Thursday, September 26, 2013

NS Liberals move solidly into majority territory

The Corporate Research Associates daily tracking poll for The Chronicle Herald shows little movement as the campaign in Nova Scotia progresses. And the only small movement it does show is away from the incumbent government and the third place Tories and towards the Liberals of Stephen McNeil.

I wrote about the state of the race and the election projection in this week's article for The Globe and Mail, and I invite you to check it out.

Since the last major update on this site, the projection has swung rather significantly in the Liberals' favour. The party is now projected to take 50.3% of the vote, up 4.8 points from where the Liberals stood with polling up to Sept. 18. That gives them a 23-point lead over the New Democrats, and even their likely low range still puts them 21 points up on the NDP. Stretched to its extreme, the Liberals would still win by 10 points even if the polls fall on their face as they have in recent elections.

Click to magnify
The New Democrats have slipped 1.1 points to 27.3%, while the Progressive Conservatives have dropped 3.1 points to 20.1%. They seem to have bit hit hardest by the gains McNeil has made during the campaign so far.

The Liberals are projected to win between 30 and 38 seats with these numbers, up from between 25 and 34 from Sept. 18. That puts them comfortably in majority territory. Their absolute minimum at this stage is 25 seats - not enough to win a majority, but enough to win the election.

Darrell Dexter's New Democrats have dropped to between 13 and 16 seats from between 14 and 21, and their maximum range (23 seats) now puts them below the Liberals. CRA polling does not support the potential for an NDP upset if the election were held today.

The PCs have dropped from between 3 and 7 seats to between 3 and 6, but more importantly their most likely result has dropped by three seats to only four. The Liberals picked those up, along with another seat from the NDP.

The Greens have dropped 0.9 points to 1.3%, and are expected to take between 0.9% and 1.3% of the vote. This is after taking into account their slate of only 16 candidates out of a possible 51. Because they have not managed a full slate, the likelihood of the polls over-estimating the Greens is amplified significantly, even if the tracking polls give them just 2% of the vote.
The most recent set of numbers from CRA, running from Sept. 18-24, is almost an entirely new sample from the analysis of last week (the polls overlap only for Sept. 18). They show no statistically significant movement over the last week, suggesting that the campaign is relatively stable. But the trends are pointing in the direction of the Liberals: they have picked up three points to hit 51% support, the highest they have been in CRA polling for as long as I can recall. The New Democrats have slipped one point to 27%, while the Progressive Conservatives have dropped three points to 20%.

On leadership, McNeil gets 37% (+2) on who would make the best premier, followed by Dexter at 20% and Jamie Baillie of the Tories at 15%. That is a drop of four points, just flirting with the margin of error. The campaign has not been going very well for Baillie, though the reviews of last night's debate were relatively positive for the PC leader. Nevertheless, McNeil's leadership edge is rather crushing. The recent election misses in B.C. and Alberta, for example, showed nothing like this.

Each dot in the chart below represents a result from a poll that was in the field on that particular day. As CRA's polling spans a week, we cannot know for certain when movement is taking place. But this sort of tracking gives an idea.
As you can see, the campaign so far has been pretty steady. The Liberals started the campaign at 48% before dropping to 47% and then upticking to 49% and now 51% support. Meanwhile, the NDP has wobbled between 27% and 29%, while the PCs have been pretty steadily sinking, from 23% to 21% and now 20%.

The consensus opinion on the debate last night was that all did pretty well, but Dexter and Baillie performed better than McNeil. But it doesn't seem like these were the kinds of performances that should single-handily change the game. We won't start seeing the effect of the debate until the weekend, when CRA's sample starts leaning post-debate. It will be interesting to see if things shift, because at this stage of the race the Liberals are going to win in a landslide.