Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ontario NDP gains in uncertainty-inducing Ipsos poll

When Ontarians are next called to the polls, which could occur as early as the spring, the election could be one of the closest three-way races in recent memory anywhere in Canada. At least, that is how Ipsos-Reid measures the situation in the province.
Ipsos-Reid was last in the field provincially in Ontario in mid-May. Since then, the Liberals have held steady with 34% support, while the Progressive Conservatives have slipped three points to 31% and the New Democrats have increased by five points, also to 31%.

The shift in support is within the margin of error (of a probabilistic sample, at least) for the Tories, but outside the margin of error for the New Democrats. It is worth noting, however, that the PCs have dropped over two consecutive polls from Ipsos.

Support for other parties was 5%, which we can assume is mostly Green support. Roughly 25% of the entire sample was undecided.

The Tories led by four points among men, while the NDP and Liberals were tied for the lead among women. The PCs trailed among women by 10 points. Support by age was a bit of a jumble, with the Liberals ahead among 18-34 year olds, the NDP leading among 35-54 year olds, and the Tories leading among voters 55 or older.

For the most committed voters, however, the situation is very different. Among those who say that only an emergency would prevent them from voting, the Progressive Conservatives led with 38% support, against 31% for the Liberals and 27% for the New Democrats. That is a remarkably different set of numbers, as you will see in the seat projection below.

Regionally, the Liberals led in the GTA with 38% support and in eastern Ontario, also with 38% support. It is difficult to compare the regional numbers to Ipsos's last poll, as based on the sample sizes it would appear that their definitions have changed. The Liberals placed second in central Ontario with 26% and third in the southwestern and northern parts of the province, with 29% and 24%, respectively.

The Tories led in central Ontario with 46% and in southwestern Ontario with 35%, placing second in eastern and northern Ontario with 35% and 28%, respectively, and third in the GTA with just 23% support. That is an odd number, and suggests that for this poll Ipsos is considering the GTA to be much smaller than most other surveys. If it isn't, that is disastrous for the Tories.

The New Democrats led in northern Ontario with 37%, and trailed in second with 30% in southwestern Ontario and 35% in the GTA. They were third in the central and eastern part of the provinces with 24% and 23% support.
With these levels of support, the Liberals would likely win a reduced minority government of 43 seats, with the PCs taking 34 seats and the NDP winning 30.

But if we look at the committed voter tally from Ipsos-Reid, the seat count changes dramatically: 52 seats for the PCs, 28 for the Liberals, and 27 for the New Democrats. That is close enough to the majority threshold for the Tories that it would not take much of an error in the model, or a good distribution of votes, to turn that into a majority government. Likewise for what it would take to change the identity of the Official Opposition.

It is difficult to determine who holds the real advantage in these numbers. Among the entire population, Kathleen Wynne is seen as the best person to be premier by 33%, followed by Andrea Horwath at 29% and Tim Hudak at 28%. That is a similar breakdown to the vote intention numbers, but among committed voters Hudak leads with 36% to 31% apiece for Horwath and Wynne. This suggests that, among those most likely to turnout, Hudak does not have a leadership problem but Wynne potentially does. Whereas her party placed four points ahead of the NDP among likely voters, on leadership she tied Horwath.

On the other hand, 37% of all voters said Wynne's government has done a good job and deserves re-election. And, even more strangely, 39% of committed voters say she deserves re-election. So, though only 31% of committed voters would cast their ballot for Wynne and believe she is the best person to be premier, 39% think she deserves re-election. That is contradictory, and hints at an under-lying strength in the OLP vote that could emerge at the ballot box.

And then there are the numbers on the second-choice question. Hudak appears to be safe as his supporters see few options in the other parties: 38% of Tories said they did not know what their second choice would be, and 25% said "other" (code for none-of-the-above). Just 21% selected the NDP as their second choice, and 17% the Liberals. So if Hudak does leak support, no one party will benefit in particular.

Horwath appears similarly secure, with 55% of NDP supporters saying they did not know which party would be their second choice or responding with 'another party'. Not surprisingly, New Democrats were more likely to select the Liberals (27%) than the Tories (18%) as their second choice, but that is still a small pool.

The Liberals are in much more danger of leaking votes. Fully half of their supporters said the NDP was their second choice, and 21% selected the Tories. Just 29% responded with 'don't know' or 'another party'.

All of this points to a lot of uncertainty. Luckily, this isn't the final poll before an election. If it were so, any scenario could be plausibly envisioned from these numbers. The overall result points to an OLP minority, but the re-election numbers suggest even a majority is possible. The committed tally makes a PC government likely, with the result being either a minority or majority government. And the NDP has strong leadership numbers and a base that is less likely to leak to the other parties - in fact, they stand a good chance of attracting Liberals at the ballot box. Anyone can see what they want to see in these numbers.

That is a nightmare for forecasters. But it would set up for an interesting election night.


  1. Eric, just a small point - your seat distribution table its a bit confusing to have a column for "Toronto" and a column for "GTA"...the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) actually includes all of the City of Toronto PLUS all the 905-suburbs - they are not mutually exclusive. It would be more accurate to label that column "Outer GTA" or "905".

    1. Yes, but you are more and more hearing GTA used as a way to refer to the suburbs so I'm not sure if it is all that confusing. But I'll fix it for next time.

  2. I live in Toronto and GTA is more often used to describe the whole region 416+905

  3. For clarification, could you post which ridings you include in each geographical category in Ontario. I am confused by your projection of 5 PC seats in Northern Ontario but perhaps the boundaries can explain further.

    1. Here they are. They are based on the closest thing I could get to a consensus on how the polling firms divvy up the province in their polls.

      Toronto - Beaches-East York, Davenport, Don Valley East, Don Valley West, Eglinton-Lawrence, Etobicoke Centre, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Etobicoke North, Parkdale-High Park, St. Paul's, Scarborough-Agincourt, Scarborough Centre, Scarborough-Guildwood, Scarborough-Rouge River, Scarborough Southwest, Toronto Centre, Toronto-Danforth, Trinity-Spadina, Willowdale, York Centre, York South-West, York West

      Greater Toronto Area - Ajax-Pickering, Bramalea-Gore-Malton, Brampton-Springdale, Brampton West, Dufferin-Caledon, Halton, Markham-Unionville, Mississauga-Brampton South, Mississauga East-Cooksville, Mississauga-Erindale, Mississauga South, Mississauga-Streetsville, Newmarket-Aurora, Oak Ridges-Markham, Oakville, Oshawa, Pickering-Scarborough East, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Vaughan, Whitby-Oshawa, Durham, York Simcoe

      Hamilton/Niagara - Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, Burlington, Hamilton Centre, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, Hamilton Mountain, Niagara Falls, Niagara West-Glanbrook, St. Catharines, Welland

      Southwestern Ontario - Brant, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, Cambridge, Chatham-Kent-Essex, Elgin-Middlesex-London, Essex, Guelph, Haldimand-Norfolk, Huron-Bruce, Kitchener Centre, Kitchener-Conestoga, Kitchener-Waterloo, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, London-Fanshawe, London North Centre, London West, Oxford, Perth-Wellington, Sarnia-Lambton, Wellington-Halton Hills, Windsor-Tecumseh, Windsor West

      Eastern Ontario - Carleton-Mississippi Mills, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, Kingston and the Islands, Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, Leeds-Grenville, Nepean-Carleton, Ottawa Centre, Ottawa-Orleans, Ottawa South, Ottawa-Vanier, Ottawa-West Nepean, Peterborough, Prince Edward-Hastings, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Northumberland-Quinte West, Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry

      Northern Ontario - Algoma-Manitoulin, Kenora-Rainy River, Nickel Belt, Nipissing, Parry Sound-Muskoka, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Thunder Bay-Superior North, Timiskaming-Cochrane, Timmins-James Bay, Simcoe-Grey, Simcoe North, Barrie

    2. In no circumstances would I consider anything in Barrie or Simcoe County as part of Northern Ontario. These ridings are also solidly Conservative, along with Parry Sound-Muskoka, which *is* a Northern riding if you consider them to be part of the FedNor region, but the Barrie and Simcoe polling significantly skews the results of the real Northern Ontario.

  4. And by the next election all this will be totally wrong !

    1. You are predicting a Tory majority I assume Peter?

    2. No Bede I am predicting a total Tory collapse. Byeeeeee!

    3. Peter,

      What do you think? To turn your answer around -- which I agree with even though collapse is pretty definitive -- seems to me that if Andrea was well on her way toward occupying the premier's chair, she wouldn't be tied in second place at this point in the unofficial campaign.

    4. Ron I think we all know that Hudak simply doesn't "sell" to the public.

      Given that, short of a Leader change, Tories are toast !!

      I agree with you re Andrea. This is another of these political oddities where she's fine but again, for different reasons, just isn't selling !!

  5. 33, 32, 29 Those are Eric's numbers and all they basically say to me is TIE !!

    Which means that at the moment, with no election in sight, the public doesn't actually know what it wants. So it will all come down to issues and campaign.

    Since none of the parties it seems are really good at campaign the whole mess may revolve around issue. Gonna be interesting !


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