Monday, July 22, 2013

EKOS poll shows flagging Liberal support

Late last week, EKOS Research released their most recent federal polling results via iPolitics, showing that the Liberals have been losing support since shortly after Justin Trudeau's leadership victory. However, neither the Conservatives nor the New Democrats have really been able to take advantage.
EKOS was last in the field on May 22-26 (though that poll was not released until last week as well), and since then the Liberals dropped 4.3 points to 30.4%. That drop is outside the margin of error, and part of a larger trend as the party had been at 38.6% in EKOS's Apr. 30-May 2 poll.

But the Conservatives continue to tread water well below where they need to be. They were up 2.1 points to 28.4%, but that is not a statistically significant amount of change and is only 2.2 points up from where EKOS had them in their earlier poll. It is a similar story for the NDP, who were up 2.5 points to 23.4% support, but that is after having dropped in EKOS's poll from the end of May. The party is still below where they were at the end of April.

The number of undecideds and non-responses was 17%, mostly unchanged from EKOS's previous poll. The Greens had 8.5% support, while the Bloc Québécois was at 6.3% and support for other parties at 3.1%.

A note about EKOS: they have a good disclosure policy, with their reports being very complete and full of numbers. It would be best if they could also include their unweighted sample sizes in their reports, but the firm is not shy to share this information when asked and Frank Graves is always willing to talk about methodology in great detail.

These numbers from EKOS are interesting, as the firm has had a tendency in the past to low-ball the three major parties. But that has not been the case in their last two polls, with the Liberals at 39% and 35%. Their two previous polls had the leading party at less than 30%, and you have to go back to March 2012 to find an EKOS poll where the leading party had more than 33% support. So, this suggests that EKOS is recording a real dip in Liberal support, something that other firms have been hinting at. It is too early to definitively say that the honeymoon is over for Trudeau, but it is certainly not too early to ask the question.

Regionally, support for the parties was mostly wobbling within the margin of error and similar to what other polls have been showing. But the Liberals did lose significantly in Ontario (down 5.5 points to 32.7%) and Quebec (down 6.3 points to 29%). Elsewhere, the New Democrats were narrowly ahead in British Columbia (which has become a real three-way race in the last few months) while the Tories were in front in Alberta and the Prairie provinces. The Liberals were still ahead in Atlantic Canada, but have moved away from the 50% they were enjoying in April-May.

Of interest in this poll is the support among immigrant Canadians. Jason Kenney is credited with having done a great deal of good work for the Conservatives among these voters, and he has retained some responsibility in this domain despite his change of ministry. The poll suggests the Conservatives still have the advantage among this demographic, with 35% to 33% support for the Liberals. But they would prefer to have a wider edge than that.

On turnout, the Liberals would likely do better than the Conservatives as they were ahead among voters 45 and older.

In terms of seats, the Conservatives would still narrowly beat the Liberals due to their advantage in the West and in rural Ontario, taking 126 to 112 for the Liberals. The New Democrats would hold 60 seats, buoyed in large part by their strong B.C. numbers, while the Bloc Québécois would take advantage of the weakness of the NDP in Quebec and win 38 seats. The Greens would take two.
The numbers in Quebec are particularly interesting. Though the Liberals double their support, they aren't in a strong position to win a large number of seats due to their relative weakness outside of Montreal and a few select areas of the province. With the NDP dropping so steeply, the small gain the Bloc has made in this poll (worth only three points from their 2011 showing) pays big dividends. In fact, a huge proportion of Quebec's seats are won by a tiny proportion of the vote (35% or less), with only some five to 10 points separating the Bloc, NDP, and Liberals. It means that it would not take much to radically transform the numbers in the province.

In the B.C. election, the forecast did not actually get a huge number of seats wrong (in fact, of all the prognosticators ThreeHundredEight got the most correct), but the ones that were wrong went all in the same direction, magnifying the error. But on average, of those that were wrong the probability forecast averaged about 68% confidence that the right call was being made (not exactly high). That translates to a margin of about nine to ten points. So if we apply that range to the federal forecast, we see that Quebec is the real battleground.

That is because with a range of just under 10 points, the number of seats each of the parties could win in Quebec is wide enough to drive a truck through: 11-50 seats for the Bloc Québécois, 20-38 seats for the Liberals, 0-37 seats for the New Democrats, and 5-12 seats for the Conservatives. No other province showed that wide a variety of potential outcomes, suggesting that the next election could be won or lost in Quebec. The Conservatives are powerless in that regard, and need to hope that Quebec is split three ways instead of plumping for one party as the province did in 2011.

Ontario also did show some wide variations, at between 32-60 seats for the Tories and 37-69 seats for the Liberals, but that was primarily due to all of the close Conservative-Liberal seats in the province (the NDP ranged only between 17 and 28). British Columbia had a high proportion of close races (12-24 seats for the NDP, 9-17 for the Liberals, and 4-17 for the Conservatives), while Alberta, the Prairies, and Atlantic Canada had only a handful of seats that could go either way.
These ranges show that, while the Liberals have a less efficient vote than the Conservatives in the precise projection, they have greater potential. The Liberals could win between 90 and 163 seats with these numbers from EKOS (taking into account the potential for EKOS's numbers to be wrong) while the Conservatives could win between 87 and 152 seats. That likely means either official opposition or minority government for either party, but neither is at the magic 169 needed to form a majority government in the new House.

The New Democrats could win between 34 and 106 seats, which means that if the three parties end up very close in the popular vote the NDP does have the potential (tiny as it is) to come ahead in the seat count. They also have the potential to return to fourth-party status behind the Bloc Québécois, who could win as many as 50 seats and return to prominence or fall just short of official party status in the House of Commons.

The Greens could win between two and four seats, the extra two being very unlikely wins in Ontario and the North.

This gives a good indication of where the parties stand: the race is very much between the Liberals and Conservatives but the NDP is still in the running, while depending on how things go for the other parties the Bloc can remain on the fringes or return to influence. Quebec is the biggest battleground, while the Conservatives' fate lies in Ontario. Federal politics in Canada remain at a crossroads - and likely will continue to be straight through to 2015.

31 comments:

  1. Perhaps the headline should read "NDP support evaporates in Quebec"!

    23% and 9 seats do not put the NDP on course to become the next government.

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    1. In the longer term, you're right. But compared to EKOS's last poll the NDP's change in support in Quebec is within the MOE.

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  2. It'll be interesting to see how the Greens do in the long run on Vancouver Island. They already have quite the machine there.

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  3. Another striking result in this poll is the unbelievably tight 4-way race among the <25 demographic, with the Conservatives actually coming out on top!

    Éric, do you plan to revise your monthly average for May in light of EKOS' belatedly released poll? It would temper that wild Liberal spike a bit.

    Dom

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    1. It will be when I next update those charts.

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    2. Thanks for mentioning that May 25 poll. I'd missed that one.

      Given that poll, and this poll, it appears EKOS is back to overselecting green voters, again. 9%? That doesn't seem plausible.

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  4. I'm guessing the 2nd Green seat, apart from May's seat, is Victoria?

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  5. Thanks for the well-written update!

    I only planned on looking at the charts and graphics but somehow ended up reading the whole thing.

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  6. Finally we can look at the actual state of things, now that Trudeau's bump seems to have subsided.

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  7. How is that you have the CPC losing a seat in the Territories? Didn't Leona Agglukak win something like 70% of the vote in Nunavut?

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  8. It really is fascinating to me to see, leading up to 2015, how the three parties are tightening in terms of support. I wonder how this all translates when one factors in Ekos' s latest leadership approval ratings (Mulcair jumped some 5-6 points). 2015 could is looking to be the first election in our history where three major parties going into the election have a shot at government. Exciting times.

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  9. Whatever this poll may say, I would be willing to bet almost any amount of money that the BQ will not do anywhere near that well in 2015. In fact I would be surprised if they crack 20% and hold on to more than 2 or 3 seats (if that). They have no money, no incumbents, Duceppe replaced by a totally dull invisible Paille, no real issues, no raison d'etre, a ridiculously unpopular PQ provincial government. In 2015 the ballot question in Quebec is almost certain to be "how do we get rid of Harper?" and its hard to see how the answer to that question will ever be "by voting BQ".

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    1. No real issues except; separation.

      That is their lifeblood and why they will continue to poll around a quarter of the electorate. It is also their raison d'etre. Support for independence typically floats between about 30-50% and there is a committed following of 10-20% who will always vote for a separatist party whether federally or provincially.

      Knowing what the ballot question will be two years hence is anyone's guess. In terms of Quebec that question is likely to be Quebec specific. With all the problems La Belle Province is currently experiencing fiscal federalism or corruption or just about anything could come to the fore.

      Voting for the BQ could force a change in government so long as they agree not to support the Tories. A vote for the NDP is not likely to be much more productive in this regard as whatever happens the opposition parties will need to work together. If for instance the BQ got 0 seats and the NDP 98 the Liberals may be less than eager to topple Harper and enter into a forced marriage with the NDP. Liberals may feel such a move may create internal divisions.

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  10. We learned in 2008/09 that any NDP/Liberal coalition that depends on the BQ to survive is like plutonium. A BQ resurrection would only help Harper by taking a chunk off seats off the table for his real opponents.

    Its true that there are about 20% of Quebecers who are hard-core separatists - but the BQ got 23% in 2011 and that left them with 4 seats. From 1970 to 1993 there was no real sovereignist option in Quebec at the federal level - what did separatists do in those days? many simply didn't bother to vote, others held their nose voted for whoever was seen as the alternative to Trudeau-style federalism - sometimes that was Creditistes, sometimes the Tories under Mulroney and sometimes it left dribs and drabs for the NDP. Now that the BQ has been annhilated and has almost no incumbents, a low profile leader and no money...and support for sovereignty is at an all-time low - its hard to see the BQ as having anywhere to go but down. People can disagree with me but I predict that in 2015 the BQ gets about 15% of the vote and 1 or 2 seats at most

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    1. The other parties still do need to avoid the mistake the Bloc made in discounting the NDP as an opponent. In 2011, the NDP also had no money or organization in Quebec and almost no incumbents.

      I do agree, though, that a major comeback for the BQ is not in the cards in 2015.

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    2. Seconded. If it wasn't for Gilles Duceppe's personal popularity and performance, the Bloc could've easily collapsed as early as the 2008 election (in 2006 they had adscam going for them but still ended up doing worse than they had hoped considering what a bombshell that was in QC). Duceppe was always outstanding in the debates, but Layton finally managed to outmanoeuvre him in 2011. To be honest I know just about nothing about Paillé, but it's really hard to imagine anyone coming close to matching Duceppe.

      Dom

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    3. No doubt it will be tough sledding for the BQ in 2015 but, so long as they exist I think they can expect roughly 20% of the vote. As the chart above shows the BQ only needs about a quarter of the vote to gain a large number of seats when the vote is split 3 ways.

      I object to the phrase "real opponents", it is a belittling comment. In this country people are free to vote for who they choose. An ample amount of time is given to voters to research parties, candidates etc... It is arrogant to suggest there is a right way and wrong way to vote. Presuming "real options" caused Brian Topp to so badly miscalculate the events of December 2008. He assumed the GG would invite Dion to Rideau Hall once it became clear Harper no longer held confidence in the Commons. He forgot one very important step-the Government must lose a confidence vote first! Frankly, after reading Topp's book I was left with the impression the NDP felt they were entitled to govern. It seems to be a common mistake with the NDP as the last BC election proved that one can not win government without campaigning.

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    4. Ed, I interpreted DL's "real opponents" reference to simply mean as viewed strictly by Harper. He's in no danger of losing power to the Bloc Québécois, but he could lose power to the NDP or Liberals; so in that sense the latter are indeed his "real opponents" and he'd be delighted if the BQ would take as many seats away from them as possible. Otherwise, I agree with what you said.

      Dom

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    5. The coalition did not fail because of the BQ. It failed because Layton and Topp had no idea they had to first defeat the Government. Had Layton and Topp known how government formation worked they would not have publicised their potential actions. Harper would have lost a confidence vote and the GG would decide on a course of action.

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  11. Correction - in 2011 the NDP had almost no incumbents and almost no organization in Quebec. But it actually did have a lot of money. They spent close to $20 million across Canada in election 2011 and several million were spent saturating the airwaves in Quebec with ads. The NDP didn't have much of a ground game in Quebec in 2011 but they did have a big "air" presence...one that the flat broke BQ is very unlikely to be able to duplicate in 2015. There was also polling evidence long before the 2011 election campaign began that Jack Layton was the most popular federal party leader in Quebec...in contrast Daniel Paille is a total unknown. I suppose its POSSIBLE that in 2015 there will be an outbreak of "Paille-mania" across Quebec, but somehow i doubt it!

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    1. They did spend some money on province-wide ads, but in some ridings that they won the party spent not a dime!

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    2. This is true - but you can sometimes get away with spending nothing on the local campaign in a riding if you have millions being spent nationally on advertising and if the central party is flooding your riding with calls etc...

      BTW: When I referred to the NDP and the Liberals as Harper's "real opponents" what i meant was that they are the parties that Harper himself sees as his "real opponents". Harper knows that he could lose the next election to the NDP or the Liberals or to some combination thereof. Its conceivable that Tom Mulcair or even Justin Trudeau becomes PM if harper loses his majority. The BQ is not seen as a real opponent by the Tories. Daniel Paille is not going to become PM in place of Harper and if anything Harper WANTS the BQ to come back because every seat the BQ takes is one seat less for the NDP and/or Liberals - the parties that represent a real threat to his hold on power.

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    3. DL,

      Your explanation makes little sense to me. How do you know what Mr. Harper thinks or who he regards as his staunchest competition? To accept your explanation is to accept either that you are Stephen Harper or have para-normal abilities.

      Realistically Harper will not lose the next election to the NDP. As the graph above demonstrates they have a maximum seat potential of 106 seats.I don't pretend to know what Mr. Harper thinks or believes but, if one follows your logic every seat may make a difference for the Tories. The 20 or so seats where the Tories are competitive in Quebec may be the difference between a majority or minority or losing government itself. As we saw in the Autumn of 2008 a vote for the BQ is a vote for the NDP and Liberals so the idea of a BQ comeback is just as dangerous as a Liberal victory or some form of coalition.

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  12. Won't the new 338-seat House of Commons need 170 seats for a majority (50%+1)? That would seem consistent with the current majority number which is 155/308.

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  13. This is all so speculative. It's interesting to analyze these polls, but when we talk about the Liberals will get this, the NDP will get that, the BQ will receive that etc., there's no way of knowing whether these numbers will be anywhere near that in 2 years time.

    It doesn't really make sense that the BQ would be going up in Quebec since they are invisible and don't even have their leader in the House of Commons yet.

    Most significantly, I would point out that it's risky to use English (eg. outside Quebec) pollsters to make conclusions on the Quebec numbers. It's important to point out that CROP & Leger are considered the experts on polling in Quebec. EKOS and the other outside Quebec pollsters don't really have the ability to read the scene there. We need to wait for CROP & Leger's next polls before making conclusions on Quebec.

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    1. In the 2011 federal election, Ipsos-Reid and Nanos Research were the closest to the mark in Quebec, while Forum Research and Léger Marketing tied for third. CROP, which released its last poll a little less than two weeks before the vote, was the worst performer (largely because of that).

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  14. 38 seats for the Bloc? LOL wut? Their leader is an an unknown, Daniel Paillé (who lost in his own riding in 2011 mind you).

    A party needs a well know leader. Paillé is not a Bouchard and he is not a Duceppe. The BQ seat numbers are too far out IMO

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    1. In 2009 nobody would believe you or I if we surmised the NDP would win a majority of Quebec seats at the next election.

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  15. so what you are saying Ed is that Daniel Paillé's popularity, name recognition and charisma is on the same level as Jack Layton's?

    Seriously. Everybody loved Jack, nobody knows who Paillé is

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