Thursday, April 4, 2013

Liberals move into first in poll average

Before getting too excited after reading this headline, Liberals should know that they are only ahead by 0.1 percentage points and that this is using this site's weighted poll aggregation methodology. And they have only been put in first place in a single poll (the aggregation does not take into account polling that includes Justin Trudeau as Liberal leader). And if you do a straight-up average without taking anything else into account, you can only go back two polls to give the Liberals the lead (going back a third puts the Conservatives ahead by 1.7 points).

But with those caveats laid out, that the Liberals have moved ahead in the polling aggregation for the first time since the election - a methodology that has been consistently employed - is rather remarkable. It could also be a blip.

I wrote a full analysis of the polls and calculated a seat projection for The Globe and Mail. Please take a look at it, as the analysis goes into far more detail than I will here.

Since I didn't go into the regional breakdown in my Globe article, here is how the current aggregation was translated into seats using the 338-seat electoral map.
The Liberals have moved ahead primarily on the back of the Forum poll that was released yesterday evening. It gave the Liberals 33% support to only 29% for the Tories and 25% for the New Democrats. When Trudeau was included as Liberal leader, the party's support increased to 40% while the Conservatives dropped to 28% and the NDP to 21%.

A flash in the pan? Maybe not - Léger also recently placed the Liberals in a close race with the Conservatives using a different methodology (online rather than Forum's IVR). And even these two polls aren't the first ones to show a transforming political landscape.

Here are the last seven federal polls that have been conducted. They show a great deal of consistency.

These seven polls from five different firms using three different methods of polling (Forum and EKOS use IVR, Nanos uses live callers, Abacus and Léger use an online panel) have all put the Conservatives at between 29% and 32% support. With the exception of the Abacus poll, the New Democrats have also been within a three-point band of 24% to 27% support in these seven polls, while in five of them the Liberals have been in a four-point band of between 29% and 33% support.

When you consider the numbers as a whole, it is hard to argue that the Liberals have not made big gains in the last two months and that the New Democrats and Conservatives have both taken a big hit.

"So what?", you ask. There is a long list of polls showing this or that leader poised to sweep this or that election in the past, only for them to fall apart and lose. Kim Campbell, François Legault, and (barring an unlikely comeback) Christy Clark are three easy examples.

That should provide a good reason to consider these sorts of poll results with caution (though, it must be pointed out, the Liberals are doing well already without mentioning Trudeau and that is harder to dismiss). But just because some leaders in the past failed to deliver on their promise does not mean that every leader will. Though the numbers are drooping lately, Thomas Mulcair did salvage the New Democrats' support in Quebec just as the pre-Mulcair leadership polls said he would, and he remains their best asset in the province. Conversely, after a boost throughout most of 2012 after his leadership victory, Mulcair's NDP is now just about where the pre-convention polls suggested a Mulcair-NDP would be.

In the same way that no one should be readying 24 Sussex for the return of the Trudeaus based on these numbers alone, no one should also assume that they will lead to nowhere. What should be assumed is that things will probably change, that we don't know how they will change, and that at best the numbers are a decent reflection of what Canadians probably think now. "The only poll that matters is on election day" may be correct in terms of determining who forms the next government, but it is completely wrong when it comes to public opinion. As I have said many times before, there is some meaning to public opinion between elections - we don't just get to express our views once every four years.

However, it is hard not to believe that the Liberals are setting themselves up for a disappointment. They did the same with their announcement of having 294,000 members and supporters, only to have some 130,000 register to vote. (As an aside, there is a difference between the two, which many have over-looked or ignored. The NDP did have some 130,000 members for their leadership race, but they didn't have to register to vote in the same way as in this Liberal race and in the end only 60,000 or so did cast a ballot. And if some quick research is correct, the Conservatives had some 250,000 eligible to vote in their leadership race in 2004 but a little less than 100,000 did. The 160,000 or so Liberal members/supporters who did not register to vote are not gone from the party forever, so it is apples-to-oranges to compare the 130,000 registered voters to the NDP's membership list in 2012 or the Conservatives' in 2004.)

Though the numbers are already quite good for the Trudeau-less Liberals (though of course many respondents are assuming Trudeau will win), the numbers the party is putting up with Trudeau in the mix (around 40%) are certainly unrealistic. Jean Chrétien managed those numbers during his tenure, but that was at a time when the New Democrats were lucky to break double-digits (though another five national points that used to be the Bloc's in Quebec is now up for grabs). Measured against those highs, Trudeau is certainly to disappoint. Measured against where the party was on 2 May 2011, he is certainly to do well. In the short term, he just needs to keep the party in the middle of those two extremes. That seems possible, but it will certainly not write the same headlines.

13 comments:

  1. I say give it about six months after Trudeau is elected to see what trends develop. I have a feeling we may be looking more at a three-way race in 6-12 months.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If the NDP remain strong in Quebec and the Liberals do well in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and BC then I feel that the next election may have the Liberals being first and the NDP getting at least 40 to 70 seats mostly from Quebec. That will be enough for an NDP and Liberal coalition government. Of course I don't trust polls much. I believe they are around to give people the illusion of change but they are not useful as tools.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With polls results like these there is little incentive to have a coalition government.

      Delete
  3. I am unsurprised the Liberals have moved into the lead. Over the last couple years it became clear the NDP would be unable to defeat the Conservatives at the next election. A divided "left" has lead to three consecutive Tory victories and a Liberal minority. Voters who want the Tories out are "uniting the left" by returning to the Liberal party combined with the usual dissatisfaction of a mid-term majority government.


    ReplyDelete
  4. I also think it's too bad that the 294,000 number probably was bloated, because many members were encouraged to sign up as supporters of particular candidate but you only had to register once. That data was likely not cleaned up before the announcement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some of us also forgot to complete the registration process...

      Delete
  5. While it's true that Jean Chretien's popular support levels would probably be difficult for Trudeau to match in 2015, one also has to remember that Chretien was dealing with a vociferous and very-much alive Bloc Quebecois at the time, which sort of counterbalances the moribundity of the 1990s NDP when it comes to comparing the significance of national popular support levels. (Not to mention the vote-pit that was the PC party, a place where centre-left-to-centre-right voters dissatisfied with the Liberals could toss their vote without too much consequence to the overall election result, or to the ideological direction of the nation overall.)

    And frankly (and I'm sure I'll get grief for saying this), a late-game Quebecois "red tide" certainly isn't outside of the realm of believable prospects for 2015. It's definitely more probable at this juncture that the "orange crush" was at this point in the last cycle.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Eric, off hand do you know which one or two ridings in Alberta, and how close they are? Or a guestimate of whether or not any Alberta ridings would flip Liberal under IRV?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of the new ones, Calgary Skyview and Edmonton Centre are the best Liberal ridings, and of course Calgary Centre is now interesting for them.

      Delete
  7. Poll published for Labrador

    ReplyDelete
  8. If the Liberals can take seats away from the Tories it would be enough for a majority without the NDP losing ground. I'd hate to see the NDP fall back to 35-40 seats after the last election and I hope they can hang onto their base in Quebec and possibly BC, as well as their core base of 30 seats. Ideally, Liberals take Prairies, Atlantic and Ontario, NDP gets the North, BC and Quebec and Conservatives are reduced to third party with their core base plus Alberta and whatever scraps are leftover.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Tory staffer charged in election scandal ‘won’t take the fall’ for robocalls

    National Post

    ReplyDelete
  10. Still far too many seats for the NDP. Of course 1 seat is far too many for the NDP.

    ReplyDelete

COMMENT MODERATION POLICY - Please be respectful when commenting. If choosing to remain anonymous, please sign your comment with some sort of pseudonym to avoid confusion. Please do not use any derogatory terms for fellow commenters, parties, or politicians. Inflammatory and overly partisan comments will not be posted. PLEASE KEEP DISCUSSION ON TOPIC.