Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 Spengler Cup

I've always been a hockey fan, following the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators closely. But I've also always enjoyed international hockey, perhaps even more than the NHL. So why not share my hobby a little?

The Spengler Cup is an invitational tournament, and the oldest international hockey tournament in the world. The first was held in 1923. The tournament is hosted by HC Davos, a team from the Swiss Nationaliga-A. The other five teams invited to the tournament changes from year to year, but since 1984 one of those has always been Team Canada. Unlike the other teams invited to the tournament, Team Canada is the only non-club team, and is made up of Canadian players plying their trade in the European leagues (mostly the Swiss Nationaliga-A). In addition, club teams are allowed to invite up to four other players to their roster for the tournament.

Games can be watched this year on TSN. Their broadcast schedule is here.

In this year's tournament, the other four teams are CSKA Moscow of the KHL, HC Vitkovice Steel of the Czech Extraliga, the Rochester Americans of the AHL, and HC Genève-Servette of the Swiss Nationaliga-A. The teams are divided into two groups of three (Vitkovice, Canada, and Davos in one group, Moscow, Rochester, and Genève-Servette in the other) and each team plays the other teams in their group once before the elimination round begins.

HC Vitkovice Steel

Vitkovice is not the strongest team in the Czech Extraliga, which in turn is not the strongest league in Europe (the KHL, Swedish, and Swiss leagues could make that claim). The team is currently ninth in a 14-team league. In Ondrej Roman and Rudolf Huna, however, they do have two of the top scorers in the Czech Republic. Roman, selected in the fifth round of the 2007 entry draft by the Dallas Stars, is more of a play-maker than a goal-scorer, however, with only seven goals and 26 assists for Vitkovice in 33 games this year. Vladimir Svacina would be the third most potent player on the team. Karol Sloboda and Richard Stehlik are two solid Czech defenders.

Vitkovice's starting goaltender, Daniel Dolejs, is suiting up for the Czech national junior team, leaving the goaltending duties to veteran Roman Malek and third-string Filip Sindelar.

The Czech team has no standouts, though Roman, Huna, and Svacina are good Czech-league players. Malek is a decent goaltender but Sindelar opened against the Canadians in a game the Czechs could have won. I don't think Vitkovice has the depth to keep it up, however, and is probably the weakest team of the six.

Rochester Americans

AHL teams aren't usually in the Spengler Cup, and you have to go back more than ten years to find one participating. But it is an interesting opportunity to see how a team of minor leaguers stacks up against some decent European-league squads.

So far, it is not going well for the Americans. They fell 5-0 to Genève-Servette in their opener. Their AHL season is not going so badly, second in the North Division to the Toronto Marlies but on the bubble in eighth spot in the Western Conference. As the affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres, the team does not have a lot of upside.

Their top three forwards in the AHL and competing in Switzerland are Philip Varone (27 points in 30 games), Luke Adam (20 points in 18 AHL games, he has also played nine games in the NHL this season), and Matt Ellis, who has 10 points in 25 games and has a few NHL games of experience under his belt as well. But these aren't exactly top-draw talent, even by AHL standards. Their defense is better, led by Brayden McNabb, who has 15 points in 19 AHL games, and Chad Ruhwedel (14 points in 26 games). Matt Hackett, who has played some games in the NHL, is not having a terrific year in the AHL but is their starter. Youngster Nathan Lieuwen may get a chance after Hackett's poor start against Genève-Servette.

Considering how poorly Rochester performed against Genève-Servette, and their pending match-up against Moscow, it is hard to imagine that the Americans will go very far in this tournament.

HC Genève-Servette

This Swiss team has a few names on the roster that might be familiar to NHL fans. Ranked seventh in a 12-team league, Genève-Servette is a middling Swiss squad but they should be able to do some damage in this tournament.

The team is led by NHL alumni like Matthew Lombardi (28 points in 32 NLA games), Kaspars Daugavins (25 points in 29 games), and Cody Almond (25 points in 32 games). European veteran Goran Bezina anchors the defense, along with Garrett Stafford, on loan from the Swedish league. Their goaltending is decent, with duties to be split between Robert Mayer (on loan from the Hamilton Bulldogs) and Swiss veteran Tobias Stephan (who played a few games with Dallas in the NHL a few years ago). Genève-Servette has a pretty good line-up, but is likely to struggle against the top three teams.

Team Canada

The defending champions don't have the likes of Tyler Seguin, John Tavares, and Jason Spezza in the line-up this year. The lockout was good to Team Canada in 2012, but this roster will not be able to dominate so easily. The Canadians are usually a good team, but it is also usually a close contest for them.

The offense is led by Brett McLean (third in scoring in Switzerland, for Lugano, and a veteran of almost 400 NHL games), journeyman Alexandre Giroux (fourth in league scoring, for Ambri-Piotta), and Glen Metropolit (also a veteran of some 400 games, who last played for the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL). Other familiar names include Darren Haydar, Anthony Stewart and Jason Williams.

The defense is headlined by NHL veterans like Jim Vandermeer, Joel Kwiatowski, Brendan Bell, and Derrick Walser. They should get a lot of offense from the back-end. Their goaltending is back-stopped by former NHL veteran Chris Mason, who is now plying his trade in the Italian league. AHL/ECHL journeyman Allen York will back him up.

This is a good squad, but it might not be as good as some of the teams Canada has sent to Davos in the past. It will be a challenge to repeat as champions.

HC Davos

You can never count out the hosts, and HC Davos is having a good year running fourth in the Swiss Nationaliga-A. Among the players on the roster in the tournament, Marcus Paulsson, Peter Guggisberg, and Dino Wieser should provide the offense. Swedish ringers for this tournament include Niklas Persson and Nicklas Danielsson, who have had success in the Swedish league and the KHL.

The defense is solid, if not flashy. It should be led by Ville Koistinen and Beat Forster and ringer Zdenek Kutlak, who played a few games in the NHL back in the day. Davos's goaltending is among the best in the tournament, led by Leonardo Genoni (.927 save percentage in the Swiss league) and veteran Mika Noronen.

The home team advantage is always an important one in the Spengler Cup, and Davos has a deep line-up. Their goaltending should be very good, and they have every reason to contend for the Cup.

CSKA Moscow

The best team in the tournament, though, has to be the KHL's CSKA Moscow. CSKA is second in their division in the KHL and in the top ten in the 28-team league. The KHL is easily the second best league in the world, and to have one of its top teams in the Spengler Cup makes a win by them a safe bet. From 2008 to 2010, KHL teams had claimed the top prize.

The offensive line-up boasts some NHL talent, including Alexander Radulov, Alexander Frolov, Vladimir Zharkov, Oleg Saprykin, Alexei Morozov, Ivan Nepryayev, Fedor Fedorov, and David Nemirovsky. Sergei Fedorov is even supposed to come out of retirement (he manages the team) to put on his skates. And with top KHL talent like Nikolay Prokhorkin, Igor Grigorenko, and Ilari Filppula, Moscow has the most potent offense in the tournament - by far.

The defense is not nearly as full of recognizable names for North Americans, but it has a number of KHL veterans. Denis Denisov, Yakov Rylov, and Georgi Misharin give them a good base.

Their goaltending is mixed, with veteran Slovakian goaltender (who once played six games for the Washington Capitals) Rastislav Stana and KHL veteran Ilya Proskuryakov splitting the duties. They have both been having good years for Moscow in the KHL.

But with the power the team has up front, Stana and Proskuryakov could probably let in three or four goals per game and still come out of it undefeated. CSKA Moscow has to be considered the favourite to win - we just need to see if the team will take their opponents seriously.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A year in polling

2013 has been a remarkable year in politics and political polling, with the Liberals returning from the dead, the Senate scandal shaking things up, and the surprise result of the provincial election in British Columbia. New provincial party leaders have been named in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, with Justin Trudeau taking over the federal Liberals and Daniel Paillé bowing out of the Bloc Québécois.

Tapping into the Pulse: Political public opinion polling in Canada, 2013 is an eBook I'm working on that was successfully funded on Kickstarter last week. Thanks to those who pledged! The Kickstarter drive ends on December 27, so you still have a few more days to reserve your advance copy (to be delivered one month before the book goes on sale), contribute to this website, and save a little money off the sticker price. It will be a comprehensive record of the year in politics and particularly in polling, and I hope you'll enjoy it!

With the year coming to a close, let's take a look here at how the federal parties have done in the polls over the course of 2013. We'll also compare their performances to how they did in 2011 and 2012 (I did this last year as well). The differences are remarkable.

The chart above and those below show each individual poll result that was released throughout 2013 at the federal level, as well as a rolling three-poll average.

As you can see from the above, most of the change that has taken place nationwide occurred just after Trudeau became leader. Since then, the three parties have generally been in stasis. But the trends are looking negative for the Conservatives.
If we compare the average of all the polls from 2013 to those in 2012 and in 2011 (after the federal election), we see just how much things have changed in the past year. The Conservatives have dropped from an average of 37.5% in 2011 to 33.9% in 2012 and now just 30% in 2013. The New Democrats, who were relatively stable between 2011 and 2012, fell to just 24.7% in 2013. And the Liberals picked up about 10 points in 2013 as compared to their performances in the previous two years. As you'll see below, this huge surge was repeated everywhere in Canada.

Starting west, British Columbia has been a bit of a jumble throughout the year. All three parties have been jostling for the lead since April, but it was Trudeau's arrival that turned an NDP/Conservative race into a three-way contest.
Here again, the Liberals picked up about 10 points in B.C. in 2013, coming from both the Conservatives and the New Democrats. The Tories regained the lead overall in 2013, but they actually lost it in the last few months.

Nothing too remarkable in Alberta, with the Conservatives generally holding stable after losing some support after Trudeau came along.
The same pattern nationally is repeated in Alberta, with the Conservatives losing about seven points over the last two years and the Liberals picking up about 12.

In the Praires, the Liberals moved into second after April and are now challenging the Conservatives for first place. Support for the NDP has been generally stable throughout the year.
The gain in 2013 for the Liberals is especially marked here, as the party has picked up about 13 points in 2013 as compared to 2012. The Conservatives have dropped but most of the Liberal gains made throughout the year came from the New Democrats.

Ontario has mostly been a close race between the Conservatives and Liberals, but that has changed in the last few months as the Liberals have moved ahead.
The Conservatives have dropped six points over the last two years, with the Liberals picking up most of that. The NDP, after increasing in 2012, is back down below where they were in 2011.

Quebec has been pretty interesting - the NDP started the year in front and lost it when Trudeau came along. He gave the party a wide lead until the summer, when the race became a lot closer. Through it all, the Bloc's support has been mostly steady (though it did uptick during the summer) while the Conservatives have been safely in fourth.
Both the Conservatives and New Democrats have been consistently dropping in Quebec, the Conservatives going from 19.3% in 2011 to 15.9% in 2012 and now 12.5%. The NDP dropped from almost 40% to 36% and now 28.3%. The Liberals have picked up all of this lost support, doubling their numbers since 2011 and the Bloc Québécois actually took a step backwards in 2013.

Atlantic Canada has been the Liberal Show, both at the provincial and federal levels. The lead for the Liberals here is almost as wide as that of the Conservatives in Alberta.
The Liberals made their biggest gain here in 2013, going from an average of 29.6% in 2012 to 46.1% in 2013. The NDP dropped about 10 points while the Tories were down seven. But since 2011, the Conservatives have shed about a third of their support.

What will 2014 hold? We certainly aren't done with the Senate, and the Bloc Québécois will choose a new leader, likely in the spring. Apart from that: events, dear boy, events. With Thomas Mulcair begin to regain the support he lost when Justin Trudeau became Liberal leader? Will Trudeau be able to hold on to that support? What influence will the likely elections in Ontario and Quebec have on the federal scene, particularly if the Parti Québécois is given a majority?

It should be an interesting year. I hope to cover it with the next annual edition of Tapping into the Pulse! This will likely be the last post of 2013, so I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a safe and happy holidays, and all the best in 2014. Thanks for reading, see you next year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kickstarter Update #4 - We did it!

Yesterday was an incredible day of generosity, as we bounded from 72% funding to over 100%! That means that Tapping into the Pulse will be written and published as an ebook! Thanks so much to all of you for pledging and helping to spread the word about this project. I had worried that my funding goal was too ambitious and had figured it would come down to the wire, but I'm blown away that we reached our goal in just 21 days.

I'm really touched, as it validates the work I've put into this site over the last five years. It is terrific to see that there is support for this sort of independent work in Canada. Thanks so much!

So that's it then, right?

No! Though the funding goal has been reached, there is still plenty of incentive to keep the ticker going:

Pledging $10 or more secures a Kickstarter backers-only edition of Tapping into the Pulse, at least one month before it is set loose on the public. That means reading this eBook at the end of February (the deadline I have set) instead of the end of March or beginning of April.

Pledging $10 also means that you'll save money! When the ebook is released to the general public on Amazon, and potentially elsewhere, it will be priced at more than the minimum $10 pledge. So, reserve your backers-only edition and save!

There are still plenty of ridings to be claimed for a historical profile that will be posted on this site before the 2015 federal election. A pledge of $75 gets you the riding history of your choice and a pledge of $100 means I will toil over an analysis topic of your choice. Put me to work!

And then there is the warm and fuzzy feeling that you're guaranteed (note: not a guarantee) to get when you pledge. It means you support independent polling analysis and the continued operation of this site. And, it also means more going to me: Kickstarter takes an impressively small portion of every pledge while Amazon, on the other hand, takes a much larger share (we're talking three to seven times as much)!

I think we're too late in the funding period, and too close to the holidays, to reach any reasonable stretch goal. But there are plenty of reasons why you should pledge before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 27.

The cover poll

Yesterday, I posted three cover mock-ups that were created by the good folks at IndieBookLauncher.com, who have generously donated their services to the project. I asked for your opinions, and they are in. Your choice was overwhelming. It wasn't even close. And some of you had, er, particularly strong opinions.

The cover on the left received 85% of the fake ballots cast in this informal, unscientific "poll". The cover on the right - which was the most controversial entry - received 9% support. The cover in the middle, which was actually my favourite (it reminded me of Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise, which is probably why I wouldn't have selected it), received just 6% support.

Now, I may have inadvertently biased the sample when I posted on Twitter that the cover on the left was already emerging as the most popular. There was a lesson in how not to conduct a poll there. Nevertheless, the cover on the left follows most in the style of ThreeHundredEight, so it makes sense that this ebook - a product and extension of ThreeHundredEight - should follow in the same style.

Thanks for voting! The cover on the left will be the cover for Tapping into the Pulse. I'll post a revised, refined draft of it later in the week.

Again, thank you so much for your generosity in this Kickstarter drive. I'll do my best with the book to live up to the awesome standard that has been set by you all.

We'll get back to your regularly scheduled polling analysis shortly. We just need a new poll to come out... *crickets*

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kickstarter Update #3 - Cover options!

The Kickstarter project to fund Tapping into the Pulse: Political public opinion polling in Canada, 2013, covering polls at both the federal and provincial levels throughout the year, continues to chug along. We are at 72% of our funding goal - which must be met for the book to be published - thanks to the generous support of 143 backers. But we only have 10 days to go!

If everyone who has already pledged gets a friend to pledge the minimum amount to secure an advanced copy of the eBook as well, we'd achieve our funding goal today!

In past updates, I've outlined the chapters that will be in Tapping into the Pulse and announced that Paul Adams, associate professor at Carleton University, would be writing the foreword.

Today, I'm pleased and grateful to announce that Saul Bottcher of IndieBookLauncher.com has generously donated the services of his Canadian company so that this book can be published. IndieBookLauncher.com will be taking care of the technical aspects of publishing Tapping into the Pulse, ensuring that the conversion to various eBook formats is done professionally and allowing me to focus on the writing of the book. But what is more exciting is that IndieBookLauncher.com will also be designing the cover. Check out their website for some of the great covers they have already done and some samples.

Saul has done three mock-up, draft concepts for the cover and I'm happy to present them here for comment.

Which of these three covers do you like best? Do you have any thoughts on them? Let me know! You can leave a comment on the site, or at the Kickstarter project page, or you can send me an email.

I'll be compiling your responses in an informal poll, and announce which cover has been chosen in the next week.

Let me also take this opportunity to remind you about the rewards at the $75 and $100 levels. In addition to an advanced copy of the eBook, the reward entitles you to a choice of riding whose history I will profile or, at the $100 level, an analysis topic of your choice. These will be published at this site before the next federal election.

Since last week, the following ridings have been claimed with these rewards: Winnipeg South Centre, Beauce, Skeena-Bulkley Valley, and Winnipeg North, in addition to the ones that had previously been claimed (Kingston and the Islands and Kitchener-Waterloo). Some very interesting ridings! But they will also only be profiled if the funding goal is reached - so let's get that bar to 100%!

Thanks again to all those who have already pledged. It goes a long way to help support the continued operation of this site, which is maintained by only minimal advertising revenue. It is greatly appreciated!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Paillé and the Bloc Québécois

Daniel Paillé has announced he is resigning the leadership of the Bloc Québécois, a position he has held for two years after defeating Maria Mourani (now an independent MP) and Jean-François Fortin (one of the Bloc's four MPs) in the December 2011 leadership race. Paillé is resigning for health reasons related to his suffering from epilepsy. All the best to him in coping with these health issues, which he thankfully says are under control. One cannot blame him for wanting to step down because of these problems, based on some of the reports of the symptoms.

Kickstarter Update: Funding continues to plod ahead, but only 10 days remain and we still have 30% to go before the funding goal is reached! I will have some exciting news tomorrow about the project. Please pledge or spread the word if you already have!

But the last two years have undoubtedly not been easy on Paillé, as he has struggled to keep the Bloc Québécois relevant. The party put up weak numbers in the Bourassa by-election and a recent poll by Léger suggested that almost half of Quebecers did not know who Paillé was. Another 20% had no opinion of him. This has been a major reason for the difficulty the Bloc has had in competing with the Liberals and New Democrats in the province. The leaders of those two parties are, by comparison, hyper-present.
The chart above shows the evolution of support in Quebec since January 2009, when the Bloc Québécois was unchallenged for supremacy in the province. Indeed, throughout 2010 and until the 2011 election campaign the Bloc enjoyed a 10 to 20 point lead over the Liberals, who were running second in the province at that time. A large lead for the BQ had been a feature of Quebec polling going back to the fall of the Liberals in the wake of the Gomery Inquiry.

Between Gilles Duceppe's resignation and the leadership victory of Paillé, the party was treading water at around 20%, slightly below where the party ended up on election night. After Paillé was named leader, the Bloc did indeed gain in the polls but it is difficult to determine whether this can be credited to Paillé or the opportunity provided by the lack of leadership of the NDP. Polling at the time suggested that the NDP's support in Quebec would collapse with any other leader than Thomas Mulcair, which was a possibility before that party's leadership campaign came to an end in March 2012. Just before Mulcair became leader, the Bloc had maneuvered itself back into first place.

But since Mulcair's leadership of the NDP, the Bloc has been stagnant. It has wobbled back and forth between the low and high 20s, with no clear discernible trend in either direction. This suggests that the supporters the Bloc had in the 2011 election are still there, but that the party has not progressed past its apparent floor. And now with the arrival of Justin Trudeau on the scene, the Bloc has moved from second to third in the province.

The chart above shows support among francophones since 2011 and the kind of trouble the Bloc Québécois has fallen into. The party did move ahead among francophones against the leaderless NDP, but afterwards fell into second place and are now in third behind the Liberals and NDP. This must be hard to swallow for a sovereigntist party, especially considering that its provincial counterpart holds a 10-point lead among francophones.

The party's support in the regions of Quebec mirrors that among francophones, which is problematic since this is the part of the province where the Bloc's four seats are located and is where the Bloc has the best shot of winning new ones.

The ability of the Bloc Québécois to win new seats can be inflated by seat projection models, suggesting a better health for the party than exists in reality. This is not because the seat projection models are wrong - it is simply because with the NDP moving down and the Liberals moving up, the Bloc is in a good position to win five to 15 seats new seats simply by default - often with little more than 30% support in any one of them. This is an anomaly of our election system, and one that the Bloc would certainly be happy to accept if it gets them back into official party status in 2015. But it should be taken into account when looking at the seat projections on this site, which frequently have the BQ in double-digits in seats.

What of the future for the Bloc Québécois? The obvious successor to Paillé is Fortin, who came in third (and last) in the leadership race. The person who came in second - Mourani - is no longer in caucus. Fortin also represents a riding in a region of the province, the Gaspésie, that should be considered one of the better ones for the Bloc Québécois. He would, on paper, have the best chance of re-election in 2015 among the Bloc's four MPs, though the region is susceptible to a Liberal rebound.

André Bellavance did not show interest in the leadership in 2011, and Louis Plamondon is at the end of his political career. Claude Patry, the MP who crossed the floor from the NDP, would have a hard time mounting a serious campaign. That leaves Fortin - unless someone from outside of the small caucus decides to take a run at the leadership. It is hard to imagine a serious contender who would, considering that a candidacy with the Parti Québécois in the upcoming provincial election is a much safer bet. And after the experience of Paillé, who had so much trouble making himself known from outside the House of Commons, it would seem to be a mistake for the Bloc to go for another leader outside caucus. Unless, of course, they could find someone better known than Fortin to run for the job.

Update (Dec. 17): I may have been too hasty to consider Fortin the front-runner. This report in Le Devoir seems to lean more towards Bellavance as being the most likely leader to emerge from caucus - if Gilles Duceppe does not return!

This does provide an opportunity for the Bloc Québécois to renew itself again and hope for a rebound in the polls, but the party is not in an enviable spot. It will be interesting to see how things will unfold here - and whether the Bloc will wait until the next provincial election is over before holding its own leadership race. Quebec remains in flux, then, and the final list of the leaders who will contest the 2015 election is again unknown.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Much ado about nothing in Quebec polling

"Qui dit vrai?" asked one headline. It was a sentiment I saw repeated several times on Twitter, and a whole slew of newspaper articles emerged to highlight or question the 'contradictory' polls that emerged from CROP/La Presse and Léger/Le Devoir over the past week. The fact of the matter is that these polls are not really contradictory at all, and certainly not enough to precipitate such urgent questions.

Pollsters themselves carry some of the blame for the growing cleavage between them and the public on matters of trust, due to the corner-cutting methodologies and unimpressive disclosure standards of some of them. But the media has played a role in shaking that trust, by reporting numbers in a manner that leave readers perplexed, confused, and ready to give up on polls entirely.

Kickstarter Update: Amazing, we've passed the 2/3rds funding mark with 135 backers for the ebook project. We still have 14 days to go! Let's keep the pledges coming in. I'll have some news about the project next week!

After the Léger/Le Devoir poll came out on Saturday, CTV picked up the story with the headline "Liberals lead in new poll; support for sovereignty waning". Their interpretation of the trendline in support for sovereignty was erroneous, as we will see, but it clearly implied that the Parti Québécois was not doing very well. It was an interpretation repeated elsewhere, and the headline was easily shared on social media. Narrative established.

After the CROP/La Presse poll came out on Wednesday, CTV was back on the story with the headline "Poll shows growing support for the Parti Quebecois". They accordingly had a picture of a happy Pauline Marois to counter the sad picture of her they had in their previous story. Narrative contradicted.

Let's deal with the first problem in how these two polls were interpreted, and one that is the most problematic since it was the most easily avoidable.

Léger reported that support for sovereignty stood at 33%, with 51% against and 16% undecided. CROP reported that support for sovereignty stood at 44%, with 56% against.

Notice anything different with those two sets of numbers? No, it is not the 11-point spread between support for sovereignty in the two polls. It is that Léger included the undecideds in their report, and CROP did not. CROP was following standard reporting practice, or at least what has been the standard for years in Quebec. Léger opted not to portion out the undecideds, something which they almost always do. It is odd that they chose not to this time, and probably should have known that as a result they would cause an unnecessary firestorm. One article even went so far as to suggest CROP was doing something unusual in excluding the undecideds.

When CTV reported that support for sovereignty was waning, it was this 33% number that they were focusing on. Yes, if support among decided voters was at 33% that would certainly be a sign that support for independence was on the wane. But if reported normally with the exclusion of undecideds, that 33% would have turned into 39%. That is well within the norm, and even at the higher end of the usual 35% to 40% support that Quebec sovereignty has registered in recent years. Worse, that 39% is one point higher than the last time Léger reported on this issue in May 2013. The headline attached to the poll was not just wrong in its interpretation, it was factually wrong, at least if you're comparing apples to apples.

In addition, the comparison of the 44% in the CROP poll to the 39% in the Léger poll as somehow contradictory is wrong as well.

Both of these polls are online surveys and both firms are correct to say that a probabilistic margin of error cannot be applied. That doesn't mean, though, that the polls don't have a margin of error of some sort. Ipsos-Reid, for example, applies a 'margin of credibility interval' to their online polls, a practice that probably captures correctly how to measure these things but which, it must be said, still raises some eyebrows in some corners of the industry. Nevertheless, these polls do have a margin of error of some kind, and if we apply the standard margin of error that would apply to a probabilistic sample of this size (Ipsos's credibility interval is usually comparable to a probabilistic margin of error), we see that the two latest polls from CROP and Léger overlap at around 41% to 42% support for sovereignty.

(If, as Michel David of Le Devoir contends, the sample was skewed and support should instead have been 37% in the CROP poll, then the overlap is even greater, at between 36% and 40% support.)

Update (Dec. 14): David published a correction notice today, noting that CROP did indeed weigh their decided sample correctly. Also, an editorial in the Montreal Gazette repeats the error of comparing the 33% number in Léger's poll to the 44% in CROP's, and then goes so far as to give their readers a lesson in statistics.

The chart above shows just how much in common the CROP and Léger polls have had on this question, especially when you consider the amount of error that has to apply to these polls. And the idea that support for sovereignty is on the uptick is certainly consistent with these trendlines. The likelihood that this is a blip, and that CROP will report a drop in support next time, is also strong - and the trendlines will still be in agreement with one another. Broadly speaking, things are remaining stable on this front and both Léger and CROP are telling the same general story.

Now to the question of whether these polls are contradictory in terms of voting intentions. Léger reported 37% for the PLQ and 32% for the PQ, a widening gap from their previous poll. CROP reported a 35% tie between the two parties, a tightening gap. How can this be?!

It be. The change in support in these two polls from their previous survey are within any sort of reasonable margin of error (if not a probabilistic one). So for it to be reported that the PQ was dropping in support in the Léger poll or that the PQ has experienced a "considerable change in support" in the CROP poll is not entirely accurate. If the parties were seeing their support change by four or five points, then yes, there would be something there. A wobble within three points is not worth a headline.

Let's first look at CROP's polling, going back to March, and applying a reasonable interval for the margin of error. As you can see in the chart above, support for the Liberals and PQ has not wavered to any considerable degree from one poll to the next for some time.

For the Liberals, support of between 37% and 38% falls within the error band of CROP's polling going all the way back to April. For the PQ, a band of between 32% and 33% falls within the last four polls done by the firm. There is not much here to go on in terms of a trend - the PQ and Liberals have been wobbling back and forth since at least September. The only real trend worth considering is the gain of the PQ between May and October.

For Léger, the bands are even wider over their last four polls, denoting even more stability: 34% to 39% for the Liberals and between 31% and 35% for the PQ. More importantly, those bands overlap with the bands recorded by CROP since the summer. A band of between 35% and 36% has also been consistently recorded for the Liberals going back to the spring in Léger's polling. It is impossible to look at their numbers and see anything but relative stability.

It should be pointed out as well that results that fall on the outside edges of a normal margin of error are not as likely as results that fall closer to the actual reported number. When looking at the bands above, then, the emphasis should not be on the extremes (i.e. 36% to 37% is probably a better range for the Liberals in Léger's polling than the wider 34% to 39%).

To go on about how these two polls are contradictory, how one is showing a wide lead for the Liberals and failing support for the PQ and their option while the other shows the PQ making huge strides and sovereignty just around the corner, is to make it seem like there is a contradiction and thus that the polls cannot be trusted, when that is not the case whatsoever. Léger and CROP did their polling on different days and the two firms use different methodologies (each do their polls online, but they have different panels and recruiting methods), also contributing to some of the minor differences.

That is all that readers really need to know to explain the contradiction, and they can be told with confidence that things remain relatively stable and close between the Liberals and PQ (particularly since the PQ can pull more seats out of fewer votes due to their advantage among francophones) and that support for sovereignty is probably holding at about the same levels that it has wobbled within for years. Léger and CROP are good pollsters that do good work and are transparent about their methods and samples, particularly with their clients. There is no need to portray their findings in this dismissive way. Save the scoffs for polling firms that deserve it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

November 2013 federal polling averages

It was a much quieter month on the polling front, with only four national and regional polls being released throughout November, down from 14 in October. The polls that were out showed general stability, if not an uptick in Liberal support. But due to the lower sample size, I am just going to briefly go over the averages in November for the sake of continuity.

Kickstarter Update: We're now at 58% funding at the 50% mark of the pledge drive - 15 days to go! The project currently has 123 backers. Thanks so much! Let's keep spreading the word.
The Liberals averaged 36.5% support in November, up 1.3 points from their October average. The Conservatives were down one point to 27.9%, their lowest since May and their second worst result since at least before 2009.

The New Democrats were down just 0.4 points to 23.4%, while the Bloc Québécois was up 0.5 points to 6.4%. The Greens were down 0.6 points to 4.9%. Support for other parties stood at 1%.

If we compare the national polls that were in the field in November to the last time these firms were last active, we see that the apples-to-apples comparison is even more favourable to the Liberals.
Regionally, the Liberals led in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, while the Conservatives were ahead in Alberta and the Prairies. The NDP was second in British Columbia and Quebec.

There were a few notable regional results, however. The Liberals scored their best-ever (at least since January 2009) results in British Columbia and the Prairies, while the Conservatives managed their worst results since before then in Ontario. On the other hand, they had their best score in Alberta since February 2013, while the Liberals were at their lowest point since then. The NDP had their best result in Alberta since October 2012, but dropped in support for the third consecutive month in Quebec.
With these numbers, the Liberals would likely win 142 seats on the new 338-seat electoral map, with 117 going to the Conservatives and 68 to the New Democrats. The Bloc would win 10 and the Greens would keep their one seat.

This is a gain of 12 seats for the Liberals since last month. The Bloc dropped five, the Conservatives dropped four, the NDP dropped two, and the Greens dropped one.

The most important changes took place in Ontario and Quebec. The Liberals and Conservatives swapped seven seats compared to the October projection, while the Liberals picked up nine in Quebec. Four of them came from the NDP and five from the Bloc.

So, another month of the Liberal lead since Justin Trudeau became leader. It now stretches to eight months, equal to the amount of time the Conservatives led in the polls after the NDP relinquished the lead in 2012. This Liberal lead is the longest the party has enjoyed since before the January 2006 election, and by far the most significant in size since then. This just may be the new normal for the time being.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Kickstarter Update #2 - some news!

As of this morning, the Kickstarter project for the writing of an eBook on political public opinion polling in Canada during 2013 has reached just over 50% and has gathered the support of 112 backers! Thanks so much to everyone who has already pledged. We still have 18 days to go in this 30 day funding drive, so we are on our way to just surpassing our goal.

Check out the Kickstarter project page for more information, and last week's update for a chapter-by-chapter breakdown.

On to the news for this week. Firstly, Political public opinion polling in Canada, 2013 is not much of a title. It isn't a bad sub-title though!

The full title of the eBook will be Tapping into the Pulse: Political public opinion polling in Canada, 2013. Hopefully, this will be just the first annual edition of Tapping into the Pulse!

I'm also pleased to announce that Paul Adams has generously agreed to write the foreword for Tapping into the Pulse!

Paul Adams is currently an associate professor at Carleton University, in the journalism faculty of the university's School of Journalism and Communication. Professor Adams recently gave me a quick tour of the faculty's new building, and they have some mightily impressive facilities.

Professor Adams has also worked as a journalist for the CBC and The Globe and Mail, where he played an important role in polling coverage at the time (the resources they had back then would make your mind boggle). He also worked with EKOS before moving into the academic world, has written a few books, including the most recent, Power Trap, and writes a great column for iPolitics. Thanks Paul!

One last thing I wanted to highlight was the reward levels of $75 and $100, a level at which a few of you have already pledged. At the $75 level, you can claim a riding that I will profile going back to 1867. I've enjoyed doing these and I look forward to having the incentive to do a few more! The ridings already claimed are Kingston and the Islands and Kitchener-Waterloo. I'm particularly looking forward to profiling Kingston and the Islands, a historic riding (it was represented once upon a time by our first Prime Minister) and home to my Alma mater! Kitchener-Waterloo, or at least a predecessor riding, was also represented by a famous Prime Minister for a time: Mackenzie King.

At the $100 level, you have the option of a riding history or an analysis topic of your choice. It hasn't been locked-in yet, but one backer is looking to see an in-depth analysis of party support by gender and age.

These analyses and riding profiles, which will be posted on this site before the 2015 federal election, will also only get done if our funding goal is reached. Hopefully, that can act as an extra incentive! And some of you who have pledged at these levels still need to let me know what topics you'd like me to cover.

I'm still open to suggestions for new rewards that could be offered at the $20, $30, and $50 levels. Let me know your thoughts! And let's keep the ball rolling on this project - if you have already pledged or can't afford to, please help spread the word on Facebook and Twitter. Every little bit helps!

Friday, December 6, 2013

PLQ should win by-elections, as Montreal vote holds steady

Voters in the Quebec provincial ridings of Viau and Outremont will be heading to the polls on Monday to fill the seats vacated by Emmanuel Dubourg (recently elected federal Liberal MP for Bourassa) and Raymond Bachand (who placed third and last in the PLQ leadership race). Both ridings should stay within the provincial Liberal fold, but it does give us an opportunity to look at voting intentions on the island of Montreal.

Kickstarter update: We keep plugging along, and are now at 41% of our funding goal. We've also reached 100 backers! Thanks to everyone who has pledged so far. For the rest of you, if you are interested in seeing this eBook on political polling published, or if you'd like to contribute to the operating of this site, please consider chipping in

The by-election in Viau looks unlikely to have any surprises. David Heurtel of the Liberals should easily take a riding won by Dubourg with 47.3% of the vote in a very bad election year for the party in 2012. In fact, 2012 was the only time that the Liberals did not capture a majority of the vote in Viau. Tania Longpré of the Parti Québécois, Jamilla Leboeuf of the Coalition Avenir Québec, and Geneviève Fortier-Moreau of Québec Solidaire will fight it out for second place.

The PQ has the inside track on that title, as the party took 23.7% of the vote here in 2012, compared to 12.4% for the CAQ and 11.5% for QS. In addition, as we will see below, the PQ's vote on the island of Montreal has been holding steady - if not increasing. Fortier-Moreau, however, is the only return candidate from that election year on a long ballot (nine candidates are running, the others being from Option Nationale, the Greens, the Conservatives, the UCQ and the Équipe Autonomiste).

But Outremont might be of more interest. Philippe Couillard is the Liberal candidate, as he tries to get into the National Assembly to lead his party. With an election expected in the early spring, Couillard might best be able to count in weeks the time he will be Outremont's representative.

On paper, there is the potential for a Couillard defeat. Why? Both the PQ and the CAQ have opted not to put up candidates of their own, in order to facilitate Couillard's entry into the National Assembly. Québec Solidaire is awarding the Liberals no such courtesy, and have the best shot of pulling off an upset if they can gather almost every vote that is against the Liberals.

In 2012, Bachand took 41.5% of the vote in Outremont, followed by the PQ's Roxanne Gendron at 23.2% and Québec Solidaire's Édith Laperle at 18%. Laperle is running again, and if she can capture the PQ's share of the vote she could take as much as 41.2%. Throw in a few CAQ voters not willing to back Couillard and supporters of ON who might be tempted to back the best horse, and you have the ingredients for a QS upset.
But the ingredients are very thin, and not just because Laperle needs every PQ vote as well as a few more votes in order to topple Couillard.

The chart above shows support on the island of Montreal as recorded by CROP since the last election. In that election, the Liberals won the island with 44.9% of the vote, compared to 23.8% for the Parti Québécois, 15.4% for the CAQ, and 12% for Québec Solidaire.

There have been wobbles back and forth since then, but the latest polls suggests that the PQ and the PLQ have both picked up a little support on the island of Montreal, coming from both the CAQ and QS. The most recent poll gave the Liberals 49% support on the island, followed by the PQ at 30%, the CAQ at 12%, and QS at 9%.

If we stretch that back to August, in order to get a stronger sample of around 900 decided voters, we get a clearer picture of support on the island (numbers for all parties have been relatively stable since then, so averaging out these four polls is not unreasonable). In that larger sample, we get the Liberals at 48.5%, the PQ at 29.8%, the CAQ at 9.8%, and QS at 9%.

This means that since the last election, the Liberals have gained roughly four points and the PQ six, with QS down three points and the CAQ down more than five.

If we apply this swing to Outremont, we see that fewer votes are available to Laperle. The proportional swing model would now give the Liberals 45% in Outremont, against 29% for the PQ, 14% for QS, and 9% for the CAQ. Whereas before the combined vote of the PQ and QS was almost equal to that of the Liberals, the two parties now fall two points short of Couillard. And that is without taking into account the boost Couillard is undoubtedly going to get as party leader. Laperle would now need more than a third of the CAQ's vote, an ideological leap that may be too wide to reasonably expect.

In Viau, applying the swing would give Heurtel 51% to 30% for the PQ and 9% for Québec Solidaire.

That Québec Solidaire has apparently dropped in support on the island of Montreal is something to consider when looking at their province-wide support. They have bettered the 6% they took in 2012 in the last seven polls, and the current aggregation has them at 9%. But all of those gains have apparently come off of the island of Montreal, where Québec Solidaire has no concentration of support and little prospect of winning new seats. It is hard to see how QS could win a third or fourth seat on the island of Montreal if their support actually drops - especially considering that we can probably expect Françoise David's share to increase in her riding next time (note that almost 1 in 3 ballots cast for QS on the island in 2012 was either for her or Amir Khadir).

It is also worth noting that the fact the PQ has gained support on the island of Montreal goes against the conventional wisdom that the debate over the secular charter is between urbane Montrealers and bumpkins in the rest of the province. Instead, and polling data has explicitly backed this up, it appears that Montreal francophones are no less likely to support the charter than their counterparts in the rest of the province (some polls suggest they are even more likely to support it). The divide is most certainly regional because of the multicultural population of Montreal vs. the rest of the province, but that is primarily due to the linguistic differences between the regions. This makes the charter good politics for the PQ, because it would appear that they are unlikely to lose the few seats they have in Montreal, while gaining new ones elsewhere.

But for now, the Liberals are the ones who will be gaining seats: Viau and Outremont on Monday.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Provincial Liberals lead throughout Atlantic Canada

The latest quarterly results are in from the Corporate Research Associates, and they show the provincial Liberals leading in every province in Atlantic Canada - and by significant margins.

Kickstarter Update: We're now at 38% with 22 days to go. Let's keep this project on track to being funded!

The province that most recently went to the polls, Nova Scotia, seems pleased with their new government. Stephen McNeil's Liberals led with 58%, up 12 points from their October election result. Both the Tories and New Democrats fell to 19%. Satisfaction with the government stands at 50%, with 12% dissatisfied and 25% saying it is too soon to tell.

But now let's get to the provinces that are going to the polls next, starting with New Brunswick. Their next election is scheduled to take place less than a year from now.
Brian Gallant's Liberals held steady with 47% support, unchanged from CRA's last poll from three months ago. The governing Tories picked up two points, within the margin of error, to inch ahead of the New Democrats, who were unchanged at 24% support. About 32% of those contacted with undecided, with another 10% refusing to answer.

Gallant was up a single point on being the best person to be premier, to 31%. David Alward was down one point to 18%, while Dominic Cardy of the NDP was unchanged at 15%. If we remove the undecideds from this question, we see that all three leaders are generally polling even with their own parties.

Satisfaction with Alward's government was up one point to 37%, while dissatisfaction was also up one point to 55%.
With these levels of support, Gallant's Liberals would likely win some 40 seats and easily form a majority government. The Tories would be reduced to nine seats while the NDP would pick up six, their best-ever result.

A little more than half of Liberal seats would come in the eastern part of the province, and the party would win the majority of seats in every region. Most of the Tory seats would be drawn from around the Fredericton and Moncton regions, while the NDP would do best in the northeast and around Saint John.

Time is slowly running out for Alward, as the number of months before the next election can be counted on two hands. His party hasn't led in a poll since August 2012, and the fresh-faced Gallant has been trumping him on his personal ratings. It will be interesting to see if Gallant's magic wears off before the province starts tumbling towards the next election in September.

Fortunately for the Progressive Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador, the next election is still two years away. But the Tories are in even more trouble there.
The Liberals picked up 11 points in the last three months, to move into a decisive lead with 52% support (note that this CRA poll has a massive 1,200 sample), a move that is well outside the margin of error. Their gain has come primarily at the expense of the self-destructing New Democrats, who plunged 14 points to just 19% support. The Tories were virtually unchanged, up three points to 29%.

That is a major change of fortunes for the NDP, who were leading in the polls as recently as May of this year. This CRA poll confirms the latest set of numbers we saw from MQO that were done at the end of October, suggesting that this is not just a blip and cannot be completely chalked up to Dwight Ball's leadership victory.

About 25% of the sample was undecided, with another 7% refusing to answer.

CRA helpfully separated their leadership question between those surveyed before and after the Liberal leadership race came to an end. Interim leader Eddie Joyce was seen as the best person to be premier by 30%, a gain of nine points over the August numbers, while Kathy Dunderdale was up five points to 27% and Lorraine Michael was down 16 points (almost half!) to 19%. In this case, Dunderdale was polling ahead of her party and both Joyce and Michael behind theirs.

Once Ball was added to the mix, the Liberal leader's numbers increased to 39%, with Dunderdale and Michael falling slightly to 25% and 18%, respectively. This put them generally in line with where their parties stood, after the removal of the undecideds.

Satisfaction with Dunderdale's government increased by 11 points to 42%, a much-needed boost for them. But this gain came primarily among those who said they were 'mostly' satisfied. Those who were completely satisfied numbered just 4%, roughly equal with the numbers in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
With these levels of support, the Liberals would form a majority government of some 30 seats, virtually all of them coming outside of St. John's. This concentration outside of the city may be a problem with the model as, if the Liberals have this much support, they are probably going to grow disproportionately in the capital, with smaller levels of growth in the rest of Newfoundland. But in the end, it would even out.

The Tories would likely win 11 seats, with the NDP taking advantage of the PCs' weakness to win seven.

These numbers remain disastrous for the Tories, but their time in government might be coming to a natural end after 10 years in power (12 by the next election). For the NDP, however, the opportunity for a major breakthrough in the province has come and gone, and for apparently no good reason. Michael and the NDP were polling well. The decision of a few of her MHA's to try to sabotage her leadership, and then bolt from caucus when the plan went sour, has likely fatally set the party back.
The New Democrats are doing better in Prince Edward Island, however, where they remain in second place (note: the party took just 3% of the vote in 2011). The Liberals picked up seven points, however, to move back to 49% and where Robert Ghiz has been polling for most of his tenure. The NDP was down six points to 26%, while the Tories were down six points to 17%. All of these shifts are within the margin of error (the samples are small). About 29% were undecided, with another 11% refusing to answer.

Ghiz managed 35% on who would make the best premier, a gain of four points. Mike Redmond was second with 25%, while Steven Myers of the Tories was at 12%. These numbers suggest that Ghiz is slightly less popular than his party, and Redmond slightly more. Satisfaction with the government was up eight points to 50%.

The seat model gives the Liberals all 27 seats at these levels of support. This is likely due to the extremely small portion of the vote the NDP took in 2011. I imagine if these numbers were replicated exactly in an election, Redmond and perhaps one or two good NDP candidates would have a good shot at winning. One or two Tory incumbents might also survive the reaping. But that the Liberals would win another landslide is not in doubt.

And, remarkably, that is the case throughout Atlantic Canada. The Liberals averaged 51.5% support in these four provinces, compared to just 22.5% for the PCs and 22% for the New Democrats. These numbers are eerily similar to the federal Liberals' performance in recent polls in the region, and a quick glance at the tracking charts shows that the Liberals all experienced a boost at around the time that Justin Trudeau became the federal leader. Coincidence?

Monday, December 2, 2013

eBook Kickstarter Update

I am excited and grateful that the "Political public opinion polling in Canada: 2013" Kickstarter project has gotten off to such a great start, with 32% funding in less than a week! Thanks so much to all who have pledged so far and to those who have helped spread the word. Let's keep it up, as this book does not get done if we don't reach 100%!

Update (Dec. 3): You can check out my article for The Globe and Mail today, detailing the latest federal aggregation and the seat breakdown it could deliver. Also, it has a neat-o interactive chart of all the projections I have done for the Globe since the 2011 election. And we reached 35% yesterday! Thanks again - if we can keep up growth of three or four points per day we will reach our goal with a little time to spare!

I'll be updating the project here and on the Kickstarter project page every Monday as we approach the finish line of Dec. 27. And there are a few things to go over today, including an outline of the eBook and some new rewards!

(For more on the project, see here or visit the Kickstarter project page.)

But first, let's get to the outline of the eBook. The idea behind the book is for it to be a historical record of the year in politics but also the year in polling, and to keep it fun and interesting to read. I'll be breaking the book down into 14 chapters (plus a foreword and introduction) as well as some reference tables at the end of the eBook. These will breakdown and record this site's aggregations, as well as tabulate all the public domain polls that firms are willing to include. That means federal, provincial, and leadership data.

Here's a brief outline of the chapters to give you a taste of how the book will be laid out, as well as a bit of the style. These titles are tentative, of course:

1. The Decision: January to March - The federal political landscape begins to shift as Liberals consider who they will select to be their next leader.
2. New Kid on the Block: New Brunswick - New leader Brian Gallant wins a by-election to enter the legislature, as his Liberal Party takes advantage of faltering Tory support.
3. Failure: British Columbia - The B.C. New Democrats and the polling industry come up short in the province's general election.
4. Trudeaumania 2.0: April to June - The federal Liberals surge into first place as the party chooses Justin Trudeau as the leader to take them into the 2015 election.
5. The Flood: Alberta - An effective response to a natural disaster bolsters Alison Redford's PCs, but Wildrose is not going away.
6. Dynasty in Trouble: Manitoba - A hike in the PST results in a drop of support for the four-term NDP government.
7. A Test of Leadership: Ontario - The Liberals choose their new leader after Dalton McGuinty steps down, and a series of by-elections put PC leader Tim Hudak in a tough spot.
8. The Calm Before the Storm: July to September - A summer of anticipation as federal politics slowly heats up.
9. La charte: Quebec - A controversial new charter boosts the fortunes of the Parti Québécois, as a new PLQ leader takes the lead.
10. Smooth Sailing on Troubled Waters: Prince Edward Island - Robert Ghiz hovers above the fray as the opposition jostles for position.
11. One-Term Wonder: Nova Scotia - The historic breakthrough of the New Democrats in Nova Scotia is dealt a blow at the ballot box.
12. Crisitunity!: Newfoundland and Labrador - The NDP shoots itself in the foot just as the Liberals choose a new leader and the Tories continue their slide.
13. The Great Wall: Saskatchewan - The most popular leader in Canada makes a move against the Senate.
14. Scandal: October to December - The Senate scandal poisons the Conservative well, turning Justin Trudeau's honeymoon into a long engagement.

Now to new the rewards. I received some feedback to the effect that  my rewards aren't great. Pledges of $10 to $100 earn you an advanced copy of the eBook in a number of formats, with more generous pledges getting you up the supporter category ladder (pledges of $250 or $500 get your business or a charity of your choice ad space on this site as well). Perhaps that isn't enough.

So, I've decided to edit two of the reward categories:

Pledges of $75 will get you a copy of the eBook and your name listed in the Majority Government supporter category, as well as a Riding History for a federal riding (current boundaries) of your choice, to be posted on this site before the 2015 election. I have already done ones for Toronto-Danforth and Calgary Southwest. Want me to do your riding? Here's your chance!

Pledges of $100 will get you a copy of the eBook and your name listed in the Natural Governing Party supporter category, as well as an analysis on a topic of your choice or a Riding History for a federal riding (current boundaries), to be posted on this site before the 2015 election. Please get in touch with me first about the analysis topic you'd like me to tackle, to ensure that it is appropriate to this site and doable.

Backers who have already pledged this amount will be contacted so that they can claim their riding or analysis topic. Backers who have already pledged less than $75 but are interested in these rewards do have the option to increase their pledge. I will list the ridings and topics claimed in the FAQ section of the Kickstarter page.

I am open to suggestions for rewards that could be added to the $20, $30, and $50 categories. Please leave them in the comments below, at the Kickstarter page, or shoot me an email.

Now back to your regularly scheduled polling analysis. The federal polling averages, for instance, have been updated this morning.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Opposition voters move to Liberals in new poll

A new Ipsos-Reid/CTV News poll conducted earlier this week shows that the Liberals have taken a sizable lead in national voting intentions after a previously close three-way race in Ipsos's polling. As a result, the New Democrats have taken a step backwards.

Kickstarter update: Funding for the project is well under way, with 21% of our goal having been reached after just two days. But we still have a long way to go, and the eBook on Canadian political public opinion polling in 2013 will not be funded unless the goal is reached! If the eBook interests you, and/or if you want to chip in to help with the operation of this site, please consider making a pledge. Just $10 will secure you an advanced copy of the eBook, and your name listed in the eBook as a thank you! I'll have an update next week on the eBook itself, including a chapter-by-chapter outline.

The full regional and demographic tables of the Ipsos-Reid/CTV News poll, also picked-up by The Globe and Mail as of writing, are available for everyone to see on the Ipsos-Reid website.
Source: Ipsos-Reid/CTV News
Ipsos-Reid was last in the field at the end of October. There has been some movement since that poll, but only the drop in NDP support would appear to be statistically significant. The Liberals picked up four points to move in front with 35%, while the Conservatives dropped a single point to 29% and the New Democrats were down five points to 26%.

Of note is that the Tories have dropped in three consecutive polls from Ipsos going back to September, when the party was at 32%.

The Bloc Québécois was unchanged at 6%, while the Greens were up one point to 3%. About 15% of the sample was undecided.

The Liberals led among both men and women, by two points over the Tories among men and by 10 points over the New Democrats among women. The New Democrats led among voters under 35, the Conservatives among voters over 55, and the Liberals among the rest.

This puts the Liberals back where they were a month after Justin Trudeau became leader, when Ipsos-Reid had the party at 36% and ahead of the Tories by six points.

Regionally, the Liberals were in front with 37% in Ontario while the Conservatives were down to 30%. They have dropped in three consecutive Ipsos polls, from 37% in September. The NDP was down to 29% support in the province.

In Quebec, the Liberals were up to 33% while the New Democrats and Bloc Québécois were tied for second at 27% apiece. The Conservatives were steady at 12% support.

The Liberals led in British Columbia with 37%, followed by the NDP at 30% and the Conservatives at 28% (down in three consecutive polls from 38% in September). The Greens were at 5% in B.C.

In Alberta, the Conservatives were ahead with 60% to 17% for the NDP and 13% for the Liberals. This was the only part of the country where the Liberals did not place first or second, and marks two consecutive polls of decreasing support. The party was at 26% in Alberta in mid-October. At 6%, the Greens had their best regional result here.

The numbers hardly budged in Atlantic Canada, with the Liberals at 56%, the Conservatives at 27%, and the NDP at 17%. The Tories have picked up support in two consecutive polls in the region, after being at 16% in mid-October.

And in the Prairies, scene of the dramatic by-election gains for the Liberals on Monday, the party was up to 39%, putting them just behind the Conservatives at 42%. The NDP dropped to 17% support.

At these kinds of support levels, the Liberals would likely eke out a plurality of seats with around 126. The Conservatives would likely take around 121, leaving the NDP with 60 seats. The Bloc Québécois would come up the middle and take 30 seats in Quebec, with the Greens retaining their one.

That a six-point national lead is not enough to give them a plurality of even six seats shows that the Liberal vote is not as high as it needs to be in certain parts of the country. Though they put up good numbers in the Prairies and British Columbia, the Conservatives still win 63% of the seats in the four western provinces. Alberta is a virtual sweep, as at only 13% the Liberals are unlikely to make a breakthrough in Calgary or Edmonton. They are not far enough ahead in Ontario to win the 70 seats or so the Tories were able to manage in 2011, and the race is too close in Quebec for the party to pull off the kind of landslide the New Democrats did in the last election. The good news for the Liberals, though, is that it wouldn't take a lot of movement to put them in a much stronger positions seat-wise, particularly in Ontario and Quebec.

These Ipsos-Reid/CTV News polls are often released in stages, so we should have some interesting leadership numbers to chew on in the coming days. In particular, I'll be looking to see where Thomas Mulcair's numbers go. He has been getting praise in the polls as well as in the press gallery for his performance in Question Period. Though few Canadians watch it, they probably do see the clips on the news. It had seemed that he and his party were getting a boost, but now it would appear that the Liberals are benefiting from the discomfiture of the Prime Minister. Thankless work for the opposition leader.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ThreeHundredEight: The eBook! Kickstarter Project

I am excited to announce that I have launched a new Kickstarter Project for the funding of an eBook.

This eBook, tentatively and boringly titled "Political public opinion polling in Canada: 2013", will give a detailed and in-depth retrospective of the past political year in Canada through the lens of - what else - polls.

Divided into 14 chapters, the eBook will tell the story of the past year in federal and provincial politics within the context of polling, with the federal narrative divided into four chapters of three months apiece. In between those quarterly appraisals, 10 chapters focusing on each province in Canada will summarize a year in provincial political polling. But the eBook will not just be a recitation of numbers, it will be a tale of the year in politics and how polls can inform our understanding of what is going on. And yes, how they can also distort our understanding and mislead us.

The eBook will also contain charts of this site's aggregations for the year, as well as detailed tables of polls that have been released throughout 2013. This will make the eBook an invaluable resource for students of politics, those who work in and around the political world, as well as us hopeless political junkies. If the project is successfully funded, the plan is to make this an annual drive and publication. It will be a unique record of polling in Canada going forward.

The goal that I have set to have the eBook funded is $5,000, which must be reached within 30 days. It is an ambitious goal, but one that I think is realizable (if everyone who visits the site today pledged $1, the project would be funded in a matter of hours). It is also, I believe, a fair valuation of the work that I will need to put into the project to get it done by the end of February 2014.

Don't know what Kickstarter is all about? You can find out more here. TL;DR? It has been a very successful tool for funding creative projects. Pledges are made and only charged to the contributor if the goal is reached. If we fall short of the funding goal in 30 days, no money changes hands and the project does not go ahead. If we reach our goal before the 30 days are up, then we can brainstorm for some other projects to fund before the deadline! Say, a retrospective of 2012 as well or a blow-by-blow account of the 2011 election? Why not both!

You can make your pledge and track progress by visiting the project's Kickstarter page, which you can also reach by clicking on the banner at the top of this page.

So what do you get if you decide to pledge, in addition to helping to get the eBook published? Pledges of $10 or more will get you a copy of the eBook when it is completed, at least one month before the eBook is made available for sale to the general public. Pledges of $5 or more will get your name listed in one of the following supporter categories: Member of Parliament ($5), Official Party Status ($10), Third Party Status ($20), Official Opposition ($30), Minority Government ($50), Majority Government ($75), and the Natural Governing Party ($100).

A note to business owners: a pledge of $250 will get you listed in the "Governor General" supporter category as well as give you the rights to a banner ad on this site for two weeks (please get in touch with me first to ensure the ad meets this site's guidelines). A pledge of $500 will get you listed in the "The Crown" supporter category, the rights to a banner ad for four weeks, and the eternal gratitude of an adoring public.

Of course, individuals who want to pledge that much are free to do so as well, and I'd be happy to put a banner ad on this site for a charity of your choice (with their permission).

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I hope that potential pledgers might also consider the funding goal as an opportunity to contribute to the continued operation of this site, which is funded only through a minimal amount of advertising revenue.

Any and all pledges will be most appreciated, and in return you'll get what I believe will be both an enjoyable and interesting book to read, as well as a useful resource. If you do decide to pledge: thank you so much! If you can't afford to right now, please consider spreading the word! Let's get this project funded!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

By-election post-mortem

The four federal by-elections last night played out as ThreeHundredEight forecast, with the Liberals retaining Bourassa and Toronto Centre, the Conservatives retaining Provencher, and Brandon-Souris being a toss-up riding that leaned slightly towards the incumbent Tories. So slightly, in fact, that the Liberals were less than 400 votes short of winning it.

By-Election Barometer Record
This makes 22 by-elections without a wrong call by ThreeHundredEight, going back to June 2012. The Barometer will be put to the test again tonight in Carbonear-Harbour Grace in Newfoundland and Labrador. The model suggests the riding is leaning Liberal, though the PCs do have a slim chance of holding on to it. However, the forecast is for the Liberals under new leader Dwight Ball to take it by a narrow margin.

The results in Brandon-Souris, which were the most at-odds with the polls by Forum Research, showed the mettle of the By-Election Barometer. The forecast was that it was a toss-up between the Conservatives and Liberals, with the Tories considered to have a 52% chance of winning to 48% for the Liberals. In the end, the Tories won it by a single percentage point.

This was similar to the by-election this summer in Ottawa South, where the polls suggested the Tories were well-placed to steal former premier Dalton McGuinty's riding away from the Liberals. The model still considered it a toss-up that leaned slightly towards the Liberals, which turned out to be the case. It demonstrates the need to take into account the fundamentals in a riding, particularly when riding-specific polls are showing numbers that are wildly out of step with historical performances.

I assessed the performance of the polls for The Globe and Mail, and the results are not great for Forum Research. They missed Brandon-Souris by a wide margin and Provencher was off by a considerable degree as well. The polls were better in Toronto Centre and Bourassa, however. This record matches their performance in the Ontario by-elections this summer, where I gave them a score of 2.5 out of 5. Last night, they got 2.5 out of 4, for picking the right winner in Provencher but missing the respective levels of support for the Tories and Liberals.

Because of this very mixed record, I employed confidence intervals far wider than the reported margins of error of these polls. This turned out to be a good idea, but only captured some of the error. Of the 20 calls Forum Research made (one for each party + others in the four ridings), 60% fell within the 67% confidence interval and 85% fell within the 95% confidence interval. Clearly, these wide ranges will need to be stretched even further, but that is the usefulness of these extra data points.
The performance of the confidence intervals, based solely on Forum's polling, compared to the results can be seen in the chart above.

The misses at the 95% confidence interval were primarily in Brandon-Souris. The results for the Liberals and Conservatives were so off that a +/- 10-point confidence interval still did not capture the result. The Greens in Provencher also fell outside of the 95% confidence interval.

At the 67% confidence interval, only the Others in Toronto Centre and the Conservatives in Bourassa were wide of the mark. In Brandon-Souris, the Liberals and Conservatives fell outside the interval, while all parties fell outside of it in Provencher. In short, even compared to Forum's past errors in by-elections the ones in Brandon-Souris and Provencher were extraordinary.

Note: I inquired with Forum about their methods for Brandon-Souris in relation to the reports of multiple calls being received by some residents. I was told by Lorne Bozinoff that they used the same random dialing in all ridings, and that no panel of phone numbers was used to dial the same people over and over again. I was also told that if a number was called in consecutive nights, that person's results were dropped from the sample and that all three of their final polls (Forum also polled on Nov. 23, but did not publish the results which were similar to the poll of Nov. 24) were independent samples.