Friday, May 31, 2013

Liberals lead in Ipsos-Reid federal poll, Harper hurt by Wright/Duffy affair

Ipsos-Reid released its latest numbers for the federal scene in a poll for CTV News, showing that the Liberals continue to hold an important lead over the Conservatives (one that is widening by their reckoning). The poll also gauged public opinion on the Wright/Duffy affair, and found that a lot of it is sticking to the Prime Minister - even a majority of Conservative voters aren't sure if they believe Stephen Harper's side of the story or not.
Ipsos-Reid was last in the field Apr. 26-30, two weeks before any of this recent affair was reported in the news. Since that poll, the Liberals picked up one point and led with 36% support, while the Conservatives dropped two points to 30%. The New Democrats were up two points to 27%, while support for the Bloc Québécois and other parties was unchanged at 4% apiece (Ipsos does not include the Greens in their national surveys).

None of these changes in support are significant, suggesting a relative status quo. But within the context of the recent news, a drop for the Tories is not entirely surprising and one has to lean towards it being real.

An obligatory note in the context of the election in British Columbia: these numbers are not a reflection of the next election's outcome, but a measuring of support among the general population. Also, I consider it more unlikely that the kind of miss seen in B.C. and Alberta could occur at the national level, because the population is much less homogeneous. What motivates turnout in British Columbia might not be the same as in Atlantic Canada, or what causes a last minute change of heart in Alberta might not occur in Quebec. I would be shocked if an error like we saw in B.C. happened in a federal election (cut to scene in the future where I am dismayed at the way the polls missed the 2015 federal election).

But let's take a moment to consider the question of turnout. Using my back-of-the-napkin turnout model (drop the 18-34s and double the 55+), the Liberals end up at about the same level of support with 37%, while the Conservatives are bumped up more significantly to 34%. The New Democrats fall to 22%. Those would be the kind of numbers that could easily work to the Tories' advantage in terms of vote distribution. However, the Liberals still being ahead is a good sign for them: they were in front among respondents 55 or older with 39% to 37% for the Conservatives.

About one-in-five respondents to the poll either said they would not vote or were undecided, virtually unchanged from Ipsos-Reid's last poll.

Ipsos-Reid's reports contain a lot of information, including both weighted and unweighted sample data. This is the level of disclosure all firms should have. As I did last week with the most recent poll from Forum Research, let's take a look at how Ipsos-Reid's sample breaks down (I will do this more often so that we can see what we're looking at when new polls are released).

As you can see, the base sample needed very little torquing to get it to resemble the general population. That is a good thing, but it is also part of the design of Ipsos-Reid's (and any online pollster's) methodology. The process of recruiting respondents ensures that one or another demographic group is not under- or over-sampled. These numbers, then, speak not to the ability to build a representative sample randomly, but that the poll itself will not require distorted weighting schemes to get it close to the mark.

One question that is still being debated by the industry, and one that is being studied by firms who use the methodology itself, is whether or not the people who respond to online polls are different from the people who don't. Not in terms of their age or income levels, but just in terms of their values and perspectives. Numerous elections suggest that most online pollsters have it down pretty well most of the time, but it is unlikely to be a debate that will be put to rest soon.

Back to the numbers themselves. They are rather good for the Liberals, with sizable leads in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, a less sizable one in British Columbia, a tie in Ontario, and a narrow gap between themselves and the Conservatives in the Prairies. Most of the regional results show little change from Ipsos-Reid's last poll, but with the exception of British Columbia all of the minor fluctuations are to the Liberals' advantage.

The results in Quebec are perhaps most interesting. They show the same wide lead that other surveys (including the most recent CROP) have shown, with the Liberals at 39% to 29% for the NDP. But notable in this poll is that the Bloc Québécois has fallen eight points to only 15%. That is a very low number for them, and a drop that is about equal to the (theoretical, in this case) margin of error. The Parti Québécois has dropped in popularity in Quebec as well, suggesting that the malaise of Pauline Marois might be biting into the Bloc's support.
Their low numbers have significant consequences, as they put the Bloc out of contention for any seats whatsoever.

Nationwide, the Liberals narrowly edge out the Conservatives with 129 to 127 seats, while the New Democrats win 81 and the Greens retain their one seat.

There are two issues that are keeping the Liberals from pulling away in the seat count. The most important is Ontario. If the Liberals are in a tie with the Conservatives, they are at a disadvantage because of their concentration of support in and around Toronto. Secondly, the Liberals are at a disadvantage in Quebec as well due to their concentration of support in and around Montreal. Traditionally, at least - the latest CROP poll suggests that the Liberals are more than competitive outside of the Montreal area. If a re-alignment among francophones does occur, seat models may under-estimate Liberal strength in the province.

Of course, the driving force for these improving Liberal numbers is Justin Trudeau (along with the recent spate of problems for the Tories). On the questions of trust, having what it takes to lead, leading an open, responsible, and transparent government, and promoting democracy, Trudeau beat out both Harper and Thomas Mulcair in Ipsos-Reid's poll. Mulcair placed in third on all of these questions, except when it came to government transparency. But it should be noted that, in every case, the three leaders were relatively bunched up together. Only on democracy and trust can it be said the Trudeau was well ahead of his rivals.

However, the problems in these numbers for the Conservative government are quite obvious. The number of people who strongly disapprove (35%) of the government's performance was almost equal to the proportion who either strongly (7%) or somewhat approved (30%), and that's not including the 27% who somewhat disapprove. Only 31% agreed that the Conservatives deserve re-election, a disastrous number for them.

The Wright/Duffy affair is certainly dragging down the Conservatives. Only 13% of Canadians believe that Harper did not know about the arrangement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy, while 42% believe he did know (which implies he is lying) and another 44% are not sure (which is almost as bad). Even among Conservatives, 54% said they were not sure if Harper would have known or not, while 12% believe that he did. That is rather remarkable - two-thirds of Conservative supporters have doubts that the Prime Minister is telling the truth. If there is a silver lining, though, it is that 79% of Conservatives think the whole affair is of minor importance.

But those are toxic opinions, and the opposition has good reason, over and above the public interest, to keep the story in the news and to keep asking questions. The Conservatives will welcome the summer recess when it occurs later in June. Where will their numbers be when they return in the fall?

24 comments:

  1. So Éric,

    Do you have any compelling hypotheses to account for the rather huge discrepancy between this poll and Forum's recent poll with regard to Liberal and NDP support? Even in general, Forum seems to have been reporting singularly astronomical numbers for the Liberals of late.

    Dom

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    1. Polling dates, methodology. As my post last week mentioned, the Forum poll might have over-sampled Liberals.

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    2. I've also noticed that Forum seems to have the most wide-ranging/volatile numbers among all pollsters. These days they're reporting the highest levels of support for the Liberals and lowest for the NDP, whereas a year ago they had some the highest numbers for the NDP. In the last few months they've had some of the lowest numbers for the CPC, but as recently as January they had them at 36%, the highest any pollster had them at that time and all the way back to last summer. So Forum certainly doesn't seem to have any sustained bias, but rather remarkably large swings. Do you still think IVR and their tendency to conduct polls in a single day are responsible for this? I'd be interested to read more about why these factors might cause increased volatility. Have you previously elaborated on this?

      Dom

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    3. Yes, I do think it is a question of their polling on one day, along with the methodology itself. I don't think I have written about this before.

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  2. I'd call this poll terrific news for the Tories.

    Even in the midst of really quite a bad scandal, and with the Liberals still enjoying their entirely predictable (and temporary) bump from selecting a new leader, the Conservatives are sitting effectively tied in seats.

    If I were a Tory insider, I'd be ecstatic with these numbers. Unless something else catastrophic happens, this is as bad as it gets. And this isn't so bad.

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    1. This is pretty bad for the Cons though. I mean, Libs + NDP is an easy majority. Sure, it's not like they've been reduced to a rump, but if there's a Forum-like result and many NDP supporters jump ship, things could get really, really bad for the Cons.

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    2. This is pretty bad for the Cons though. The Libs + NDP are an easy majority, and that's assuming more NDP supporters don't jump ship for Justin. If that happens, the Cons are looking at a more Forum-like result, which would be disasterous

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    3. The Liberals will not join forces with the NDP if they have these numbers except in an ad hoc manner.

      One thing that comes across in Topps' book is the antipathy many Liberals hold toward the NDP and the entitled belief many Dippers have to government.

      Obviously these are not great numbers for the Tories but, even with Forum's results they would still win roughly 100 seats which is respectable.

      I think the Liberal numbers for BC are somewhat off. 14 seats and 34% of the vote if awfully high. I suspect as the election draws closer reality will set in. We often see this trend for Liberals on the West Coast they poll high a couple years out from an election only for them to fall to roughly 20% and 4 seats once the writ is dropped.

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    4. When you factor in the "if Justin Trudeau were Liberal leader" period then it's no longer so temporary.

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    5. Oh God. There's another Ryan here now.

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    6. Please sort this out amongst yourselves, Ryans.

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    7. I'm just happy your mum didn't name you Bede!

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  3. All this tells me is that we can look forward to a CPC minority Govt.

    If any of you think they are going to back off in the face of a Liberal minority you are dreaming !!

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    1. If parliament votes non-confidence after the next election, then the government will pass into the hands of whoever parliament has confidence in. There won't be a choice involved for the CPC.

      -BC Ryan (I hope the other isn't from BC too)

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    2. BC Ryan,

      This is not correct. The Crown not Parliament selects the Government. The Crown has a variety of option well within its prerogatives including; prorogation, dissolution, re-appointment or selecting a new PM from the governing party. Parliament legitimises the Crown's choice.

      The CPC will have a number of choices depending on the exact nature of the vote. Only Throne speeches and money bills are automatic confidence measures. The Government may have to decide whether or not to recognise an opposition confidence motion.

      Even defeated PMs have choices; whether to resign and what advice if any they wish to give to the Crown being the most important.

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  4. After any election, the House must meet and someone must demonstrate that they have the confidence of the House. This is done by passing a Throne Speech. Until a Throne Speech has passed post-election we essentially have no government. If the CPC loses its majority in 2015 - regardless of whether it remains the largest party - I have a hard time seeing how they could pass a Throne Speech (unless Harper makes a coalition deal with the Liberals whereby Justin gets to be Minister of Fitness and Amateur Sport). So the CPC proposes a Throne speech, the NDP and Liberals vote it down. The GG then has no option but to ask the leader of the second largest party to try to form a government. (see Ontario 1985)

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    1. DL,

      I am afraid you are incorrect.

      Canada always has a government. A PM is PM until he or she loses the confidence of the House, resigns or is dismissed. During the election and interregnum a caretaker convention has been introduced in some Commonwealth countries most notably New Zealand. Make no mistake however, a PM retains the right to meet the House.

      As above the GG has a variety of options of which asking the Opposition Leader to form a government is but one.

      Ontario is but one example and was only successful because of the extra-parliamentary committment by the NDP and Liberals. The LG may not have called upon Peterson without the agreement on supply and confidence. In 1952 in BC the Socreds became government even though the CCF were the Official Opposition and had equal support in the House (the CCF had one less member 18 but, enjoyed the support of a Labour MLA Tom Uphill). There is another case in Tasmania that has similar facts but, I can not recall the name or date at this time. It is far more common throughout the Commonwealth for a legislature to be dissolved when a government loses confidence as oppossed to calling upon another leader to form a government.

      In the period directly after a loss on a Throne speech the Crown may be expected to call upon another leader to form goverbnment- this is not a sure bet as the events of December 2008 demonstrate! Much depends on the composition of the House and the players involved. Is it a convention the Opposition Leader be called upon? I would place doubt on a convention being formed simply due to the infrequency of such events and the much more usual practice of dissolution after the fall of a government.

      The Crown holds broad prerogative powers often these are governed by convention but, it would be a mistake to assume the Crown's powers are limited by convention. In both King-Byng and the Australian constitutional crisis of 1975 the governments were not defeated in the House but, the premiers were dismissed. In both cases the Leader of the Opposition became PM on the condition that they would hold fresh elections should they not maintain confidence.

      Finally, I point to the Lascelles Principles as to the actions the Crown may take.

      "no wise Sovereign—-that is, one who has at heart the true interest of the country, the constitution, and the Monarchy--would deny a dissolution to his Prime Minister unless he were satisfied that: (1) the existing Parliament was still vital, viable, and capable of doing its job; (2) a General Election would be detrimental to the national economy; (3) he could rely on finding another Prime Minister who could carry on his Government, for a reasonable period, with a working majority in the House of Commons".

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  5. It will be interesting to see how this data will fit into the new constituency boundaries. Apparently Saskatchewan is (finally) losing its urban-rural splits. That in itself should affect the number of CPC seats on the prairies, no? Or would those ridings have abandoned them anyway?

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  6. In 2008 the Harper government had already passed a Throne Speech in early November 2008 and had established confidence. That was a gigantic trump card for them in dealing with the GG during the "coalition crisis". If the opposition voted down a Throne speech right off the bat and the government did not establish ANY confidence post-election, the PM is still PM but has extremely limited powers to ask the GG to do anything. I think there is zero chance the GG would agree to call a new election one month after the last one and the only option would be to ask the the leader of the second largest party to try to pass a Throne Speech.

    Face it, if Harper doesn't win a majority in 2015 - he is OUT - unless Justin Trudeau decides to "pull a Nick Clegg" in which case 3/4 of Liberal voters would be aghast and would be lost to that party forever

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    1. DL,

      As above even a defeated PM has options: The most important being advice. You may think that one month after an election there is "zero chance" and hence only one option for the Crown, however, as per the Lascelles Principles the Parliament must be viable and a PM must be able to carry on a Governemnt for a "reasonable period with a working majority in the House of Commons". Therefore, I would suggest at a bare minimum in such circumstances the Crown has at least two options (and in all probability many more): 1. Call upon the Leader of the Opposition to form a government. 2. Dissolution.

      Before a confidence vote a PM has all the power of a PM who has won confidence. The difference is in the obligation of the Crown to follow advice. In a situation where the Government has not established the confidence of the House the Crown is not obliged to follow advice from the PM whereas; if confidence has been established the Crown is obliged to follow the advice as per the conventions of responsible government.

      I hate to break it to you but Canada is a "c" conservative country and the Liberal party is a "c" conservative party! One need only look at the recent election in BC to see that the majority of that province lean right not left. Or take Ontario where in the last election 70% voted either Liberal or Tory. I think your hypothesis that 75% of Liberal voters would leave the party should they support a Conservative government highly unlikely. Many (if not all) Liberals are to the right of the NDP and it is unlikely they would be aghast! Other Liberals for political reasons may think working with the Tories a better strategic option than working with Mulcair. Even if we take Nick Clegg as an example polls indicate that the LibDems have lost half their support since the 2010 election.

      You are absolutely right about December 2008. The passage of the Throne speech meant Mr. Harper had the confidence of the House and the GG was obliged to follow his advice since refusal of advice would be tantamount to a dismissal that would not conform to the conventions of responsible government (of course the Crown has every right to dismiss a PM when they see fit).

      However, in my opinion it was unlikely the GG would have called upon Mr. Dion to form a government for some of the reasons outlined in Lascelles; the most important being that M. Dion could not be expected to "carry on for a reasonable amount of time" since, he had already submitted his resignation. The BQ is another factor. While most constitutional scholars are of the opinion that point 2. in Lascelles regarding the national economy to be outdated and of no effect one can readily assume that a government reliant on the supoport of a separatist party may harm the national economy. Thirdly, the BQ as separatists, could not reasonably be expected to support a government for a reasonable period (18 months) and secondly, even if they did support the government on supply and confidence measures the coalition of the NDP and Liberals still had fewer votes than the Tories-in short the coalition did not have a working majority since they could be outvoted on almost all government measures, motions and resolutions, at commitee etc...

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  7. The main thing that unites and animates Liberal party supporters these days is extreme (almost irrational) personal hatred of Harper. If the Liberals came in 3rd in 2015 and opted to prop up Harper rather than help the NDP form an NDP-Liberal coalition or accord - there would be a huge uprising among Liberal party members and activists etc... the likes of which you have never seen. It would probably kill that party once and for all. In that scenario - either way the NDP wins. Either the Liberals agree to be a junior partner in a Mulcair led government OR the Liberals agree to be enablers of their mortal enemy Harper in which case all those Harper hating Liberals would be aghast and the party would probably dissolve in disarray. How long would Joyce Murray and co. last in a Liberal party that was enabling Harper to carry on??? What about Liberal MPs from Quebec where Harper is about as popular as a case of syphilis? I would happily eat popcorn watching the Liberal party destroy itself over whether or not to prop up Harper again.

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  8. DL,

    I hope your comment above is partially in jest otherwise it is a rather impolite and serious matter.

    It is a complete falsehood to say the "main thing that unites and animates Liberal party supporters" is an "extreme personal hatred of Harper". Most Canadians don't hate Harper, most Liberals don't hate Harper-they may disagree with his policies even dislike his "style" but, hatred they do not hold against the PM. Your statement was contradicted yesterday by the Liberal caucus no less, presumably the most ardent of Liberal party supporters, who voted with the Government against a NDP motion on the Senate.

    This vitriolic writing common among some members and activists of a particular party in Canada only proves two things: Firstly, one should never vote for them because their own "hatred" points to how they would operate in government; maliciously toward all those who do not share the same points of view. Secondly,. they are not mature enough to operate a government for all Canadians!

    The NDP would like to think the Liberals have few choices post-election 2015. However, veiled threats such as you have outlined will not scare Liberals who know success is won among the median voter. Liberals will not be coerced into becoming the "junior partner" of a government. Part of the reason the coalition of 2008 failed was because the NDP took the lead role. Frankly, the NDP should stop worrying about what the Liberals may do and concentrate on what they need to do. If polls are to be believed ( an interesting question in itself these days) they have much work ahead of them if they do not wish to re-occupy their traditional opposition benches at the back of the House of Commons.

    The Liberal party is not about to dissolve in disarray if some members or M.P.s leave. Joyce Murray is a minor player in the Liberal party, she won 10% in the leadership race which in most contests would make her a fringe candidate. She had only two supporters among M.P.s one of whom is an independent and former NDPer.. Ms. Murray speaks for a small section of the Liberal party of Canada a section that is on the "radical" fringes of the party.

    You suppose Ms. Murray will not stay in a party that enables Harper to remian in office but, the last 7 years, in particular from 2006-2011, point to the opposite result. Ms. Murray an M.P. since 2008 has consistently voted or abstained with her party to prevent the defeat of the Conservative budget on matters of confidence. So how ready do you think she is to leave the Grits?

    The Liberals need not care about Quebec. Elections are won and lost in Ontario and increasingly the West where money and population are growing. The NDP has made so many mistakes when it comes to federalism in general and the constitution in particular most federalist Liberal Quebeckers will be hesitant to vote for them. They may well win the separatist vote again but, that particular 30% of the population will always vote for what is in their narrow interest not what is best for the country.

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  9. I'm glad you admit that the Liberal don't care about Quebec...hopefully that will become evident to Quebecers as well - if it isn't already.

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    1. I wrote they "need not care" about Quebec not they don't care since, governments are not formed in that province anymore.

      I find it ironic you expect Liberals to join with a party that clearly does not respect their viewpoints or beliefs. The truth is the NDP feels they have a divine right to govern regardless of voters' wishes or preferences. As in the vote on the Senate two days ago the NDP does not respect the Constitution and I have no doubt will use ultra-constitutional measures to form government regardless of their legality or constitutionality.

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