well. Niki Ashton and Paul Dewar are likely the favourites in Manitoba, but that doesn't mean the other five candidates won't take, perhaps, the combined majority of the votes in that province.

This is why Thomas Mulcair is probably the best placed candidate. He is the consensus choice in Quebec, but appears to have moderate or strong support in every other province. If he can take 90% of the vote in Quebec by the final ballot, which does not seem unlikely, he would need roughly 45% support from the rest of the country. In other words, whoever is on the last ballot with Mulcair could take a majority of the vote in English Canada and still lose because of the advantage Mulcair already holds in Quebec. Add to this the likelihood that Quebec, whose membership is almost entirely new, will probably have the highest or one of the highest turnout rates in the country and Mulcair's advantage is increased.

Does it mean he is a shoo-in? Not exactly, as it is not difficult to imagine Mulcair taking less of the Quebec vote on the final ballot and his opponent taking more than 55% of the vote in English Canada. But there is nothing that indicates that any of the other major contenders can definitely be the choice of a large majority of NDP members outside of Quebec.

This is the last Wednesday update, but I will do a final update on Friday when the convention kicks off. I'm still making plans for the day of the convention, but I hope to run a live-blog with updated endorsement rankings throughout the day and some other neat stuff. I hope you'll stop by.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

B.C. NDP continues to hold wide lead

A new poll by Justason Market Intelligence on the provincial voting intentions of British Columbians was released over the weekend, so what better time to check-in on the province and look at a Forum poll released at the end of February that had fallen through the cracks. You can also read my take on the numbers at The Huffington Post Canada here.
Let's start with the Justason numbers, which are the most recent. I don't have a poll from Justason in my database, and a look at the website tells me they haven't polled the provincial voting intentions of British Columbians for several years, if ever. They seem more concerned with Vancouver's municipal politics.

Nevertheless, Justason's numbers align generally well with the most recent polls we've seen from the likes of Ipsos-Reid and Angus-Reid since the beginning of 2012.

They have the B.C. New Democrats leading with 45% support, well ahead of the B.C. Liberals. They stand at 31%, trailed by the B.C. Conservatives at 14%. The Greens register 8% support.

This sort of split, with the Conservatives in the teens and the Liberals around 30%, seems to be the consensus opinion on what is going on in British Columbia with the notable exception of Forum's results, which have tended to up Conservative support at the expense of the Liberals.

Forum's poll has the NDP at 42%, up three points since they were last in the field on January 23. The Liberals are down two points to 24%, while the Conservatives are steady at 22% support. The Greens are up one to 10%.

The New Democrats lead on Vancouver Island with 49% (+8), in the Interior/North with 41% (+4), and in Vancouver/Lower Mainland with 40% (+1). The Liberals trail in second with 27% (unchanged) in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island at 18% (also unchanged). The Conservatives are second in the Interior/North with 26%, up one point.

These polls result in mildly different legislatures. Forum sees the biggest romp for the New Democrats with 65 seats according to ThreeHundredEight's simple model (a full model has yet to be constructed), while the Liberals win 13 seats. The Conservatives take five seats while two independents are elected.

In Vancouver/Lower Mainland, the NDP wins 29 seats with 11 going to the Liberals. The NDP sweeps all 14 seats on Vancouver Island and wins 22 seats in the Interior/North, with five going to the Conservatives and two to the Liberals.

With Justason's numbers, the New Democrats still win a big majority with 58 seats, with 25 going to the Liberals and one apiece to the Conservatives and independents.

Vancouver delivers 25 seats to the NDP, with the Liberals taking 15. The NDP sweeps the Island, while taking 19 seats in the Interior/North to 10 for the Liberals and one for the Conservatives.

Either result is great for the NDP, while the Liberals would prefer to avoid the debacle of Forum's numbers. Being reduced to only 13 MLAs, with five Conservatives elected, would likely be a bit of a shock to the Liberals and a boon to the Conservatives. How the two parties would react is difficult to say, but it could begin the sort of three-party system most other provinces have, and one that would benefit the NDP in British Columbia.

As mentioned in my Huffington Post Canada article, both Christy Clark and John Cummins have net negative approval ratings, while Adrian Dix scores a net positive. But it is interesting to look at how supporters view the leaders. Both Dix and Cummins do very well among their supporters, with approval ratings of 74% and 75%, respectively. Clark, however, has the approval of 66% of Liberal supporters. That's not a huge gap, but the lack of enthusiasm certainly does not bode well for the party's chances in 2013.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tight federal race in British Columbia

Two new polls show that the race in British Columbia is a close one between the federal Conservatives and the New Democrats, while Stephen Harper's party has gained nationwide since late February.
EKOS Research was last in the field for iPolitics.ca between February 21-28, and since then the Conservatives have picked up 3.9 points to lead with 35.1% nationally. The New Democrats are up 0.5 points to 29.7%, while the Liberals are down 2.1 points to only 19.6% support.

The Greens are down 0.2 points to 8.1%, while the Bloc Québécois is also down 0.2 points to 5.8%.

EKOS thus joins some of the other recent polls that have put Liberal support back around 20% with the Conservatives in the mid-30s. I suspect the NDP leadership race, which comes to a close this weekend, might change things again.

In British Columbia, the Conservatives are up two points to 35.3%, narrowly edging out the New Democrats. They trail with 33.2%, down 3.3 points. The Liberals are well behind with 16.3% support, down 1.1 points since the end of February. The Greens are doing well here with 14.3%, up 3.3 points.

Justason Market Intelligence also released their latest numbers on the federal scene in the province. Their poll, conducted from February 24 to March 7, so only overlapping with EKOS's survey on March 6 and 7, found the New Democrats leading with 40% support. The Conservatives placed second with 30% while the Liberals were in third with 20%. The Greens brought up the rear with 8%.

Considering the margin of error, these two polls show that the race is very tight in British Columbia. It is clearly a contest between the New Democrats and the Conservatives, who seem to trade the lead with every poll: the NDP has led in seven of the last 15 polls stretching back to December, with the Conservatives leading in the other eight.

British Columbia will be an important battleground in 2015, as its seat allotment increases to 42. If Justason's numbers were repeated on election day, the New Democrats would take 18 of the province's current 36 seats, with 11 going to the Conservatives, six to the Liberals, and one to the Greens. With 42 seats, the NDP could win 21 to the Tories' 13 and the Liberals seven.

If EKOS's numbers were the election's results, the Conservatives would win 18 seats to 13 for the NDP, four for the Liberals, and one for the Greens on the current 36-seat map. With 42 seats, the Conservatives could win 21 to 15 for the NDP and five for the Liberals.

For the New Democrats, that means an extra three to nine seats. For the Conservatives, that means maintaining their current number or losing eight B.C. MPs. It might not be earth-shattering, but if it is a close election it could be the difference between a majority and a minority.

Elsewhere in EKOS's polling, the Conservatives lead with 34.6% in Ontario (+1.4), 61.2% in Alberta (+7.6), 31.9% in Atlantic Canada (+4.5), and 45.9% in the Prairies (+7.6).

The New Democrats lead in Quebec with 30.6%, up 2.3 points since the end of February. The party is also running second in Ontario (31.0%, +3.0), Alberta (18.6%, -1.8), and the Prairies (39.2%, +4.4). The Liberals are running second with 26.1% in Atlantic Canada (-2.6) while the Bloc Québécois is second in Quebec with 24.5% (-0.5).

With EKOS's results, the Conservatives win 147 seats on the current 308-seat map, with 96 seats going to the New Democrats, 52 to the Liberals, 12 to the Bloc Québécois, and one to the Greens. The NDP and Liberals could combine for a total of 148 seats, but that is seven short of a majority.

The Conservatives win 18 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 16 in the Prairies, 54 in Ontario, 17 in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. They could win 165 seats on the 338-seat map, increasing their share from 47.7% to 48.8% of all seats.

The New Democrats win 13 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, 10 in the Prairies, 27 in Ontario, 39 in Quebec, five in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. They'd likely win 104 seats in the expanded House, their share decreasing from 31.2% to 30.8%.

The Liberals win four seats in British Columbia, two in the Prairies, 25 in Ontario, seven in Quebec, 13 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. With a 338-seat House of Commons, the Liberals might win 56 seats, their share decreasing from 16.9% to 16.6%.

The Bloc Québécois wins its 12 seats in Quebec, of course, while the Greens win their one seat in British Columbia.

Using Justason's B.C. results, the national seat total would be 140 Conservatives, 101 NDP, 54 Liberals, 12 BQ, and one Green. This is a significant difference, since the NDP and Liberals could now combine for 155 seats, the bare minimum for a majority. On the 338-map, however, the result would be 157 Conservatives to 110 NDP and 58 Liberals. The combination of NDP and Liberal seats would be short of a majority by one, requiring the Greens to come on board.

This is a nice demonstration of the potential importance of British Columbia in an election that resembles EKOS's forecast. But other things would be at play: those 12 Bloc seats cause more trouble to the NDP than British Columbia's close contest, while maintaining their high support in Ontario and the Prairies would be absolutely necessary. And, in this case, the Conservative result of 22.9% in Quebec puts them in the running to hold on to power, particularly if the party does not do well in a province like British Columbia. Every seat might count.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Conservatives lead by eight in three federal polls

Three federal polls released over the past week indicate that the Conservatives hold an average lead of eight points over the New Democrats, suggesting that the recent robocall kerfuffle has had little effect on voting intentions. But the three polls also show a remarkable rebound for the Bloc Québécois in Quebec, with the party edging out the NDP in two of the three polls and averaging 31% to the NDP's 29%.
The poll by Léger Marketing is the oldest of the three, having been conducted between February 28 and March 5 for the QMI Agency. Their poll surveyed 2,509 online panelists.

Léger was last in the field at the pan-Canadian level between September 12-15, 2011. Since then, the Conservatives have fallen five points to 34%, with the New Democrats falling seven points to 26%. The Liberals are up seven to 24%, while the Greens are up one to 7%.

The Conservatives lead in this poll in British Columbia with 36% (+1), Alberta with 59% (-9), the Prairies with 41% (-21), and Ontario with 39% (-2). The Liberals lead in Atlantic Canada with 37% (+23) while the Bloc Québécois has the edge in Quebec with 31% (+4 since their last Quebec poll from late January).

This poll generally aligns with what others have shown: a three-way race in Atlantic Canada, a neck-and-neck contest between the NDP and Conservatives in British Columbia, and a competitive race between the two parties in the Prairies. The Liberals hold second in Ontario and are performing well in Quebec, where the NDP and Bloc are maintaining around 30% support.
Ipsos-Reid was the next out of the gate for Postmedia and Global TV, surveying 3,154 Canadians in a hybrid telephone/online poll.

Ipsos-Reid was last in the field November 8-9, 2011 and since then the Conservatives have held steady with 37% support. The New Democrats are down two to 29% while the Liberals are up two to 23%. The Greens have increased their support by one point to 4%.

The Conservatives lead in British Columbia (43%, -1), Alberta (69%, +11), the Prairies (50%, +5), and Ontario (39%, unchanged). The New Democrats are ahead with 33% in Quebec (-5), while the Liberals (unchanged) and the Tories (+3) are tied for the lead in Atlantic Canada with 33%.

Again, we see the three-way race in Atlantic Canada, the NDP and Bloc at 30% or so in Quebec with the Liberals performing well, the Liberals holding second in Ontario, a close contest between the NDP and Conservatives in British Columbia, and a competitive NDP performance in the Prairies.
Abacus Data's numbers were out today for the Sun News Network. They have the newest set of numbers but their online poll is the smallest, though of standard size.

Abacus was last in the field January 16-19 and since then the Conservatives have held firm at 37% support. The NDP is also steady with 28%, while the Liberals are down one point to 20%. The Greens are unchanged at 7%.

The Conservatives lead everywhere but Quebec, with 39% in British Columbia (-8), 64% in Alberta (-8), 60% in the Prairies (+7), 38% in Ontario (-4), and 39% in Atlantic Canada (+13). The Bloc Québécois leads in Quebec with 33%, up 10 points.

But we still see some of the features of the other polls. The race in Atlantic Canada is less close, but the small sample size is likely to blame. The NDP and Bloc are at 30%-ish in Quebec, though the Liberals are not doing as well as they have elsewhere. Ontario is standard fare, as is Alberta and British Columbia, but the Conservatives hold a wide lead in the Prairies. Again, the sample size is smaller for this region.

But overall these three polls are in agreement. They put the Conservative lead at eight or nine points, with the Liberals far enough behind the NDP in two of three polls to confirm their third-place status. The results across the board are remarkably consistent with one another, particularly when taking into account the margins of error.
A straight-up average of the three polls, together taken over two weeks and surveying more than 6,000 people, puts Conservative support at 36%, with the New Democrats trailing with 28%. The Liberals stand with an average of 22% support, followed by the Bloc Québécois at 8% and the Greens at 6%.

In Ontario, the Conservatives lead with 39%, 10 points ahead of the Liberals. The NDP is not far behind the House's third party, with 25% support.

The Bloc Québécois holds a narrow lead in Quebec with 31% support, followed closely by the New Democrats at 29%. The Liberals stand at 20% while the Conservatives are well behind with only 14% support.

The race is close in British Columbia, where the Conservatives have 39% support and the New Democrats 36%. The Liberals have 16% support, double the 8% of the Greens.

Atlantic Canada has a tight three-way race, with the Conservatives at 33% to the Liberals' 32% and the NDP's 30%. The race is not nearly as close in Alberta, where the Conservatives averaged 64% to the NDP's 18% and the Liberals' 11%.

Finally, in the Prairies the Conservatives sit at 50% to 32% for the NDP and 13% for the Liberals.

Generally speaking, aside from the Bloc's lead in Quebec, these three polls are well within the norm of recent weeks and even months.
The average result of these three polls would give the Conservatives 143 seats, 12 short of a majority. The New Democrats would win 72 seats and the Liberals would win 59, with the Bloc Québécois taking 33 seats. The Greens hold on to their one seat in British Columbia.

The Conservatives win 19 seats in that province, 27 in Alberta, 20 in the Prairies, 58 in Ontario, seven in Quebec, 11 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. They would likely win 160 seats in a 338-seat House, 10 short of a majority. Their share increases from 46.4% of seats to 47.3%.

The New Democrats win 13 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, seven in the Prairies, 23 in Ontario, 22 in Quebec, five in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. They would likely win 78 seats in a 338-seat House of Commons, their share decreasing slightly from 23.4% to 23.1%.

The Liberals win three seats in British Columbia, one in the Prairies, 25 in Ontario, 13 in Quebec, 16 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. They would likely win 65 seats in the expanded House, giving them 19.2% of seats, no different from the 308-seat projection.

The Bloc wins 33 seats in Quebec and likely one more with the province's allotment increasing to 78 seats.

The return of the Bloc Québécois dramatically changes the make-up of the House. If the Bloc is pushed back down to 23% or so with those lost eight points going to the NDP (which, as one poll indicated, is what would happen if Thomas Mulcair becomes leader of the party), about 30 seats would flip back to the New Democrats, giving them over 100 seats in the House of Commons and, perhaps most importantly, the potential to join up with the Liberals to form a majority coalition government.

But with the Bloc Québécois back in the lead in Quebec, the opposition is again divided three-ways, forcing any co-operation between the NDP and the Liberals to rely on Bloc support. It does not change anything for the Conservatives as they are not a factor in the province and have a solid grip on their few Quebec seats. But any hope for an NDP majority, minority, or majority coalition with the Liberals becomes virtually impossible with the Bloc Québécois having a serious shot at one-third or more of the seats in Quebec.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Someone leads in Ontario

Two completely contradictory polls were released today, suggesting that the Ontario Liberals hold a 10-point lead over the Progressive Conservatives or trail by 12 points. There's no way to find a common thread in these polls, but perhaps something else is at play.
Forum Research released its poll to the Toronto Star today while Nanos Research's numbers appeared in The Globe and Mail.

Nanos suggests that the Liberals lead with 39.9% support, up 0.8 points since their last poll from November. The Tories sit at 30%, down 4.5 points, while the New Democrats have 24.7% support, up 3.1 points. The Greens trail with 4.3%, up 0.8 points.

Meanwhile, Forum has the Progressive Conservatives at 40%, up four points since their February 15 poll thanks to gains in suburban Toronto. The Liberals are down four points to 28%, dropping in the 905 and in northern Ontario, while the New Democrats are down three to 23%, in large part due to a slip in southwestern Ontario. The Greens gain three points to hit 8% support.

How can support differ by 10 or more points for the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives in these two polls? Small differences are to be expected, even large differences can be within the margin of error. These are not, as you can only really stretch Liberal support down to 36% or so for Nanos and up to 31% for Forum, and PC support up to 34% for Nanos and down to 37% for Forum.

Nevertheless, comparing these polls is not exactly like comparing apples to apples. Nanos and Forum are two different firms using two different methodologies: live callers on the one hand and the IVR method on the other. Nanos surveyed 500 Ontarians while Forum surveyed 1,065. But most importantly, Nanos surveyed between March 3-5 and Forum on March 13 only. The field dates differ by as many as 10 days. Could opinion have shifted so violently? What was happening on those days?

When Nanos was in the field, the headlines were pretty good for Dalton McGuinty. He was criticizing Alberta, suggesting a wage freeze to teachers, and joining Jean Charest in harshly warning the federal government against off-loading costs to the provinces in a quest to balance their budget. All solidly populist fare.

When Forum was in the field, the headlines were pretty bad for the Premier. He was increasing the costs of driver's license renewals, talking about increasing revenues through new casinos, compromising on his green energy policy, and the ORNGE issue wasn't going away.

In this context, it seems plausible that Nanos and Forum were both accurate in gauging support on the days during which they were polling. But if that is true, it suggests that Ontario's voters are extraordinarily unsettled. Roughly one in four Liberal voters would have had to flip to the Tories in a span of one week, while one in four PC voters would have had to flip to the Liberals during the month of February.

Perhaps that is too much to believe. But if we take into account the margin of error and the vastly different headlines between these two field dates, it doesn't look so unbelievable. Of course, if in a few months we see Nanos and Forum at odds against one another again, we will then have a good indication that one or the other (or both) is not gauging things correctly.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mulcair tops endorsement rankings

For the first time in the NDP leadership campaign, Brian Topp has dropped from the first position in the endorsement rankings. He has given up the spot to Thomas Mulcair, who landed a slew of endorsements this past week from British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
The most newsworthy and valuable endorsement for Thomas Mulcair came from Roméo Saganash, MP for Abitibi--Baie-James--Nunavik--Eeyou and former leadership candidate. However, his endorsement is not as valuable as it might have been - all of his former endorsers have gone elsewhere. And it is interesting to note that a lot of Saganash's team went over to the Paul Dewar camp.

Mulcair also received the endorsement of three former Ontario MPs: Neil Young, Iain Angus, and Ian Deans. They were joined by former British Columbia MPs Ian Waddell and Nelson Riis and former Manitoba MP Douglas Rowland.

Nicholas Simons, an NDP MLA from British Columbia, also endorsed Mulcair.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 353 and the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union of Canada gave Mulcair their labour support this past week. I have been unable to determine the size of IBEW Local 353, but RWDSU Canada (which is affiliated with the UFCW, also endorsing Mulcair) has 12,500 members.

Peggy Nash received the endorsement of two British Columbia MLAs, Shane Simpson and Spencer Chandra Herbert. They are her first supporters from the B.C. NDP's provincial caucus.

Brian Topp also received the endorsement of two MLAs: Jim Morton from Nova Scotia and Christine Melnick, Immigration Minister in Greg Selinger's Manitoba government.

(Click here to learn more about the endorsement system and here for how the points are awarded. And, as always, you can right-click the list of endorsers and open in a new tab or window to magnify it.)

Thomas Mulcair gained 16.9 endorsement points this week, putting him at 229.2 overall and now 8.4 points ahead of Brian Topp, who has moved from first to second. Mulcair gained 1.4 percentage points and now leads with 27.9% of all endorsement points, his highest share of the campaign to date.

At 26.9%, Brian Topp is at his lowest point of the campaign. Though he did gain one endorsement point, he dropped 0.5 percentage points.

Peggy Nash gained two endorsement points but in the face of Mulcair's huge gain she dropped 0.3 percentage points to 23.9%.

Paul Dewar, Nathan Cullen, Niki Ashton, and Martin Singh did not land any new endorsements that were recorded by the rankings. Dewar has accordingly fallen 0.3 percentage points to 13.2%, while Cullen and Ashton fell 0.1 point each to 5.2% and 3.0%, respectively.

Does this mean that Brian Topp is no longer the establishment candidate? It is difficult to call Mulcair the anti-establishment candidate when he has racked up so many endorsements. He has the support of 43 caucus members (though only five of them are not rookies, no candidate has more than five "veteran" caucus endorsers), 11 provincial legislators, six current or former provincial party leaders, and 14 former MPs. His endorsements may not all have the cachet of an Ed Broadbent or a Roy Romanow, but he has lined up both newcomers and party elders to an impressive degree.

Of course, quality and quantity are two different things, and this is what the endorsement rankings attempt to measure. Topp does have the support of a Broadbent and a Romanow, as well as veteran caucus members, two other former leaders and a pile of provincial legislators and former MPs, including many well-known names. From a sheer numbers point of view, Mulcair has more support from within the party establishment. But from an influence perspective, Topp gets the nod.

And then there is Peggy Nash, who has landed a great deal of labour support. Though Topp and Mulcair have also gotten support from labour, Nash has the longest list that includes some of the country's largest and most powerful unions. She also has a great deal of support from women within the party - 13 of her 20 individual endorsers recorded in my rankings are women, a higher proportion that any other candidate by a significant margin.

Paul Dewar has a smaller number of supporters but many of them are veterans and influential within the party. Nathan Cullen has a very short and very B.C. list of endorsers, but the province has more members than any other in the country and Cullen appears to have the potential to be a real membership candidate. His establishment support is likely to turn out to be significantly smaller than his support within the rank-and-file.

This means that each candidate will have a solid chunk of first ballot votes, making the permutations of subsequent ballots difficult to predict. Will Cullen over- or under-achieve his now high expectations? Has Brian Topp been written off too early? Will Thomas Mulcair be able to attract enough second and third ballot support to put him over the 50% mark? What will be the names on the final ballot, and if it is going to be as close as some believe it will be, how important will candidate endorsements on the convention floor turn out to be? There may only be 10,000 or so ballots to cast on March 24 out of the 100,000+ expected to vote in the race, but they could make all the difference.