Thursday, March 28, 2013

Preferential ballot poll

I had a thought a little while ago, and asked David Coletto at Abacus Data whether he had ever considered running a poll that would mimic a preferential ballot. He thought it was a good idea, so last week he added it to his regular polling. And he provided me with the results.

I wrote about them for The Globe and Mail. I'm going to go over some of the results here, but the main pieces of information gleaned from the poll are presented in the article.

A little bit about the methodology: Abacus asked respondents to rank seven parties from 1 to 7, adding the Christian Heritage, Libertarian, and Pirate parties to the mix to provide a little variety, and to see whether anyone would rank these parties highly if given the chance.

Unfortunately, respondents were not given the option to stop ranking the parties at any point, which is what a preferential ballot does allow. 'Second choice' polling suggests that Conservative supporters are most likely to say that they have no second choice. However, this should have little effect on the seat distributions I calculated with the preferential ballot, as in only 83 of 338 ridings did the Conservative candidate drop-off the ballot before the 50% threshold was reached - and 53 of those were in Quebec, where Conservatives are probably less likely to not have a second choice.

The Globe article has the national breakdown of how supporters of each party would rank their ballots, but since I have unlimited room here let's go through the results region-by-region. Note that, outside of Ontario and Quebec (and even in those two provinces to some extent), the samples for each party are quite small. I have not included the Greens in some of the regional breakdowns below because it was based on 10 or fewer respondents.
We'll start in British Columbia. You can see the strength of the Greens here - they are the consensus second choice for New Democrats and third choice for Liberals, while they garner decent down ballot support across the board. But you also see that the Conservatives do surprisingly well as a second choice for Liberals in B.C., which could potentially back-fire if the party ever co-operates with the New Democrats.
In Alberta and the Prairies (I combined them as the samples were just too small), the Liberals are the consensus second choice for New Democrats, while Liberals are more likely to go to the NDP as their second choice than they are in British Columbia.
Things break down a little more normally in Ontario, with Conservatives choosing the Liberals second, the NDP third, and the Greens fourth. New Democrats choose the Liberals second, the Greens third, and then split their ballot on their fourth choice.

Liberals are a little more mixed, giving the NDP their second choice and the Greens their fourth, but splitting between the three parties on the third ballot.
Quebec has the most interesting result. Conservatives split between the Liberals and NDP, and very few go over to the Bloc. The Liberals split between the NDP and Conservatives, and very few go to the Bloc.

For the New Democrats, though, more than two-thirds list the Bloc Québécois as their second or third choice. Another large portion go over to the Liberals as their second choice and the Greens as their third, but the Bloc only really has room for growth down ballot from NDP supporters. The problem with that is that in most ridings the race is between the NDP and the Bloc.

The Bloc goes over to the NDP in massive numbers. It is interesting to note that only 2% of Bloc voters list the Liberals as their second choice - though that grows considerably for the third and fourth rankings. They are also the party least likely to rank one of the three fringe parties among their top four.
I include Atlantic Canada in order to complete the region-by-region breakdown, but the samples are very small. Nevertheless, their is nothing too unusual in the results despite the small number of respondents.

In terms of seats, I used the first choices to distribute support across ridings as I would do with a normal poll.

In a number of seats, a candidate has majority support right off the bat. In total, the Conservatives win 60 seats before the instant run-off begins (27 in Alberta, 15 on the Prairies, 13 in Ontario, and five in B.C.). The New Democrats have majorities in 23 seats (14 in Ontario, three in B.C., two each in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and one each in Alberta and the Priaires), while the Liberals have 11 majorities (six in Atlantic Canada, three in Quebec, and one each in B.C. and the Prairies). The Greens also win a majority in Elizabeth May's riding with first choice support.
This chart shows the number of ridings in which each party leads with first choice support only. The Green leads in Atlantic Canada and the North are just a statistical fluke of the poll. You can see that these results are relatively standard, based on what other polls have been showing.

But the results are radically different once the preferential ballots are distributed to give each riding an MP with majority support.
The Conservatives lose one seat in the north, two each in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, six in the Prairies (all the seats in which they led but did not have a majority), and 16 in Ontario. The Liberals lose one seat in Quebec in which they led on first choice ballots, while the NDP loses two (both in Ontario). The Bloc loses all four, while the Greens lose the one in the north.

That means that the NDP comes from behind to win one seat in British Columbia, four on the Prairies, seven in Quebec, and eight in Ontario. The Liberals win one seat each in British Columbia and Quebec, two each on the Prairies, in Atlantic Canada, and the north, and 10 in Ontario in which they trailed on first choice balloting. That is a huge and important difference, and is primarily due to the inability for the Conservatives to grow after the first choice ballots are counted. In many cases, they lose ridings in which 40% to even 42% listed the Tories as their first choice.

Small parties are rarely included in polls, so it is interesting to see what happens when they are added to the pile. It didn't change much, though. Only 1% listed Christian Heritage as their first choice, 0.9% listed the Libertarians, and 0.7% listed the Pirate Party. These parties never run full slates, so even these levels of support would be hard to achieve.

But which fringe party found the most favour with supporters of each of the main parties? Christian Heritage was the most preferred fringe party of Conservatives, with 11% of them ranking the CHP as either their second, third, or fourth choice. The Libertarians were the most popular choice of Liberals, with 7% listing them in the top four (it may have to do with the similarity in their names). The Pirate Party was the favourite of the Bloc (7% listed it in their top four), the NDP (9%), and the Greens (14%).

Overall, 30% of the ranking slots in the top four on Green ballots were occupied by one of the three fringe parties. Conservative supporters reserved 24% of their slots for these parties, while that dropped to 18% among New Democrats, 16% among Liberals, and only 12% for the Bloc. It is perhaps not too surprising that supporters of the Greens, the fringiest of the main parties, are most likely to consider the other parties highly. For the Conservatives, it may have been a proxy "none of the above" response.

An interesting poll to say the least.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Large gap widens further in B.C.

The probability that the B.C. Liberals will be able to overcome the now 19.5-point gap that separates them from the B.C. New Democrats by May 14 has fallen to less than 1 in 50. Even a seasoned pollster like Mario Canseco of Angus-Reid, with memories of Alberta still lingering, says a comeback at this point "would be impossible." He is almost certainly right.

Crazier things have happened, of course. But barring some unforeseen and catastrophic event that cripples the New Democrats in the next seven weeks, there is little hope for the B.C. Liberals in the upcoming election. At least in terms of winning it outright.

That doesn't mean that the party should give-up - as that article by the Globe and Mail's Ian Bailey points out, there will be life after the May 14 election for the Liberals who manage to get re-elected or elected for the first time. For one thing, there might be a party to rebuild.

Despite their chances of re-election dropping to a new low in ThreeHundredEight's forecast, the B.C. Liberals still command the support of almost one-in-three British Columbians. They have dropped 1.6 points in the projection from where they stood as of the polls running to Mar. 12, and now stand at 30.4% (or between 28.2% and 32.6%). The New Democrats slipped only slightly, by 0.5 points to 49.9% (or 47.5% to 52.3%).

That widened the margin by 1.1 points, costing the Liberals a single seat in the projection. They are now projected to win 20 to 64 for the New Democrats (and one independent). But the projection ranges have moved more significantly: from 48 to 75 seats the New Democrats are now projected to win between 53 and 75. The Liberals have dropped from a projected high of 37 seats to only 30, putting them in range of winning between eight and 30 seats.

The B.C. Conservatives picked up 0.8 points to reach 10.4% support, while the Greens are up 1.2 points to 7.5%, thanks in large part to a much stronger result in Angus-Reid's latest poll for the party on Vancouver Island.

That is where the biggest change in support occurred, with the Liberals falling 4.4 points to 25.1%. The Greens picked up the slack, gaining 3.4 points to reach 11.4%. The NDP is unchanged at 55.4%, and are poised to sweep the island.

In metropolitan Vancouver, the New Democrats decreased by a minuscule 0.1 point to 51.3%, but due to the 0.9-point drop for the Liberals picked up a seat in the region. The Conservatives are up 0.9 points to 9.4% support.

In the Interior and North, the New Democrats and Liberals both dropped by 0.9 and 1.6 points, respectively, to 42.9% and 32%. There was no change in seats, but the projected high for the Liberals fell from 19 to 15 seats in the region. The Conservatives gained 1.6 points to reach 15.3% in their best part of the province.

I wrote about this new Angus-Reid poll for The Huffington Post Canada here, so I won't go into too much detail about it. All of the changes in support from Angus-Reid's Feb. 21-22 poll do not seem statistically significant, but the Liberals certainly can't afford to be slipping (by three points, in this case) at this stage of the race.

Notably large changes, however, include a drop of five points for Christy Clark on the question of who would make the best premier (Adrian Dix scored 31% to Clark's 16%), and the seven-point increase in Clark's disapproval rating, to 65%. Her net score is now -38, compared to +8 for Dix. And 58% of respondents said their opinion of Clark had worsened over the preceding three months. Only 5% said their opinion had improved, compared to 20% who said the same about Dix.

In short, there is no good news for the B.C. Liberals in this poll. They trail among men and women and among the oldest British Columbians, along with younger voters. Clark is bested by Dix on every issue that was asked in the poll, including on the economy and health care, the two most important issues in B.C. Her approval rating is getting worse while Dix's is getting better. There is no silver lining here. When the Ontario Liberals made a (much more modest) comeback against the PCs in 2011, they did so on better personal numbers for Dalton McGuinty than Tim Hudak's. That was the advantage that they had going into the election - and leadership is an absolutely vital one. Here, the NDP has the edge on that question. If the Liberals have a way-out in mind, what is it?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday update: LPC leadership race and the OLP in Toronto

This week's Friday update looks at a new poll that shows the Ontario Liberals in fine form in the city of Toronto, and the state of the Liberal leadership race.

126,000 Liberals in, Bertschi out

The deadline for registering for the Liberal leadership vote has come and gone, and the final tally is 126,000 Liberal members and supporters eligible to vote. That is quite a bit lower than the 294,000 members and supporters that were initially signed-up with the party. The Liberals shot themselves in the foot a little by trumpeting that number, since it was probably unrealistic that every person they signed up at a meet-and-greet or who gave minimal information on a website would take the next step and register.

But that 126,000 is not exactly a bad number - it is actually quite good. The New Democrats had 131,000 members eligible to vote in their leadership race, and the NDP is the Official Opposition with almost three times the number of seats the Liberals hold in the House of Commons. And, in the end, only 65,000 NDP members voted on the first ballot of their leadership race, a turnout of just under 50%.

Since registering for the Liberal leadership race was a two-step process, and since all of the voting will be done comfortably from home ahead of time, it is quite likely that the Liberals will have a higher "turnout" than what the NDP had, both in absolute and relative terms. If, after all this, the Liberals cannot get more than 65,000 people to vote (or 22% of the initial 294,000), then this process will have been a failure.

That the result is a foregone conclusion will be a challenge in getting people to vote. The endorsement rankings are almost certainly not going to be a good reflection of vote share, but they are just as almost certainly a good reflection of who Liberals think will win.

And, clearly, they think Justin Trudeau will win. No one with any reputation within the party has decided to stand behind either Martin Cauchon or Martha Hall Findlay, and Joyce Murray still has a very small list of endorsers compared to Trudeau. Her highest profile endorsers, actually, come from outside the party.

But her list did get a little longer, however, as first-term MP for Kingston and the Islands, Ted Hsu, threw his weight behind her. It gives Murray her first caucus endorsement. Hsu had endorsed Marc Garneau, but with Garneau out Hsu went over to Murray in a very pragmatic way. He more or less admitted Trudeau will win and that he will be happy to be part of Trudeau's team, but that he will be voting for Murray.

That did not change the endorsement rankings very much, but it has bumped Murray up a little. (You can get more details on the endorsement rankings here.)

David Bertschi dropped out of the race, and with it went his two endorsers from his Orléans riding. Bertschi decided not to endorse anyone else. That shrinks the list down to six, four of whom are women (and two of the top three).

Ontario Liberals continue to lead in Toronto

New this week was an IVR poll from Forum Research, showing that the OLP remains in good standing in Toronto. But the New Democrats are still in the running for more than a few seats.

The poll gave the OLP 42% support in the city, up four points from Forum's last poll of Feb. 26-Mar. 1 (that is still within the margin of error). The New Democrats had 30% support, virtually unchanged, while the Progressive Conservatives were down to 25%.

Compared to the 2011 provincial election, that is a gain of three points apiece for the NDP and Tories, and a drop of five points for the Liberals.

The Liberals were ahead in every region of the city except Scarborough, where the race is a three-way one: 34% for the PCs, 32% for the NDP, and 30% for the Liberals.

This is the sixth consecutive poll showing the Liberals leading in Toronto, followed by the NDP, and with the Tories in third. Since Kathleen Wynne became OLP leader, the party has averaged 41.5% in the city over five polls, compared to 28.6% for the NDP and 23.9% for the Tories. That puts this survey well within the norm.

In terms of seats, the Liberals would win 15 and the New Democrats would take seven, stealing York South-Weston and Scarborough-Rouge River from the OLP.

But Toronto remains the Liberal base. They need to hold off the New Democrats here as the Liberals are currently in a position where either they or the PCs could win the most seats in an election - a loss of more than a couple seats in Toronto to the New Democrats could move the Tories ahead in the overall seat count, due to their preponderance in the rural parts of the province. So while Toronto is unlikely to be a major battleground on the whole, some of its neighbourhoods will need to be fought over tooth and nail.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Little hope for B.C. Liberals in province's polling history

If the B.C. Liberals read The Globe and Mail, they will be pretty depressed this morning. Not one, not two, but three articles are on the website detailing just how bad things are for the B.C. Liberals and their hopes for re-election. One of them is mine.

The article answers the question of whether the polls in British Columbia really do tighten up as an election approaches, a claim I've seen several times when people have been trying to make sense of the numbers. My article shows that they are indeed right, but that even that tendency provides little succor for the B.C. Liberals. They are just too far back.

Read the article to get the full explanation. But Ipsos-Reid put the gap between the two parties at 19 points last week, while Angus-Reid puts it at 20 points today (my article was filed before Angus-Reid's poll was published, but it doesn't change anything in the analysis - in fact, it makes it worse for the B.C. Liberals). The current projection, not taking into account Angus-Reid's poll, puts the gap at 18.4 points.

How often has the difference between the margin in a poll and the margin on election night been larger than 18.4 points with, say, 75 days left before the election (Angus-Reid's poll was in the field with 56 days to go)? Not once, at least since 1996. My records of 30 polls taken within 75 days of a B.C. election in the last four campaigns have never shown a narrowing of the gap of more than 18 points, a bar that was reached in only one of the 30 polls. The next largest tightening was 14 points.

That doesn't mean the B.C. Liberals are cooked, as records are made to be broken. But the ingredients for a historic comeback just don't look to be in the cards.

The chart above tracks the polls that were taken in the six months prior to each election in 1996, 2001, 2005, 2009, and 2013 (my records for 1996 do not stretch back further than 74 days).

As you can see, the B.C. Liberals are currently polling worse in the run up to the 2013 election than they have in the previous four elections. Their support in 1996, 2005, and 2009 was relatively similar, and did not move too much during the campaign, while their support in 2001 was quite high. But their current bout of polling has been consistently below where they were in pre-campaign periods over the last 17 years. That is not a good sign for them.

By the same token, things have never been better for the New Democrats. Just like the B.C. Liberals, their support in 1996, 2005, and 2009 was generally the same. The election in 2001 was particularly bad for the NDP, but their current polling is better than it ever was in previous elections stretching back to 1996.

Note as well how the polls have tended to under-estimate NDP support (the lines at the y-axis are reaching up to the election result). That is another good indicator for the New Democrats, as the B.C. Liberals have tended to be over-estimated. If that happens again, the Liberals could find themselves on the lower edge of this site's projection ranges, and the NDP on the higher end.

Nothing is set in stone in politics, however. The federal New Democrats were not poised to replace the Bloc Québécois in Quebec in the run-up to the 2011 election, either. Some horrific scandal could hit the NDP or Christy Clark could run into a burning house and save a baby's life. If the B.C. Liberals do comeback to win this election it will be a rather exceptional political event. It could happen - but it just isn't likely at this point.

Monday, March 18, 2013

B.C. NDP hits majority support

The B.C. New Democrats have moved above 50% support in British Columbia for the first time in the projection, thanks to a new poll from Ipsos-Reid that gave the NDP 51% support province-wide. The party is now forecast to have a 97.7% chance of winning the popular vote on election night and, if the election were held today, a 97.6% chance of winning the most seats.

Since the last projection of Feb. 25, which incorporated all polls in the field up to Feb. 22, the New Democrats have picked up 2.8 points and now lead with 50.4%. The B.C. Liberals increased by 0.8 points to 32%, but dropped one seat to 21. The NDP picked up that seat and are projected to win 63, though the ranges for both parties have widened to 48-75 for the NDP and 8-37 for the Liberals. That puts the New Democrats very safely in majority territory.

The B.C. Conservatives slipped 1.2 points to 9.6%, while the Greens fell 2.3 points to 6.3% support.

The New Democrats improved their position in Metro Vancouver, increasing by four points to 51.4%, while the Liberals were down 1.1 points to 32.5%. The two parties swapped three seats, with the NDP now up to 28 in the region and the Liberals down to 11. Both parties gained on Vancouver Island, however, with the NDP up 2.7 points to 55.4% and the Liberals up 4.3 points to 29.5%. The Greens, who did poorly in Ipsos-Reid's poll, slipped 6.2 points to only 8% on the island (though their range puts them as high as 11.5%).

In the Interior and North, the New Democrats dropped by 0.4 points to 43.8% while the Liberals increased by 2.2 points to 33.6%. The Liberals took two seats from the NDP in the projection in the process. This remains the one region of British Columbia while the Liberals have the greatest chances of salvaging things - that was made easier by a 1.2-point drop by the Conservatives to 13.7%.

Ipsos-Reid has not been in the field since Nov. 26-30, and much has happened in the intervening four months. Nevertheless, the changes in support were within the margin of error (or would be with a random sample): the NDP gained three points, while the Liberals dropped three points to 32%.

The Conservatives and Greens were unchanged at 9% and 7%, respectively. Support for independents and other parties was only 1%, also unchanged from November.

The New Democrats held an eight-point edge over the Liberals among men - and 29 points among women. The NDP was also ahead, by a margin of 51% to 33%, among British Columbians over the age of 55.

Regionally, the NDP increased to 56% on Vancouver Island and 53% in Vancouver, but slipped to 43% in the Interior and North. The Liberals were down in Vancouver to 31% and on Vancouver Island to 31%, but held steady in the Interior and North with 34%.

The personal ratings of Christy Clark remain troublesome, as only 30% of British Columbians approve of her performance. Her disapproval increased by six points to 65%, while Adrian Dix had a 51% to 40% split. Potentially problematic, however, is that his disapproval rating increased by six points.

John Cummins had an approval rating of 16%, while his disapproval rating fell by seven points to 44%. Jane Sterk of the Greens was steady at 23% approval to 20% disapproval.

If we remove the "don't knows", Cummins has the worst approval rating at 27%, compared to 32% for Clark, 53% for Sterk, and 56% for Dix.

But the poll did have some rare good news for Clark. While Dix beat Clark by wide margins on who was best able to protect the environment and deliver programs and services to British Columbians, Clark was narrowly ahead on the questions of economic management (40% to 32%), creating jobs (38% to 33%), and managing the province's finances (38% to 34%). The silver lining for Dix is that among older British Columbians (i.e., those who vote in the largest numbers) the margin was far narrower on managing the economy and creating jobs, and he scored better than Clark on financial management.

So, the theme of the economy remains a potentially strong one for Clark. But her advantage is still quite small. Dix did much better on being able to deliver programs and services (54% to 24%), which is significant considering that 24% of British Columbians said that health care was the top issue (more than any other issue), and that 10% identified ethics and accountability as most important. Nevertheless, the economy (21%) and the deficit/budget (10%) scored highly as well.

But if the economy was the only vote-deciding issue, and with the upcoming election now front and centre in provincial news, Clark's Liberals would be doing a lot better. Their time might simply be up.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday update: Quebec, PLQ leadership, and Labrador by-election

For the past few weeks, I have been doing updates to the site on Fridays, taking care of any new polls that need to be added to the By-Election Barometer and updating the Liberal leadership endorsement rankings. I haven't posted about it on the front page, but going forward I will change that and use Fridays to quickly go over some of the polls and topics I haven't had a chance to tackle throughout the week, as well as shed some light on the updates to the other parts of the site.

This week's Friday update includes a look at the latest poll from Quebec, the endorsement rankings for this weekend's Quebec Liberal Party leadership convention, and updates for the by-elections in Kent and Labrador.

Close race in Quebec continues

A new poll by Léger Marketing released earlier this week via Le Journal de Montréal showed that the Parti Québécois held the narrowest of leads over the Liberals, with 31% to 30% support. The Coalition Avenir du Québec trailed with 20%, while Québec Solidaire (9%), the provincial Greens (5%), and Option Nationale (4%) brought up the rear.

The poll also included some details on the PLQ leadership race. Philippe Couillard remained the favourite of the three candidates, and the only one who could apparently keep the Liberals competitive with the PQ.

I wrote about the poll for The Huffington Post Canada. You can read that article here.

The Léger poll showed very little change from their last survey from early February: the PQ remained in front among francophones and in the regions of Quebec, while the Liberals had the advantage among non-francophones, in and around Montreal, and in Quebec City.
With the results of the Léger poll, the Parti Québécois would increase its seat total from 54 to 61, putting them just short of a majority government. The Liberals would win 53 seats, up from 50, while the CAQ would drop from 19 to only eight. Québec Solidaire would take two seats and Option Nationale would win one.

Note that the seat for Option Nationale is Jean-Martin Aussant's in central Quebec. Aussant has already announced he plans to run in a Montreal riding in the next election. Until he identifies that riding, the model will continue to assume he'll run in Nicolet-Bécancour, and whether he wins it or not in the model will be a proxy for a hypothetical Montreal run. But that means the CAQ wins one fewer seat than they might otherwise win - or does it? If Aussant runs in Montreal, it will probably be a riding already held by the PQ. If he wins it, that means one fewer seat for the PQ but then it opens up Nicolet-Bécancour to that party. They held it before Aussant left to form his own party, and the CAQ did not win it by a wide margin in September. In the end, it probably evens out.

With these seat numbers, you might see the ingredients for a sovereigntist majority. The PQ could combine with QS and ON for a total of 64 seats, enough to have an outright majority and a friendly Speaker. But it might not be so simple - the PQ campaigned on the left but so far has governed in the centre. In fact, the most critical voices in the National Assembly often come from the two Québec Solidaire MNAs. Pauline Marois would have to swing quite strongly to the left to get both smaller sovereigntist parties on their side. That could be easier than currying favour with the Liberals or CAQ, but it is difficult to envision a coalition government.

One last thing to note before moving on: François Legault wrote on Twitter that the reason his party has scored so low in Léger's last two polls (both put his party at 20%) while doing better in CROP's surveys (27% in their last two polls) is because Léger does not include the names of the party leaders anymore, as CROP still does. According to Léger, that is because the Liberals only have an interim leader.

Legault argues that this is the cause of the lower numbers, as his party is not as well known as he is. He might have a point - but on the other hand, the mention of Jean-Marc Fournier (interim leader of the PLQ) might unnaturally depress his party's numbers. And the names of the party leaders are not present on ballots (unless your name is Mario Dumont). Legault is probably right about why Léger's results for the CAQ have been lower than CROP's. But that doesn't necessarily mean that CROP is the more accurate of the two.

Couillard favoured in the endorsement rankings

The Liberals will be choosing their new leader this weekend, and the safe money is on Philippe Couillard. But the Liberals are holding an old fashioned delegated convention, so anything can happen. The most likely outcome is a win by Couillard or Raymond Bachand. The endorsement rankings system agrees.
By adapting the system for the provincial level (treating MNAs as MPs), Couillard ends up on top with 40% of the endorsement points. The PLQ caucus is almost evenly split between the three candidates, but Couillard has some of the bigger names in caucus (Yves Bolduc, Sam Hamad, Gerry Sklavounos, Marc Tanguay, Kathleen Weil, among others) and a few long-time veterans (Henri-François Gautrin, Yvon Marcoux). In addition, he has more support from former MNAs, including Norman MacMillan and Benoît Pelletier, than his rivals. That gives him the edge in the endorsement rankings, but puts a first ballot victory out of range.

PLQ endorsements
Bachand comes in second with 31% of the endorsement points. His caucus support is smaller than Couillard's but it is slightly more experienced (they have won an average of 3.1 elections, compared to 2.8 for Couillard). He has the support of three strong women in the caucus in Marguerite Blais, Christine St-Pierre, and Lise Thériault, but not enough support among former MNAs.

Pierre Moreau brings up the rear with 29% of the endorsement points. He has more caucus support than Bachand, but his supporters are the least experienced (they have won an average of 2.5 elections). He has virtually no support among former MNAs, at least according to the endorsement information that is available here and on their respective websites (Moreau's is very bare bones).

I think the endorsement rankings are a very plausible first ballot result, though I suspect Moreau will not do as well and Bachand might end up closer to Couillard. This seems to be the general consensus in terms of the order of the candidates, but if the result is very similar to this then Couillard could be in trouble. A lot of Moreau's supporters might be expected to go with Bachand, so if Couillard does not end up closer to the 50% mark he could be overtaken by Bachand on the second ballot. It isn't an outcome that would be very shocking, though the party would probably be better off with Couillard (if the polls are right, at least).

Kent by-election still favours Gallant

The forecast for the New Brunswick provincial by-election in Kent remains 'Strong Liberal', thanks to the poll from earlier this week that put the Liberals under Brian Gallant ahead of the Progressive Conservatives.

Liberals also favoured in Labrador federal by-election

Peter Penashue's resignation due to improper spending practices in the last federal election came as a bit of a surprise. As the election was decided by only 79 votes, it makes Labrador a seat that the Conservatives may have difficulty holding on to.
The by-election forecasting model thinks that the Liberals will easily win the riding back. It is a traditionally Liberal riding after all, as Penashue was the first Conservative to win it since Ambrose Peddle in 1968 (and that was for only one term).

The Conservatives have tanked in Atlantic Canada while the Liberals have improved considerably, making Labrador a riding that should swing. But it is a riding with a small population and, due to its geography and history, is hyper-local.

Will that play in Penashue's favour or not? How has the local population reacted to his resignation and the reasons behind it? The by-election will let us know. And who will run for the Liberals? Will Todd Russell win the nomination or will it by Yvonne Jones, who has stated she intends to run? She was formerly the leader of the NL Liberal Party, and the model considers her a "star" candidate. Both Russell and Jones bring a virtual incumbency effect of their own, making this one a tough fight for the Conservatives.

Unless Labradorians react strongly against Penashue, I imagine that the margin will be a lot closer than the 25 points from the rolling average. But one has to consider the Liberals the heavy favourites.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Something old, something new: the Conservative slide in the polls

In this week's piece for The Globe and Mail, I take a closer look at the polling trends. They are certainly negative for the Conservatives, but as I show in my article it is nothing they haven't seen before. Sort of - while the mid-mandate slide is something they experienced after the 2006 and 2008 elections, this one might be the worst yet.


I love scatter plot charts as they are probably the best way to represent just how noisy the data can be in polls. But they also show how (to borrow from Nate Silver), there is often a signal in the noise.

A simple linear trend line gives one indication of where each party's support is headed, but it is worthwhile to look at where they are meandering as well. The chart above shows support at the national level, and a few things are immediately clear: the Conservatives are sliding and the Liberals are gaining. That Conservative slide is especially consistent, as their polling has been rather tight. Liberal polling is far more erratic (likely due to the leadership race), but it is clearly improving. The New Democrats have been steady, for the most part, aside from the bump after Thomas Mulcair took over.

Plotting the data like this shows how noisy it is: various polls were placing the NDP and Liberals second or third during the NDP leadership race, while they placed the NDP and Conservatives first or second after Mulcair's victory. Now, they are putting the parties in a single mass.

And this is with large samples of 1,000 people or more. The effect of smaller regional samples becomes quickly apparent when we plot the data in the same way at the regional level.

You can see this quite clearly in British Columbia. The Liberals and Greens have been relatively consistent, but even so their results vary wildly. The Conservatives and NDP have varied even more, but as the race is almost entirely between them you can see just how much the two parties overlap (you can also see a few individual Liberal results squeaking into the top of the graph). The Greens, Liberals, and NDP have been relatively steady overall, but a negative trend is clear for the Tories.

In Alberta, the Conservative lead is obvious but the negative trend is also present. Among the opposition parties, the Liberals are clearly gaining while the NDP are on a slight decline. It isn't much, but it is interesting to see how the NDP was clearly ahead of the Liberals until the fall of 2012, at which point their poll results start to get mixed up.

The Prairies are a bit of a mess, but the order of the parties is easy to see. The Conservative slide is less pronounced here, but you can see that the NDP appears to be heading south while the Liberals are gaining. You can also see that after Mulcair's victory the NDP was flirting with first place in the region, but have not done so for several months.

In Ontario, the Conservatives have been on a negative trend since the election, with their polling dropping from 40%+ to the mid-30s. The New Democrats and Liberals are jumbled together, though, with the only clear difference having been in the middle of 2012. The trend for the NDP is a positive one, but it is hard to see it in the data.

Five parties means a jumbled chart for Quebec, but even so you can easily see where the parties are. You can also see how the NDP's fortunes have ebbed and waned. You see good numbers for them after the election, sinking numbers during the leadership race, soaring numbers after Mulcair's win, and a slow decline since. It varies greatly with the trend line, but you can see the overall slide.

The mass of results for the other parties is a little more difficult to see through, but the trend lines help. For one, the Conservative results are hidden behind those of the Bloc Québécois and Liberals for most of the chart, before they slip below them more recently. That says all you need to know about that. The Bloc's numbers have been pretty steady, while the Liberals are heading northwards. You can see that the Liberals flirted a little with the NDP before Mulcair became leader, and is now doing so again (and with stronger results).

And then we come to Atlantic Canada, which understandably has the noisiest data. Sample sizes are usually the smallest in Atlantic Canada and the Prairies, but unlike in the Prairies the race here is a three-way one. That puts the parties in a bit of a tangled mess. Nevertheless, you can see the trends if you try: the Conservatives started out with the best results, then it was the NDP that moved ahead, and now it is the Liberals. The trend lines are pretty stark, with the NDP steady, the Conservatives falling steeply and the Liberals gaining. 

It is an interesting way to look at the polls. The Conservative slide is present in each region, the Liberals are gaining in most of the country, and the New Democrats are trending upwards in some parts of Canada and downwards in others. Averaging the polls out as I do on this site is one way to make some sense of it, but plotting the data this way shows how there is a different way to make sense of it. It demonstrates that the general trends are visible, even if the polls can appear to be all over the place. Sometimes, though, they leave little doubt as to what is going on.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Garneau out, Trudeau definitely in

A bombshell landed in the Liberal leadership campaign today when Marc Garneau announced he was dropping out and throwing his support behind Justin Trudeau. But the outcome of the race was hardly in doubt before Garneau's withdrawal, and apparently the former astronaut agreed.

I haven't posted the endorsement rankings on the front page since they were published for the first time on January 11. Instead, I've just been updating the 2013 LPC endorsement rankings page each Friday with a little analysis. It simply hasn't been very interesting: only Trudeau has gotten anything more than a handful of endorsements, and his total share of the endorsement points has never dropped below two-thirds. But with Garneau's departure being the biggest news of the race so far, and that departure including the news of a survey of Liberal members and supporters, it seems like a good time to take a look at the numbers.
The only endorsement added to the rankings since last week's update is the tepid one from Marc Garneau. Trudeau gets all five of Garneau's points as he is a two-term MP, while he gets half of the points Garneau had gather from other endorsers (unless those endorsers head elsewhere in the coming weeks).

It pushes Trudeau up to 94.6% of the endorsement points, an almost comically high result. Joyce Murray now moves into second with 3.8%, while no other candidate has more than 1% of the endorsement points. Nevertheless, the top four in the rankings are likely who we will see in the top four on the first ballot of the leadership vote.
If we weigh those points by province, as the Liberal Party will be doing by giving each riding equal weighting in the vote, Trudeau still gets 91%, followed by Murray at 6.5%.

Compared to the last time the endorsement rankings were on the front page, Trudeau has increased his total share by eight points and his weighted share by 19. Murray's total share has not changed, but her weighted share has fallen by six points.

So, it looks like a Justin Trudeau landslide. The vote will almost certainly be closer than the rankings imply as each of the campaigns do have their own block of voters - and many of them will probably be more motivated to vote than many of Trudeau's supporters (you'd have to be pretty committed to support one of the other candidates in this race).

Does that make it a coronation? I find that description very odd. The race started with nine candidates, and there are still seven in the running. Marc Garneau, Joyce Murray, and Martha Hall Findlay are not wilting flowers, and have tried to push Trudeau. They had every intention of winning the race when they launched their bids. The fact of the matter is that none of them were able to gather as much support as Trudeau was. That does not make it a coronation - it would only be a coronation if all of the plausible candidates stepped aside, as occurred when Paul Martin and Michael Ignatieff were selected. Trudeau is going to win this easily simply because the majority of Liberal members and supporters see him as the best candidate. Just because it isn't close doesn't mean it is a coronation - it just means that the other contestants were not seen as a better option.

That is what Marc Garneau concluded when he saw the results of an internal party survey his campaign conducted.
Marc Garneau made an effort to call this a survey and not a poll, as it does not appear to have been your standard scientific poll with a random sample. Instead, 50,000 Liberal supporters and members were invited to take part, and some 6,000 did. Who those 6,000 are is not known - they could have disproportionately come from one camp or another, or from one region of the country, or one demographic group, etc. Perhaps the Garneau campaign has more information, but we don't have anything else to go on but the numbers he reported.

Nevertheless, the results are pretty conclusive. With 72% in the survey, Trudeau is so far ahead that it puts him safely outside the potential errors and biases that the survey's methodology could inject into the sample. If Trudeau was closer to 50% then there might be some question - but this huge number is pretty definitive.

Where the other candidates stand is, on the other hand, hardly definitive. Garneau's poll gave him 15%, Joyce Murray 7%, and Martha Hall Findlay 5% (it appears no other candidates were included in the survey). Because of the potential problems of the survey, any of the three could actually be second. In fact, Murray's campaign was quick to come out and say that they were second, and that Garneau was much further behind. We'll have to see if any of them back this up with their own numbers.

Sound familiar? It should - during the NDP leadership campaign in 2012 the Dewar and Mulcair campaigns each released competing polls that placed Brian Topp in third or tied for fourth. The Topp campaign responded that their own numbers showed Topp to be much higher, and in the end they turned out to be right (Topp finished second on the first ballot). Peggy Nash, who was placed as the runner-up to Thomas Mulcair in both the Dewar and Mulcair polls, ended up placing a rather distant fourth.

Who is the Topp in this case? Is it Garneau, who the other campaigns claim is not second, or is it Murray or Hall Findlay, who were placed well behind in Garneau's poll? I suppose we'll never find out where Garneau would have finished, but we will find out who places second if Murray and Hall Findlay stay in the race.

They probably should. Joyce Murray's campaign is the only one apart from Trudeau's that could claim to be holding some momentum. She's gotten a lot of endorsements from outside the party, and a few from within the party itself, and could surprise in the same way that Nathan Cullen did as the co-operation candidate (though Cullen's surprising result also had to do with his strong performances in the debates). But because of her very controversial plan, she does have a bit of a cap in terms of her potential support. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which she could win, but a very good showing could make the party consider her plan (though probably not).

Martha Hall Findlay can capitalize on Garneau's departure by being the primary non-Trudeau option (Martin Cauchon might challenge that assertion). The two might have split the non-Trudeau vote had they both remained in the race. Instead, Hall Findlay might be able to corral enough of Garneau's vote to finish second ahead of Murray. That would be important for her own political future.

It all might be a little academic, though. If Garneau's survey is even slightly accurate, Trudeau has a very good shot at winning on the first ballot. I would have said that, against seven other candidates including three with good bases of support, Trudeau would have had difficulty getting over the 50% mark on the first ballot. But now that the list has shrunk to six opponents, only two of whom are likely to break double digits, it seems likely that he can get enough to win on the first ballot.

But a landslide first ballot win is probably not in the cards. If Karen McCrimmon, Deborah Coyne, and David Bertschi all hold on until the vote, they can probably still pull together some 5% to 10% of the first choice ballots (Martin Singh and Niki Ashton together managed almost 12% on the NDP's first ballot). Cauchon might be good for another 5% to 10%. That leaves 80% to 90% of the ballots still available to the other three contestants, meaning a best case scenario requires Murray and Hall Findlay to combine for more than 30% support, or 40% in a worst case scenario, in order to prevent a first ballot victory for Trudeau. That might be difficult to achieve. It isn't impossible, but Murray and Hall Findlay did not manage that in Garneau's survey, even if we give them all of his support.

Could Trudeau have been more greatly tested in this leadership race? Certainly - and it might have done him some good. But even his critics have to admit that he has run a very competent and well-organized campaign that would have been difficult for any candidate to have beaten. Now it's Harper and Mulcair's turn to try.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Provincial Tories drop in Atlantic Canada

The Corporate Research Associates released their quarterly poll results for Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick yesterday. With the poll from Prince Edward Island of last week, all show trouble for the Progressive Conservatives while the New Democrats have made gains.

I wrote about these NDP gains, and what they might mean for the federal party, for The Huffington Post Canada here. But let's take a closer look at the provincial numbers.

We'll start with New Brunswick, which will be holding its next election in 2014. Since CRA was last in the field in November, the Progressive Conservatives have fallen six points to 32%, putting them behind the Liberals, who were down three points to 35%.

This is the lowest the PCs have been since 2008, and the first time the Liberals have been given the lead in a poll since the 2010 provincial election.

The New Democrats were up seven points to 26%, the highest they've been on record. But this is only a small uptick, as the NDP had been between 20% and 23% for much of 2011 and the early part of last year, while they were at 24% as recently as August.

The Greens were up one point to 5%, while support for other parties was unchanged at 1%.

None of these changes of support were outside the margin of error. It has to be pointed out that CRA always has very large "undecided" numbers - in this case 45%. That means that the decided sample is quite small, roughly 220 New Brunswickers. That increases the margin of error to +/- 6.6% for decided voters, from 4.9% for the entire sample. This is the case for PEI (from +/- 5.6% to +/- 7.4%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (from +/- 4.9% to +/- 5.7%) as well.

The margin of error is that of the entire sample for the "Best Premier" and government satisfaction questions, however, since undecideds are included. Brian Gallant, who was named Liberal leader last fall, had the best result on the premier question in New Brunswick: 26% said he was the preferred option. David Alward dropped eight points, outside the margin of error, to 21%, while Dominic Cardy increased to 15%.

Satisfaction with the government fell to 41%, while dissatisfaction was steady at 49% (15% completely dissatisfied).
Despite a deficit in support, the PCs make up for it due to their incumbency advantage. They would win 28 seats, the bare minimum for a majority government, thanks in large part to their support in the northwest and in and around Fredericton and Saint John. The Liberals would win 20 seats, primarily in the northeast and around Moncton, while the New Democrats take seven.

These are using the current boundaries, and not the 49-seat map that is currently under consideration.

Now to Newfoundland and Labrador. The poll from CRA is remarkable in that it is historic for the firm - it is the first time the New Democrats have been placed in the lead.

The PCs and NDP swapped eight points since November, with the New Democrats increasing to 39% and the PCs dropping to 38%. That is outside the margin of error, and represents the lowest Tory number in CRA's polling since undoubtedly before the Danny Williams era (they were at 36% in January's MQO poll, and 35% in June's Environics survey). At 39%, the NDP is at their highest level of support in any poll ever publicly released.

The Liberals dropped one point to 22%, and have been generally stable since the 2011 election. Support for independents was 1%, while the undecided portion was a relatively smaller 26%.

Lorraine Michael is the preferred person for premier, with 33%. Kathy Dunderdale slipped to 32%, while interim leader Dwight Ball was the choice of 17%. Satisfaction with the government tumbled by 13 points to only 45%, while dissatisfaction soared by 15 points to 52%.
Here again, the Tories manage to eke out a victory. But unlike in New Brunswick, they are limited to a minority government of 22 seats (19 of them on the island but outside of the St. John's region). The New Democrats take 17 seats, 11 of them in and around St. John's, while the Liberals win nine seats, all of them west of the Avalon peninsula.

Prince Edward Island remains a Liberal bastion, with the party leading with 51%. That is a gain of six points since November, putting them back to where they were in the 2011 election. The New Democrats scored their best result, gaining four points to move into second with 26%. With their leadership turmoil still on-going, the Progressive Conservatives fell 12 points to only 16%, their lowest result since at least the 2007 election, and almost certainly well before that.

Premier Robert Ghiz led on the best premier question, the only incumbent Atlantic Canadian premier to do so in CRA's four polls. He was at 37%, trailed by Mike Redmond of the NDP at 18%. Steven Myers, interim leader of the Tories, managed 7%, 12 points fewer than Olive Crane did before her resignation.

Satisfaction with the government increased to 50%, while dissatisfaction fell to 46% (those saying they were completely dissatisfied were down six points to only 16%).

In terms of seats, the Liberals would probably sweep the island with these numbers. It is difficult to know what would happen, as the New Democrats have never been this high and their support could be less uniform than the model suggests. The model puts the NDP within 10 points of the Liberals in only one riding (in Charlottetown), but if this poll was reflective of the result of the next election the New Democrats would probably be able to put their votes to better use and win a couple of seats. But their vote is less likely to be as efficient as that of the Tories (and that is not saying much) as we can probably expect the NDP to do best in Charlottetown, where the Liberals are already strong. However, if the NDP is indeed in second place, Redmond would be able to attract a few good candidates and, along with himself, win some ridings based on that alone.

With the New Democrats making new inroads in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, the next elections in these provinces will be quite unpredictable. How will this party, that has never before been a factor in these provinces before, do when the rubber hits the road? Will pockets of support emerge in unexpected places? It makes for an interesting time in Atlantic Canadian politics.

Monday, March 11, 2013

February 2013 federal polling averages

February was a brisk month for federal polling, with four national polls, two Quebec polls, and one Ontario poll being conducted throughout the month and surveying 12,497 Canadians. The result was a big decrease in Conservative support, primarily to the benefit of the Liberal Party.
The Conservatives averaged 31.5% in February, down 3.6 points from what they managed throughout the month of January. That is a sharp decrease for the party, and the first poll of March does not suggest that things are getting any better.

The New Democrats were down 1.7 points to 27.5%, their lowest result since February 2012 (before Thomas Mulcair became leader). They have been on a general decline since June.

The Liberals averaged 25.5%, up 2.1 points since January, while the Greens were up 2.2 points to 7.4% and the Bloc Québécois increased by 0.4 points to 6.4%. Support for other parties and independents stood at 2.1% in February.

If we compare the results of these polls from Abacus, EKOS, Forum, and Nanos to the last time all four were in the field in a 30-day period, we see that the shift in support has been relatively small.
Without weighing the polls by sample size, we see that the average of 32% in the February polling for the Tories is down 1.2 points from November/December, when they averaged 33.2% in polls by these four firms. The NDP is down slightly as well, while the Liberals are up a tick.

Click to magnify
The Conservatives led in Ontario with an average of 35.4%, down 2.1 points from January. That is their lowest number since October, and one needs to go back to August 2010 to find the last time the Tories were at 35% in the province. The Liberals averaged 29.9%, a gain of 4.3 points, while the New Democrats were down 4.5 points to 25.9%, their lowest result since February 2012. The Greens were up 1.8 points to 6.9%.

In Quebec, the New Democrats have leveled off for the last four months, and were up 0.4 points to 33.2%. The Bloc Québécois was up 2.1 points to 24.9%. They have been steady between 23% and 26% over the last four months as well. The Liberals were up for the second consecutive month, this time by a single point to 23.7%. The Conservatives dropped to their lowest level of support since all the way back to June 2009 at 12.9% (-4.2). The Greens were up 0.8 points to 4.1%.

The Conservatives were narrowly ahead in British Columbia with 33.7%, a drop of 2.8 points. The NDP increased 0.8 points to 33%, while the Liberals were down 0.7 points to 19.3%. The Greens were up 2.5 points to 12.1% in the province.

The Tories were down 3.5 points in Alberta, but still led with 57.2%. The Liberals were up 6.6 points to 18.7%, their best score since December 2010. The New Democrats were down three points to 14.5%, their worst since January 2012. The Greens were virtually unchanged at 6.8%.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals led for the fifth consecutive month but dropped 2.4 points to 34.9%. The NDP, which has tumbled sharply from 40% in September, was down 0.5 points from January to 28.4%. The Conservatives were down three points to 28.1%, but have been generally stable since April. The Greens were up 4.8 points to 7.2%.

The Conservatives slipped 5.1 points to 42.7% in the Prairies, while the New Democrats were down 0.8 points to 26.8%. That is their worst showing since September 2011, and over the last four months they have been down considerably from where they were between October 2011 and September 2012. The Liberals hit their highest level of support since August 2010 with 23.7%, a gain of 6.5 points. The Greens were down a point to 5.4%.

Thanks to the updated figures at Pollmaps.ca, I am able to make projections with the proposed boundaries as they currently stand, including the latest changes to the map in Ontario and Quebec.
The Conservatives dropped 20 seats from January's projection, and would win 141 with these numbers. The New Democrats pick up five seats and win 104, while the Liberals gain 17 and take 85.

The Bloc wins seven seats while the Greens win one.

The results do show how the new boundaries open up the west to a little more competition, with the New Democrats able to win seats in Saskatchewan and the Liberals (who are up considerably in Alberta) competitive in Calgary and Edmonton. The new boundaries do not benefit the Conservatives much considering how far they've fallen in Ontario, while the NDP is able to hold on to the lion's share of seats in Quebec.

Approval ratings
The landscape is getting tighter, as the Conservatives slip and the Liberals gain. The last set of polls, including the most recent one from Forum, have been very consistent. They put the Conservatives at 32% or lower, the NDP at around 27%, and the Liberals closer to 30%. The numbers are a little too consistent - and February's averages are in line with them - to shrug off.

The Tories are in a bit of trouble, as they have dropped a great deal and particularly in provinces where they need to be doing better: Ontario and British Columbia. The NDP is making it difficult for the Conservatives in B.C. while the Liberals are doing much better in Ontario.

Of course, the Conservatives have been here before: the monthly averages chart shows just how weak the Conservative numbers were throughout 2010. But the party will only get up from the floor so many times before they stay down. The stars may be aligning for a comeback to be more unlikely than it was in the past: a confident Official Opposition with strong bases of support, a wildcard in Justin Trudeau at the helm of the Liberals, and the years in government starting to pile up.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Honeymoon in Ontario, divorce in Nova Scotia?

In Ontario, the premier is just a few weeks on the job and is currently enjoying a bump in the polls. In Nova Scotia, the premier is at the tail end of his first mandate and could be a few weeks away from being out of a job.

In my weekly article for The Globe and Mail, I take a look at what the polling shows when new premiers are named between elections. You can read the article here. The short version is that new premiers usually boost their party's numbers before falling back to earth, and that the odds of re-election are as good as a coin flip. Heads or tails, Premier Wynne?

In the latest of my twice-weekly articles for The Huffington Post Canada, I take a look at the latest survey out of Nova Scotia by the Corporate Research Associates. Darrell Dexter is expected to call the next election in the province soon, as he must call it before the summer of 2014. With the announcement that he will present a balanced budget in April, everyone in Nova Scotia seems to believe that will be the starting bell for the next campaign.

I delve into the numbers in my Huffington Post article, so I invite you to head over there to read the piece. I won't go over the results a second time here, but we can take a look at what kind of legislature these results would produce.

Nova Scotia will be using a new electoral map in the next campaign, with the number of ridings reduced from 52 to 51. Electoral geography can be very important in deciding results, particularly in a province like Nova Scotia where all three parties are competitive.

Seat projection for CRA poll
And despite leading by seven points, Stephen McNeil's Liberals might be unable to secure a majority. The projection, which uses the new boundaries, gives his party 24 seats to 20 for the New Democrats and seven for the Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberals need 26 seats for a majority, so it is certainly possible that the projection model could be off by at least two seats to the benefit of the McNeil. But it is just as likely to be off in the other direction, handing a few extra seats to the Tories or even the New Democrats.

Two factors could play an important role in deciding the outcome. The New Democrats have the advantage of incumbency, and a few of their MLAs may be hard to defeat. That puts a few extra seats in the NDP's column. On the other hand, the Liberals would have the advantage of being the front runner, and their vote distribution may turn out to be more advantageous in close races where voters realize that the Liberal candidate could sit in cabinet.

But people should beware before scoffing at this sort of counter-intuitive seat projection. In the run-up to the Manitoba election in 2011, this site was consistently projecting an NDP majority even when they were polling behind the Tories. News reports on the eve of the vote said that the election was too close to call - and it was, at least in terms of the popular vote. But this site projected that even with only a few percentage points separating the PCs from the NDP, Greg Selinger would be able to win a larger majority than the one he had when the campaign began. In the end, the projection model called 56 of the 57 ridings in the province correctly. In fact, the model under-estimated the size of the NDP's majority by one seat.

Could the same sort of thing happen in Nova Scotia, with the polls showing an easy Liberal victory but the seat result being far closer? The race in and around Halifax could be what decides the election: if the Liberals can grow their support disproportionately in the capital, they can knock off a few New Democrats and secure a majority. If the NDP holds firm in the city, they may be able to keep the Liberals to a minority. And if the races closes by a few more points, they could even hold on to government.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

PCs drop as OLP moves into tie for lead

A poll from Forum Research was released by the Toronto Star this morning, showing the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives neck-and-neck in Ontario's provincial voting intentions. Forum reports this would be enough to give the OLP another minority. But it does not seem that it would be nearly as comfortable as is suggested.
Forum was last in the field at the provincial level less than two weeks ago, on Feb. 20. The Progressive Conservatives fell four points since that last poll, dropping to 32%. That put them in a tie with the Liberals, up three points. The New Democrats were up one point to 29%, while the Greens were unchanged at 5% support.

Only the drop by the Tories is outside the margin of error, though the Liberal increase is pushing statistical significance.

These are, relatively speaking, good numbers for the Liberals. They haven't scored so highly in a Forum poll since February 2012. And the demographic breakdown suggests the OLP has an advantage: they led the Tories by three points among Ontarians between the ages of 55 and 64, and by seven points among those 65 or older.

This IVR poll report comes with the same criticisms I've mentioned before: a lack of unweighted sample sizes, primarily. But Forum is hardly in rare company there, unfortunately.

At the regional level, the Liberals led in Toronto with 38% to 29% for the NDP and 26% for the Tories, while the party was also ahead in the 905 area code with 34% to 32% for the PCs and 26% for the NDP. That represented an 11 point drop for the Progressive Conservatives in this region, eight of which went to the Liberals. In fact, this is the first time that the OLP has been ahead of the PCs in the 905 in Forum's polling since, again, February 2012.

The PCs and Liberals were tied in eastern Ontario with 32% apiece, while the NDP was just behind at 31%.  The Tories were ahead in southwestern Ontario, however, with 39% to 28% for the NDP and 27% for the Liberals.

The New Democrats were in front only in northern Ontario, picking up 12 points to reach 38%. The PCs trailed with 32%, while the Liberals were third with 25%.
Contrary to Forum's seat breakdown, which inexplicably gives the New Democrats only one more seat than they won in 2011 despite gaining seven points and trailing the leaders by only three, ThreeHundredEight's regional model paints a much closer race.

The Liberals would narrowly edge out the Tories and win 41 seats, 28 of them in and around Toronto and another seven in eastern Ontario. The PCs win 37 seats, 27 of them in the eastern, northern, and southwestern corners of the province, while the New Democrats win 29 (almost half in the Golden Horseshoe). If this were the final projection of an election campaign, the OLP would have a 61.9% chance of winning the most seats - little better than a coin flip.

Kathleen Wynne's numbers remain rather good, at 34% approval to 32% disapproval (the gap shrank by four points, but it could be a statistical wobble). Fully 70% of OLP voters approve of her, putting her near Andrea Horwath's 75% approval rating among NDP supporters.

Among Ontarians, Horwath's approval rating dropped five points to 44%, but her disapproval rating is still only 25%. Tim Hudak does not even manage that level of approval, with only 24% to 51% disapproval and only 59% approval among PC voters.

Apparently despite himself, Hudak is still in the race because of the solidity of the Progressive Conservative base in Ontario. The Liberals are very much back in the game and have a decent shot at another minority, but the New Democrats will complicate matters considerably. Horwath still has the best personal numbers, and has put her party close enough to the two other parties that a good debate is all that is needed to vault her party into second or even first. It is about as close as it can get.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Three by-elections upcoming

Three provincial by-elections will be taking place within the next six months in Ontario and New Brunswick. The Liberals should easily hold on to one and lose the other, while the third race could be a tight three-way contest.

We'll start with the seemingly most foregone conclusion, the by-election in Kent that will be brought upon by the departure of Shawn Graham. The former leader of the New Brunswick Liberals won the riding in the 2010 election easily, with 56% of the vote to 26% for the Progressive Conservative candidate, Bruce Hickey.

The riding is reliably Liberal, having been held by the Graham family for almost 40 years. Brian Gallant, Graham's replacement as leader of the NB Liberals, has announced he will be running in order to get himself into the legislature.

The odds are very strong that Gallant will easily win. The early numbers show that Gallant was a popular choice for leader, as his party was tied with the governing PCs in the last survey from the Corporate Research Associates. That suggests that Gallant is capable of winning the riding by as large of a margin as Graham did in 2010.

Had Dominic Cardy, leader of the New Democrats in the province, put his name forward there might have been a race. Cardy made what should have been an easy romp for the Tories in Rothesay a close race. It doesn't seem like he will be running, so the only thing that could trip Gallant up is if either Cardy or the Tories put up a stellar, unbeatable candidate. That seems highly improbable, making Kent a Strong Liberal forecast.

The by-election in Windsor-Tecumseh is not quite as predictable as the one in Kent, but it looks like the Ontario New Democrats are in a very strong position to win the riding from the Liberals following the resignation of Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

Duncan has won Windsor-Tecumseh and its predecessor ridings by large margins in the past, though that shrank to only 10 points in the 2011 election. With the Liberal vote having continued to plummet province-wide, and especially in southwestern Ontario, the New Democrats should be able to wrest the riding away.

In fact, the last month of polls show that the NDP could win by as many as 19 points or more. The only riding-specific poll released so far, by Forum Research, gave the New Democrats 42% of the vote to 32% for the Liberals on a generic ballot. The Tories finished third with 19% (the poll was conducted Feb. 7 and surveyed 403 residents of Windsor-Tecumseh).

The poll shows that a candidate like Sandra Pupatello, on the other hand, could retain the riding for the Liberals. Pupatello won't be running, but that doesn't mean the Liberals won't be able to find someone of similar calibre to carry the party banner. They will need to if they want to win the riding, because it seems to be their only chance. Unless they do, the New Democrats will win Windsor-Tecumseh.

The likely winner of the by-election in London West, however, is impossible to predict at this early stage.

Brought about by the resignation of former Energy Minister Chris Bentley, London West could be a real three-way race - even more so than Kitchener-Waterloo was pegged to be (though it turned out to be not so much of a close contest in the end).

Bentley won the riding for the Liberals over the last three elections, winning majorities twice and still winning by 16 points in the last election. Before Bentley, the riding voted PC during the Harris years. It is possible it could go that way again.

The Liberals have the advantage of incumbency, and with the candidates so far unknown it is difficult to handicap the race. They get a slight edge in the forecasting model, with a 42% chance of retaining the riding. The New Democrats are the next most likely to win at this stage, with a 33% chance. The swing in the region gives them the edge in three of the last four polls, with the Liberals being projected ahead in the fourth.

More significant could be the riding poll by Forum Research (Feb. 11, 724 surveyed) which gave the Progressive Conservatives 34% of the vote to 30% for the Liberals and 28% for the New Democrats. The model gives the Tories a 24% chance of winning.

When you consider that the Tories are favoured in the only poll in the riding, the New Democrats are favoured based on regional trends, and the Liberals have the incumbency advantage and a decent showing in one of the last four regional polls, this is a true toss-up. The OLP is slightly more likely to win than either the NDP or the PCs, but the difference is marginal. Until the candidates become known, we won't have a good idea of where London West will go - and even then we might not.

Future updates to these by-election forecasts will be posted to the By-Election Barometer section of the site, which can be accessed via the right-hand column. The By-Election Barometer has yet to make the wrong call in nine by-elections.