Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quebec Liberals move ahead under Couillard (and Trudeau)

Earlier this week, La Presse released the latest results of CROP's political polling in Quebec. The results show a striking uptick in Liberal support, both at the provincial and federal levels.
CROP was last publicly in the field in February, and since then the provincial Liberals picked up eight points to move into the lead with 38%. The Parti Québécois dropped five points to 25%, while the Coalition Avenir Québec also fell five points to 22% support.

Québec Solidaire was up two points to 11%, while Option Nationale had 3% support (this is the first CROP poll to list them specifically, they used to be included with the "other parties").

Clearly, the arrival of Philippe Couillard has boosted Liberal numbers. Though the results weren't put out publicly, CROP was already showing a small uptick in Liberal support in the days just before his leadership win. Between March 13-18 (Couillard was named leader on the 17th), the PLQ had increased from the 30% of February to 31%, while the PQ was down from 30% to 29% (the CAQ had dropped to 25%). Those changes were all within the margin of error (or would be, with a comparable probabilistic sample), but the trend was heading in the same direction.

Despite their 13-point lead provincewide, the PLQ was not leading in every region in this poll. They were in the lead on the island of Montreal with 46% (+12 from February), while they were narrowly ahead in the regions of Quebec outside Montreal and Quebec City with 39% support (+10).

The Parti Québécois, however, was narrowly in front in the 'couronne' of Montreal (Laval and the surrounding shores) with 34%, while the CAQ was ahead in Quebec City with 38%. Though Couillard does not seem to have boosted the Liberal numbers in the couronne, he did bump the PLQ up by 10 points in Quebec City to 36%. The PQ had to drop nine points to 19% to make that happen, and the PQ also paid the price in the rest of Quebec with an eight point drop.

Amazingly, considering where the Liberals were polling under Jean Charest, Couillard has put them in a tie with the PQ among francophones with 30% apiece. That is a nine point gain for the Liberals since February, and a five point drop for both the PQ and the CAQ (who fell to 25%). That opens up a lot of possibilities to the Liberals.

Couillard has become the most popular provincial political leader in the province, with 28% considering him the best person to be premier. That compares to only 16% for Pauline Marois and 14% for François Legault. In March, Marois and Legault were tied at 20% apiece, while Jean-Marc Fournier had 11% (he was interim leader at the time, and now heads up the PLQ in the National Assembly as Couillard does not hold a seat).
But he would have an easy enough time winning one if an election were held today, as with these CROP regional numbers the model gives the Liberals 69 seats and a majority government. The Parti Québécois takes 35 seats while the CAQ is reduced to 16. Québec Solidaire wins four seats, while Option Nationale takes one.

(Note: Jean-Martin Aussant is projected to win his riding of Nicolet-Bécancour in this projection. The problem is he won't be running there next time. He has decided to try his luck in a Montreal seat, but until that seat is known the model will continue to assume he is running in Nicolet-Bécancour.)

The Liberals manage to win seats throughout Quebec, taking less than half in and around Montreal. The PQ wins the bulk of their seats in the suburbs of the metropolis, while the CAQ keeps most of its seats in Quebec City, central Quebec, and the Laurentides/Lanaudière region.

But Couillard is not the only popular Liberal in Quebec - the poll shows that Justin Trudeau has made huge inroads in the province as well, primarily at the expense of the NDP.
CROP found the Liberals to have the support of 38% of Quebecers, up 19 points since March. The New Democrats dropped nine points to 30%, while the Bloc Québécois fell three points to 18% and the Conservatives dropped five points to 10%.

These are not easy numbers for the New Democrats to ignore. CROP was the first pollster to record the party's surge in the 2011 election in the province, and they have routinely given them the best numbers of any of the pollsters inside or outside of Quebec.

Between October and March, the Liberals averaged only 20% in Quebec in CROP's polling, while the NDP averaged 38%. In that same time period, all other polls done in the province gave the Liberals an average of 25% and the NDP only 32% support. For CROP to have the NDP trailing the Liberals by eight points, when in the past they gave them a positive spread more than twice the size of other firms, is something significant.

We'll see how long it lasts, however, as the regional numbers in this survey point to either a very unusual result or a complete change in how Quebecers view federal politics (of course, it would not be the first time that has happened).

The federal Liberals were ahead in every part of Quebec, with 44% on the island of Montreal (+22 since February), 34% in the couronne (+9), 32% in Quebec City (+16), and 37% in the rest of Quebec (+13). Seeing the Liberals ahead on the island is not too shocking and having them in front in the suburbs is believable, but beating the Tories in Quebec City and the Bloc (and the NDP) in the regions of Quebec? Trudeau will have had to completely transform the perception of the Liberal Party of Canada in the province for this to be true. But isn't to say that it isn't true.

The New Democrats had relatively uniform support throughout the province, which could be dangerous if it means losing a lot of seats by narrow margins (they did the opposite to the Bloc in the 2011 election). The Conservatives had horrific results everywhere but Quebec City, while the BQ was only competitive in the Montreal suburbs (where they currently hold zero seats).

Among francophones, the NDP barely edged out the Liberals with 33% to 32%, while the Bloc came in third with 22% (du jamais vu...). That represented a drop of seven points for the NDP since February and a gain of 13 for the Liberals.

Among non-francophones, Trudeau's arrival has boosted the Liberals by 16 points since February to 63%, most of that coming from the Conservatives, who dropped 17 points to 13%. The NDP has been sliding among this demographic for some time, and in fact only dropped one point since February.

On who would make the best prime minister, Trudeau narrowly edged out Thomas Mulcair with 29% to 27%, while Stephen Harper rounded out the list with just 10%. CROP's polling also showed that Trudeau stacked up well against Mulcair on many issues, but that generally Quebecers felt the NDP leader to be a better adminstrator while Trudeau had better personal qualities (rassembleur, trustworthy, etc.).

In terms of seats, the model might be a little hamstrung. It is not set up to incorporate sub-regional data at the federal level (something that will have to be rectified by 2015). But with the province-wide results, the New Democrats would win 41 seats, the Liberals would take 31, the Conservatives would hold four, and the Bloc Québécois would take two. However, considering that the Liberals were ahead of the NDP in every region of Quebec, it is likely that the model is under-estimating the number of seats the Liberals could win. Incumbency is a factor, though, that will play into the NDP's hands. Of course, if Trudeau is on track to win the next election he might also be able to recruit a strong field of candidates to negate the NDP's intrinsic advantage.

Quebec is the place where the Liberals can do the most damage to the New Democrats. The NDP is much better placed, even against Trudeau, in the West while the Atlantic region has been in the bag for the Liberals for awhile. Ontario is where the Liberals can put a big dent in the Conservatives' numbers, but it is Quebec that the Liberals will need to win if they are to supplant the New Democrats as the main alternative to the Stephen Harper. At this stage, it seems they are well on their way. For now.

36 comments:

  1. Remember when Légault was at 50% of the vote?

    http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/politique-quebecoise/201106/22/01-4411829-un-nouveau-parti-mene-par-francois-legault-balaierait-le-quebec.php

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    1. The difference was that he was months away from forming this new party when the poll you linked to was taken.

      Couillard is now leader (Legault wasn't polling at 50% when he launched his party). Though Legault's CAQ did lead for a little while after it was officially launched, the PLQ is more of a known quantity, so I'd wager its numbers are a little more solid.

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    2. True enough -- perhaps Jason meant, "Remember when Charest was 13 points up on Bouchard in '98?"

      http://books.google.com/books?id=0wH4Pv7VxWsC&pg=PA170&lpg=PA170&dq=sondage+charest+bouchard+1997&source=bl&ots=2omWEgn3mU&sig=WeyaUOyIgD2hXh3fWerDK7zpQXk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=i755Udj7CcLJ0QHPv4HICw&ved=0CEQQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=sondage%20charest%20bouchard%201997&f=false

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    3. Charest won the popular vote over Bouchard in 98 though. Which could matter in a minority government situation.

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    4. I do not see how the "popular vote" would matter in a minority government situation. In instances where the Crown must take an active role in government formation the question the Crown must assess is: whether a potential PM can navigate the House and get legislation passed? From my reading of history governments get elected and subsequently appointed with less votes than major competitors. Joe Clark for example, won 36% in 1979 compared to PET who capture 40%.

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    5. Following Québec politics for more than a decade, it's obvious that CROP is very much an unreliable pollster. There are always huge fluctuations in their results, I don't know how they fail, but they do. Léger Marketing tends to be much more reliable and offer less fluctuations, yet still be more accurate than CROP at election time.

      For example, I remember CROP saying that the NDP was at 15% in Québec... in 2004. Final result, 4,6%. And that was in the campaign mind you, not 6 months prior.

      My own motto on Québec polls is: "never believe anything until Léger confirms it". English-Canadian pollsters are generally hilariously inaccurate in Québec, CROP is also pretty unreliable, Léger is generally within the margin of error and more believable.

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  2. The higher he rises, the farther he'll have to fall.

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  3. Oo! Oo! New poll from BC! Liberals gained 3 points! Still behind by 14 :(

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  4. When was the last time federal Liberals were at 38% in Quebec? It was probably a while ago - isn't it that even under Chretien Liberals were behind the Bloc?

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    1. In the 2000 election the Grits won 44% of the vote in Quebec, however, the BQ (39%) won a majority of seats with 38.

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  5. Éric,

    I would put it to you this way: as a francophone Québécois, I would imagine if you were still in the province that you would be, like most other francophones, looking at the party that best represents your ideals, values and political concepts. That could be the NDP, the Liberals, or even the Bloc but it will depend on the face each party presents to Quebecers in 2015. In short, a true representation of ça c'est vraiment moi. Until then, we are basically looking at window dressing.

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  6. Éric,

    De plus, maintenant tu es chanceux et tu peux voter comme un Ontarien au fédéral!

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  7. the LPC are experienceing a boost but will most likely decrease as we get closer to 2015 the best thing for the NDP would to place itself as defending Quebec against Harper, while trudeau will have nothing to hold on to. the fact remains the NDP are in a better spot than the liberals

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    1. I must disagree with you. Based on Eric's polling averages the NDP hold 21% support in Ontario. No party forms government without a strong showing in Ontario or Quebec. By contrast the Liberals are in the mid 30's in both those province holding a lead larger than the MoE. The Liberals also have a larger war chest. The NDP's position as Official Opposition is precarious and Mulcair is not resonating among English Canadians especially those out West, hence the NDP is at 13% in what should be their heartland-Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

      While I agree with your strategy on defending Quebec's interests (it has certainly worked in the past for other parties both inside and outside Quebec) Quebec itself is becoming less relevant to national politics. A party no longer requires substantial Quebec support to form a majority government, Quebec's GDP is less than half of Ontario, the lowest income tax rate is 31%. In short winning Quebec even by an overwhelming margin is not enough to secure government or victory.

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    2. I wonder if you have ever read John A Macdonalds letter to the editor of the Montreal Gazzete. it is the most percice answer as to why quebec will allways be important to the national discussion. i highly recomend you read the letter

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    3. I have not but appreciate the suggestion.

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    4. Graeme,

      I am having a difficult time finding this letter. Do you have any additional information; date of publication etc...?

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    5. in the letter to brown chamberlain, of the montreal gazette, macdonald writes "the truth is you british lower canadians never can forget you were once supreme. That jean baptiste was your hewer of wood and drawer of water. You struggle like the protestant irish in ireland, like the norman invaders in England, not for equality but ascendancy. the difference between you and those interesting and amiable people is that you have not the honesty to admit it. You can't and wont admit the principle that the majority must govern. the gallicans may fairly be reckoned as two thirds ag-st one third of all other races who are lumped together as anglo-saxon. Heaven save the mark! Now you have nearly one third if not quite of the representat-n of lower Canada & why is it the misfortune of your position that you are in a minority & therefore can't command the majority of votes. The only remedies are immigration and copulation and these will work wonders. No man in his senses can suppose that this country can for a century to come be gov erned by a totally unfrenchified gov-t. If a lower Canada Britisher desires to conquer he must "stoop to conquer" he must make friends with the french without sacrificing the status of his race or lineage, he must respect their nationality treat them as a nation and they will act as a free people usualy do, generously. Call them a faction and they become factious. Supposing the numerical preponderance of British in Canada becomes greater than it now is. I think the French would give more trouble than they are now said to do. At present, they divide, as we do, they are split up in several sections, & are governed more or less by defined principles of action. As they become smaller and feebler, so they will be more united, from a sense of self-preservation they will act as one man & hold the balance of power So long as the French have 20 votes they will be a power & must be conciliated.

      your welcome

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    6. That's pretty interesting. So yes, thanks! :-)

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  8. I love the Conservative and NDP fanboy garment-rending and teeth-gnashing over the Trudeau poll numbers. "Hey remember that one time the polls were wrong? " "The only poll that counts is the one on election day" etc etc.

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  9. It's obvious from your wording, Eric, that you are an NDPer. Writing whole paragraphs about how it's next to impossible for the Liberals to achieve such a feat in Quebec, then using just one sentence to say that it isn't impossible, shows you are spinning your articles in favour of the NDP. If the NDP can leap from fourth place to first in Quebec, then so can the Liberals. Just because you did this impossible feat back in 2011, does not give the NDP a monopoly on Quebec. The NDP is no longer the party of Jack Layton with hope and optimism, it has now turned into the regressive, attacking and negative political opportunists that we see today, just like what you are doing.

    Oh, and if you are truly non-partisan, then why were you at the NDP leadership convention, and not the BQ leadership convention, the PLQ leadership convention, or the Liberal leadership results announcement? That of all political events, you chose the NDP convention proves you are an NDPer. A real non-partisan would either be present in all of these events, or none of them. You have lost all claims to being non-partisan.

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    1. Hmm, this would probably come as a surprise to some of the partisan NDPers out there.

      I was never at the NDP convention, I was here at home in my pajamas watching it on CBCNN, and did a live-blog of it because there were results coming in throughout the day in a delegated convention. It was a good follow-up to my coverage of the leadership campaign, as I could analyze the numbers throughout the day.

      If the Liberals would have had a delegated convention, I would have done the same thing. I'm not sure how useful or interesting a live-blog of a one-off announcement would have been, ditto for the Bloc.

      My shock at the LPC's performance in this poll has to do with how much of a beating the brand has taken in the province over the last 10 years. The NDP's breakthrough was just as shocking and unbelievable. My analysis, which you consider to be slanted against the LPC, is actually meant to emphasise how remarkable these numbers truly are.

      I'm sorry if you consider this article to have been partisan, but you are wrong in your assessment of it.

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    2. Sorry, I shouldn't say that the NDP vote was delegated. I meant just that the results were coming-in in real time with multiple rounds of voting. The LPC and BQ did not have a similarly interesting leadership convention.

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    3. I always knew you were secretly orange, Éric! heh heh

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  10. If the Conservatives have fallen down to 10% and are now even farther below the level of support they got in 2011, would they really keep 4 seats? I think if the Conservatives go down any further in Quebec they are at risk of losing all of their remaining 5 seats in Quebec except perhaps Maxime Bernier in Beauce.

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    1. The issue is that the Liberals were not very strong in Conservative seats. Both the NDP and Bloc are dropping as well as the Tories, which means that the Conservatives win with a smaller share of the vote. The Liberals don't have enough of a base in these ridings to overtake the Conservatives, even with such a surge in support.

      But, with these numbers, even a riding like Beauce comes into play.

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    2. I think Beauce was a Liberal seat during the Chrétien/Martin years, yes? So since it's a Federalist riding, it might see an increase in Liberal support in 2015. The other Conservative seats are less Liberal in their history though, as you say.

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  11. Éric,

    A fairly general question. Often it seems that parties' internal polls are more accurate than public polls. Why would that be?

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    1. I'm not sure if that is the case. Perhaps, if it does seem to be the case, that is because the internal polls that are wrong stay internal, while the internal polls that are right are revealed after an election to demonstrate just how great a party's organization is.

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    2. That's a good point. As an example, there was a moment, though, during the 2011 federal election, when, with maybe a week left, harper suddenly seemed calmer, as though he knew the NDP wasn't going to deny him a majority... Pretty subjective, I realise, but their game plan did suddenly seem less panicked than it had been the week earlier.

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    3. The saddest thing for the provincial Liberals is that the stronger they are, the less likely they are to bring the government down. If they are strong, both the CAQ and the PQ will make a common front to protect the government and keep another election from happening, because both aspire to government and have no incentive to help Liberals get a majority. Better a PQ minority where they have some influence than a Liberal majority where they are sitting on the sidelines.

      The government will fall if the PQ falls and both the CAQ and the Liberals are strong and believe they have a shot at it during the campaign. However, the CAQ tends to fight for the same voters as the Liberals, center-right moderate nationalist francophones. So when the Liberals are strong, the CAQ is typically weak. When the CAQ is strong, the Liberals become weak.

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    4. Éric,

      I would put this twist on the second paragraph of simval84's analysis: I expect the Liberals to be moderately strong in most regions of Quebec but I also think the CAQ will continue to make inroads in La capitale nationale given its base here. However, I doubt that will translate into a big CAQ gain in other regions of the province.

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  12. OT:
    new poll today in BC gives NDP 22 point lead.

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/04/29/NDP-22-Point-Lead/

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  13. http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/04/29/NDP-22-Point-Lead/

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  14. This will upset a lot of posters !!

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/04/29/kathleen_wynnes_liberals_jump_into_firstplace_tie_with_tories_poll.html

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  15. The CAQ is in frozen mode. They are unable to take away the nationalist vote from the PQ while they are unable to take away the disfranchised federalist vote from the PLQ. It's like they are stuck i neutral and dropping the ball on Bill 14 and letting the PLQ take full control of the federalist vote.

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