Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Liberals lead in big Atlantic poll

Yesterday, Corporate Research Associates released the findings of their latest survey of the federal voting intentions of Atlantic Canadians. CRA put together a very large sample (10 to 20 times what a national poll has) for the region, giving us breakdowns of federal support in each of the region's four provinces. The result is that the Liberals are up everywhere, primarily at the expense of the Conservatives.
In CRA's report, they included the results of their last federal poll taken throughout the month of November 2011. Since then, the Liberals gained 13 points and led in the region with 36%. 

The NDP dropped six points to 30% and the Conservatives fell nine points, also to 30%. The Greens were up two points to 4% support. 

The robustness of the sample is reduced somewhat due to the 44% of respondents who were undecided. But the sample of some 840 decided Atlantic Canadians is still huge.

The poll is a bit old, though, having been conducted mostly in November. But if we average out the other polls taken on the same field dates as CRA's, we get the Liberals at 35%, the NDP at 31%, the Conservatives at 28%, and the Greens at 4% - almost identical results. Since CRA left the field things have not moved much: the average of polls taken after December 1 puts the Liberals at 37%, the NDP at 29%, and the Tories at 27% support.

This poll shows that the Conservatives have some big problems. They've dropped nine points (or almost 1/4th of their support) in a year, and satisfaction with their government has fallen from 49% to only 37%. Stephen Harper is still an asset for the party, however. He is seen as the best person to be Prime Minister by 28% of Atlantic Canadians, down only two points since last year. That puts him ahead of Bob Rae (24%) and Thomas Mulcair (22%).

New Brunswick remains the Conservatives' best province in the region. They led with 39%, followed by the Liberals at 30% (+9 since November 2011) and the NDP at 23% (-8). Compared to the May 2011 election results, however, the Conservatives and NDP were down five and seven points, respectively. The Liberals were up seven points, with the Greens also making headway.

Echoing the results of other Newfoundland and Labrador-specific polls since the last election, the New Democrats were ahead in the province with 40%. They were followed by the Liberals at 35% (+14) and the Conservatives at 24% (-12). Newfoundland and Labrador was also the only province in which Mulcair was seen as the best person to be Prime Minister, at 32% to 25% apiece for Rae and Harper. At 40%, the NDP is doing seven points better than they did in the last election, with the Liberals down three points and the Conservatives four.

The Liberals led in Nova Scotia with 38%, up 14 points from a year ago and nine points from the last election. The NDP and Conservatives were tied at 29% apiece, representing an eight-point drop for the New Democrats and a seven-point slip for the Tories since November 2011. Since the last election, however, the NDP was down only a point while the Conservatives were down eight.

The Liberals also led in Prince Edward Island with 52% support, a gain of 24 points since last year and nine points since the election. The Conservatives plummeted 27 points to 23%, a drop of 18 points since the last election. The New Democrats were at 22%, up seven points from May 2011.
With these numbers, the Liberals would likely win 17 seats in the region, with nine going to the Conservatives and six to the New Democrats.

The seat count would remain unchanged in Newfoundland and Labrador, though the NDP would be in a close race for a third seat. The Liberals would pick up two seats each in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at the expense of the Conservatives, while the Liberals would sweep Prince Edward Island. Though the New Democrats would be taking a greater share of the popular vote, their gains in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island are somewhat wasted - gains could have been put to better use in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where they instead lost a little support since the last election.

Atlantic Canada remains the most promising region for the Liberals. They hit above their weight here in the last election and appear likely to do so again. The region often sees the biggest boost in support for the party when Justin Trudeau is mentioned as leader. Their provincial counterparts are also doing relatively well, leading in the polls in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and experiencing a bit of a honeymoon under new leader Brian Gallant in New Brunswick. The NL Liberals are still floundering a little, but the federal party has a strong base of support in the province.

For the Conservatives, these numbers demonstrate how much ground they have lost in Atlantic Canada. They can still win seats in the region but dropping five of 14 is problematic, particularly if the party is also losing seats in Ontario, British Columbia, and the Prairies. Those five seats might seem like a drop in the bucket, but the accumulation of drops could mean the loss of a majority government.