Friday, August 31, 2012

PQ on verge of losing majority

Polls from Forum Research for The National Post and CROP for La Presse have been added to the projection. Together, they suggest that the Parti Québécois's quest for a majority is on a knife's edge, and that the role of the Official Opposition is still very much up for grabs.

The projection awards the Parti Québécois 33.7% support, compared to 28.1% for the Liberals and 26% for the Coalition Avenir Québec. In fourth is Québec Solidaire, at their highest point in the campaign with 7.8% support.

This would deliver 64 seats to the PQ, 33 to the Liberals, 26 to the CAQ, and two to Québec Solidaire. As 63 seats are needed for a majority government, the PQ is really on the edge. If the projection is off by two seats, which would be a great result, it would mean the difference between minority and majority.

The ranges show, however, that the PQ is the only party in the running for government. They could win between 54 and 73 seats, straddling the majority line almost exactly. The Liberals, with between 27 and 43 seats, are well placed to form the Official Opposition (and they can thank Montreal for that), but the CAQ could also take on the job with between 19 and 32 seats.

Québec Solidaire, with between one and two seats, and Option Nationale, with potentially one seat, could hold the balance of power.

The CAQ has been making gains in central Quebec and the suburbs around Montreal, putting a lot of pressure on the Parti Québécois. They are doing very well in Quebec City but are not strong enough in other parts of the province to have a shot at forming government. The Liberals, with their solid base of support in Montreal and the Outaouais (22 of their 33 seats), have a head-start on the CAQ.

The turnout adjustment benefits the PQ and the Liberals only slightly in terms of seats. Without the adjustment, the poll averages alone would still deliver 32 seats to the Liberals and 61 to the Parti Québécois. That means a minority, but with the two seats from Québec Solidaire the PQ could make it work. The CAQ, with 30 seats, still ends up in third place even with a second place finish in the popular vote.
The unexpected CROP poll of this morning shows very little change from their last poll of Aug. 24-26. The PQ is down one point to 32% while the CAQ and PLQ are steady at 28% and 26%, respectively. With a two point gain, Québec Solidaire is now at 9%.

All of these shifts are within the margin of error, however, suggesting that things are now solidifying. The CAQ needs to continue its momentum in order to have a shot, but that does not seem to be in the cards for them.

But it is worth noting that while the shifts in support are statistically insignificant, the lead the PQ holds over the CAQ is as well (just). We also can't say with absolute certainty that the CAQ is ahead of the Liberals (though we can say that the PQ is). It makes for a potentially interesting finish on Tuesday night.
Forum fell into line with everyone else after their stand-out poll from last week, but the firm still seems to be showing better numbers for the Liberals. Perhaps the IVR method overcomes a "shy Tory" factor for the PLQ. We will find out on election night.

Since that last poll of Aug. 20, the PQ has gained four points and leads with 33%, followed by the Liberals at 28% (-7), the CAQ at 27% (+3), and Québec Solidaire at 8% (-1).

Together, these two polls tell a similar story of a close three-way race. The PQ has the advantage but neither the CAQ nor the PLQ are taking on runner-up status. The CAQ is ahead in Quebec City and the PQ elsewhere, while QS is doing better than they were before the debates.

We will have to wait and see what Léger Marketing says with their final poll, expected this weekend.

Riding polls

A large amount of riding polls were released in the last few days, and all have been added to the projection. Let's go through them quickly.

A poll for Le Soleil by Segma in Taschereau found Agnès Maltais of the PQ well ahead of Clément Gignac of the Liberals, with 41% to 19%. QS and the CAQ tied for third with 16% apiece. The projection also showed Maltais as the likely winner.

Another Segma poll for Le Voix de l'Est in Brome-Missisquoi found a close three-way race. Benoit Legault of the CAQ came out ahead with 32% to Richard Leclerc's 31%. The incumbent Liberal, Pierre Paradis, was in third with 27%. The projection also shows a close three-way race, but gives Paradis the advantage.

A poll in Papineau by Segma for Le Droit put Jean-François Primeau of the PQ ahead with 36%, followed at length by Alexandre Iraca of the Liberals with 27%. It confirmed the projection's prediction that Papineau would go PQ, but it did not give Primeau such a large lead in the formally safe Liberal riding.

Three polls by Forum Research for the Stantead Journal showed close races in Estrie: 36% for the Liberals to 35% for the PQ in Orford, 39% for the PQ to 37% for the Liberals in Saint-François, and 41% for Serge Cardin of the PQ to 39% for Jean Charest in Sherbrooke. That last one is of some interest, considering the leads that Segma has given Cardin in two polls.

Moving on to the Gaspésie, two polls by Segma agreed with 308 that the PQ could win Bonaventure and Gaspé, but the poll for Graffici put the Liberals much further behind in the latter: 57% for Gaétan Lelièvre in Gaspé to 20% for the incumbent Georges Mamelonet. It showed a closer race in Bonaventure, with 41% for Sylvain Roy of the PQ to 34% for Damien Arsenault of the PLQ.

Another poll in Saint-François, this time by Segma for La Tribune, gave the PQ's Réjean Hébert a 20 point lead over Nathalie Goguen, with 46% to 26%. That is much more in line with what the projection had.

And finally, five polls this morning by Segma for Le Quotidien in Dubuc, Chicoutimi, Jonquière, Roberval, and Lac-Saint-Jean confirmed that the PQ is poised to sweep the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. Interestingly, however, in all of the ridings except Roberval the CAQ has moved into second, ahead of the Liberals. On average, the CAQ gained six points in these ridings since Segma's last poll of the region between Aug. 11-16. Both the PQ and the Liberals have lost three points. This is a strong indication of how the Liberals are suffering in francophone Quebec, but also how the PQ is relatively stagnant. Remember that the PQ is likely to win the election on Tuesday with less of the vote than they took in their 2008 defeat.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PQ still in majority territory, but less secure

A new poll by CROP for La Presse confirmed the results of the weekend's Léger Marketing poll to within a percentage point, giving the Parti Québécois a five-point lead over the (now) second place Coalition Avenir Québec. Though CROP believes the numbers would deliver the PQ a minority government, ThreeHundredEight still has Pauline Marois on track for a majority.

The changes from the last projection have been minimal, with the PQ and Liberals dropping one seat each to the benefit of the CAQ and Québec Solidaire. The Parti Québécois leads with a projected 34.1% support, followed by the Liberals at 28.5% and the CAQ at 25.8%.

Québec Solidaire (6.7%), Option Nationale (2.1%), and the Greens (1.8%) round-out the top six.

It is worth noting that though the projection gives the Liberals a second place finish, the unadjusted poll average now puts the CAQ narrowly ahead with 27.6% to 27.3% in voting intentions.

In terms of seats, the projection now awards the PQ 66, three more than is needed for a majority government. The Liberals take 32 and the CAQ take 25, with two seats going to Québec Solidaire.

The ranges have widened somewhat, however. The PQ could win between 48 and 79 seats, suggesting that a minority government is still very much a possibility. The Liberals could win between 24 and 52 seats, theoretically making a PLQ minority possible. But that is an extraordinarily unlikely scenario of Albertan proportions.

They should be more concerned with the CAQ, who has a range of between 13 and 34 seats. Their upper range is above the forecasted result for the Liberals. Considering the way the campaign is going (Liberals sliding, CAQ gaining), the race is truly on for the role of the Official Opposition.

Québec Solidaire should win one or two seats, while Jean-Martin Aussant can still hope to win his seat of Nicolet-Bécancour.

There have not been any major shifts in support as the CROP poll was very similar to the recent numbers by Léger and Segma Recherche. The Liberals did slip slightly on the island of Montreal and among non-francophones, but it did not cost them a seat. Their loss was in Quebec City, where they were down slightly and the PQ was up by even less. The CAQ made gains in the suburbs of Montreal, however, and are poised to start picking off PQ seats if things continue in this fashion.
CROP was last in the field Aug. 12-14, and since then there have been no statistically significant shifts in support. That does not mean that nothing has happened, as the confirmation of a third place finish for the Liberals does tell us something. 

The PQ was down one point to 33% while the CAQ was up three to 28%. The Liberals were down one to 26%, while Québec Solidaire was unchanged at 7%.

The lead the PQ holds is statistically significant (though just barely), while they also hold a noteworthy lead among francophones. Their support has dropped, however, by three points to 36%. The CAQ is up four to 30% among francophones, while the Liberals are down two to 19%.

The Liberals continue to lead among non-francophones with 57%, unchanged from CROP's last poll. The CAQ, at 20%, is also steady.

The PQ has the edge in the Montreal suburbs and in the regions of Quebec, while the CAQ is ahead in Quebec City. The Liberals are in front on the island of Montreal. The PQ saw negligible growth in the two regions where they have the advantage, but took losses in Quebec City and the island of Montreal. The CAQ was up across the board (except in Montreal), while the Liberals were down across the board (again, except in Montreal). The polls are unanimous on this question - despite their sagging support, Jean Charest's Liberals are still doing well on the island.

Riding polls

Two riding polls were also added to the projection. A poll by Cible Recherche for TVA in Trois-Rivières suggests that Djemila Benhabib of the PQ is in a strong position with 38%. Danielle St-Amand, the incumbent Liberal MNA, trails with 29%. The CAQ is further behind with 21% support. This poll echoes the one done by Segma early in the campaign, and is in opposition to the small-sample poll by Baromètre that gave the Liberals a wide lead. The projection has had the PQ in front for some time.

The other poll was in Hull. Conducted for Le Droit, the Segma poll found the Liberal incumbent Maryse Gaudreault leading with 39%. The PQ's Gilles Aubé trails with 30%, while Québec Solidaire placed third with 14%. The CAQ was in fourth with 12%. Though the projection had a slightly closer race, this is generally in line with what the model had. It also seems to contradict some of what Jean-Marc Léger has said about the Outaouais region, which he has called a three-way race. The ADQ has never been a factor in the Outaouais, and it does not seem like the CAQ is making inroads either.

A bevy of riding polls were released this morning for Taschereau, Brome-Missisquoi, Papineau, Orford, Saint-François, and Sherbrooke but they have yet to be added to the model. I will take a look at them in detail in the next update.

Monday, August 27, 2012

PQ in precarious majority position as CAQ moves up

On Saturday, Le Journal de Montréal released the latest set of numbers from Léger Marketing suggesting that the Parti Québécois was still comfortably in the lead. More significantly, however, the poll indicated that the Coalition Avenier Québec has moved into second, ahead of the governing Liberals. A poll this morning for Le Soleil by Segma Recherche also points to Liberal woes, in this case in Quebec City. But a few riding polls released over the last three days suggest that the Liberals do still have some staying power.

The projection currently awards the Parti Québécois 34% support, with the Liberals trailing at 29.4% and the CAQ at 25.6%. Québec Solidaire, with 6.8% support, is well behind the three frontrunners.

The PQ is projected to win 67 seats, giving them four more than the bare minimum needed for a majority government. With 33 seats, the Liberals would form the Official Opposition while the CAQ would claim 24 seats and QS one.

But this order of finish is far from certain. If an election were held today, the PQ could emerge with a minority or a majority, as the range puts them between 52 and 78 seats. Though the PQ's minimum ties with the Liberals' maximum, it is extremely unlikely that the two parties would end up equal in seats.

The Liberals should be more concerned with not finishing third, as the range puts them between 26 and 52 seats. That means they overlap with the CAQ's 12-32 seat range, and with François Legault claiming a tiny bit of positive momentum to Jean Charest's negative trendlines, the odds are good that the CAQ could be in second place by the time the election rolls around.

Regionally, the Parti Québécois is leading in the Montreal suburbs (39.8% to the CAQ's 28.7% and the Liberals' 20.9%) and in the eastern (43.9% to 25.7% for the PLQ) and western (38.8% to 25.8% for the Liberals and 24.2% for the CAQ) parts of the province.

The Liberals only lead on the island of Montreal, though it is the widest lead in any region in Quebec. The Liberals have 46.2% support in the projection on the island, compared to 26.1% for the PQ and 13.6% for the CAQ.

Legault's party, on the other hand, claims two leads. He is ahead in Quebec City with 36.5% support, trailed at length by the Liberals at 28.4% and the PQ at 25.1%. And in central Quebec, the CAQ is narrowly ahead with 33.2% to the PQ's 31% and the PLQ's 26.1%. It is a close three-way race, but the Liberals get the worst of it: the PQ is projected to win 10 seats in the region, with the CAQ winning nine and the Liberals only one.
The Léger poll from Saturday was eagerly awaited, as the only available set of numbers came in the form of the widely lampooned Forum Research poll.

Rather than a big swing in favour of one party or another, Léger found things to be relatively stable since their poll of Aug. 13-16: the PQ unchanged at 33%, the CAQ up one to 28%, and the Liberals down one to 27%.

Though the gap between the Liberals and the CAQ is well within the margin of error, making it impossible to claim with any certainty that the Liberals are in fact in third place, the psychological effect of that positioning could be catastrophic. If Legault and the CAQ appear to be the only real bulwark to the Parti Québécois, the Liberals could shed federalist support over the next few days.

While the gap between second and third was statistically insignificant, that between the PQ and the CAQ was not. The PQ also holds a significant lead among francophones with 38% (-2) to 31% (+2). The Liberals' dominance among non-francophones remains unchallenged, however, with 67% support. The CAQ is down five points to 15% among this electorate.

Though most movement was within the margin of error, some was noteworthy. Québec Solidaire was up three points in the Montreal region to 9%, suggesting the performance of Françoise David in last Sunday's debate helped her party's fortunes. The CAQ was up eight big points in Quebec City to 46%, while the Liberals were up 11 on the island of Montreal to 45%. They were down considerably in the suburbs of Montreal, however, particularly north of the city.
Segma's poll of Quebec City provides a little bit of contrast with Léger's numbers, though the two were taken over slightly different days (Aug. 23-24 for Léger, Aug. 22-25 for Segma).

While Léger found the CAQ with 46% support and a lead of 22 points, Segma pegged the party at 34%, five points up on the Liberals.

They both show a statistically significant CAQ lead in the Capitale-Nationale, and the results for the PLQ and PQ are within the margin of error of each poll. But it is impossible to reconcile the two results for the CAQ. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle, but one or both of these polls is likely a little off.

Segma broke the results into the Rive-Nord (generally Quebec City itself) and the Rive-Sud (Lévis and surroundings), finding the CAQ in the lead in both areas. The area around Lévis was the last stronghold of the federal Conservatives in the last federal election, likely explaining the better CAQ results there. The PQ is much more competitive in Quebec City itself (and the projection accordingly has them in the running for four seats in the region, though one is more likely) but generally the race in and around the capital is between the CAQ and the PLQ.

Riding polls

There are pockets of stronger support for each party. Segma released two riding polls, taken Aug. 21-25 and using a hybrid IVR/live-caller method. In Lévis, Christian Dubé of the CAQ (future Finance Minister of a CAQ government, apparently) is in strong position with 41%, compared to 27% for the Liberal incumbent Gilles Lehouillier. The PQ trails with 18% and Québec Solidaire with 10% (a good result).

In Louis-Hébert, Sam Hamad of the Liberals has a statistically insignificant lead over the CAQ's Michel Hamel with 35% support to 30%, with the PQ's Rosette Côté not far behind at 26%.

The projection was very close for these two ridings, with Lévis projected at 42% CAQ to 27% for the Liberals and 21% for the PQ, before adding Segma's numbers to the model. In Louis-Hébert, the projection had 35% PLQ, 32% CAQ, and 26% PQ.

Two riding polls were also released over the weekend in smaller local newspapers. A poll by Cara-Télécom for La Nouvelle Union taken Aug. 21 found Claude Bachand of the Liberals to have 39.8% support in Arthabaska, compared to 32.6% for the CAQ's Sylvie Roy and 18.1% for the PQ candidate. With a large margin of error, Bachand is not out of the woods.

And a poll by Baromètre of Trois-Rivières put Danielle St-Amand back in front with 37.7% compared to 29.8% for the PQ's Djemila Benhabib and 26% for the CAQ. This is in contrast to a Segma poll from earlier in the campaign that gave the PQ a six-point lead and put the CAQ well out of the race. Again, the sample is small here so the lead St-Amand holds is not important.

Nevertheless, these two polls show that the Liberals do have the ability to hold on to ridings where they are the incumbent. Whether these numbers will hold is another thing entirely, and in consideration of the small sample sizes we can only say that the Liberals are not out of the running in these two ridings. That this is good news for the Liberals speaks to the predicament they are in.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Projection updated, PQ moves back into lead

With Léger Marketing's new poll for Le Journal de Montréal out this morning, I have updated the projection. The result is a swing back to the Parti Québécois, who are now once again in a position to win a majority government. Though there is enough uncertainty that a minority is still a distinct possibility - as is a second-place finish by the Coalition Avenir Québec.

The Forum poll from earlier this week was either capturing a momentary surge in Liberal support due to the Sunday debate or was completely out in left field. We cannot know for certain, but considering what other polls have shown we have to conclude that it was probably an outlier. Léger has indicated a relatively consistent trendline for all of the parties since their last survey, and riding polls released during the course of the week suggested no bump in Liberal support.

The next poll by CROP will likely settle things definitively. I will do a more thorough analysis of the Léger poll and the changes in the projection (along with any other polls that emerge) on Monday.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Charest continues to trail in Sherbrooke

Over the last few years, elections in Quebec have featured riding-level polling to a degree that is rarely seen in any other jurisdiction in Canada. About one-third of ridings in Quebec were individually polled in the 2011 federal election, compared to a handful in the rest of the country. Riding polls in the 2008 provincial election were also common. Ten ridings have been polled so far in this campaign.

The riding poll in Sherbrooke released in the second week of the campaign captured the most attention, as it put Jean Charest behind the PQ's Serge Cardin by 15 points. It certainly put a damper on the Liberal campaign, and is likely one of the reasons why Charest has visited his riding several times over the last few weeks. Those visits do not seem to have helped, as Segma Recherche was back in the field this week and found that Charest still trails by double-digits.
Segma was last in the field in Sherbrooke on August 6-8, and since then there has been very little change in the voting intentions of people in the riding.

Cardin is down one point to 45% while Charest is up two to 33%, insignificant amounts of change in a poll with a margin of error of +/- 4.3%. Despite the relatively high margin of error, however, Serge Cardin's lead is statistically significant.

The CAQ is down one point to 10% in the riding, while Québec Solidaire is up one point to 7%. Option Nationale is up one to 3% and the Greens are unchanged at 2%, while the Parti indépendantiste's candidate sits at 1% support.

Riding polls have been off before, but this is a rather considerable gap between Serge Cardin and Jean Charest. The premier's chances are worsened by the fact that Segma has demonstrated consistent results over two polls. It could very well be that voters in Sherbrooke fully intend to oust Charest from office themselves, regardless of what happens in the rest of the province.

Segma Recherche also polled the riding of Saint-Maurice for Le Nouvelliste, a riding somewhat up for grabs due to the retirement of the incumbent PQ MNA. Nevertheless, Luc Trudel of the Parti Québécois is holding firm with 42%, virtually unchanged from the 43% the PQ took in 2008.

The Liberal candidate, Robert Pilotte, has 26% support (down 12 points from the last election) while Pierre Giguère of the CAQ is at 22% (the ADQ took 15% in 2008).

They are followed at length by Québec Solidaire (5%), and Option Nationale (2%). An independent candidate and the Parti unité nationale share 3% support.

The poll in Saint-Maurice is not surprising, as the PQ is the incumbent party and they are doing much better than the Liberals among francophones. 

But do these two polls suggest that the Forum poll from earlier this week might have been wrong-headed?

The current projection, which incorporates the results of the Forum poll, gives the PQ 38% in Sherbrooke with the Liberals trailing at 35%. It places Québec Solidaire at 12% and the CAQ at 10%. The current projection in Saint-Maurice is 39% for the PQ, 33% for the PLQ, and 19% for the CAQ.

The projection, then, over-estimates Liberal support and under-estimates support for the PQ. If we remove Forum's poll from the equation entirely, the projection turns out to be much closer for both ridings. In Sherbrooke, it would instead be 43% PQ, 30% PLQ, 10% CAQ, and 7% QS. In Saint-Maurice, it would be 43% PQ, 28% PLQ, and 19% CAQ.

In other words, these two Segma riding polls seem to suggest that the surge in Liberal support recorded by Forum Research did not take place - or that it dissipated over the course of the three one-on-one debates. The projection for individual ridings has matched up to the results of Segma's polling quite well so far in this campaign. It could be coincidental that they do not match up so closely this time around, or it could be that the Forum poll was indeed off the mark. Undoubtedly, Léger Marketing and CROP will report in the next few days and clear the matter up. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rogue poll or a turning of the tide for PLQ?

So you might have heard that a new poll came out today. A collective scoff emerged from Quebec when The National Post released the details of the newest Forum Research poll. The survey puts the Liberals ahead of the Parti Québécois by six points, after having the PLQ trail by four only a week ago. Is it a rogue poll? A 19 out of 20 result? Just a badly done bit of public opinion polling? Or the first sign that things are turning around for Jean Charest? We'll find out soon enough.

I wrote about the poll for The Globe and Mail this morning, so I invite you to read the article for more detail on how it stands up to other surveys in the province.

The projection has swung hard because of this poll, with the Liberals up 4.3 points to 34.2% and the Parti Québécois down 3.5 points to 31.5%. The CAQ, with 23%, is down 1.6 points. Québec Solidare picked up 1.8 points to hit 7.5%.

With the Liberals now in front in the vote projection, they also move ahead in the seat projection. They picked up 20 seats to surge to 58, five short of a majority, while the PQ dropped 16 seats to 49. The CAQ dropped five seats to 16 and Québec Solidaire increased their share from one to two.

It goes without saying that the poll has injected a great deal of uncertainty into the projection, which now gives the Liberals and the PQ the possibility of forming a majority government or winning as few as 35 seats. In other words, because of this poll the projection model has no idea what would happen if an election took place today. This was the same sort of thing that occurred when Forum released their eleventh hour poll on the eve of the Alberta election, suggesting that a swing from Wildrose to the Progressive Conservatives was taking place. That a swing was underway turned out to be right, but it was the kind of swing that people were expecting to happen in Alberta but never seemed to (at least in the last week of polls). This swing from the PQ to the Liberals is completely unexpected.

For that reason, I don't want to get too much into the details of the new projection. If this is a rogue poll, it will swing back hard when Léger Marketing and CROP release their new numbers. If it isn't, and the two Quebec-based firms show the same Liberal surge in support, then we will know something is really going on. We should probably give Forum the benefit of the doubt for now and consider them innocent until proven guilty. Few believed the first poll that showed the New Democrats surging in Quebec in the 2011 federal election, after all.

After watching the three debates that have taken place so far, it does not seem unlikely that Jean Charest has indeed stopped the bleeding. I'm not convinced, however, that he did enough to cause such a huge shift in voting intentions. The final debate between Pauline Marois and François Legault, which takes place tonight, will be very important in deciding how the anti-Charest francophone vote will go. Marois has the advantage (even in Forum's poll), so the onus is on the CAQ leader to perform.
Forum was last in the field on August 13, and since then the Liberals increased their support by four points to lead with 35%. The PQ dropped six points to 29%. The CAQ was down one point to 24%.

Likely due to Françoise David's good performance in the debate, QS increased their support by three points. At 9%, the party is at their high watermark of the campaign so far. But Forum also added Option Nationale to their polling. At 1% they are not a big factor, but combined with the three points that QS gained we start to see where the PQ lost their six points.

But the Parti Québécois does still have an ace up their sleeve, as Forum found that 82% of their voters are very or somewhat enthusiastic about voting for the party. By contrast, enthusiasm sits at 72% among Liberals and 70% among CAQ voters. If that's a proxy for turnout, that transforms a six-point Liberal lead into a neck-and-neck race with the PQ.

On the other hand, 48% of PQ supporters felt that Françoise David won the Sunday debate, compared to 23% who said Marois won it. CAQ voters were more split between David and Legault, while PLQ voters felt Charest won. This indicates a less than strong attachment to Marois from PQ supporters.

Riding polls

Another riding poll for Nicolet-Bécancour has emerged. The riding is looking like one of the most interesting in Quebec, as a poll by Cara-Telecom for Le Courrier Sud and CKBN Radio sees a four-way race. With only 223 surveyed the margin of error is quite high (+/- 6.6%), but the poll gives Jean-Martin Aussant 29.7% support to 26.2% for the CAQ's Donald Martel. The Liberals are not far behind at 24.1% while the PQ brings up the rear at 20%.

The results are not very different to Cible Recherche's poll taken over some of the same days, which also put the race as one between Aussant and Martel. The only difference is in Liberal and PQ support, but the margin of error takes care of that. Nicolet-Bécancour will certainly be a riding to watch on Sept. 4, and if the result of the election is a minority government that one seat could be extremely important.

Charest's Liberals in the lead?

As I work to include the latest poll by Forum Research for The National Post into the projection, I invite you to read my take on the surprising results in my article for The Globe and Mail.

The reaction to the poll has been pretty skeptical in the Twittersphere. I have to admit that such a dramatic and unexpected turn of events leads me to raise an eyebrow as well, but we should wait and see what the other active firms in Quebec have to say before passing complete judgement on the poll. Then again, as I mention in the article, the three one-on-one debates could change things on their own and thereby prevent us from knowing whether Forum was capturing a real surge in support for the Liberals or just a statistical wobble.

Practically speaking, the projection will swing pretty wildly due to this poll. The most recent survey before Forum's is older by five days (in terms of the median date used for weighting), meaning Forum's poll will take up a lot of space in the projection. It will be more interesting to see where everything stands after CROP and Léger have reported, as it will give us a chance to 'triangulate' things, but if Forum is indeed capturing a shifting tide then the projection will have swung in the right direction. We shall see.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tight race in Nicolet-Bécancour and Trois-Rivières

The debates are in full swing and the effects won't be reflected in polls until a couple of days after tomorrow night's final contest between Pauline Marois and François Legault, but a few riding polls have been released over the last few days for two interesting ridings and the region of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.
Trois-Rivières is a particularly notable riding because of the recent controversy over the PQ's policy on the crucifix in the National Assembly and Saguenay mayor Jean Tremblay's comments about the Parti Québécois candidate. Djemila Benhabib, an author who lived in the Outaouais region and the target of Tremblay's comments, was also parachuted into the riding.

Nevertheless, 36% of voters in the riding say they will support her (80% saying that Tremblay's comments have no influence on their vote). That gives her a six-point lead over Danielle St-Amand, the incumbent Liberal MNA. The CAQ trails with 18% while Québec Solidaire is further behind with 8%.

The projection currently has the PQ with 38% of the vote in the riding to 30% for the Liberals and 22% for the CAQ. While this shows the model is working well, it is also interesting that despite all of the local issues and controversies the riding is behaving generally as expected.
Nicolet-Bécancour was a bit of a mystery, though. The riding is where Jean-Martin Aussant, leader of Option Nationale and former PQ MNA, is running. The presence of an incumbent MNA from a new fringe party makes the riding very difficult to predict. How much of the PQ's vote would swing over to ON?

The result is a lead for the CAQ's Donald Martel with 30.6% of the vote, narrowly edging out Aussant's 27.7%. The PQ trails in third with 25.4% while the Liberals are well behind with 16.3%.

The projection currently has the CAQ at 34%, the Liberals at 25%, the PQ at 22%, and ON at 18%, within the margin of error of the poll for the CAQ and PQ, while the ranges were wide enough to envision the poll's result for Aussant. That it pegged the CAQ as leading in the riding is a good sign, but figuring out the proportion of the vote that Aussant would be able to hold on to was always going to be difficult, as the model can only base itself on previous cases in other elections. The poll will be incorporated into the projection with the next update and will put Aussant within range of winning.

A huge proportion of respondents (42%) were undecided, so the race in Nicolet-Bécancour could go any which way. But it is interesting that Aussant, first elected under the PQ banner in 2008, has been able to hold on to so much of his vote. It puts him in a very good position - unless François Legault manages to increase his party's support significantly province-wide.
Lastly, we have (another) series of riding polls for the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, this time by Trigone. I am not familiar with this firm.

Trigone was in the field on most of the days that Segma was and the results match up very closely, particularly considering the margins of error applicable to sample sizes of between 176 and 215 people per riding (Segma polled about 600 people per riding).

The poll shows the PQ with a very wide lead across the board, including Dubuc where the Liberals are the incumbent, and 60% support in the region as a whole. This backs up the results of Segma and suggests that Léger's small-sample regional result (which showed a much closer race, though still a PQ lead) was the odd-man out.

All of these polls are pre-debate, so things could change dramatically over the next few days. But these results certainly don't bode well for the Liberals' chances in francophone Quebec.

Friday, August 17, 2012

CAQ gains put PQ majority in question

Le Journal de Montréal released the details of a monster Léger Marketing survey at midnight to great anticipation, though the results were less shocking than they were in-depth. But they do show that the Coalition Avenir Québec is continuing to make modest, but steady, gains. Now that they are pushing the Liberals for second place, they are also starting to push the Parti Québécois out of some seats.

But the PQ is still in the lead, though the party slipped one point to 35% in the projection. They are also down five seats to 65, putting them just over the bar of the 63 seats needed to form a majority government.

The Liberal slide continues, as they have dropped 1.2 points to 29.9%. Because of better numbers in and around Montreal, however, the party has managed to increase its seat haul by one to 38.

The CAQ is up 1.4 points to 24.6% and five seats to 21, while Québec Solidaire is down 0.2 points and one seat to 5.7% and Amir Khadir.

Option Nationale is up 1.2 points to 2.1%, putting them ahead of the Greens. They are down 0.2 points to 1.6%.

The seat ranges have moved significantly, with the Parti Québécois capable of winning between 53 and 79 seats. As the Liberal range has dropped to between 24 and 51 seats, a Liberal plurality is no longer considered possible. Instead, they are now threatened by the CAQ for the role of Official Opposition, as the party could win between 14 and 32 seats. That is a bit of an overlap, and with the CAQ having the momentum and running much closer in the straight poll average, the odds are turning against the Liberals.

Québec Solidaire dropped significantly on the island of Montreal, falling 3.9 points to only 8.1%. That puts them only a few ticks above their 2008 performance, and that is why the party is only projected to win one seat, and as few as none. The Liberals dropped 2.1 points to 36.4% and the PQ two points to 29.1%, while the CAQ made a big five point gain. They now sit at 18.7% and actually have three seats in range. That is primarily due to the divergent poll results increasing the volatility on the island, but it is something to keep an eye on.

In the suburbs around Montreal, the PQ dropped two points to 36.4% and six seats. The lion's share of the gains went to the Liberals, up 1.3 points to 28.7% and four seats. The CAQ was also up, gaining a point to reach 26.6%.

Quebec City saw a fair amount of change, as the Léger poll gave the CAQ a wide lead, rather than the Liberal lead that CROP identified. As a result, the CAQ picked up 3.6 points to reach 34.1%, and is up three seats to six. The Liberals dropped 5.6 points to 29.6% and five seats to only three, opening an opportunity for the PQ. The party only increased its support by 0.4 points to 26.4%, but gained a seat in the process.

In central Quebec, the PQ continues to lead with 33.6% (-0.3) but the Liberals fell 0.3 points to 28.4%, costing them one seat. The CAQ won it despite dropping 1.7 points to 27.5%. Notable is the 3.3-point gain by Option Nationale in the region. They currently have 4% support, just behind Québec Solidaire. It is no coincidence that their best region of the province is also where Jean-Martin Aussant is running.

And in western Quebec, the CAQ picked up 3.6 points and one seat. They are still in third at 25.2%, but the gap has narrowed with the Liberals as they were down 2.8 points to 26.4%. The PQ, at 38.3%, still leads in the region.

Note that the projection model gives the Liberals (and the PQ) an organisational/turnout bonus, and this is why the party is still in second place in the Montreal suburbs and in eastern, central, and western Quebec. If we go just by the polls, however, the Liberals are in third in those regions.
Léger was last in the field on Aug. 6-8, and since then the PQ has gained one point and has extended its lead over the Liberals. The PQ sits at 33%, while the PLQ has dropped three points to only 28%. At 27%, the CAQ is steady.

Québec Solidaire is also unchanged at 6%, while Option Nationale is up one point to 3%, their best polling result on record. The Greens were unchanged at 2%.

Only the Liberals' three-point drop appears to be statistically significant. Their drop of 19 points among non-francophones is also notable, as they are now at 62%. The CAQ made a big 11-point gain to 20%, the second consecutive poll to give the party this level of support among these voters. It could be a coincidence, or it could be that the CAQ's attempts to woo the anglophone electorate are paying off.

The CAQ's increase on the island of Montreal (from 14% to 22%) is accordingly outside the margin of error, while Québec Solidaire's drop of five points to only 7% is also more than a wobble. It is quite unusual for QS to be polling so low in Montreal, their one region of concentrated support. 

Riding polls

Segma Recherche completed its tour of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region for Le Quotidien today. In Roberval, Segma gives the PQ a wide lead with 53% to 26% for the Liberals. The CAQ, at 14%, trail in third by some distance. In Jonquière, the PQ is also very secure with 51% support to 20% for the Liberals and 17% for the CAQ. Both of these results were very close to what the projection had, but again we're seeing the Liberals being slightly over-estimated at the expense of the CAQ. 

But there is a bit of a variation between the results from Léger's poll (in the field Aug. 13-16) for the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and the combined results of Segma's polling (the five surveys spanned Aug. 11-16 altogether). Léger gives the PQ the lead with 38%, but puts the CAQ at 26% and the Liberals at 22%. By contrast, the average of Segma's five riding polls gives the PQ 52% to 23% for the Liberals and only 17% for the CAQ.

Granted, Léger polled only 262 people in the region while Segma's five polls surveyed almost 3,000, so the margin of error can account for much of the discrepancy. Segma's more in-depth polling also has to be given the benefit of the doubt. But it does suggest that the PQ's lead in the area might not be as solid as Segma has found it to be. And if that is the case in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, could it be the case elsewhere?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Liberals drop as PQ majority increases

A new poll by CROP for La Presse today showed that the Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec are generally where other pollsters have recently pegged them to be. But with a drop in support in Montreal, the Liberals have taken a hit.

The Parti Québécois has held steady, with a tiny 0.1 point drop to 36% in the projection. The Liberals, however, are down 1.2 points to 31.1%. The result is a net five seats swinging from the Liberals to the PQ, giving the PQ 70 seats to 37 for the Liberals.

The CAQ is unchanged at 23.2% and 16 seats, while Québec Solidaire is up 0.3 points to 5.9%. They are still projected to win two seats.

The Greens are up 0.2 points to 1.8% and Option Nationale is up 0.4 points to 0.9%.

The PQ's ranges have been nudged upwards, further decreasing the chances of a Liberal plurality. With between 34.5% and 37.5% support, the PQ can win between 51 and 78 seats. The Liberals, with between 28.6% and 33.6% support, can only win between 28 and 54 seats.

The CAQ appears to be stuck in third, with between 20.2% and 26.2% support and between 10 and 27 seats. At the very least, however, François Legault is sure to see his party's representation in the National Assembly grow.

The Liberals slipped most dramatically on the island of Montreal and among non-francophone voters. They are down 3.8 points on the island to 38.5%, decreasing their seat haul by three to 17. The PQ is up 0.9 points to 31.1% and three seats to nine, while the CAQ has moved back into third place. They jumped three points to 13.7%, putting them narrowly ahead of Québec Solidaire, which sits at 12% support.

Among non-francophones, who mostly live on the island of Montreal, the Liberals are down 3.5 points to 66.4%. The CAQ increased their support among this electorate by 2.8 points to 12.7%. They are still a long ways from challenging the Liberals among the anglophone population, but this may be the first sign that the CAQ's efforts are paying off.

The Parti Québécois made its two other seat gains in the Montreal suburbs, thanks to a 0.9-point drop by the Liberals to only 27.4%. The PQ did slip 0.4 points to 38.4%, however. The CAQ was also down, falling 0.2 points to 25.6%. But they are ahead of the Liberals in the region in the unadjusted poll average.

The Liberals are comfortably in front in Quebec City, however, as the CAQ dropped 3.1 points to 30.5%. The Liberals were down 0.9 points to 35.2%, while the PQ was up 2.7 points to 26%.
CROP was last in the field Aug. 4-8, and since then the PQ has picked up two points to lead with 34%. The Liberals were down two points to 27% while the CAQ was up four points to 25%, a statistically significant increase.

Québec Solidaire slid one point to 7%, while the Greens and Option Nationale were unchanged at 3% and 2%, respectively.

The Parti Québécois holds the lead among francophones (where there have been no significant shifts in support) and in and around Montreal, where they have 33% support to 28% for the Liberals. There is a three-way race in Quebec City in CROP's polling, and the PQ has the advantage in the rest of Quebec with 36% to the CAQ's 26%.

The Liberals dropped two points to 57% among non-francophones, but they still hold a wide lead. The CAQ picked up 12 points to hit 20%. The margin of error is quite large due to the sample being so small, but the increase in support for the CAQ among this electorate does not appear to be noise.

Riding polls

Segma Recherche and Le Quotidien continue to treat us to riding polls for the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, this time looking at Dubuc. This riding is actually an interesting one, as it is one of the closer races in the region and is a riding that should swing from the Liberals to the PQ. The poll gives the PQ 44% to the Liberals' 32% and the CAQ's 18%, virtually identical to what the projection had for the riding yesterday. But the projection was slightly under-estimating CAQ support in Dubuc, so the poll was added. Le Quotidien is supposed to publish the results of polling in Roberval and Jonquière tomorrow. The projection gives both of these ridings to the Parti Québécois by a wide margin.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

PQ moves into majority territory

One province-wide poll and three riding polls have been released since the last update, and for the first time in the campaign they put the Parti Québécois in a position to form a slim majority government.

With a gain of 1.6 points, the Parti Québécois is now projected to take 36.1% of the vote, giving them 65 seats. That is a gain of seven since the last update and just enough to put them over the barrier of 63 seats that is needed for a majority government.

The Liberals have suffered most at the hands of the PQ, slipping five seats to 42 and 0.4 points to 32.3%. The Coalition Avenir Québec made a small gain in the popular vote, up 0.5 points to 23.2%, but has lost two seats. They are now projected to win 16.

Québec Solidaire is down 0.2 points to 5.6% and remains at two seats. The Greens are down 0.4 points to 1.6% while Option Nationale is down 0.5 points to 0.5%.

The polls have tightened up considerably throughout Quebec, shrinking the projection ranges as well. This has had an important effect on the potential results, as the CAQ's high range no longer overlaps with the low ranges of the PQ and Liberals. The PQ is now projected to win between 50 and 75 seats, putting them in a very good position to come out ahead. The Liberals are projected to win between 30 and 54 seats, making a Liberal plurality highly unlikely. And with between 10 and 28 seats, the CAQ forming the Official Opposition, or even heading up a weak minority government, is out of the question.

The Parti Québécois has made gains in most parts of the province, but primarily in and around Montreal. On the island there have been no changes in seats, but the PQ is up three points to 30.2%. That still puts them well behind the Liberals, who lead with 42.3% (+0.7) in the projection, but the PQ is currently at their floor in terms of seats. They have room to grow, while the Liberals are at the high end of their capabilities. Québec Solidaire has moved back into third on the island, with a 0.3-point gain to hit 11.9%.

In the suburbs off of the island of Montreal, the PQ is up 2.9 points in the projection to 38.8%, awarding them four new seats. The Liberals are down 0.7 points and two seats to 28.3%, while the CAQ dropped 2.5 points to 25.8%, and two seats to only four.

The PQ also made gains at both ends of the province, picking up 2.8 points in western Quebec and 3.2 points in eastern Quebec, in all giving them three more seats. In eastern Quebec, the PQ leads with 46.8% and is trailed by the Liberals at 29.3% (-2.8). The Liberals are down three seats, two of them going to the PQ and one to the CAQ, which is up 1.3 points to 18.1% in the region.

In western Quebec, the PQ leads with 41.9% and is trailed by the Liberals at 28.1% (-1.8) and the CAQ at 21.8% (-1.8).

The Liberals did improve their standing in Quebec City, however. They are up three points to 36.1%, widening the gap between them and the CAQ. François Legault's party is up 0.8 points to 33.6%, but the Liberal gain has given them an extra seat. They are projected to win six to the CAQ's four and the PQ's one (they slipped 1.2 points to 23.3%).

The CAQ also saw their fortunes improve in central Quebec, as the party picked up 3.7 points to hit 29% and six seats, a gain of one. The Liberals dropped 0.5 points to 29.4%, giving them a very narrow edge over the CAQ, but they also dropped one seat to only two. At 34.6%, the PQ leads (though they dropped 0.6 points).

Worrisome for the Liberals is that they have fallen to third in the polls in certain regions. The projection adjusts polling results slightly, but in terms of the unadjusted average the PLQ now trails the CAQ for second place in central Quebec and the Montreal suburbs, and has fallen from first to second in Quebec City. The superior electoral machinery of the Liberals, however, should be able to make the difference.
Forum's latest poll for The National Post generally shows the status quo from the polling firm's perspective, as no party has seen its support shift to a statistically significant degree. The PQ has widened their lead (and it is a lead just outside the margin of error) to four points, picking up one point to hit 35% while the Liberals dropped one to 31%. The CAQ slipped one point to 25%, while Québec Solidaire was steady at 6%.

None of the regional variations appear to be important, suggesting that voting intentions in the province are generally solid. The PQ holds a statistically significant lead on the south shore and among francophones, however, while the Liberals are well ahead among non-francophones.

Even the approval/disapproval ratings of the leaders has not shifted more than a wink. If anything has occurred, however, it is that every leader has seen their disapproval ratings move up a tick or two.

Forum includes a question on whether voters are enthusiastic or not to cast their ballot, a possible proxy for people who are likely to vote. There isn't a huge difference in voter enthusiasm between the parties, but the PQ does have the edge. If we look at the "very enthusiastic" totals, we get a vote share of 39% for the PQ, 31% for the Liberals, and 22% for the CAQ.

Three riding polls have also been released over the last week, all by Segma Recherche. The first, for the riding of Granby, found the CAQ at 49% to 24% for the PQ and 16% for the Liberals. This was very close to the projection at the time, which gave the CAQ 49% to 23% for the PQ and Liberals.

Two polls today in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region found the PQ in good standing, as the projection did. The PQ scored 59% in Lac-Saint-Jean and 53% in Chicoutimi, and were trailed by the Liberals and CAQ in a close tie for second. The Liberals had 21% in Chicoutimi and 17% in Lac-Saint-Jean, while the CAQ had 19% and 18%, respectively. The projection did give the PQ a wide margin of victory, but interestingly it was over-estimating Liberal support, mostly to the detriment of the CAQ.

The Liberals were also over-estimated in Granby and Sherbrooke. This leads to two questions: is the projection over-estimating Liberal support? Or, are polls under-estimating their vote? If the projection is over-estimating the Liberals, this could have one of two consequences. On the one hand, it may be over-estimating the Liberal ability to win seats. On the other hand, it may be under-estimating Liberal support where they have incumbents. This occurred in the Alberta election, where the Liberal vote tanked disproportionately in ridings where they did not have an incumbent, and held firm in ridings where they did. There was no sign of that in the riding poll for Sherbrooke, though.

But if the polls are under-estimating Liberal support we could see them be much stronger than expected on election night. This is what the projection model assumes with its adjustment mechanism for turnout, but there is always the possibility that the incumbency advantage will be especially strong in this election.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Liberals and Tories on track to hold seats in by-elections

Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan are scheduled to hold their provincial by-elections on September 6, and polls by Forum Research suggest that voters in each riding are likely to re-elect the party they chose in the October 2011 general election.
In Kitchener-Waterloo, the Progressive Conservative candidate Tracey Weiler has the support of 34% of voters, a gain of two points since Forum was last polling this riding in the spring. The Liberals are down nine points to 30%, while the New Democrats are up 10 points to 30% as well.

The Greens are down three points to 4%.

This is quite a change since Forum's last poll. The Tories have held firm but Liberal candidate Eric Davis has seen his fortunes drop dramatically, putting him in a tie with NDP candidate Catherine Fife. But this is a close enough race that anyone could win - Andrea Horwath has a better approval rating than either Dalton McGuinty or Tim Hudak in the riding, while McGuinty scores above Hudak. That has the potential to even things out on election day, and the By-Election Barometer forecast now pegs the riding as a Likely PC riding, rather than a Strong PC.

In Vaughan, what was a close race is looking more like a Liberal landslide. Liberal Steve Del Duca has 47% support, up seven points from Forum's Aug. 2-3 poll. PC candidate Tony Genco is down five points to 36%, while the New Democrats are down six points to 9%.

But Forum also asked voters whether they were enthusiastic about voting. Turnout is absolutely key in a by-election, and with 39% of Vaughan and 45% of Kitchener-Waterloo residents saying they were "very enthusiastic" we appear to have a good measure of who may actually head out to vote.
When looking at only those who said they were very enthusiastic, the races in both ridings transform a little.

In Kitchener-Waterloo, the close three-way race looks more like a two-way race as Liberal and PC voters turnout in greater numbers. Not surprisingly, Green support plummets and the NDP also takes a hit. The Tories still hold the advantage, however, extending their lead by one point.

Liberal voters in Vaughan are not as enthusiastic as their Tory and NDP counterparts and as a result the 11-point edge shrinks to only four points as the Tories get their supporters to the polls. The Liberals still come out ahead, however, with 44% to 40%. But this does suggest that Vaughan could be a closer race than expected.

It appears that the incumbent parties have the edge in Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan with less than a month to go before the vote. That means a status quo in the Legislative Assembly with the Liberals just short of a pseudo-majority government. However, neither race appears to be a slam dunk for either party. Kitchener-Waterloo is a very close contest that even puts the NDP in the running, and voter enthusiasm in Vaughan points to a potentially narrow margin as well. The next few weeks of campaigning could be extremely important.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Transposition of votes for proposed northern New Brunswick electoral boundaries

A little over a month ago, I transposed the votes for the proposed boundaries in Newfoundland and Labrador. The boundaries in the province were changed significantly, but the outcomes were changed considerably in only one riding, as the new boundaries of Avalon contained more Conservative voters than Liberals. We now move on to the five ridings in northern New Brunswick, where the results of the 2011 election are not overturned.

The following transposition of votes is unofficial. In addition to human errors, it was not possible to include the special or mobile polls in the transposition and not every poll from the map used last year fits the new boundaries perfectly. However, the overall effect on the results should be relatively minimal and the estimated transposition should not have an error of more than a few tenths of a percentage point.

New Brunswick received no new seats and all 10 of its ridings had small changes to their boundaries. Let's start with the riding that has undergone the most amount of change.

The old riding of Beauséjour lost a bit of its northeastern section and a small piece of territory to the east of Moncton, but gained the area of Dieppe in return.

The population of those lost areas was quite small, with some 2,000 voters (not eligible voters, people who actually voted) being sent off to Miramichi and Moncton-Riverview. Dieppe hands over 9,500 voters to the new riding, however. Those voters lost were far more favourable to the New Democrats than the average in the riding and far less friendly to the Liberals, but the voters in Dieppe were more favourable to the Liberals, as well as to the NDP, meaning that the upshot is a gain for both parties. 

The gain is relatively small, with the Liberals going from 39.1% to 40% and the NDP from 23.4% to 24%. The Conservatives dropped quite a bit more, however, as voters in Dieppe supported them to the tune of only 24.3%, compared to 33.3% in Beauséjour as a whole. Their support has dropped to 31.8%.

The new boundaries makes Beauséjour-Dieppe a slightly more three-way race than it was previously, but it still looks relatively safe for the Liberals.
The riding of Acadie-Bathurst changed only slightly, with territory north of the Jacquet River Gorge on the Baie-des-Chaleurs being grafted on, adding a little over 1,000 voters.

Acadie-Bathurst is a very solidly NDP riding, with Yvon Godin having gotten more than two-thirds of the vote in 2011. The new voters around Belledune were far more split between the three major parties, but the overall change is very minimal and the riding remains a very secure one for the New Democrats.

Madawaska-Restigouche gained the piece of land between it and Acadie-Bathurst, but the number of voters in the region is very small. They were more open to the New Democrats, thereby boosting the party's support from 18.8% to 19.3%, but overall the new boundaries have changed things insignificantly. It remains a Liberal-Conservative contest.

Miramichi moved southwards, gaining land from Beauséjour and Tobique-Mactaquac in exchange for their losses in the north. In all, however, only about 2,000 voters went each way.

The resulting change in support penalizes the Conservatives to the benefit of the New Democrats, but not in any dramatic fashion. The Conservatives fall from 52.4% to 51% while the NDP moves from 23.1% to 24.2%, but the Conservative advantage of almost 27 points is still very large.

Things changed unremarkably in Tobique-Saint John River Valley as well. The riding lost a handful of voters to Miramichi but gained almost 3,000 from the formerly sprawling Fredericton riding. Those voters picked up in Fredericton voted in an almost identical fashion to those in Tobique-Mactaquac. The result is that no party saw their transposed totals change by more than 0.1 points. Tobique-Saint John River Valley remains safely Conservative.

In 2011, the Conservatives took three of these ridings and the New Democrats and Liberals each took one. Based on currently polling levels, the projection model would swap Madawaska-Restigouche over to the Liberals, giving them and the Conservatives two seats apiece and the New Democrats one.

The victors are no different with the transposed results. However, the projection in Miramichi is somewhat closer. Instead of the Conservatives being given the advantage with 38% to 32% for the New Democrats, the  small shift transforms that into a 36% to 33% lead for the Tories. In other words, Miramichi is slightly more of a battleground than it was previously. But overall, the proposed boundaries in northern New Brunswick do not result in any major changes in the political make-up of the ridings.

Friday, August 10, 2012

CAQ continues to gain ground

Two new surveys were out this morning, suggesting that the Parti Québécois and Liberals remain in a tight race with the PQ holding a slight edge. One poll, however, shows the Coalition Avenir Québec making major gains while the other shows them holding steady. The projection is less ambiguous, as the party continues to make gains.

With a drop of 1.2 points and two seats, the Parti Québécois still leads with 34.5% and 58 seats. They are trailed by the Liberals, down a point to 32.7% and two seats to 47.

The CAQ has made up the difference, picking up 1.1 points to hit 22.7% support and four seats. They are now projected to win 18.

Québec Solidaire is up 0.3 points to 5.8%, while the Greens are down 0.3 points to 2% and Option Nationale is up 0.9 points to 1%. As expected, the inclusion of ON in the Léger and CROP polls has put them back to where they should be in the projection.

But the ranges have widened considerably - understandably, considering that the CAQ has been pegged at between 14% and 27% in a period of just one week. The seat range chart indicates how confused things are becoming as all three main parties do overlap around the 40-seat mark. It is very unlikely that the CAQ could pull as many as the 42 seats indicated at the high end of their projection, but they are involved in a lot of close races. Everything from a PQ or PLQ majority to a CAQ minority are possible at this stage. Whether they are plausible is another thing entirely. But, then again, my high seat range of some 60 seats for the Alberta PCs on the eve of that province's vote looked highly implausible.

The Parti Québécois made a gain in central Quebec, where they now lead with 35.4%. They are up 2.8 points and two seats, and are now projected to win 12 of the 20 in the region. They are also in the running in three other seats there. The PQ had minor shifts in western Quebec (down 0.9 points to 39%) and Quebec City (up 0.9 points to 24.5%), but were down much more significantly on the island of Montreal and in the suburbs. On the island, the party is down 3.1 points to 27.2%. Off of it, they are down 3.4 points to 35.9%. They still lead there, however.

The Liberals had a small gain in eastern Quebec and held steady in the Montreal suburbs, but were down everywhere else: 1.2 points on the island, 2.2 points in western Quebec, 3.1 points in central Quebec, and 4.1 points in Quebec City. They are barely leading there with 33.1%, and are actually behind the CAQ in the unadjusted poll average.

The CAQ saw big increases in the Montreal suburbs (3.1 points to 28.3%) and in western Quebec (6.7 points to 24.1%), but were generally flat everywhere else. They have dropped in Quebec City and central Quebec, but only by 0.3 points.

One important gain they did make, however, is among francophones. The party is now second among this electorate, with 27.8% to the PQ's 39% and the Liberals' 22.6%. The Liberals lead among non-francophones with 76.1%, however. The CAQ has not registered any major increase among this demographic yet, but they are second with 9.3%.
Léger Marketing was last in the field just before the campaign began (July 29-31), and since then there has been little major movement - except for the CAQ. The PQ has dropped a point to 32%, the Liberals are unchanged at 31%, Québec Solidaire is down one point to 6%, and the Greens are two to 2%, making enough room for the CAQ to jump six points and hit 27%. That makes it a true three-way race, and it is a statistically significant increase in support.

Whereas yesterday's Forum poll had few real leads, this one is full of them: the PQ among francophones and in the rest of Quebec, the Liberals among non-francophones and in the Montreal region, and the CAQ in Quebec City.

The CAQ has demonstrated real growth in Montreal and Quebec City and western Quebec, while the PQ and Liberals have dropped significantly in Montreal and Quebec City, respectively.
CROP was last in the field for the media in May, so a comparison is not really worth the trouble - especially considering that CROP has switched back to telephone polling.

But they show the same sort of race between the PQ (32%) and the Liberals (29%) as Léger identified, the big difference being the 21% for the CAQ. It is possible that CROP was polling too far back (their field dates stretch back to Saturday) to capture a lot of the party's momentum that Forum and Léger have recorded.

Another difference in this poll is that the Liberals are holding on to their lead in Quebec City, but it is close enough to be statistically insignificant.

Also worth mentioning is a poll conducted by Segma Recherche for La Tribune. They found that Jean Charest is trailing PQ candidate Serge Cardin in the riding of Sherbrooke by 46% to 31%, support levels that were within the projection's range for these two candidates in the riding. But the CAQ at 11% and QS at 6% was a little above and below the projected ranges, so the poll has been inserted into the model. It will serve as a partial base for future shifts in support. The poll does demonstrate, though, that the projection model is working well so far.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

CAQ makes big gains after first week

A dearth of polling since the writ was dropped last Wednesday left us all in purgatory, unable to determine whether the news of the first week of the campaign was having any real effect. With a new Forum poll for The National Post out today, however, it would appear that François Legault has made up a lot of the ground he had lost over the last few months.

Nevertheless, the Parti Québécois remains on top. They have dropped 2.3 points to 35.7% in the projection, while the Liberals have fallen three points to 33.7%. The Coalition Avenir Québec is the culprit, as they have gained 6.3 points to hit 21.6%, while Québec Solidaire is up 0.7 points to 5.5%.

The effect on the PQ is negligible, as they remain unmoved with 60 seats. The Liberals, however, have dropped eight seats to sink to 49, while the CAQ is up seven to 14 and Québec Solidaire is up one to two seats.

The seat projection pie chart shows how split the province is. The Liberals and the CAQ, both to the right of the PQ and not sovereigntist, have 63 seats between them while the PQ and QS, both left of centre and sovereigntist, have 62 seats. How this would work out in the National Assembly is difficult to figure.

But a majority is still possible. The PQ's seat range stretches from 40 to 76 seats (on 32.7% to 38.7% support) while the Liberal range is between 32 and 73 seats (on 30.2% to 37.2% support). The CAQ is in a position to have a little or a lot of influence, with a range of between six and 24 seats (16.6% to 26.6%).

Québec Solidaire can win one or two seats, while Option Nationale still has a hope of electing Jean-Martin Aussant.

On the subject of Option Nationale, the projection currently has them at only 0.1% support. That is, of course, unrealistically low. But with the latest poll from Forum showing 0% support for other parties (they don't include ON in their polls) this is the result. Léger Marketing is supposed to have its new numbers in Le Devoir tomorrow, according to what Jean-Marc Léger said on Twitter, so we can expect to see their support jump. Léger does include ON in their polling.

The CAQ's increase in support is quite dramatic throughout Quebec, in large part because their support among francophones jumped by 7.4 points. Their only sluggish region is Montreal itself, where the party saw a gain of only one point. They stand at 11% on the island.

Elsewhere, however, they were up big: 2.5 points in eastern Quebec, three points in western Quebec, 5.3 points in the Montreal suburbs, 5.9 points in central Quebec, and a massive 9.7-point jump in Quebec City. That increase has put them at 33.3% in the projection in the capital, just behind the Liberals (down 2.5 points to 37.2%).

Both the Liberals and the PQ have taken a hit. Their drops in support in Montreal and western Quebec were quite small, but the PQ lost more than three points around Montreal, in Quebec City, and in eastern Quebec. The Liberals, meanwhile, had losses of more than four points in the Montreal suburbs and in central Quebec, where the race is incredibly tight: 33.2% for the Liberals, 32.6% for the PQ, and 25.4% for the CAQ. That puts almost every seat in the region at play, as the Liberals could win between one and 15 seats, the PQ between three and 13, and the CAQ between one and nine.

Québec Solidaire had a 2.4.-point increase in Montreal to put them at 10.8% (and capable of electing both Amir Khadir and Françoise David), but they also had a corresponding 2.6-point slip in Quebec City, where they have only 3.3% projected support.
The Forum poll, taken on Tuesday and so well after Jacques Duchesneau's candidacy for the CAQ was announced, showed statistically significant shifts in support for all four top parties: a drop of five points since Aug. 1 for the PQ and six points for the Liberals, as well as a two-point gain for QS and a 10-point surge for the CAQ.

But statistically significant leads are hard to identify: only the PQ's advantage in the "rest of Quebec" and among francophones, and the Liberal lead among non-francophones. It will be interesting to see if the recent courting of anglophone voters will have a positive effect on the CAQ's support. It is unlikely that Léger's poll, apparently completed last night, will be able to record much of that.

The CAQ saw statistically significant increases in support across the board: eight points in and around Montreal, 12 points in Quebec City, and 10 points in the rest of Quebec. The Liberals had important losses in Montreal (-4) while the PQ's slip of six points in the rest of Quebec does not appear to be noise.

On the personal front, things are also looking up for Legault. Jean Charest's approval rating dropped by three points, widening the gap between his approval and disapproval scores by a total of six points (disapproval stands at 63%). Pauline Marois's approval/disapproval gap widened by four points (35% to 53%) while Legault's shrank by 14 points. His approval is up nine points to 39% while his disapproval is down five points, also to 39%. It has been awhile since one of these leaders had a net positive rating, and Legault is on the cusp of one. Still, 22% of Quebecers are not sure of what they think of him(down four points), suggesting things are still very much up in the air.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

July 2012 federal polling averages

UPDATE: A Forum poll conducted at the end of July and tucked away in a graphic for an article by The National Post was missed, but Forum has just released the data and I have updated the graphics and text below. My apologies.

This being the summer, it is no surprise that only three federal polls were released during the month of July. For that reason, the monthly polling averages have far less to tell us than they usually do. Accordingly, I will not spend too much time analyzing these numbers. I post them more for the sake of continuity.
The weighted average of these three July polls gives the New Democrats 32.6%, down 2.2 points from June. The Conservatives were down 1.2 points to 31.4%, while the Liberals were up 2.3 points to 22.3%.

The Greens were up 0.8 points to 6.7% and the Bloc Québécois was down 0.9 points to 5.1%.

The Conservatives led in the Prairies (34.1%), Ontario (36.3%), and Alberta (55.7%), while the New Democrats led in Atlantic Canada (36.9%), British Columbia (38.8%), and Quebec (39.3%).

The Liberals had their best results in Atlantic Canada (31.6%), the Prairies (23.4%), and Ontario (26.4%).

There was only one poll on approval ratings and none on who Canadians feel is the best person to be Prime Minister.

In terms of seats, the Conservatives would win 127 on these support levels, with the New Democrats taking 119, the Liberals 59, the Bloc Québécois two, and the Greens one. Compared to June, that is a loss of six seats for the Tories, three for the Bloc, and two for the New Democrats. The Liberals are up 11 seats.
The numbers in British Columbia and the Prairies are pretty good for the New Democrats, but the Conservatives' strength in Ontario (and Alberta, of course) gives them the edge.

A rough estimate puts the Conservatives at 143 seats, the New Democrats at 128, and the Liberals at 64 in the expanded 338-seat House.

If they were so inclined, the New Democrats and Liberals could come together to govern with a majority, which is a dangerous situation for the Conservatives. It will be a majority or bust for the Tories in 2015 after nine years in power. That is, of course, unless the New Democrats and Liberals rule out any sort of cooperation. The identity of the next leader of the Liberal Party may play a role in how that plays out.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

B.C. NDP continue to dominate

With the debate over the Northern Gateway pipeline running at a high temperature, both Angus-Reid and Forum Research stepped into the breach to poll the voting intentions of British Columbians. For all her chest-thumping, Christy Clark remains mired at less than half of the support enjoyed by the B.C. New Democrats' Adrian Dix.
Angus-Reid was last in the field only a month ago, between July 3-5. Since then, the NDP picked-up four points to hit 49% and holds a significant lead over the B.C. Liberals, who were down one point to 22%.

The B.C. Conservatives dropped three points to 19%, while the B.C. Greens were up one point to 9%. Another 2% of British Columbians said they would vote for another party or independent candidate.

These shifts do not appear to be statistically significant, suggesting that little has changed in the province despite the row over the pipeline.

The NDP leads in Metro Vancouver with 50% (+3), on Vancouver Island with 55% (+9), and in the North with 63% (+15). The race in the Interior is closer, with the New Democrats at 35% (-6), the Conservatives at 27% (unchanged), and the Liberals at 25% (+1).

The Liberals are in a sorry state everywhere, with that last result in the Interior being their best of the poll. The 23% in Metro Vancouver is especially worrying for them, considering the Conservatives increased their support in and around the city by six points to 18%.
Forum was last in the field on June 12, and since then the New Democrats dropped one point to 49% while the Liberals were up three to 23%.

The Conservatives were down one to 18% and the Greens were down two to 9%. All of these shifts are within the margin of error.

They are also almost identical to Angus-Reid's results. This sort of convergence (no more than a point's worth of variation for all of the parties) is rare, especially across two surveys using different methodologies. But both Forum and Angus-Reid were in the field at the same time. That they can be so close together suggests that they are on the money.

The New Democrats hold a statistically significant (and uniform) lead in every part of the province, while the Liberals hold second place in and around Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. The Conservatives have the edge in the Interior/North. The Liberals will accordingly have a hard time holding on to their seats there when they have to fight-off both the New Democrats and the Conservatives.

They will have such a hard time, in fact, that they could be reduced to less than half-a-dozen seats. These polls are so close to one another that I just averaged them out for the seat projection, and the result is a landslide: 78 seats for the B.C. New Democrats, four for the B.C. Liberals, and one for the B.C. Conservatives. Another two seats go to independents.

While this is an incredible result for the NDP, it isn't unusual for B.C. The 2001 election resulted in an opposition of two MLAs. Unless things change, particularly if the B.C. Conservatives continue to rake in so much of the support that would otherwise go to the Liberals, the province is on track for another almost-sweep.
And for things to change, either Christy Clark or John Cummins will have to improve their personal numbers. Averaging out the two polls gives Clark an approval rating of only 28%, compared to 23% for Cummins and 45% for Dix. That is a big gap to overcome. And whereas Cummins has a disapproval rating of 43%, Clark's stands at a massive 61%. Dix has a disapproval rating of only 32%.

There are few British Columbians on the fence about Clark, with an average of 12% of respondents not sure of their opinion of her. Dix's number is a bit higher, at 22%, while over one-third of people in the province are unsure of Cummins. Clark's only real hope is that during the upcoming election campaign a large proportion of those people will swing against Cummins - but at 22% the B.C. Conservatives would be challenging the B.C. Liberals for the role of the Official Opposition.

It gets worse for Clark if we remove the "unsures": her approval rating among decideds is only 31%, compared to 35% for Cummins and 58% for Dix. That is a lot of ground to make-up, and there are only nine months left before the election campaign begins in British Columbia.