Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ontario PCs have advantage in latest Forum poll

Forum Research put out its latest Ontario provincial numbers via the Toronto Star this morning, finding the Progressive Conservatives to have a five-point edge over the Ontario Liberals. But the change in support since Forum's last poll is nothing significant. The potential effect of turnout in such a hypothetical election, however, could be.
Forum was last in the field on June 26, another of their snap, one-day polls. The PCs gained one point since then, to lead with 36% support. The Liberals were down two points to 31%, while the New Democrats were up three points to 27%. While that is the biggest change of the main parties, it is still within the theoretical margin of error. However, if we look at where the parties stood at the end of May, we see that the NDP has picked up six points over that time while the Liberals have dropped seven. That could be a worrying trend for the OLP if it doesn't stop.

The Greens were down three points to 5%, while 1% of respondents said they would vote for another party. From the sample of decided and leaning voters, it appears that about 6% of respondents were undecided, no different from Forum's last poll.

This poll does have the same sampling issues that we usually see with Forum's surveys: 60% of the sample is over the age of 55, rather than the roughly 35% of adult Ontarians who are actually over that age. Only 8% of the sample was under the age of 34. This proportion of the population takes up closer to 27% of Ontario adults. This means that Forum has to apply some pretty important weights.

In that context, it is remarkable how steady the Tories have been in Forum's polling. They have been at 34%, 35%, or 36% in the firm's last six polls going back to March. The Liberals have wobbled more significantly, with between 31% and 38% over that time. The NDP has also seen a good deal of fluctuations, with between 21% and 27% support. This suggests that voters are swinging between the OLP and the NDP.

Regionally, only two shifts in support appear worth highlighting: an 11-point gain for the Liberals in eastern Ontario (good news for John Fraser in Ottawa South) and a 10-point gain for the NDP in southwestern Ontario (good news for Percy Hatfield in Windsor-Tecumseh and Peggy Sattler in London West). The PCs have the edge in eastern Ontario, northern Ontario (which stretches down to around Barrie in Forum's estimation), and the 905 area code, while the NDP is ahead in the southwest and the Liberals in Toronto.

With these regional numbers, the Progressive Conservatives would win 46 seats and probably form a minority government. The Liberals would narrowly edge out the NDP for the Official Opposition role, with 31 seats to 30 for the New Democrats.

Outside of Toronto and eastern Ontario, the Liberals are at a severe disadvantage, especially considering their weakness in the southwest and northern parts of the province. The NDP is able to win a whole swathe of seats in those areas, while the PCs dominate the GTA and take a good number of seats in the rest of the province as well.

But what if we take ThreeHundredEight's simple turnout model into account? With that adjustment, the Progressive Conservatives would be expected to take 38% of the vote to 33% for the Liberals and only 23% for the New Democrats. If we apply that adjustment to the regional numbers, we get a seat haul of 49 for the Progressive Conservatives, 37 for the Liberals, and only 21 for the New Democrats. Still a PC minority, but the Liberals would be in a far stronger position. The NDP is penalized most significantly in the southwest, where they drop to eight seats (four more go to the PCs and two more to the OLP).

This gives a very clear demonstration of how turnout can impact outcomes. The PCs get to within only five seats of a majority government, close enough for just a slight error in the polling or seat modelling to put them over the top. The Liberals go from being in danger of falling to third place to being clearly in second, while the NDP goes from hopeful Official Opposition to third place again.

But their leader, Andrea Horwath, remains first in approval ratings. She scored 43% in this poll, compared to 35% disapproval. Her numbers have been very steady for some time. Among NDP voters her approval rating soars to 73%, while it is still at a very solid 45% among Liberals.

Kathleen Wynne's approval rating stands at 35%, while her disapproval has increased by five points to 48%. Among Liberals, her approval rating is 72%. Interestingly, she scored 41% among New Democrats - an increase of 10 points since last month.

Tim Hudak remains at the bottom of the pack, with an approval rating of 27% (he has been at either 26% or 27% since March). His disapproval rating is at 51%, and his approval rating is at only 58% among PC voters. The silver lining for him, though, is that Wynne is approaching his level of unpopularity.

The situation in Ontario, despite a little back and forth in the numbers, has been pretty static since Kathleen Wynne became premier. The PCs and Liberals trade the lead and the NDP remains in third, but well above where they were in 2011. It makes calling an election a gamble for every party: the PCs could return to opposition, the Liberals could lose power, and the NDP could lose the influence they have in a minority legislature. If the plug is pulled this fall or if budget negotiations fail in the spring, no leader is likely to have any great confidence in victory. Better to just roll the dice and end the uncertainty.

15 comments:

  1. I noticed that Ekos came out with a Ontario poll just a coupe of days ago as well. It had the OLP in front. Did you analyse that one also?

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    1. Just briefly on the aggregation page. Decided to look in detail at the EKOS federal poll instead.

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  2. PS: The Toronto Star story on this poll has a ridiculously misleading headline. I saw "Tories add to lead over Liberals in byelection race" expecting the story to be about a poll in one or all of the five byelection ridings only to discover that its a story about a province-wide poll that has nothing to do with the byelections at all! No wonder ndewspapers are going under when they can't even get a simple headline right.

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  3. It is remarkable how concentrated the NDP vote is in southwest Ontario. What seats do you reckon the NDP will lose to the Libs in the 416? Trinity-Spadina and Davenport?

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    1. That's correct, though both by a slim margin.

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    2. I live in Trinity-Spadina, and I would think it will depend to a substantial extent on two factors: who the Liberal candidate is, and whether Rosario Marchese decides to actually campaign this time. His campaign was non-existent last time out, and Sarah Thompson was a relatively strong Liberal candidate. If the Libs can nominate another quality candidate, it will certainly be competitive, but I would be surprised if Marchese runs another completely non-existent campaign after getting a scare last time.

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  4. Its not at all clear to me whether Forum puts Hamilton-Niagara in the 905 region (it is in the 905 exchange) or in the southwestern Ontario region. Do you know?

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    1. Forum does it all by area code, so Hamilton-Niagara is included in the 905.

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  5. FYI, the Liberals have actually nominated their candidate for Trinity-Spadina and they totally blew it! After having come surprisingly close in 2011 and with Wynne as leader who probably sells better in T-S than in most parts of the province - Trinity-Spadina ought to have been a top target. The OLP had two ministerial assistants running - neither were household names, but they were at least credible. Then at the last minute some Chinese guy from Scarborough entered the race and signed up a bunch of instant Liberals and shocked everyone by winning the nomination. Rosario marchese is no doubt sleeping soundly knowing that the ontario liberals managed to shoot themselves in the foot and nominated a ridiculously weak candixdate against him

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    1. What part of "some Chinese guy from Scarborough" and signing up "a bunch of instant Liberals" equates with electoral defeat? Surely signing up a lot of people and thereby winning the nomination is reason for optimism on the part of the Liberal party that their candidate can increase the party'S support and mobilise them to actually vote. As for his ethnicity and place of residence, I can't guess how that counts against him at all.

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  6. have you considered any interactive content on your site tied to your seat projection model? ie, users input regional support levels and see what the numbers spew out? I'm thinking of the dynamic tools Nate has on 538, or the Election stock market from UBC. would it take a media outlet buying your site and services like the NYT did with 538?

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    1. Yes, I don't really have that know-how.

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    2. That whole NYT thing didn't work out in the end either.

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    3. Depends on how you look at it. It was working out pretty well for everyone involved while he was there!

      I've been reading a lot about it, and it is pretty interesting. The NYT was going to more or less set up a 538 mini-department and give him a staff of 6-12 journalists. But ESPN gave him the freedom to run an entire site by himself with a team at least as large as that, with the liberty to write about virtually everything, but especially sports. That sort of independence is worth a lot (maybe more than the bigger budget ESPN undoubtedly had).

      Maybe the new 538 would like to have a Canadian section... *whistle*

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  7. wow, that's quite the development.

    i'm sure there are some canadian outlets who would love to own the brand equity your site has in political coverage. given your work with the Globe, they seem like a decent fit.

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