Thursday, February 28, 2013

NDP comfortably ahead in Quebec

A week ago, La Presse released the latest poll results from CROP at both the provincial and federal levels. Federally, the poll shows that the New Democrats are still well ahead of their rivals in the province - as they have been in CROP's polling since Thomas Mulcair was named leader of the party. Other polls, however, are not so sure.

Provincially, the poll put the Parti Québécois, Liberals, and the Coalition Avenir Québec in a close three-way race. I wrote about the Quebec scene for the Globe and Mail in my weekly piece. We'll take a look at the federal results here.
Though I don't recall seeing the results anywhere except in tables of their latest report, CROP was last in the field federally in January. Since then, the New Democrats picked up two points and had 37% support, followed by the Liberals at 23% (+3), the Bloc Québécois at 22% (+1), and the Conservatives at 15% (-4).

The New Democrats have been very steady in CROP's polling, with between 35% and 41% in each of their monthly polls since October. Over that time, the BQ has also been steady while, at 23%, the Liberals are at their highest level of support (at least according to CROP) since September 2010. They were at 13% support as recently as June 2012.

It has to be said that this score for the New Democrats is quite high compared to where other firms have pegged the NDP in Quebec. The current aggregate of all the polls maintained by ThreeHundredEight (including this CROP poll) only puts the NDP at 32.4% in the province. In fact, since October the New Democrats have averaged 38.2% support in five polls from CROP, compared to an average of 31.8% support in 18 polls conducted by other firms. Certainly, it makes more sense to focus on large samples of 1,000 per poll instead of smaller regional samples, but while 5,000 Quebecers were sampled in CROP's five polls since October, 8,690 were sampled in the other 18 polls.

It could be a question of Quebec-based polling firms having a different (and, one would assume, better) way of doing polls in the province. Léger Marketing was in the field twice since October, and gave the NDP an average of 35% support, still higher than the consensus. It should also be recalled that CROP was the first pollster to give the NDP the lead in Quebec during the 2011 election campaign, and was generally more favourable to the party in the run-up to the election than other firms. But whether that is due to having done a better job or merely because the electorate caught up to potential methodological biases in CROP's polling, we cannot know.

Are the Quebec-based pollsters, who have together pegged the NDP at almost six points more support, closer to the mark than their non-Quebec-based competitors? It is hard not to give them the benefit of the doubt.

At the regional level, the New Democrats held the lead on the island of Montreal with 34% to 23% for the Bloc and 22% for the Liberals, and were also leading in the "couronne" of Montreal (the greater metropolitan region) with 39% to 25% for the Liberals and 24% for the Bloc.

Outside of Montreal, the Conservatives had a narrow edge in Quebec City with 33% to 31% for the NDP and 16% apiece for the Bloc and Liberals, while in the rest of Quebec the NDP led with 38% to 24% for the Liberals and 21% for the Bloc.

Among francophones, the New Democrats led with 40% to 26% for the Bloc, with the Liberals picking up five points since October (the last CROP poll for which I have regional data) to reach 19%. For the federal Liberals to be doing almost as well as the provincial Liberals among francophones in the province is not insignificant.

Among non-francophones, the Liberals are well ahead with 47% to 30% for the Conservatives and 20% for the New Democrats. That is hardly changed from October's poll, suggesting that the NDP has taken quite a tumble among non-francophones in the province. That puts some of their seats on the island of Montreal in danger, and opens up some possibilities for the Tories.

With these province-wide numbers, the New Democrats would win 54 seats on the current boundaries. The Liberals would increase their seat total to 14, while the Conservatives would hold on to five seats and the Bloc Québécois would be reduced to only two.

I have to abandon projections for the proposed boundaries, as the ones that were laid out in the latest report of the boundary commission are significantly different from their initial proposals (though, I must say, I am very happy they dropped their plan to name a lot of ridings after people instead of geography). Until I or someone else has the time to transpose the 2011 results to the latest boundaries, it would be irresponsible to use anything but the boundaries currently in place. Elections Canada will eventually do the job once the boundaries are finalized. In any case, if the Conservative caucus revolts and votes down their own government (hey, why not?) in the next year or so we would still use the current boundaries rather than the new ones.

The New Democrats are still in a very strong position in Quebec, particularly with none of their rivals able to get very close to them in voting intentions. The Liberals are also in a decent position to make gains - the poll listed the current leaders (i.e., Bob Rae) when asking about federal voting intentions and other surveys have suggested that Justin Trudeau would be able to boost Liberal fortunes to some extent in Quebec. The Liberals appear to have regained favour among Quebec's non-francophones, which gives them a good base in the province. But if the New Democrats manage to remain the favourite option of Quebec's francophones, they will continue to win a large majority of the province's seats.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ontario polls point to volatile electorate

Late last week, the Toronto Star released the latest Ontario provincial poll by Forum Research. It showed that the Progressive Conservatives held a wide lead over the Liberals, who had recovered, and the New Democrats, who had tumbled. Yesterday, Nanos Research released their latest poll showing a close race. A week separated the two polls - could things be that fluid?
Let's start with the Nanos poll which, though older, is the most recently released. Nanos has been out of the field in Ontario for some time, with their last survey dating to Aug. 11-16, 2012. Since then, there has been no real movement for the Liberals or PCs: the Tories were down one point to 33.7% and the Liberals were down 0.4 points to 33.6%. On sample sizes of 500 respondents, that is less than insignificant movement.

The New Democrats gained 4.4 points to 26.5%, which is still within the margin of error. The NDP gain does put Nanos back in line with the other firms, however, which is good to see. Nanos was the odd-man out when it came to Ontario, putting both the PCs and Liberals above 30% and the New Democrats well behind, in opposition to the numbers from Forum, Abacus Data, and Innovative Research.

What is fascinating about Nanos's poll report is the chart that shows voting intentions all the way back to 2001. What is striking is just how little the PC vote has moved over the last 12 years. With few exceptions, the PCs have always been between 30% and 40% over that time, and were overwhelmingly hovering around 35%. That is a very solid, if immovable, chunk of the electorate. They can't seem to break out of that 1-in-3 range for more than a few months at a time.

By contrast, the Liberals and New Democrats have shown a great deal of movement. The Liberals were over 50% for much of the time between 2001 and 2003, dropped to around 40% until 2008, were between 40% and 50% until 2011, and have since moved between 30% and 40%. The NDP started at around 10% support, increased to around 20% between 2004 and 2007, dropped back to between 10% and 20% until 2011, and are now hovering between 20% and 30%.

The chart also shows how much of the movement of the Liberals and New Democrats is correlated. It would seem that, aside from a small proportion of Ontarians who switch between the Tories and Liberals, much of the vote swapping is taking place between the New Democrats and Liberals. This would suggest - and it is no shock to say it - that the Liberals have more to gain by trying to push down the NDP than they do the Tories.
But as it stands, the Liberals have better vote efficiency than the PCs and can beat them with a near tie. With these province-wide numbers, the Liberals would likely win 45 seats to the Tories' 37, and (considering the potential for error in both the polls and the seat projection model) have a little better than a 70% chance of taking the most seats. The New Democrats would win 25 seats.
The Forum poll shows a much different race, with the Progressive Conservatives holding an outright lead with 36%. The Liberals trailed with 29% and the NDP with 28%.

That represented a two point gain for the Liberals since Forum's last poll (pre-convention) of Jan. 23-24. The PCs were up four points while the NDP was down seven. Both of those shifts are outside the margin of error.

Are the two polls contradictory? Not necessarily. Nanos's poll was very similar to the other ones that were published by Innovative, Abacus, and EKOS Research at the end of January and earlier this month. It could very well be that in the week between Nanos's poll (which ran until Feb. 13) and Forum's poll (which was conducted on Feb. 20) the electorate shifted a little to the advantage of the Tories. The disparity in the results is not large enough that it can't be explained away by statistical wobbling and methodological biases (with a little bit of actual movement as well), but it does suggest that the Ontario electorate is volatile at the moment. This should be expected, considering that Kathleen Wynne is still feeling her way forward as premier.

Regionally, the PCs led in the 905 area code (which stretches from suburban Toronto to Niagara) with 43% to the Liberals' 26% and the NDP's 25%. The Tories picked up 13 points while the NDP fell 11. The Tories were also ahead in eastern Ontario with 38% to 30% for the OLP and 24% for the NDP, and had the advantage in northern Ontario (which stretches down to Barrie in Forum's polling) with 38% (+8) to 27% for the Liberals and 26% for the NDP (-16).

The Liberals were in front in Toronto with 43%, followed by the New Democrats at 27% and the PCs at 26%. The NDP had a slim edge in southwestern Ontario with 35% to 34% for the Tories and 22% for the OLP.
But whereas the Liberals had better province-wide vote efficiency than the Tories in the Nanos poll, in the Forum poll the New Democrats put their regional numbers to better use. Nevertheless, the PCs would likely win a slim majority of 56 seats, and have more than a 9-in-10 chance of winning the election. The NDP would take 28 seats (10 of them in southwestern Ontario) while the Liberals would win 23 (18 of them in urban Toronto and Ottawa).

A few points here or there makes a big difference. But Wynne is off to a good start when we look at her personal numbers.

She scored better than Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak on questions of trust, competence, and having a vision for Ontario in the Nanos poll. Combining these scores gives the Nanos Leadership Index, and it puts Wynne ahead with 66.8 points to 54.7 for Horwath and 46.7 for Hudak. Wynne has improved upon Dalton McGuinty's numbers by an average of three points in each category (9.3 points overall), while McGuinty's departure has opened the door for Horwath. She made a gain of almost six points per category (17.2 points overall) since Nanos's last poll in August. Hudak has hardly budged, but dropped almost two points per category and 5.8 points overall on the leadership index.

If we expressed the leadership index as a share of the total (removing "none of the aboves" and unsures), we get Wynne at 38%, Horwath at 31%, and Hudak at only 26%. That means that both Wynne and Horwath are polling better than their own parties, while Hudak is polling worse.

Forum's approval ratings suggest the same thing. Wynne scored a 36% approval, 15 points more than McGuinty did in his last poll as premier. Her disapproval rating, at 30%, was 41 points lower. Still, 35% have yet to form an opinion but Liberals like her: 67% approve (19 points up on McGuinty), while only 8% disapprove.

Hudak, on the other hand, continues to flounder. His approval rating has not moved at only 27%, while his disapproval rating is 50%. His approval rating has dropped to 56% among PC voters, with a disapproval rating of 23%.

Horwath remains head and shoulders above the others, with an approval rating of 49% and a disapproval rating of only 24% (down four points since January). And 82% of New Democrats approve of her performance.

Taken together, this would indicate that both Wynne and Horwath have some upside going into a hypothetical election campaign, while Hudak still has the potential to drag his party down. But his numbers remain solid while the Liberals and NDP oscillate. Wynne has moved her party upwards a few ticks and Horwath has dropped, but the movement is still not enough to put either one in a definitive position. It makes an election campaign a huge gamble for everyone.

Monday, February 25, 2013

B.C. NDP gains outside of Vancouver

A new poll this morning by Angus-Reid and reported by The Globe and Mail shows the B.C. New Democrats maintaining a wide double-digit lead over the B.C. Liberals. They are still poised to easily win the May 14 election, with the probability of the New Democrats winning the popular vote remaining unchanged at 95.5%.

The projection as of Feb. 22 pegs the New Democrats at 47.6% support, an increase of 1.8 points since Feb. 10. The Liberals are also up, gaining 1.5 points to reach 31.2%. The B.C. Conservatives follow with 10.8% (-2.3) while the Greens were down one point to 8.6%.

The projected Liberal and NDP vote ranges do not overlap, with the New Democrats projected to take between 44.8% and 50.4% of the vote based on current polling. The Liberals take between 28.6% and 33.8%. The wider forecast for May 14 does make it possible for the Liberals to finish ahead of the NDP, but only barely.

In terms of seats, the New Democrats are now projected to win 62, down three seats from Feb. 10. The Liberals gained those seats and are now projected to win 22. The seat ranges have narrowed to the advantage of the NDP, however, with the New Democrats now projected to win between 50 and 73 seats (instead of between 47 and 75) and the Liberals between 10 and 33 seats (from between seven and 36). The polling data is still too thin for anything more precise.

The poll had the effect of pushing the New Democrats up on Vancouver Island and in the Interior/North, while pulling them down in metropolitan Vancouver. In and around that city, the Liberals were up 4.6 points and six seats, though still trail at length with 33.6% to the NDP's 47.4% and 14 seats to 25. The NDP was up four points in the Interior and North to 44.2% and gained three seats in the process. The Liberals fell 0.5 points to 31.4%, while the Conservatives were down 2.4 points to 14.9%. On Vancouver Island, the NDP was up 4.7 points to 52.7% and are projected to sweep the island. The Liberals were down 3.7 points to 25.2% while the Greens were up 4.9 points to 14.2%.

Projected vote since November
The chart to the left shows the problem for the B.C. Liberals. The polls have shown very little movement since November, four months ago. Fewer than 80 days remain before the next election, or less than three months. It will take something extraordinary to move the Liberals into a winning position. The Conservative vote has not moved much, but even if it was reduced by two-thirds - all of it going to the Liberals - the Liberals would still be almost ten points behind the New Democrats. If every last Conservative vote goes to Christy Clark, she will still be almost six points behind. She needs to whittle down the NDP vote significantly, but she has been unable to do that for the past 12-17 months. Is it realistic to consider that she might in the next two-and-a-half?
The Angus-Reid poll gives her little succor, after showing the Liberals on a modest but steady trend upwards. Since their last poll of Jan. 17-18, the Liberals have not budged from 31%, while the New Democrats were up one point to 47%.

The Greens were unchanged at 10%, while the Conservatives were down one to 9%.

Regionally, the NDP led in Vancouver with 44% to 35%, in the Interior with 45% to 29% (a drop of 10 points for the Liberals), and on Vancouver Island with 53% to 22%. Considering the sample size, the race in the north is statistically closer with 48% to 33% support for the NDP, but generally the NDP is well-placed throughout British Columbia.

The Green score of 19% on Vancouver Island is quite good, and the latest in a series of decent polls we've been seeing for the Greens on the island.

The problems for the B.C. Liberals are sprinkled throughout the other questions in this poll, if the 16-point margin isn't enough. Fully 59% feel it is time for a new government to take power, including 29% of British Columbians who voted Liberal in 2009. The NDP leads by 12 points among men and 20 points among women, and even has an 11-point edge among British Columbians aged 55 and older. That is the age group that turns out in the greatest numbers.

Clark's approval rating remains low at 31% while her disapproval has increased to 58%. And despite her recent throne speech and budget, heavily focused on portraying the Liberals as sound economic managers, Clark still trails Adrian Dix on who is best able to take care of the economy with 24% to Dix's 30%. The economy was named as the top issue by 28% of British Columbians, and on the second most important issue - health care at 20% - Dix bettered Clark by a 38% to 18% margin.

Those are some problematic numbers for Clark and the Liberals. The party trails the NDP and Clark trails Dix - it is difficult to pull off an upset when neither the party nor the leader is polling well. And the opinion of Clark is worsening: 45% of British Columbians said that their opinion of her has worsened over the last three months, while only 9% said it has improved.

The shine does appear to be coming off of Dix a little, though. His disapproval rating increased by seven points to 41% (his approval was down to 43%), much of that seeming to have come from those who said they were "not sure" of what they thought of him in January. And 28% of British Columbians said their opinion of Dix has worsened in the last three months, more than the proportion (21%) who said it improved. But his numbers are still miles ahead of Clark's.

The polls were supposed to tighten as the election approached, and they may still do so. But the last four months have hardly shown much change in how British Columbians feel about Clark's Liberals or Dix's NDP. The likelihood that minds will drastically change over the next few months seems low - unless something drastic happens.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Conservatives drop in latest EKOS poll

Earlier this week, the latest federal polling results from EKOS were released by, showing the Conservatives, NDP, and Liberals in a close three-way race and all three parties under 30% support - sort of.
EKOS was last in the field Nov. 30-Dec. 3, and there has been only a little real change since then. The Conservatives dropped 2.6 points to 29.3%, outside of the margin of error, while the NDP was up 0.5 points to 26.3% and the Liberals were up 0.2 points to 24.6%.

The Greens gained 1.1 points to reach 9.5%, while the Bloc Québécois was at 7.2% and support for other parties stood at 3.2%.

EKOS has a tendency to have high results for both the Greens and "others", which drags the support of the three main parties down. In their last three polls, the combined support for the Conservatives, NDP, and Liberals averaged 81.4%, compared to an average of 88% in the polls conducted by other firms over that time. So, it is no surprise that this 9.5% for the Greens is the highest recorded in any poll since July 2012 (an EKOS survey) or that the Conservatives have been scored at under 30% support in only two of 89 polls since the last election (both by EKOS).

EKOS's response to this is to provide their estimation of support from actual voters, contrasting each party's support among the general population to those that actually go out and vote. EKOS has had more success with this method in past elections than their results from the general population. This makes sense. The people who vote are not the same as the average Canadian. EKOS estimates likely voter support at 34% for the Tories, 30% for the NDP, 21% for the Liberals, and 7% for the Greens. That is much more in line with what other polls have been showing.

Which brings us to an important question: are the other polling firms already tweaking the numbers based on expected turnout? Is the reason that EKOS's results are consistently among the most out-of-step with other firms that they are the only ones reporting unadjusted results for the general population? I have asked some polling firms in the past about this. I'm often told that their weighting schemes are proprietary information, or that they do a little bit of tweaking for turnout. Just how much they do we don't know, and that is the kind of information that polling firms do not want to reveal - their "secret sauce" for getting their polls to match electoral results is the one thing that can differentiate themselves from other firms.

Polls in the United States do break things down by how likely respondents are to vote, and according to the methodology that Nate Silver has explained in the past he values the most specific information possible: polls of decided voters over polls with decided and leaning voters, and polls of likely voters over only registered voters, etc. Here in Canada, we are rarely treated to that level of specificity. Perhaps we should be.

Back to the results of the poll (for the general population). The Conservatives held statistically significant leads in Alberta and Manitoba, with 54.9% support in the former and 43.6% in the latter. The Liberals trailed in Alberta with 18%, followed by the NDP at 14.8%. Alberta is an interesting case as the Liberals have been placed ahead of the NDP in half of the polls released since October. In Manitoba, the NDP was second with 26.7% to 19.5% for the Liberals.

The Conservatives also had the edge in Ontario with 31.7%, a drop of 4.2 points since November-December. That is the lowest result for the Tories I have on record, stretching back 206 polls to November 2010. Again, the "likely voter" calculation could be significant here. The Liberals trailed with 28.9%, while the NDP was third with 26.5%.

In British Columbia, the Tories were in front with 34% to 29.2% for the NDP and 19% for the Liberals, while in Saskatchewan the Conservatives had the advantage with 42.4% to 29.1% for the NDP and 14.4% for the Liberals.

The New Democrats placed first in no region of the country, but were a close second in Quebec with 28.4%, an increase of 4.3 points. The Bloc was in front with 29.2%, while the Liberals were down 3.4 points to 22% and the Conservatives were down 4.2 points to 10.5%, the lowest the Tories have scored in Quebec since April 2012.

The Liberals led in Atlantic Canada, as has become the norm, with 37.5%, followed by the NDP at 27.1% and the Conservatives at 24.3%.
With these numbers, and using the proposed boundaries for the 338-seat map (though not incorporating some of the latest boundary changes that have been made, so this is more of an estimate), the Conservatives would win 135 seats to 91 for the Liberals, 75 for the NDP, 36 for the Bloc, and one for the Greens.

Despite being second in the popular vote nationwide, the NDP falls to third in the seat count due to Quebec. But projecting there is a bit problematic: the boundaries have changed drastically and a lot of the ridings are decided by a percentage point or two. Incumbency could give the NDP a bonus, perhaps bumping them up some 10 seats or so.

EKOS included some approval ratings, showing results generally in line with other polls, except for a higher "don't know" response which lowered everyone's approval and disapproval ratings. The net rating is thus probably more important to look at: Stephen Harper's was a net -19, with an approval rating of 28% to 47% disapproval (76.2% approval among Conservative voters). Thomas Mulcair had a net score of +2.7, with an approval rating of 27.5% (56.3% among NDP voters) and a disapproval rating of 24.8%.

Interestingly, EKOS included ratings for Justin Trudeau, presumptive successor to Bob Rae. He had a net score of +9, with an approval rating of 33% (62.8% among Liberals) and a disapproval rating of 24%. In fact, his "don't know" score was, at 39%, actually lower than Mulcair's (43.3%). He isn't on the job yet, and already Canadians have a better idea of what they think of him than Mulcair.

Broadly, this poll is consistent with what we have been seeing for months. The Conservatives hold a narrow lead while the Liberals seem to be on the upswing. The Tories are still in front on the Prairies and in Ontario, while the race is close in B.C., the NDP's support in Quebec is fragile but by no means weak (Mulcair had a higher approval rating here than Trudeau), and the Liberals lead in Atlantic Canada. The difference between EKOS's likely voter and general population results is instructive, however. The Conservatives can still expect to do better than the polls suggest in an election, while the Liberals appear to be suffering from the same sort of effect that has historically bumped the Greens down at the ballot box. That is something the next leader of the Liberal Party will need to prevent.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Time running out for the B.C. Liberals

The projection and forecasts for the upcoming election in British Columbia still show the B.C. New Democrats under Adrian Dix heavily favoured to win on May 14, with a 95.5% chance of winning the popular vote with less than 100 days to go before ballots are cast.

A new poll by EKOS Research for iPolitics showed that the NDP was still well in front and caused little change in the forecast. The New Democrats dropped slightly by 2.4 points to 45.8%, while the B.C. Liberals are down 0.3 points to 29.7% in the projection for Feb. 10. With a small uptick in metropolitan Vancouver (worth 2.7 points for the Liberals), Christy Clark's party picked up one seat in the projection. The NDP is now projected to win 65 seats, with the Liberals taking 19 and one independent being re-elected. If an election were held today, the New Democrats would have a 97.6% chance of winning it.

The B.C. Conservatives are up 1.5 points to 13.1% and the Greens are up 1.1 points to 9.6%, though both parties are not projected to win any seats.

The projection ranges do not envision anything other than an NDP majority to be in the cards with current support levels, though the forecast still considers the possibility of a Liberal win plausible. It is far from likely, however. Margins of this size are rarely overcome in so little time.
The forecast ranges are quite wide, however, due to the volatility introduced by the EKOS poll and its unusual results.

EKOS was last in the field Nov. 20-Dec. 3. That poll was not released to the public at the time, but since then the New Democrats dropped 2.2 points to 39% while the Liberals were up 3.5 points to 27.4%. The Conservatives were up 3.2 points to 14.6%, and the Greens were down 5.7 points to 13.5%. Fully 5.5% of respondents said they would vote for an independent candidate or another party.

Only the drop in Green support appears to be statistically significant, but that is understandable. When EKOS was last in the field, the federal by-election in Victoria in which the Greens finished a close second was taking place. It is likely that had an effect on the numbers.

Generally speaking, though, the poll's results are out of the ordinary. The last time the B.C. NDP was at 39% in any survey was in January 2012, 29 polls ago. The last time that the Greens were above 13% (excluding EKOS's last poll) was in December 2011, 30 polls ago. And the last time that support for "Other" was over 5% was in February 2011, 37 polls ago. You get the picture.

That high "other" result might be due to the large number of well-known independent candidates that will be running in the next election. But in EKOS's last poll, when there weren't as many independent candidates known to be running, support for other parties was still an unusually high 4.3%. It must be said that higher "other" results are par for the course for EKOS, though that might actually do them good in this election.

The lead for the NDP is smaller than other polls have shown, but the demographics work to their advantage. The New Democrats lead by a margin of 46% to 27% among 45-64 year olds and even by two points (37% to 35%) among British Columbians over the age of 65. These are the age groups that do most of the voting.

The NDP also leads among women by 24 points, though the race is close among men: 34% to 33%.

The EKOS poll had an interesting breakdown of provincial support by federal allegiance. It shows that 45% of federal Conservatives support the B.C. Liberals and 37% support the B.C. Conservatives, while 85% of federal New Democrats support the provincial NDP. Most (58%) federal Liberals side with the B.C. Liberals, but 28% of them support the B.C. NDP as well.

If we look at it another way, we see that Dix has less of a balancing act to play. The B.C. Liberal electorate votes 54% Conservative and 39% Liberal at the federal level. By comparison, the B.C. NDP's supporters are 63% NDP at the federal level, and only 13% supporters of the federal Tories and Liberals apiece. It makes for an easier 'coalition' of voters to keep together.

The EKOS poll might be a little out of step in the details, but it is broadly in line with what other surveys have shown: a double-digit lead for the New Democrats and relatively significant support levels for both the Conservatives and Greens. It is also in agreement with other polls that the changes in support over the last few months have been marginal at best. That is good for the NDP, but not so good for the B.C. Liberals.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

PCs narrowly ahead in three-way Ontario race

Earlier this week, Abacus Data released the first major poll of Ontario voting intentions following the selection of Kathleen Wynne as the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. The result was a close race - about as close as it can get between three parties. The electoral outcome of such a distribution of votes would be just as tight.
Abacus was last in the field provincially in Ontario on Dec. 7-8, and since then the Progressive Conservatives slipped two points to 33%, while the Liberals gained two points to reach 30% support. The New Democrats were unchanged at 31%, as were the Greens at 5%.

These shifts in support for the Tories and Liberals are within the margin of error (or would be if this was a standard probability sample). In fact, the lead the Tories hold over the NDP as well as the Liberals is also within the margin of error. Though the PCs would have the greatest chances of emerging ahead of the others if a vote was held on Feb. 5-6 (when this poll was in the field), the NDP and Liberals could have also won without this poll being "wrong". It is that close.

Among men, the PCs are doing quite well with 39% support to 29% for the NDP and 27% for the OLP. But among women, the Liberals are ahead 34% to 32% for the NDP and 27% for the Tories. While that is not an unusual gender gap compared to the federal scene or in other provinces, it is nevertheless striking.

Unfortunately, Abacus's last poll did not have detailed regional breakdowns (only GTA and the rest of Ontario), so a look at regional trends since December is not possible.

But in this poll, the Progressive Conservatives had the advantage in eastern Ontario with 41% to 30% for the Liberals and 25% for the NDP, in the GTA with 38% to 30% for the Liberals and 27% for the NDP, and in southwestern Ontario with 37% to 31% for the NDP and 23% for the OLP.

The New Democrats were ahead in northern Ontario with 42% to the Tories' 29% and the Liberals' 20%, while they were also in front in the Hamilton-Niagara region with 39% to 26% for the PCs and 25% for the Liberals.

The Liberals held the lead in Toronto, with 45% to 30% for the NDP and 21% for the Tories. All of these regional results are rather conventional.

The seat projection model for Ontario has been updated to be capable of incorporating regional polling data. After comparing the regional definitions of each of the pollsters active in Ontario, I have adopted a regional breakdown that will be the easiest to use despite every firm's definitions being slightly different.
With this poll's regional data, the model returns 41 seats to the Progressive Conservatives and 33 apiece to the NDP and Liberals.

The PCs win 30 of their seats in eastern, southwestern, and northern Ontario, while being shutout of Toronto. The NDP wins seats in each region of the province, but primarily in the north, in southwestern Ontario, in Toronto, and in the Hamilton-Niagara region. For the Liberals, 27 of their 33 seats come in and around Toronto.

Note that for northern Ontario, Barrie and the two Simcoes are included. This may not seem intuitive, as northern Ontario is generally considered to start at Parry Sound-Muskoka. But this region of Ontario is one of the more confusing ones to map out, as different pollsters put the ridings here in different regions. Barrie, Simcoe-Grey, and Simcoe North are in central Ontario for Ipsos-Reid, eastern and central Ontario for Environics, southwestern Ontario for Angus-Reid, and northern Ontario for Abacus and Forum. As I expect Abacus and Forum to be two of the more active firms on the provincial scene, and since they are the only two who seem to agree on where to place these ridings, they were located in northern Ontario in my model. Tweaks will need to be made to the regional data of other firms to get them to fit right.

This seat breakdown makes for an interesting hypothetical. Would Tim Hudak be able to form a government with 41 seats? He could turn to the Liberals or the NDP for support. Or, the Liberals and New Democrats could work together to form a government with a majority of seats. But who would be the Premier? Kathleen Wynne, who already holds the title, or Andrea Horwath, who narrowly had more of the popular vote?

Ontarians would seem to prefer Horwath, though Wynne is by no means disliked by the population. Abacus found that Horwath has the best favourability ratings of the three leaders, with 34% expressing a positive impression of her. Another 32% said they had a neutral impression, while only 21% had a negative impression. But that is not much different from Wynne's results: 30% positive, 31% neutral, and 21% negative.

Hudak's numbers are much worse, as 44% have a negative impression of him while only 23% have a positive impression (another 23% have a neutral impression). More problematic is that, while Horwath had only 10% with a very negative impression of her and Wynne just 12%, fully 28% of Ontarians said they had a very negative impression of Hudak, including 41% of people in Toronto. Among PC voters in 2011, 17% have a negative impression of Hudak, compared to 5% for Wynne among Liberal voters and 4% for Horwath among New Democrats. That is a problem in our increasingly personality-driven politics.

On who is the best person to be premier, 23% selected Horwath, another 23% selected Wynne, and 20% selected Hudak. Again, a very close result but this would seem to suggest that Hudak is polling worse than his own party (otherwise, he would be the choice for best premier by a whisker).

It is an interesting situation. The Progressive Conservatives have the strongest and seemingly most immovable base, and a good regional distribution of votes that wins them a lot of seats. But Hudak is not on the verge of breaking through among the population, limiting his party's potential gains. The Liberals have the larger base of people who have supported them in the past, and Wynne has good numbers so far, but they have been in government for a very long time and they are struggling to move the dial outside of Toronto and its environs. And the New Democrats have perhaps the most fragile assembly of supporters (as many of them are moving towards the NDP from other parties), though Horwath gives them a lot of upside and the party is doing relatively well in every region of the province. It wouldn't take much to give any one of these leaders the advantage in an election campaign.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

January 2013 federal polling averages

We are rather deep into February to take a look back into January, but after Nanos Research released its latest numbers - stretching from January 26 to 31 - only a few days ago, the wait was warranted. In all, four public federal polls surveying 5,666 Canadians were conducted during the month of January, showing relative stability for the New Democrats and Liberals and an uptick for the Conservatives.
The Conservatives averaged 35.1% support during the month of January, an increase of 2.3 points over December's average. This is the highest level of support the Tories have managed since August 2012.

The New Democrats were up 0.8 points in January to 29.2%, their first gain since March 2012. The Liberals were up 0.3 points to 23.4%.

The Bloc Québécois was down 0.5 points to 6%, while the Greens took the biggest tumble, falling 2.4 points to 5.2%. This has more to do with the polling firms that were in the field than any sort of knock against the Greens, though.

If we look at the last time that Angus-Reid (twice), Forum, and Nanos were all in the field within 30 days of each other, we must go back to May-June 2012.

Since then, which was near the height of Thomas Mulcair's "honeymoon" as NDP leader, the Tories picked up 1.5 points, the NDP dropped 5.3 points, the Liberals picked up 2.4 points, and the Greens were down 1.1 points.

In Ontario, the Conservatives led with 37.5% (+0.7) in January and have been steady in the province since November 2011. The New Democrats trailed with 30.4%, up 2.8 points, their first gain since August 2011. The Liberals were down for the third consecutive month, slipping to 25.6% (-1.0). The Greens were down 2.3 points to 5.1%.

The New Democrats were ahead in Quebec with 31.9%, their third consecutive month at around 32% after a seven-month period of almost unchecked decline in the province. The Liberals placed second with 24%, a gain of 1.7 points, while the Bloc Québécois was at 23.6%, a drop of 1.9 points since December. The Conservatives have been pretty steady in Quebec since March 2012, and averaged 16.3% (+1.7) in January. The Greens were down 1.1 points to 3.4%.

The Conservatives led in British Columbia with 36.5% (+3.7) to 32.2% for the New Democrats (-4.5). The Liberals were up 3.1 points to 20%, while the Greens were down 2.3 points to 9.6%.

In Alberta, the Tories were down 0.5 points to 60.7%, well ahead of the NDP at 17.5% (+1.8). That was the first gain for the NDP in the province since July 2012, while the Liberals scored their lowest result since December 2011 with 12.1%, a drop of 0.8 points since last month. The Greens were down 0.1 points to 6.9%.

The yo-yoing of the Conservatives that has been on-going since July continued in the Prairies, with the party jumping 8.6 points to 47.8%. That is, however, their best result since October 2011. The New Democrats were down 5.8 points to 27.6%, the Liberals were down 1.5 points to 17.2%, and the Greens were down 0.9 points to 6.4% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The Liberals held the lead in Atlantic Canada for the third consecutive month with 37.3%, up 0.3 points since December. The Conservatives had 31.1% support, up 3.4, their best since March 2012. The New Democrats placed third for the first time since the last federal election with 28.9%, down 0.4 points. The Greens were also down 3.1 points to 2.4%.
In the 338-seat House, and using the still-in-flux proposed boundaries, the Conservatives would have won 161 seats in a January election, a gain of 16 seats over December's results. The NDP fell four seats to 99, while the Liberals were down seven seats to 68. The Bloc Québécois shed five seats and would have won nine, while the Greens held onto their one.

The Conservatives made gains in most parts of the country, but particularly in the Prairies (+5), British Columbia, and Ontario (+4 in each). The New Democrats dropped five seats in British Columbia and three in the Prairies, but picked up one in Quebec and three in Ontario. The Liberals were down seven seats in Ontario but were up three in Quebec.

Approval ratings
Three of the polls in the field in January asked about approval ratings, and both Stephen Harper's and Mulcair's increased, up to 38% in Harper's case and to 41% in Mulcair's. Harper's disapproval dropped to 53%, its lowest level since May 2012. Bob Rae had a higher disapproval rating than approval rating (38% to 32%) for the first time in three months.

As January saw little major change, it is hard to pick winners or losers for the month. The Conservatives probably had the best polling month, increasing their national lead, moving into first in British Columbia, and making sizable gains elsewhere in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada. They are still well below where they need to be in British Columbia and Ontario to win another majority, however.

The New Democrats had a good month as their decreasing support was finally turned around, and making gains in Ontario is absolutely essential for the party. But the NDP also needs to be doing better in British Columbia, the Prairies, and Quebec, and the loss of support in Atlantic Canada (at least since the heydays of 2012) is significant.

For the Liberals, any month in which they are still a factor is a good month while they are en attendant of Justin Trudeau. The party was stable everywhere, with most changes in support being of less than two points. Gains in British Columbia and Quebec is good news - another slip in Ontario is not.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Liberal volatility continues in four federal polls

A rush of polls were released over the last few days, with new national surveys from Abacus Data, Forum Research, and Nanos Research in addition to a new Quebec poll by Léger Marketing. The four polls have some similarities, but they also have some important differences.
We'll start with the largest poll, conducted by Abacus Data on Feb. 5-6 and surveying 1,832 Canadians. It included an over-sample of Ontario.

Abacus was last in the field on Dec. 7-8. There has been little movement since then, with the Conservatives increasing one point to 35%, the NDP dropping one point to 31%, and the Liberals also decreasing by one point to 21%. The Greens and Bloc Québécois were unchanged at 6% apiece.

The Conservatives led in Ontario with 38%, followed by the NDP at 30% and the Liberals at 26%. They were also in the lead in Alberta with 62% to the NDP's 17% and the Liberals' 16%, while the Tories led in the Prairies with 51% to 27% for the NDP and 21% for the Liberals.

The New Democrats had the edge in British Columbia with 40% to 38% for the Conservatives and 14% for the Liberals. The NDP was also in front in Quebec with 34% to 26% for the Bloc, 19% for the Liberals, and 15% for the Conservatives. In Atlantic Canada, the NDP was ahead with 31% to 29% for the Liberals (a drop of 16 points) and 28% for the Conservatives.

Because of the over-sample in Ontario, Abacus had some breakdowns of support at the regional level in that province. The Conservatives topped the table in the GTA with 44%, eastern Ontario with 43%, southwestern Ontario with 41%, and the Hamilton-Niagara region with 40%. They managed 38% in the north and 26% in Toronto.

The New Democrats were in front in northern Ontario with 41%, and placed second in the Hamilton-Niagara region with 37%, southwestern Ontario with 33%, eastern Ontario with 29%, Toronto with 27%, and the GTA with 25%. The Liberals led in Toronto with 40%, and had 26% support in eastern Ontario, 25% in the GTA, 21% in southwestern Ontario, and 12% in Hamilton-Niagara and the north.

In almost every regard, Abacus's overall numbers were quite conventional and well in-line with the regional results we've seen from other firms.
Forum's poll, on the other hand, was somewhat unusual. The firm was last in the field Jan. 16-17, and since then the Conservatives slipped four points to only 32%, while the Liberals were up five points to 30%. Both of these shifts were outside the margin of error. The NDP was down two points to 26%, while the Bloc was down one to 6% and the Greens were unchanged at 4%.

Having the Liberals in second place is a bit of a change from other recent polls, though Forum has tended to have higher results for the party than other pollsters.

The Conservatives led in Alberta with 59%, while the Liberals were up 11 points to 22% and the NDP was down 11 points to only 9%. That 22% for the Liberals is very high, the party's best result in the province in any poll since April 2011, stretching back some 90 surveys. When something like that happens, a red flag is raised: either the result is an outlier, or it is capturing something new. In most cases, it is the former.

There was another unexpected result in the Prairies, where the Tories were down 13 points to 36% and the Liberals were up 24 points to 35%, their best result in 117 polls stretching back to March 2011. The NDP was third with 24%.

The Conservatives were also ahead in Ontario with 37% to 34% for the Liberals (+7) and 25% for the NDP.

The Liberals were in front in Atlantic Canada with 34% to 31% for the Conservatives and 29% for the NDP. The party was also ahead in Quebec with 31% to 29% for the NDP and 24% for the Bloc Québécois. Such a strong result for the Liberals in Quebec is not unusual for Forum.

The New Democrats had the advantage in British Columbia with 37% to 34% for the Conservatives and 19% for the Liberals.

Why the strong numbers for the Liberals in this Forum poll? The Abacus Data report included the unweighted and weighted sample sizes. Forum's report did not. You can see that in Abacus's report past voting behaviour is taken into account in the weighting, while we do not know if that is the case in Forum's polling. Hopefully it is, as the report shows that respondents to Forum's poll said that 31% of those who did vote in 2011 voted for the Conservatives, 27% for the NDP, and 23% for the Liberals (compared to 40% CPC, 31% NDP, and 19% LPC, as it should be). The sample that Forum put together put the Liberals in third in Quebec instead of fourth and the NDP first in the Prairies and British Columbia instead of well behind the Tories in second.

Does Forum make enough of an adjustment to correct for this discrepancy, or is the sample heavily tilted towards the Liberals? And even if Forum does weigh according to past voting behaviour, what does it say about the sample if it is so different from actual results? Abacus provides some contrast: according to their report, their sample voted 43% for the Conservatives in 2011, 29% for the NDP, and 19% for the Liberals. Much better results, which means less playing around with the weightings.
Then there is the Nanos poll. We haven't heard from Nanos since Nov. 9-15 (and to be fair to Forum, Nanos's reports contain less information than Forum's, though they do have the long and successful track record to rely upon). Since November, the Conservatives gained 0.5 points to reach 34.3%, while the Liberals were down 1.4 points to 27.6% and the NDP was down 0.1 points to 27.1%. The Greens were up one point to 4.7% while the Bloc was down 0.3 points to 4.6%.

All of these changes in support were within the margin of error.

The Conservatives led in Ontario with 36.2% to 28.9% for the NDP (+9) and 28.3% for the Liberals, while the Tories also led in the Prairies (which includes Alberta in Nanos's polling) with 57.5% to 17.4% for the NDP (-10.7) and 15.9% for the Liberals.

The Liberals were in front in British Columbia with 36.8%, their best result since Nanos's October poll. In fact, Nanos is the only polling firm to put the Liberals at over 30% support in B.C. since January 2011, which they have done on several occasions. The Tories trailed with 27.9% while the NDP was at 25.9%. The Liberals were also ahead in Atlantic Canada with 37.8% to 33.6% for the NDP and 28.6% for the Conservatives.

The NDP was first in Quebec with 31.1% to 25.8% for the Liberals, 19.8% for the Bloc, and 19.1% for the Conservatives (+7.6).

In terms of trends, if we look at changes since Abacus and Forum were in the field in November (when Nanos was also last in the field), we see there has been almost no movement since then. All of the parties have only moved two points or less in each firm's set of polls, with no consistency in direction. On average, the Tories were down 0.5 points, the NDP was unchanged, and the Liberals were down 0.1 points. That is about as steady as it gets.
Léger also reported on the situation in Quebec. It last had federal numbers in a poll from Dec. 3-6, and since then the New Democrats have held steady with 35% support. The Liberals were up eight points to 25%, while the Bloc was down five points to 24%. The Conservatives slipped four to 11% and the Greens were up one to 3%.

With such a large sample, one has to give Léger's numbers the most consideration. But they aren't much different from the other polls, who ranged between 29% and 34% for the NDP, 19% to 31% for the Liberals, and 20% to 26% for the Bloc.

The NDP led among francophones in this poll with 36% to 30% for the BQ and 20% for the Liberals, while in and around Montreal the New Democrats led with 36% to 27% for the Liberals and 22% for the Bloc.

The NDP was also ahead in Quebec City with 30% to 26% for the Liberals (that is a high number for the party in the region) and 22% for the Bloc. The Conservatives had only 19% in what is supposed to be their best part of the province. In the rest of Quebec, the NDP had 35% to 27% for the Bloc and 22% for the Liberals. That degree of uniformity for the NDP is golden at the ballot box.

The Liberals led among non-francophones with 45% to 31% for the NDP and 13% for the Conservatives, suggesting the party would stand a good chance for a return to prominence on the island of Montreal.

Using the 338-seat map (which is, at this point, an estimate considering that the boundaries have yet to be finalized and are still in the process of being tweaked), the Conservatives would be denied a majority in all three polls but would still win the most seats.

Their best result was in the Abacus poll, as they would win 156 seats to 109 for the New Democrats, 60 for the Liberals, 12 for the Bloc, and one for the Greens. With 21 seats, the NDP did exceptionally well in B.C., while the Tories took 69 seats in Ontario.

In Forum's poll, the Conservatives would win 136 seats to 101 for the Liberals, 85 for the NDP, 15 for the Bloc, and one for the Greens. The Liberals would take 44 seats in Ontario and seven in the Prairies, while the NDP would be reduced to 31 in Quebec.

And in Nanos's poll, the Conservatives would win 152 seats to 90 apiece for the NDP and Liberals, with five going to the Bloc and one to the Greens. The Liberals would win the most seats in B.C. with 15.

With Léger's numbers in Quebec, the New Democrats would hold 50 seats to 18 for the Liberals, seven for the Bloc, and only three for the Conservatives.
If we combine the seat projections for all four polls, we get some interesting seat ranges (using the best and worst individual results in each region).

The Conservatives could win between 128 and 164 seats, just shy of the 169 needed for a majority, while the NDP could win between 74 and 116 and the Liberals between 58 and 111. Only the Liberals (and the Bloc) are in a good position to make gains.

The ranges are narrowest in Alberta and Atlantic Canada, with the seats relatively set in terms of likely winners (one of the parties needs to collapse or breakthrough for major changes). Quebec and British Columbia are the wildcards due in large put to the volatile Liberal numbers: if the party tanks in B.C., the NDP can win a lot of seats. If the party does well in Quebec, they take a lot of seats from the NDP. There are also many seats up for grabs in Ontario (particularly for the Liberals) and the Prairies as well. Things are far from settled.

Justin Trudeau could shake things up, of course, with Forum's poll putting the Liberals under Trudeau at 41% to 30% for the Tories and 20% for the NDP, with leads in Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and the Prairies (of all places). That is a definite majority.

The leadership race is the likely cause for such odd numbers for the Liberals. Until the race concludes in April, we can probably expect odd results from time to time. But what will the polls look like after April?

Friday, February 8, 2013

B.C. NDP gains in Vancouver

If anyone thought that the B.C. Liberals were inexorably on the rise, a poll by Justason Market Intelligence put a damper on that, as it put the B.C. New Democrats 22 points ahead of the governing party. Newer polls will tell us if that turns out to be an outlier result, but the forecast now gives the New Democrats a 96.4% chance of winning the popular vote on May 14, up from 93.4%.

The projection as of Feb. 1 gives the NDP 48.2% of the vote and 66 seats, up from 46.5% and 56 seats that had been projected with the poling data running up toJan. 21. That is a big gain in seats for the NDP, primarily in metropolitan Vancouver where the Liberals have dropped more than six points. Province-wide, the Liberals are projected to have 30% support and would win 18 seats, a drop of 2.9 percentage points. If an election were held today, the NDP would have a 100% chance of winning the most seats - the gap is simply too large for polling or modelling error to miss the call.

The B.C. Conservatives are up 0.9 points to 11.6%, while the Greens are up 0.3 points to 8.5%. Both parties are projected to win no seats, but their projected high does put them in a position to win one. The NDP and Liberal seat ranges still do not overlap, at 49-76 and 6-36, respectively.

The forecast for May is not good for the Liberals, as their forecasted high is only 39% support. That could give them as many as 56 seats, however, so a win is still not out of the question. But the time remaining for the Liberals is slipping away, as are their odds of prevailing.
I analyzed the Justason poll and a leader poll by Angus-Reid for The Huffington Post Canada, and I invite you to read that article.

Justason was last in the field between Sept. 24 and Oct. 1, and since then the NDP did not budge at 48% support. The Liberals were down two to 26%, the Conservatives up three to 12%, and the Greens were down two to 11%.

This is a reversal of fortunes for the Liberals, who were gaining (modestly) in every poll from other firms. We will have to wait and see whether Justason is capturing a downturn in Liberal support before the others, or is merely pegging them at the low end of the margin of error.

The poll had some odd regional results, as it gave the New Democrats a wide lead in Vancouver but a narrow one on Vancouver Island. Many polls have shown the opposite to be the case, and indeed this is the lowest and highest Liberal and NDP results I have on record in Vancouver since at least the end of 2011. The NDP number on Vancouver Island is the lowest in any poll since December 2011, though it should be pointed out that Ipsos-Reid had the Liberals at 34% support on Vancouver Island as recently as November.

With less than 100 days to go before the vote, the B.C. Liberals cannot afford to be taking a step backwards. And as the NDP vote looks rock solid, there are few prospects for further gains. If Christy Clark turns things around, it will be a remarkable comeback.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Alberta Tories maintain lead

It hasn't been a particularly good few weeks or even months for Alison Redford and the Progressive Conservatives. Nevertheless, the party remains in decent form according to the latest set of numbers from Léger Marketing.
Léger has not reported from Alberta since the 2012 election, so we have no trends to look at. The poll was done via telephone as part of a wider survey for PwC, but the numbers align with what we have seen from other relatively recent polls.

The PCs led with 40%, down from the 44% they got in the 2012 election. Wildrose was down six points to 28%, while the New Democrats and Liberals were both up from the 10% they each earned in 2012. The NDP edged out the Liberals with 13% to 12% support. Another 6% said they would vote for other parties (Alberta, Evergreen, and independents, we can assume).

Oh, did you hear that the polls performed badly in Alberta in 2012? You might not have heard it, or it might have been the only poll-related thing you've heard for the past 10 months. There's no reason to assume that sort of problem occurring again here, particularly as these numbers are close to the last election's results. And Léger was not one of the worst culprits in that campaign, as they were in the field only until Apr. 16, a week before the vote took place.

For Liberals and New Democrats, these results are well within the norm. In four polls since August, the Liberals have ranged between 11% and 14% support while the NDP has scored between 12% and 14% in all five polls that have been released since the last election. The 28% for Wildrose is also generally what we have seen since the vote, with Environics having pegged the party at 29% in October.

The Progressive Conservatives are a few ticks lower than where they were in the summer and fall, as the party polled between 43% and 45% in those months. But the PCs were also at 39% in June 2012, so this 40% (along with the margin of error) is not anything to worry about for Redford - yet. It could be of concern if it is the start of a trend, but the next election will only be held in 2016.

I had to cull these numbers from the report by the Calgary Herald, so I have no regional numbers to pass along. It is still possible to do a seat projection based on the province-wide numbers, however, by applying the provincial swing to each of the model's three regions (Edmonton, Calgary, and the rest). The projection model was actually well calibrated in 2012 - it just needed better polling numbers. With the correct regional results, the model would have projected 65 seats for the Tories, 18 for Wildrose, and four for the NDP, instead of the actual result of 61 for the Tories, 18 for Wildrose, five for the Liberals, and four for the NDP. That the Liberals withstood their huge decrease in support in those five ridings was the sort of thing the model could not take into account, but with that odd result now on the books the same sort of error would not occur again (i.e., because the model missed the five seats in 2012 doesn't mean that it would necessarily underscore the Liberals again. In fact, it might be more likely to over-estimate these MLAs' resilience).
The Tories would actually grow their seat count with these numbers, thanks to the larger drop in Wildrose support. They would win 62 seats, evenly distributed between the three regions.

Wildrose would win 14 seats, all but two of them outside of Edmonton and Calgary.

The New Democrats would win six seats, five of them in Edmonton and the other in Lethbridge, while the Liberals would hold on to their five seats.

The electoral geography is very good for the Progressive Conservatives, who can still win a landslide result with a relatively modest lead. The other three parties win about half as many seats as their support would provide in a proportional system, but comparatively speaking that gives Wildrose a worse-looking result than either the NDP or Liberals, who have strong regional concentration. Unless Danielle Smith can definitively replace the Tories as the preferred option (and not in a flash-in-the-pan sort of way), she needs a regional block of her own to put a serious dent in the Tories' seat count.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Three-way race in Newfoundland and Labrador?

A poll emerged from Newfoundland and Labrador last week, showing that the Progressive Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador were in a very close race with the provincial New Democrats. The Liberals were not far behind. This is in some contrast to the polling that has been quarterly released by the Corporate Research Associates. What is going on?
Newfoundland and Labrador is a bit of an enigma - for a province as small as it is, a lot of polling is actually done. In addition to the CRA quarterly reports, we have this poll from MQO Research (which apparently polls on a monthly basis) and one from Environics last summer. By contrast, polls out of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia are far less frequent, despite their larger populations.

The results from these polls are not exactly consistent. CRA has been showing that the PCs have led without interruption since time immemorial (well, perhaps not) and by decisive margins. The closest race they have recently had gave the Tories a 12-point edge over the NDP in August and September 2012. But Environics made some waves in June 2012 by giving the NDP a three-point edge, and now MQO puts the two parties within one point of each other on a small sample of 336 people.

The poll gives the Tories 36% support, compared to 35% for the NDP and 28% for the Liberals. Drawing from such a small sample, conceivably any party could be in front. But for MQO, this is actually an improvement of the situation for the PCs, as they had the NDP leading the governing Tories for much of 2012. They just didn't release those numbers - these were presented to the Board of Trade in Newfoundland and Labrador and picked up by the media in the province.

So what is going on? CRA and MQO have apparently been in the field at the same time but have had different results. It could be methodological. It isn't clear how MQO is doing their monthly polling: their Atlantic Matters monthly report is done with an online panel while their monthly omnibus survey has an "open format". I'm not sure what that means, but since their website stipulates that the Atlantic Matters survey is done online while the omnibus is not described that way, it is probably safe to assume that the omnibus is not done online.

I haven't been able to find out whether this poll was done online or not, but since the Atlantic Matters report is sold as having federal and provincial voting intentions data, it is possible that this poll was done online. This would seem to jibe with Environics's survey of last year, which was also done online and had a similar result to what MQO was showing in their trend line slide at their presentation.

UPDATE: I misremembered that Environics poll from June. Turns out it was done by telephone, which makes the differences in results all the more puzzling.

It could simply be that MQO's online panel in Newfoundland and Labrador is, for one reason or another, skewed towards the NDP. Or that telephone surveys are skewed towards the PCs, but CRA had better results in the elections in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island in 2011 than MQO did.

The MQO poll shows a regional breakdown that gave the New Democrats a strong edge in the St. John's Region, with 48% support to 35% for the PCs and 16% for the Liberals. In the rest of the province, however, the race was very tight: 37% for the PCs, 34% for the Liberals, and 28% for the NDP. This suggests that the New Democrats are in a good position to win a lot of seats in the capital and hold their seats in the rest of the province, while the Liberals are competitive outside of St. John's. That puts the Tories in a bind.

Note that this poll also includes 1% support for the non-existent provincial Green Party.
With these numbers, the seat result would be very close. The model gives the NDP 18 seats to 17 for the Progressive Conservatives and 13 for the Liberals, but the results are close enough that the PCs could win between nine and 23 seats, the NDP between 13 and 21 seats, and the Liberals between 11 and 19 seats. So, there is the potential for better distribution of votes to give any of the three parties the most seats (though the Tories and NDP are in a better position).

The New Democrats win most of the seats in and around St. John's, and take a handful in the rest of the province. The Tories win seats throughout Newfoundland, while the Liberals take most of their seats west of the Avalon and Burin peninsulas. As you can see, it would not take much of a regional "surge" to tip things dramatically in one direction or the other.

In terms of who Newfoundlanders and Labradorians see as the best person to be premier, Kathy Dunderdale was ahead with 46% (unlike most other surveys, MQO presented this information after removing the undecideds and none-of-the-aboves). Lorraine Michael of the NDP had 31% while Dwight Ball, interim leader of the Liberals, had 23%. It would seem that Dunderdale is somewhat more popular than her party, particularly outside St. John's.

The next election in the province is years away, but it is interesting how voting intentions have moved back and forth since the last election, and how the NDP is showing some staying power in a province where they did not have much success before 2011. The next leader of the Liberals could change things, and Gerry Byrne and Scott Simms, Liberal MPs in the province, have both indicated their interest in the job. Out of all the provinces scheduled to go to the polls in 2015, Newfoundland and Labrador could be the most fascinating.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday special: a provincially elected Senate?

Bill C-7 establishes a framework for an elected Senate, limiting the number of years a senator can serve to nine. But by having senators chosen from a list of nominees elected at the provincial level and representing more than a dozen parties with opposing regional interests, the workings of the Senate could be substantially transformed – and chaotic.

You can read the rest of the article on The Globe and Mail website, part of a series of articles the Globe is doing on the Senate.

I'm not quite sure what is intended by Bill C-7 requiring candidates to be registered by provincial parties. Some provincial parties and elected senators might be very happy to caucus with the government of the day or a federal cousin, but not all of them would be. And their allegiances would be mixed. They would have more of a provincial mindset than the current crop of appointed senators, and would have no particular reason to be loyal to any of the federal party leaders. In fact, they might have very good reason to listen to their provincial party leader instead - if at the end of a nine-year term an elected senator hopes to run provincially (or for the Senate once more, I'm not clear on whether C-7 prohibits consecutive terms), they will need the provincial party leader to sign their nomination papers.

Provincially elected senators will not sit together easily. The government has not had any issue appointing those Alberta Progressive Conservatives to the Senate, since they can caucus with the federal Conservative senators. But what if a Wildrose candidate had won the senatorial election? And, more interestingly, what if both a PC and Wildrose senator were appointed to the Senate? Would they really want to sit together in the same caucus?

If Bill C-7 becomes law and the provinces go along, this probably wouldn't cause too much trouble in the short term with the Senate dominated by appointed senators sitting in federal caucuses. But once the number of appointed senators drops and elected senators with provincial party allegiances become more numerous, the tone of the Red Chamber would change dramatically. Would a B.C. Liberal senator side with the federal Conservatives or the federal Liberals? Where would Wildrose fall? Would Alberta and PEI PC senators see eye-to-eye on everything? What about Tory senators from Newfoundland and Labrador? Quebec Liberals? The CAQ? The PQ?

This sort of Senate sounds absolutely fascinating to watch, but I'm not quite sure how it would work in practice - if at all. It could be a moot point since Bill C-7 might never become law and all of the provinces might never go along. But it is an interesting thing to ponder, as this is what the government is proposing in its bill. Have the long-term implications of this bill been considered?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Three-way race in Ontario

Yesterday, the Toronto Star reported the results of a new Innovative Research poll taken after the OLP convention showing the Liberals narrowly edging out the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats in Ontario. With a small sample, the results of the poll are far from definitive - but it does have a few interesting nuggets.

I wrote about the poll for The Huffington Post Canada and I invite you to read the article, as I will just quickly go over the basic numbers here. I also invite you to take a look at the poll report itself, as it contains a lot of information on other interesting questions.
Before jumping to the conclusion that Kathleen Wynne is boosting Liberal fortunes, it has to be noted that Innovative appears to have been polling regularly (but releasing sparsely, those hoarders) and that the numbers for the Liberals and Tories have actually decreased since December, while the numbers for the NDP have increased. But with a margin of error of almost five points, we really can't see much about what this poll is showing, other than an effective three-way tie (generally what other polls have shown as well).

More interesting are the numbers on who is the best person to be premier: Wynne gets 24% to 18% for Tim Hudak and 13% for Andrea Horwath. That is a big drop since December, when Horwath was leading on this question with 21% to 20% for Hudak and only 19% for Dalton McGuinty. So, by this measure, we can say that Wynne looks to have improved matters for the Liberals to the detriment of the NDP.
With these provincial numbers, the Liberals could eke out another minority government with 45 seats. The Tories would be almost shut out of the Toronto area and win 34, while the New Democrats would take 27 seats. Not shown on the graph is one seat for the Greens. With 9%, or three times their score in 2011, the Greens could potentially win at least one seat, but I suspect that number is inflated (as is often the case with the Greens).

And they're off. If these kinds of numbers are backed up by some other polls, the appetite that the Tories and the NDP might have for an election could drop significantly. It is worth noting that since Wynne's leadership victory, the tone from the press gallery at Queen's Park has been more about an election in the fall or even the spring of 2014, rather than the snap election almost everyone assumed would occur if Sandra Pupatello had taken the leadership. The reaction that Hudak and Horwath will have to Wynne's throne speech will be interesting to see.