Friday, November 29, 2013

Opposition voters move to Liberals in new poll

A new Ipsos-Reid/CTV News poll conducted earlier this week shows that the Liberals have taken a sizable lead in national voting intentions after a previously close three-way race in Ipsos's polling. As a result, the New Democrats have taken a step backwards.

Kickstarter update: Funding for the project is well under way, with 21% of our goal having been reached after just two days. But we still have a long way to go, and the eBook on Canadian political public opinion polling in 2013 will not be funded unless the goal is reached! If the eBook interests you, and/or if you want to chip in to help with the operation of this site, please consider making a pledge. Just $10 will secure you an advanced copy of the eBook, and your name listed in the eBook as a thank you! I'll have an update next week on the eBook itself, including a chapter-by-chapter outline.

The full regional and demographic tables of the Ipsos-Reid/CTV News poll, also picked-up by The Globe and Mail as of writing, are available for everyone to see on the Ipsos-Reid website.
Source: Ipsos-Reid/CTV News
Ipsos-Reid was last in the field at the end of October. There has been some movement since that poll, but only the drop in NDP support would appear to be statistically significant. The Liberals picked up four points to move in front with 35%, while the Conservatives dropped a single point to 29% and the New Democrats were down five points to 26%.

Of note is that the Tories have dropped in three consecutive polls from Ipsos going back to September, when the party was at 32%.

The Bloc Québécois was unchanged at 6%, while the Greens were up one point to 3%. About 15% of the sample was undecided.

The Liberals led among both men and women, by two points over the Tories among men and by 10 points over the New Democrats among women. The New Democrats led among voters under 35, the Conservatives among voters over 55, and the Liberals among the rest.

This puts the Liberals back where they were a month after Justin Trudeau became leader, when Ipsos-Reid had the party at 36% and ahead of the Tories by six points.

Regionally, the Liberals were in front with 37% in Ontario while the Conservatives were down to 30%. They have dropped in three consecutive Ipsos polls, from 37% in September. The NDP was down to 29% support in the province.

In Quebec, the Liberals were up to 33% while the New Democrats and Bloc Québécois were tied for second at 27% apiece. The Conservatives were steady at 12% support.

The Liberals led in British Columbia with 37%, followed by the NDP at 30% and the Conservatives at 28% (down in three consecutive polls from 38% in September). The Greens were at 5% in B.C.

In Alberta, the Conservatives were ahead with 60% to 17% for the NDP and 13% for the Liberals. This was the only part of the country where the Liberals did not place first or second, and marks two consecutive polls of decreasing support. The party was at 26% in Alberta in mid-October. At 6%, the Greens had their best regional result here.

The numbers hardly budged in Atlantic Canada, with the Liberals at 56%, the Conservatives at 27%, and the NDP at 17%. The Tories have picked up support in two consecutive polls in the region, after being at 16% in mid-October.

And in the Prairies, scene of the dramatic by-election gains for the Liberals on Monday, the party was up to 39%, putting them just behind the Conservatives at 42%. The NDP dropped to 17% support.

At these kinds of support levels, the Liberals would likely eke out a plurality of seats with around 126. The Conservatives would likely take around 121, leaving the NDP with 60 seats. The Bloc Québécois would come up the middle and take 30 seats in Quebec, with the Greens retaining their one.

That a six-point national lead is not enough to give them a plurality of even six seats shows that the Liberal vote is not as high as it needs to be in certain parts of the country. Though they put up good numbers in the Prairies and British Columbia, the Conservatives still win 63% of the seats in the four western provinces. Alberta is a virtual sweep, as at only 13% the Liberals are unlikely to make a breakthrough in Calgary or Edmonton. They are not far enough ahead in Ontario to win the 70 seats or so the Tories were able to manage in 2011, and the race is too close in Quebec for the party to pull off the kind of landslide the New Democrats did in the last election. The good news for the Liberals, though, is that it wouldn't take a lot of movement to put them in a much stronger positions seat-wise, particularly in Ontario and Quebec.

These Ipsos-Reid/CTV News polls are often released in stages, so we should have some interesting leadership numbers to chew on in the coming days. In particular, I'll be looking to see where Thomas Mulcair's numbers go. He has been getting praise in the polls as well as in the press gallery for his performance in Question Period. Though few Canadians watch it, they probably do see the clips on the news. It had seemed that he and his party were getting a boost, but now it would appear that the Liberals are benefiting from the discomfiture of the Prime Minister. Thankless work for the opposition leader.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ThreeHundredEight: The eBook! Kickstarter Project

I am excited to announce that I have launched a new Kickstarter Project for the funding of an eBook.

This eBook, tentatively and boringly titled "Political public opinion polling in Canada: 2013", will give a detailed and in-depth retrospective of the past political year in Canada through the lens of - what else - polls.

Divided into 14 chapters, the eBook will tell the story of the past year in federal and provincial politics within the context of polling, with the federal narrative divided into four chapters of three months apiece. In between those quarterly appraisals, 10 chapters focusing on each province in Canada will summarize a year in provincial political polling. But the eBook will not just be a recitation of numbers, it will be a tale of the year in politics and how polls can inform our understanding of what is going on. And yes, how they can also distort our understanding and mislead us.

The eBook will also contain charts of this site's aggregations for the year, as well as detailed tables of polls that have been released throughout 2013. This will make the eBook an invaluable resource for students of politics, those who work in and around the political world, as well as us hopeless political junkies. If the project is successfully funded, the plan is to make this an annual drive and publication. It will be a unique record of polling in Canada going forward.

The goal that I have set to have the eBook funded is $5,000, which must be reached within 30 days. It is an ambitious goal, but one that I think is realizable (if everyone who visits the site today pledged $1, the project would be funded in a matter of hours). It is also, I believe, a fair valuation of the work that I will need to put into the project to get it done by the end of February 2014.

Don't know what Kickstarter is all about? You can find out more here. TL;DR? It has been a very successful tool for funding creative projects. Pledges are made and only charged to the contributor if the goal is reached. If we fall short of the funding goal in 30 days, no money changes hands and the project does not go ahead. If we reach our goal before the 30 days are up, then we can brainstorm for some other projects to fund before the deadline! Say, a retrospective of 2012 as well or a blow-by-blow account of the 2011 election? Why not both!

You can make your pledge and track progress by visiting the project's Kickstarter page, which you can also reach by clicking on the banner at the top of this page.

So what do you get if you decide to pledge, in addition to helping to get the eBook published? Pledges of $10 or more will get you a copy of the eBook when it is completed, at least one month before the eBook is made available for sale to the general public. Pledges of $5 or more will get your name listed in one of the following supporter categories: Member of Parliament ($5), Official Party Status ($10), Third Party Status ($20), Official Opposition ($30), Minority Government ($50), Majority Government ($75), and the Natural Governing Party ($100).

A note to business owners: a pledge of $250 will get you listed in the "Governor General" supporter category as well as give you the rights to a banner ad on this site for two weeks (please get in touch with me first to ensure the ad meets this site's guidelines). A pledge of $500 will get you listed in the "The Crown" supporter category, the rights to a banner ad for four weeks, and the eternal gratitude of an adoring public.

Of course, individuals who want to pledge that much are free to do so as well, and I'd be happy to put a banner ad on this site for a charity of your choice (with their permission).

For those who don't have an eReader of any sort, the book will also be available to pledgers in PDF format.

I hope that potential pledgers might also consider the funding goal as an opportunity to contribute to the continued operation of this site, which is funded only through a minimal amount of advertising revenue.

Any and all pledges will be most appreciated, and in return you'll get what I believe will be both an enjoyable and interesting book to read, as well as a useful resource. If you do decide to pledge: thank you so much! If you can't afford to right now, please consider spreading the word! Let's get this project funded!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

By-election post-mortem

The four federal by-elections last night played out as ThreeHundredEight forecast, with the Liberals retaining Bourassa and Toronto Centre, the Conservatives retaining Provencher, and Brandon-Souris being a toss-up riding that leaned slightly towards the incumbent Tories. So slightly, in fact, that the Liberals were less than 400 votes short of winning it.

By-Election Barometer Record
This makes 22 by-elections without a wrong call by ThreeHundredEight, going back to June 2012. The Barometer will be put to the test again tonight in Carbonear-Harbour Grace in Newfoundland and Labrador. The model suggests the riding is leaning Liberal, though the PCs do have a slim chance of holding on to it. However, the forecast is for the Liberals under new leader Dwight Ball to take it by a narrow margin.

The results in Brandon-Souris, which were the most at-odds with the polls by Forum Research, showed the mettle of the By-Election Barometer. The forecast was that it was a toss-up between the Conservatives and Liberals, with the Tories considered to have a 52% chance of winning to 48% for the Liberals. In the end, the Tories won it by a single percentage point.

This was similar to the by-election this summer in Ottawa South, where the polls suggested the Tories were well-placed to steal former premier Dalton McGuinty's riding away from the Liberals. The model still considered it a toss-up that leaned slightly towards the Liberals, which turned out to be the case. It demonstrates the need to take into account the fundamentals in a riding, particularly when riding-specific polls are showing numbers that are wildly out of step with historical performances.

I assessed the performance of the polls for The Globe and Mail, and the results are not great for Forum Research. They missed Brandon-Souris by a wide margin and Provencher was off by a considerable degree as well. The polls were better in Toronto Centre and Bourassa, however. This record matches their performance in the Ontario by-elections this summer, where I gave them a score of 2.5 out of 5. Last night, they got 2.5 out of 4, for picking the right winner in Provencher but missing the respective levels of support for the Tories and Liberals.

Because of this very mixed record, I employed confidence intervals far wider than the reported margins of error of these polls. This turned out to be a good idea, but only captured some of the error. Of the 20 calls Forum Research made (one for each party + others in the four ridings), 60% fell within the 67% confidence interval and 85% fell within the 95% confidence interval. Clearly, these wide ranges will need to be stretched even further, but that is the usefulness of these extra data points.
The performance of the confidence intervals, based solely on Forum's polling, compared to the results can be seen in the chart above.

The misses at the 95% confidence interval were primarily in Brandon-Souris. The results for the Liberals and Conservatives were so off that a +/- 10-point confidence interval still did not capture the result. The Greens in Provencher also fell outside of the 95% confidence interval.

At the 67% confidence interval, only the Others in Toronto Centre and the Conservatives in Bourassa were wide of the mark. In Brandon-Souris, the Liberals and Conservatives fell outside the interval, while all parties fell outside of it in Provencher. In short, even compared to Forum's past errors in by-elections the ones in Brandon-Souris and Provencher were extraordinary.

Note: I inquired with Forum about their methods for Brandon-Souris in relation to the reports of multiple calls being received by some residents. I was told by Lorne Bozinoff that they used the same random dialing in all ridings, and that no panel of phone numbers was used to dial the same people over and over again. I was also told that if a number was called in consecutive nights, that person's results were dropped from the sample and that all three of their final polls (Forum also polled on Nov. 23, but did not publish the results which were similar to the poll of Nov. 24) were independent samples.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Final by-election polling and forecasts

Voters in the ridings of Bourassa, Brandon-Souris, Provencher, and Toronto Centre head to the polls today as a nation eagerly does other things. But we politicos will be watching with baited breath, as all four by-elections have their own interesting stories to tell.

ThreeHundredEight's forecasts are for the Liberals to hold Bourassa and Toronto Centre, for the Conservatives to hold Provencher, and for Brandon-Souris to be a toss-up between the two parties. But the polls that have been conducted throughout the campaign from Forum Research have a different perspective: an easy win for the Liberals in Brandon-Souris and a relatively closer race in the other three.

Let's take a look at the polls before we get into the forecasts. Forum conducted polls in the four ridings on Nov. 22, and did a final poll in Brandon-Souris and Toronto Centre yesterday

I've been impressed by the level of scrutiny these polls have been receiving in some quarters. For example, take a look at the article in the Winnipeg Free Press today. It discusses several cases of people reporting being polled by Forum five or six times, which raises the question of just how random their sampling is (though, with response rates being what they are, and the riding being as small as it is, almost every household in Brandon-Souris would have to be called to get a viable sample each and every time, and if this includes call-backs then that is not a problem). 

I've also seen multiple tweets about sampling issues, particularly in terms of reported last vote and the breakdown by age. I've been banging on about these issues before, and they have continued in Forum's polling during these campaigns, so it is gratifying to see that others are noticing as well. This is the sort of scrutiny that should always be happening with polls, and at least these by-elections give us the opportunity to put the firm to the test.

In Bourassa, Emmanuel Dubourg dropped seven points from the previous set of polling done on Nov. 14, putting him at 43%. Stéphane Moraille of the NDP picked up 10 points to move into a tighter race with 31%, while Daniel Duranleau fell five points to 15%. Dubourg led among voters between the ages of 35 and 64 and among women, while Moraille was ahead among the youngest and oldest voters and among men. It makes for a somewhat muddy picture of the contest.

Rolf Dinsdale continued to make gains in Brandon-Souris, up six points to 50%. He led among voters 35 and older and among both men and women. Larry Maguire was unchanged at 36%, while Cory Szczepanski dropped a point to 8%.

In Provencher, Ted Falk led among all demographics and dropped three points to 48%. Terry Hayward was up seven points to 37%, while Janine Gibson of the Greens was steady at 8% support.

And in Toronto Centre, Chrystia Freeland led among all demographics and increased her support by one point to 48%. Linda McQuaig was up three points to 35% and Geoff Pollock was down three points to 13%. 
Now to the polling done yesterday, and published late last night by Global. The poll showed a big gain for Dinsdale, as his support increased to 59%, with Maguire dropping to just 30% and Szczepanski to 6%. Forum really doubled-down in this riding - it is hard to imagine that a Liberal will win almost 60% of the vote in a rural Prairie seat.

In Toronto Centre, Freeland dropped back to 47% but McQuaig picked up four points to reach 39% and close in on the Liberal candidate. Pollock dropped another two points to 11%.

The problems with past vote

The reported past vote in most of the polls, however, is at odds with the actual results from 2011. There are plausible reasons for this: Ontario and Manitoba had provincial elections in October 2011, after the May 2011 federal election, and Quebec voted in September 2012. That can play tricks on a voter's memory. And in the two years and more that has passed since the federal election, some people will have moved. While keeping this in mind, let's look at the reported past voting numbers for each of these polls.

In Bourassa, the reported past vote was 47% Liberal, 20% NDP, and 19% for the Bloc Québécois, instead of the actual 41%, 32%, and 16% that occurred in the last election. That is not bad for the Liberals and Bloc, but that is a considerable under-polling of the NDP vote. If we weigh according to the 2011 election results, we see the race get significantly closer: 43% for Dubourg and 36% for Moraille.

Reported past vote in Brandon-Souris shows an under-sampling of Tories (56% on Nov. 22 and 52% on Nov. 24, instead of the actual 64%) and over-sampling of Liberals (11% on Nov. 22 and 13% on Nov. 24 instead of 5%), but that does not change the results very much. When weighing for past vote, Dinsdale would have still led by 11 points on Nov. 22 (instead of 14) and 21 points yesterday (instead of 29).

The story is similar in Provencher, with reported past vote being 59% for the Conservatives, 14% for the Liberals, and 12% for the NDP instead of the actual 71%, 7%, and 18% result. Re-weighted, the results still heavily favour Falk: 54% to 35% for Hayward.

But Toronto Centre yields the most interesting result when the poll is re-weighted for past vote. On Nov. 22, 58% of the sample said they voted Liberal, compared to 18% who said they voted Conservative and 17% who said they voted NDP. On Nov. 24, 60% of the sample said they voted Liberal, 19% said they voted NDP, and 14% said they voted Conservative. That compares quite poorly to the 2011 result of 41% for the Liberals, 30% for the NDP, and 23% for the Conservatives (though it isn't too far off from the provincial results in the riding in the 2011 Ontario election). 

Re-weighted for past vote, the 13-point gap in the Nov. 22 poll shrinks to a single point: 40% for Freeland and 39% for McQuaig. The eight-point gap on Nov. 24 is flipped to a five-point lead for the New Democrats: 43% for McQuaig vs. 38% for Freeland. This is something to keep in mind as we watch the results come in tonight.

But for the reasons stated above, weighing by past vote is no panacea and can actually make a poll worse. Nevertheless, because of the sampling issues with these polls in general we should be prepared for unexpected results.

The forecasts

Based on the polls by Forum Research, Bourassa should actually be one of the easier races to call tonight. And the forecast does consider the riding a STRONG LIBERAL one.

But polling in Quebec suggests that Dubourg should be able to win the riding by a far larger margin than the riding-specific polls suggest. This indicates one of two things: that the race is intensely local and that Moraille has made an impact, or that the polls are under-estimating Dubourg's ability to pull off the win by a large margin. I suspect that the race will be much closer than the rolling 30-day average estimates.

The polling in the riding is looking positive for Moraille, in that she seems to have closed the gap considerably. Dubourg has dropped from 56% on Nov. 5 to 43% on Nov. 22. A linear extrapolation of the trends does not give Moraille the win by today, but there is every opportunity for the race to get much closer than the 12-point gap recorded on Friday.

And with the confidence intervals we can apply to Forum's polling based on past performance, there is plenty of reason to suspect that Moraille could pull it off. This was not the case before Friday's poll, when Dubourg led by a margin that was too large to be an error. Now, Dubourg does win at the 67% confidence interval with between 37% and 49% of the vote, but Moraille could potentially win at the 95% confidence interval with between 21% and 41%. However, the odds lean quite heavily towards Dubourg tonight.

Everybody will be closely watching the results in Brandon-Souris, the race that Forum pegs as the least in doubt but the one that is raising the most eyebrows. The forecast is accordingly mixed, with the riding considered a TOSS-UP (CPC/LPC), giving the Conservatives and Liberals virtually even odds of taking it.

This has been the most intensely local contest of the four, as the riding should under no normal circumstances be anything but a Conservative lock. Applying the regional Prairie polls to the riding gives the Conservatives a win by 20 points or more - usually over the NDP - rather than the double-digit deficit that Forum has pegged the Tories to have against Dinsdale. This is the main reason why the forecast is mixed: the fundamentals point to an easy Maguire win, but the polls point to an easy Dinsdale win. Of course, we've been misled by the polls before (*cough* Ottawa South *cough*).

The trendline has been particularly favourable to Dinsdale throughout the race, as he has picked up support in every poll done by Forum. Maguire was holding steady, but his vote tanked in the last survey. It is very hard, though, to get my head around this. I can imagine a close race based largely on local factors. I have trouble imagining the Liberals doubling the Conservative vote.

But that is what Forum is suggesting will happen. And even at the 95% confidence interval, Maguire does not get within Dinsdale's range of support. At the 67% confidence interval, Dinsdale still takes a majority of the vote with between 50% and 62%, well ahead of Maguire's 26% to 38%. At the 95% confidence interval, Dinsdale bottoms out at 46% and Maguire tops out at 42%. Not enough. That should make Brandon-Souris the easiest race to call tonight, but it is far from that.

Instead, that title should go to Provencher, the other riding up for grabs in Manitoba. It is one of the safest Conservative ridings in the country, and though Forum suggests the race is closer than it should be, it is nevertheless a STRONG CONSERVATIVE forecast.

Regional polling - in which the Conservatives have indeed taken a hit - is generally in line with the polling by Forum. The 30-day rolling average of the regional polls gives Falk the win by about 29 points, whereas Forum suggests it should be between 10 and 20 points. But even if the Conservatives win it by 20 points or less, that would be a remarkable hit against the party: Vic Toews won it by 53 points in 2011.

If the trendlines mean anything, the election is coming at the right time for Falk. He has lost support in every poll, though Hayward's has been less consistently heading in any direction. But if the race lasted for another few weeks, Hayward might have moved ahead! 

Though we have to believe that Forum is under-estimating Conservative support, past error in by-election polling does make Provencher a riding that could theoretically go either way. At the 67% confidence interval, Falk wins comfortably with between 42% and 54% of the vote to Hayward's 31% to 43%, but at the 95% confidence interval Falk's support stands at between 38% to 58% to Hayward's 27% to 47%. There is a lot of overlap there, but the fundamentals of the riding are so heavily skewed in Falk's favour that it is difficult to believe that Hayward is really in the running to take Provencher.

While Brandon-Souris might be the most interesting race of the four, Toronto Centre is the one that is being most hotly contested. There are a lot of national narratives at play in this riding, and both Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau have invested a lot of political capital in their candidates. But both the provincial and riding polls suggest Freeland should win, making this a LIKELY LIBERAL hold.

The New Democrats do have a hope, though, with an estimated 15% chance of winning. But the regional polls have not been kind to the New Democrats, as the Liberals have secured first place in Ontario. Based on them alone, the Liberals would win by some 27 points. But the riding polls have shown a much closer race, and one that has been getting closer in the closing days of the campaign.
Freeland's support has been flat, however, never wavering from between 45% and 48% support. McQuaig's has been less steady, but the trendline between Nov. 14 and Nov. 24 is certainly in her favour. Perhaps not enough to overcome the eight-point gap, but certainly enough to make it interesting. Pollock's vote has been drifting away as the race focuses on the two former journalists.

At both the 67% and 95% confidence intervals, both Freeland and McQuaig could potentially win. It is an outside chance at the 67% confidence interval, however, at between 42% and 53% for Freeland and 32% to 43% for McQuaig. At the 95% confidence interval, there is more potential for an NDP victory: McQuaig gets between 28% and 48% of the vote to Freeland's 37% to 57%. But the riding itself is quite Liberal, so the fundamentals lean towards Freeland. Nevertheless, if there is one surprise tonight I suspect it will occur here.

Do these four federal by-elections have national implications? To a certain degree, they do. As Paul Wells wrote last night, "by-elections are not terribly significant, but they're not quite meaningless". I'd say the by-elections in Bourassa and Toronto Centre are less rife with meaning, especially if the Liberals retain them. Brandon-Souris has been intensely local, but there are important reasons why it was even capable of being anything but a Conservative walk. If the Tories do lose so much of their vote in both Provencher and Brandon-Souris, that will not be meaningless. Despite what governments say, they usually don't lose by-elections. These results will be mostly forgotten by Christmas, but they are still an excellent opportunity to get a spot-check on the sentiment of (some) Canadians. To the polls!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Federal Liberals up among francophones

A new survey by CROP for La Presse was released yesterday, showing that the Parti Québécois's string of improving poll numbers has been stopped in its tracks and that the provincial scene has settled down. The poll also showed that the federal Liberals have moved into a definitive lead over the New Democrats in Quebec after running neck-and-neck in CROP's polling during September and October.
CROP was last in the field Oct. 17-21, and had put the Liberals and NDP in a tie at 31%. But since that poll, the Liberals have jumped five points to 36% in the province, against a drop of three points for the NDP to 28%. The Bloc Québécois was down two points to 16% while the Conservatives were down a point to 13%. The Greens were up a point to 7%.

Of the entire sample, 10% were undecided and another 7% did not respond to this particular question.

While the movement of the other parties would be within the margin of error of a probabilistic poll, the gain of the Liberals would be statistically significant. It puts them closer to where they were during the April to August period, while the New Democrats have been stuck between 27% and 33% in CROP's polling for the last seven months.

The Liberals' gain seems to have occurred primarily due to an increase in support from francophones. With a significant gain of six points, the Liberals tied the NDP at 31% among this demographic. That put the two parties well ahead of the Bloc at 19% and the Conservatives at 11%. The Liberals had 57% support among non-francophones, followed by the Conservatives at 19% and the NDP at 14%.

Regionally, the strongest Liberal lead was in the suburbs around Montreal, where the party had 41% support against 24% for the NDP and 16% for the Bloc. On the island itself, the margin was narrower with the Liberals at 34%, the NDP at 26%, and the Conservatives at 17%.

The Liberals and New Democrats were almost tied in the regions of Quebec, with 35% support for the Liberals and 33% for the NDP. The Bloc was third in this part of the province with 17%.

The closest race of all is in Quebec City, however, where the Conservatives were narrowly in front with 29% support. The NDP was up to 28% while the Liberals had fallen to 25% in the provincial capital.

On who would make the best prime minister, Justin Trudeau was unchanged at 26%, while Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper each dropped a point to 24% and 10%, respectively. These numbers generally line-up with the voting intentions numbers before removing the undecideds.
Using the regional results from the CROP poll, the model gives the Liberals 42 seats in Quebec against 32 for the New Democrats and four for the Conservatives. The Liberals spread their seats throughout the province but more than half of them are won in the region of Montreal. The New Democrats win most of their seats in the rest of Quebec.

Provincially, the race is far closer. Though the PQ has opted not to call an election this fall, the province is still on a pre-election footing as most believe that the Liberals and Coalition Avenir Québec will team up to defeat the government on the next budget, or the PQ will engineer its own defeat over a vote on the charter. In either case, the election is likely to occur in the spring.
CROP suggests that things have been holding steady, with no significant shifts in support since their Oct. 17-21 poll.

The Liberals remained in the lead with 37%, down one point, while the PQ was down two points to 32% (where they were in the 2012 election). The CAQ was up two points to 17%, as was Québec Solidaire, to 10%. Option Nationale was down two points to 2% and support for other parties was also at 2%.

Of the entire sample, 11% was undecided and another 6% did not answer the voting intentions question. That is virtually unchanged from October.

Satisfaction with the PQ government dropped three points to 32%, its lowest level since June. Similarly, the PQ dropped for the first time in CROP's polling after four consecutive recorded increases, from 24% to 34%, over the last few months. Their 'momentum' seems to have hit its ceiling.

The PQ led among francophones with 39%, followed by the Liberals at 27% and the CAQ at 19%. Among non-francophones, the Liberals had 84% support to 8% for the CAQ and 4% for Québec Solidaire.

The Liberals held wide leads on the island of Montreal (49% to 30% for the PQ and 12% for the CAQ) and in the surrounding suburbs. There, the party was up 12 points to 44%, while the PQ was down 14 points to 27%. The CAQ was third with 18%, while QS was up six points to 10%.

In Quebec City, the Liberals dropped to 36% and the PQ was up 11 points to 32%, followed by the CAQ at 25%. In the rest of Quebec, the PQ led with 37% to 26% for the Liberals and 19% for the CAQ. That represented a seven-point gain for the CAQ.
With CROP's regional numbers, the Liberals would likely win 60 seats, with 57 going to the Parti Québécois, seven to the CAQ, and just one to Québec Solidaire (at 9% on the island of Montreal, the party is down three points while the PQ is up six over the 2012 election).

The Liberals win more than half of their seats in the Montreal area, but also win the majority of seats in Quebec City and put up strong numbers in the regions. The PQ wins almost two-thirds of their seats in the regions, but are competitive in the suburbs and win the usual suspects on the island. The CAQ is pushed out of the suburbs to their base in the Quebec City and central Quebec.

A three-seat margin in the projection is virtually meaningless, and the Liberals missing the majority threshold by three seats is also too close to conclude definitively who would be more likely to win, and what form the government would take. I'd reckon a roughly 58% chance that the PLQ would emerge with more seats in this scenario, little better than a coin-flip.

But the steady support for the Liberals masks an increase for Philippe Couillard. On who would make the best premier, Couillard was up four points to 26%. Pauline Marois was down two points to 21%, while François Legault was unchanged at 13%. Interestingly, unlike the federal numbers these leadership numbers suggest that Couillard and Marois are less popular than their own parties to a considerable degree (Couillard scored five points less than his party when undecideds were included, Marois scored six points less). In the spring, Couillard was scoring only two or three points less than his party.

It will be interesting to see how Couillard's numbers will move in the next month. This poll was taken at around the same time as Fatima Houda-Pepin, a Liberal MNA of Morroccan descent, expressed her disagreement with part of her party's position on reasonable accommodations. It doesn't seem to have hurt either the PLQ or Couillard, but the poll was taken before the last few days when Couillard back-pedaled and reversed himself on the charter to some degree. If anything, it has at least taken the focus off the PQ for a week or two.

This could have an effect on Couillard's numbers in several different ways. It could make him seem like a weak leader who has little control over his caucus. It could disappoint those who are firmly against the charter (though they have few other options on the ballot). On the other hand, it could make him look flexible, and it could attract support from francophones who have mixed feelings about the charter but who are not entirely opposed to the concept. Considering all these possibilities, it could also very well balance out. We will have to see where the Liberals sit in polling by Léger and CROP in the coming weeks.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stability in by-election polling

On Friday, The Globe and Mail published the latest by-election polling results from Forum Research, showing no significant change in any of the four races. In fact, that has been the only real consistent trend in the by-election polling: remarkable stability.
Forum was last in the field for these by-elections on Nov. 5, and showed no statistically significant shifts of support for any of the main contenders in any of the four races.

In Bourassa, Emmanuel Dubourg of the Liberals led with 50% support, with Stéphane Moraille of the NDP at 21% and Daniel Duranleau of the Bloc Québécois at 20%. Dubourg led in all well-polled demographics.

Rolf Dinsdale of the Liberals continued to lead in Brandon-Souris, with 44% support to 36% for the Tories' Larry Maguire. NDP candidate Cory Szczepanski and Green candidate David Neufeld were tied at 9% apiece. The demographic breakdowns were the opposite of what you'd expect, with Maguire more competitive among younger voters and women and Dinsdale leading very comfortably among voters over the age of 55. When it comes to turnout, though, that is a big advantage for the Liberal candidate.

In Provencher, Ted Falk of the Conservatives led with 51% and among all well-polled demographics. Terry Hayward of the Liberals was at 30%, followed by Natalie Courcelles-Beaudry of the NDP at 10%.

And in Toronto Centre, the Liberals' Chrystia Freeland led with 47% support, with leads among both men and women and voters over the age of 35 (though she trailed by a point among younger voters). Linda McQuaig of the NDP was at 32%, followed by Geoff Pollock of the Conservatives with 16%. The problems that Abacus Data highlighted with the last Forum poll do not seem to be an issue here, due to Freeland's comfortable lead among almost all age groups.

What is remarkable about these polls, considering the snapshot nature of Forum's IVR polling and small sample sizes (with the exception of Toronto Centre), is the stability of the polls. In virtually all cases, support is wobbling to and fro within the margin of error. The only large shift recorded has been between the Oct. 17-18 and Nov. 14 polls in Bourassa for the Greens. The drop in support after Georges Laraque dropped out of the race was outside the margin of error. In every other case, shifts in support for the major parties between Oct. 17-18 and Nov. 14 and between Nov. 5 and Nov. 14 were within the margin of error.

In Bourassa, Dubourg has been up-and-down and the trendlines for both Moraille and Duranleau are positive. But they are not significant - and they certainly don't point to any potential for an upset or surprise.


The trendline in Brandon-Souris is positive for Dinsdale, but a gain of 39% to 44% is not large considering the sample of decided voters was under 460 in the first and most recent polls of the campaign. Dinsdale appears to be taking support from both the Greens and NDP, who have been trending downwards. But again, these are not significant trends.


The trend for Falk in Provencher is negative, but not that significant with samples of decided voters of 310 or less in the three polls. Both Hayward and Courcelles-Beaudry have been up-and-down.


And in Toronto Centre, the only trend is a slightly positive one for Freeland, with McQuaig generally holding steady (in this race, as in Bourassa, looking at the polls done months ago before any candidates were named does not instruct us much in determining a strong trend in the campaign itself). The margin between the two has oscillated between 15 points, 11 points, and 15 points again.

These four charts show just how stable the numbers have been. Compare that to, say, Calgary Centre (where the Conservatives dropped by more than 10 points during the campaign) or Labrador (where the Liberals dropped by almost 20), and you see that this degree of stability is not something that occurs every time. Are the races not registering in voters' minds? Is Forum missing out on important new trends? We can expect Forum to report again before the votes on Nov. 25. Perhaps the last 11 days of campaigning will shake things up. But if things stay as steady as they have been over the last month, the Liberals are heading for a good night.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ball set to take over leading NL Liberals

Liberals in Newfoundland and Labrador will be choosing their new leader this weekend. The man or woman they select will take over a party that is leading by a wide margin in the polls less than two years before the next provincial election.

A new survey conducted by MQO Research for NTV between Oct. 22-26 and surveying 400 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by telephone found the Liberals well in front with 52.1% support among decided voters (margin of error of the entire sample is 4.9%, among the decided sample it is 6%). The governing Progressive Conservatives placed second with 28.7%, while the New Democrats dropped to 17.9% support. Other parties garnered 1.3%, while 32.3% of the entire sample was undecided, said they would not vote or would not respond to this particular question.

The numbers for the PCs seem in line with recent polls, part of a worrying trend for Kathy Dunderdale's government. The Liberals have been trending upwards for some time, but the NDP's score is the worst they have registered in any public poll since before the 2011 election. This is certainly a problem for them, but whether they have suffered a lasting blow remains to be seen. This poll was conducted in the midst of a leadership crisis in the party, when its MHAs demanded a test of Lorraine Michael's leadership. The crisis seems to have passed for the time being.

With these levels of support, the Liberals would easily form a majority government with 30 seats, compared to 13 for the Progressive Conservatives and just five for the New Democrats. The Liberals would win almost all of their seats west of St. John's, while the PCs and NDP would take most of their seats in and around the provincial capital.

The poll showed that Dwight Ball was the favourite candidate of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians among those in the race for the Liberal Party leadership:

Dwight Ball: 27.8%
Cathy Bennett: 21.8%
Paul Antle: 18.7%
Danny Dumaresque: 6.2%
Jim Bennett: 3.2%

The leftover proportion was undecided. The poll also suggested that Ball, Antle, and Cathy Bennett were all capable of defeating the Dunderdale government, as they bettered her on who would make the best premier. Jim Bennett and Dumaresque placed third, behind Dunderdale and Michael when they were inserted into the question.

Antle did better than either Ball or Bennett with 33% support against 32% for Ball and 30% for Bennett when stacked up against the other two party leaders.

But what does ThreeHundredEight's leadership endorsement rankings say? This system worked quite well in the federal leadership race for the Liberal Party. If we apply the same system, but swap the value of provincial and federal politicians, we see that Dwight Ball is the overwhelming favourite to win.
Ball leads in the endorsement rankings with 61.7% of all points awarded (at least according to the best of my scouring of the Wikipedia page for this race and the websites of each of the leadership candidates). Antle finishes second with 24.4% of the endorsement points, followed by Cathy Bennett at 7%, Danny Dumaresque at 4.5% and Jim Bennett at 2.5%.

Endorsements
Update (16/11/13): An intrepid reader alerted me that John Efford was a former MP as well as MHA, so his value (and the points for Dumaresque) have been increased from yesterday's post.

Based on Cathy Bennett's support in the MQO poll and the opinion of one of the journalists in Newfoundland and Labrador I quizzed on the race, she is likely to perform better than 7.1% of the leadership vote this weekend. But it seems very likely that Ball will come out on top, with Antle in second place.

(If I have missed any endorsements, please let me know and I will update this post.)

Update (17/11/13): In the first round of voting, the order of the candidates matched the leadership rankings, but as expected Cathy Bennett performed much better than 7%. The results were: Ball 44.4%, Antle 27.5%, C. Bennett 22.7%, Dumaresque 2.7%, J. Bennett 2.7%. The second ballot results were: Ball 47%, Antle 29.1%, C. Bennett 23.9%. The final ballot results were Ball 59%, Antle 41%. 

If Dwight Ball does win the leadership race, it seems unlikely that the party's support will change in the short term as a result. The Liberals started their uptick in the spring, and at that point the Corporate Research Associates were showing Ball polling ahead of Dunderdale on the leadership question. Surveys by Angus-Reid have shown strong approval ratings for Ball as well, with the latest poll putting him at 57% approval to just 23% disapproval. Compared to Michael's result of 63% approval to 22% disapproval and Dunderdale's woeful 20% approval and 73% disapproval in the early September poll, Ball seems well positioned to take over the Liberals.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

No winning hands for Ford

Ipsos-Reid has jumped into the municipal fray, helpfully providing us with a different look at what Torontonians are thinking about their mayor and who they might want as their next mayor. The results are not good for Rob Ford, as the poll suggests that, no matter who else is on the ballot, he will lose.

The poll also shows that Ford has a high degree of notoriety, as well as now being notorious. This should come as no surprise, considering he has been plastered across the front pages and the news bulletins, and he has been mayor since 2010. But the Ipsos-Reid poll took a look at just how familiar Torontonians are with some other potential and declared candidates for next year's mayoral race, and it hints at who the likely frontrunners will be.

Almost everyone surveyed had heard of Rob Ford, with 81% saying they were very familiar with him and 17% saying they were somewhat familiar. Only 1% said they were not really familiar, and another 1% had never heard of him. They probably just moved to Toronto on the day of polling from a country without television/radio/smoke signals.

Olivia Chow, current NDP MP for Trinity-Spadina, had a relatively high degree of name recognition considering her generally modest profile. Almost one-half, or 47%, were very familiar with her and another 36% were somewhat familiar with her. Only 7% had never heard of her. Chow was most well-known in the old city of Toronto, at 89% very/somewhat familiar.

Close behind her was John Tory, former mayoral candidate and former leader of the Ontario PCs. He had a notoriety of 76%, with just 9% never having heard of him. He was most well-known in York/East York, at 81%.

After him was city councillor and declared candidate Karen Stintz, with 29% being very familiar of her and 35% somewhat familiar. She was most well-known in York/East York, at 70%.

Considering that 58% of respondents said they would absolutely vote in the next election, a number that would actually be quite good for a municipal vote, the notoriety of these four potential and declared candidates seems to be good enough. A campaign will undoubtedly close the gaps.

Norm Kelly, current deputy mayor, was very or somewhat familiar to 36% of Torontonians while David Soknacki, former councillor and declared candidate, was familiar to just 16%. Almost half had never heard of him.

How would these candidates do in the various scenarios that could play out in October 2014?

Stintz, Tory, and Chow each have a winning scenario. Ford does not. And Chow seems to be the most strongly positioned, as she wins the two scenarios in which she was included in Ipsos-Reid's polling.

If no other candidate decides to run apart from those who have already declared, Stintz wins handily. She would take 52% of the vote, compared to just 33% for Ford and 14% for Soknacki. Stintz would win every region of Toronto, though the race in Scarborough would be close (43% to 41%). She does best in York/East York with 61%.

Ford would have his best score in Scarborough, but would take just 24% of the vote in old Toronto. Soknacki would take 17% in Scarborough and just 5% in York/East York.

If Tory throws his hat into the ring, he comes out on top. He would win every region and take 41% of the vote, with Stintz finishing second at 30% and Ford falling to third with just 22% of the vote. The contest in old Toronto would be close, with Tory edging out Stintz 38% to 36%. Tory would do best in Etobicoke with 45%, while Ford would take 30% of the vote in York/East York and drop to just 16% in Toronto and Etobicoke.

If Tory does not run but Chow does, she then has the winning hand. She would, again, win every region and take 44% of the vote, including 60% in old Toronto. Ford would take 28% and come a close second in Scarborough (36% to Chow's 40%) and North York (31% to Chow's 36%). Stintz is hurt more by Chow's candidacy than she was with Tory's, as she would drop to third with 22% of the vote.

If both Tory and Chow join the fray, the election would appear to be primarily a contest between those two. Chow would win with 36% of the vote, taking a majority in Toronto and winning Scarborough, while Tory would capture 28% of the vote and prevail in Etobicoke, North York, and York/East York. Ford would place third with 20%, doing no better than 24% anywhere in the city, while Stintz would fall to fourth with just 13% support.

In none of these scenarios is Rob Ford even close to winning. Fully 50% of Torontonians said they not vote for Ford under any circumstances, meaning his pool is quite small. Another 13% said they somewhat agreed that they would not vote for him in any circumstances, reducing his potential pool of supporters even further. Really, his base is the 19% of respondents who strongly disagreed that they would never vote for him. This seems to be confirmed by his bottoming out at 20% in the final scenario. There is simply no winning hand for Ford in this poll.

The survey does include a great deal of information on who each of these candidates' supporters are. Using the crosstabs from the final, all-in scenario, we can profile their average supporter.

The remnants of Ford Nation appear to be men over the age of 55 who have a household income of $40,000 per year or less, and have at most a high school diploma. Stintz's typical supporter also makes less than $40,000 per year, is between the ages of 18 and 34, and is high school educated.

A John Tory supporter has a household income of more than $60,000, is over the age of 35 and has a post-secondary education. An Olivia Chow voter makes less than $100,000 per year, is under the age of 54, and is a woman.

Polls like this showing Ford's vulnerability will certainly not deter new candidates from joining the race. Chow seems to have the widest appeal and greatest potential to win, but John Tory could also make a good run for the job - particularly if Ford's numbers continue to slide.

Among the most committed voters, as well, both Chow and Tory tend to do better while Ford's numbers generally decrease. Among the most committed voters, Stintz beats Ford with 55% to 32%, Tory beats Stintz and Ford with 45% to 30% and 20%, and Chow beats Ford and Stintz with 45% to 29% and 20%. With a full deck, Ford drops from 20% to 19% and Stintz from 13% to 10%, boosting Tory from 28% to 32% and Chow from 36% to 37%. This suggests that in an actual election, the race would really be between Tory and Chow even more than the general numbers show. That would be an interesting race - and fears that Rob Ford could slip through the middle would be unfounded.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ontario NDP gains in uncertainty-inducing Ipsos poll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

October 2013 federal polling averages

October was a rather tumultuous month here in Ottawa, and the volume of polling reflects that. In all, 14 national and regional polls were conducted and released during the month of October, surveying a total of 17,581 Canadians. That is the largest amount of public federal polling done in any month since March 2012, when Thomas Mulcair was named the leader of the New Democrats. It was a different recently named leader, however, who had the best numbers this month.

The Liberals led for the seventh consecutive month, with an average of 35.2% support. That was a 2.9-point gain over September's averages. Though the Liberals' lead has wobbled back and forth over the last seven months, the wobble itself has been relatively consistent. This period of polling strength is easily the longest the Liberals have enjoyed since Paul Martin's leadership.

The Conservatives were down 1.5 points to 28.9% support in October. The party has not been at or below 30% since at least before 2009, when the monthly averages begin, let alone for seven consecutive months. The current polling numbers for both the Tories and the Liberals put us back to pre-2006 levels. More than seven years ago!

The New Democrats were down 0.8 points to 23.7%, and have been stagnant at between 23% and 25% since April.

The Bloc Québécois was down 1.1 points to 5.9% support, while the Greens were up 1.1 points to 5.5%. Support for others parties stood at 0.9%, down 0.6 points from September.

If we compare these nine national polls to the last time the same firms were in the field, we get a good comparison of how things have moved since the summer.
When we compare apples to apples like this, we see that the Conservatives have dropped a point since the summer, the NDP has been relatively stable, and the Liberals have picked up almost three points.

Click to magnify
There was little movement in the polls in Ontario during the month, with the Liberals picking up 1.1 points to lead with 37.2% support. The Conservatives, who have been between 33% and 34% since May, averaged 33.5% support, a drop of 0.7 points. The NDP was down 0.6 points to 22.9%, while the Greens were up 1.1 points to 5.5% support in the province.

Quebec enjoyed its first month of stability in the polls since before Justin Trudeau became Liberal leader. The Liberals were down 0.7 points to 31.5%, while the New Democrats were down 0.3 points to 26.4%. The Bloc Québécois slipped 0.7 points to 23.1%, while the Conservatives were up 0.8 points to 13.3% in the province. The party has been at 13% in Quebec for the last four months now. The Greens were up 1.1 points to 4.9%.

British Columbia remains a jumble, as it has been for the last seven months. In October, the Liberals inched ahead by 3.9 points to lead with 32.6%, followed by the Conservatives at 28.9% (-6.3) and the NDP at 27.7% (-0.1). The Greens were up 1.7 points to 9.7% in B.C., their best regional result nationwide.

The Conservatives led in Alberta with 51.8%, a drop of 1.2 points. The party has actually been sliding since June. The Liberals put up their best numbers in the province since May with 25.1% support, a gain of 2.5 points. The NDP was down 2.1 points to 15.2%, while the Greens were up 1.8 points to 6.2%.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals had the best result that any party has managed since at least January 2009 with 55% support, a jump of 10.3 points since October. The Conservatives were down 0.2 points to 20.7%, while the New Democrats were down 8.9 points to 20.2%. That is their worst result in the region since March 2011. The Greens were down 0.4 points to 3.7%.

And in the Prairies, the Conservatives managed their worst result since May with just 37.5% support, down 4.3 points from September. The Liberals, who have been moving up and down over the last few months but generally trending upwards, recorded their best result since at least January 2009 with a gain of six points to 34.5% support. The NDP was down 1.6 points to 22.8%, while the Greens were down 1.4 points to 3.5%.
With these levels of support, the Liberals would win a plurality of seats with 130, a gain of 15 over September's projection. The Conservatives dropped 15 to 121, while the NDP, Bloc, and Greens were unchanged at 70, 15, and two seats, respectively.

The Liberals made their biggest seat gains since last month in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, where they picked up five in each. The Conservatives dropped eight seats in British Columbia and three in the Prairies, while the New Democrats were up three seats in B.C. but down four in Atlantic Canada.

Approval ratings over the month (just two polls by Forum and EKOS) averaged 29% for Stephen Harper, 45% for Mulcair, and 49% for Trudeau. That was generally unchanged for both the Conservative and Liberal leaders from September, but Mulcair's was up a fair bit.

So it would seem that the month was a rough one for Harper and the Conservatives, which you probably didn't need polling data to figure out. So far, the Liberals have made the gains though it is possible that we will see Mulcair's Question Period performance begin to pay off. The Conservatives dropped everywhere in Canada except Quebec, where their gains were modest and the electoral consequences minimal. The Liberals gained in everywhere except in Quebec, which does have implications for their chances of winning a strong minority or majority government. For the New Democrats, it was general stagnation. In the context of the party, 24% is terrific as it would still be the second-best result for the NDP in its history, but after 2011 expectations are considerably higher.

Nevertheless, October was also a noisy month when you take into account all of the events on Parliament Hill - particularly in the last two weeks. It may be more instructive to see where the numbers lie in November and December when things have some time to settle down.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Liberals making gains in by-election polls

With all the brouhaha in Toronto and the Senate, perhaps we need to be reminded that an election is actually on-going in the four federal ridings heading to the polls on Nov. 25. And yesterday evening, Forum Research came out with their latest set of numbers for those four by-elections, showing the Liberals leading in three of them and making (mostly modest) gains across the board.
Forum was last in the field for these by-elections on Oct. 17-18, just before the elections were officially called.

The Liberals made their biggest gain in Bourassa, where Emmanuel Dubourg picked up nine points to reach 56% support. That jump was outside the margin of error, and apparently came almost entirely from the Greens. With Georges Laraque off the ballot and Danny Polifroni in his place, support for the Greens fell 10 points to just 2%. I suppose that demonstrates just how much Laraque was worth, as his party was polling at 3% in the riding earlier this year before he threw his hat (temporarily) in the ring. It has to be disappointing for the Greens, who have put a lot of resources into the riding.

Support for the NDP's Stéphane Moraille increased by a single point to 19%, while Daniel Duranleau of the Bloc Québécois was up two points to 17%. That also has to be disappointing for the New Democrats, who had hoped to be able to wrest the riding away from the Liberals, or at least keep it competitive. Instead, Dubourg led by a wide margin among most demographics and the party has actually been increasing its support over the last two polls.

The Liberals also led in Brandon-Souris, up a single point to 40%. The Tories' Larry Maguire was unchanged at 35%, while Cory Sczepanski was down two points to 10%. Forum did increase its sample size in this riding from last time, and still found a very similar result to the mid-October poll. Rolf Dinsdale led among most demographics as well, suggesting his support is wide as well as deep.

In Provencher, Ted Falk of the Conservatives dropped three points to 53% but continued to hold a lead over Terry Hayward of the Liberals, who was up five points to 34%. Falk enjoys a good lead among all demographics. Natalie Courcelles-Beaudry of the NDP was down a single point to 8% in the riding.

And in Toronto Centre, the Liberals' Chrystia Freeland was steady with a gain of a point to 46%. Linda McQuaig picked up five points - outside the margin of error - to close the gap with 35% support. Geoff Pollack of the Conservatives was down three points to 15%. Significantly, Freeland had a big lead among older residents of the riding (i.e. voters), while McQuaig did best among those with a household income of $40,000/year or less (not exactly middle class). But McQuaig is steadily making gains, as the candidate-less party had 20% support earlier in the year. That increased to 30% in October, and is now at 35%. The Conservatives seem to have been dropping as a result (indirect or not).

Unfortunately, Forum did not release a breakdown by past federal vote, so it is impossible to check the weightings as I did in my last report on Forum's by-election polling.

Below are the weighted averages of the polls in these ridings. Forum's are the only ones in the game, and the 67% rule has been applied to the weightings to ensure that no single poll takes up the entire calculation. As previously explained, the 67% and 95% confidence intervals take into account the past degree of accuracy of by-election polls.

Dubourg is considered virtually unbeatable in Bourassa according to Forum's polls, as he still wins handily even at the lower end of the 95% confidence interval.

Brandon-Souris remains a toss-up leaning Liberal, as both confidence intervals put Maguire and Dinsdale in a position to come out on top.

Falk should have no problem holding the riding, but at the 95% confidence interval Hayward is getting perilously close to being in range of a surprise upset.

Freeland's lead remains wide enough that she should be able to win, but McQuaig is close enough as well that she is more than in the running to take it on Nov. 25.

It will be interesting to see where the numbers go from here, as minds focus a little more as voting day approaches. In the end, these were all relatively comfortable ridings for the incumbents so it should come as little surprise that the Liberals are favoured in two of them and the Conservatives in Provencher. But Brandon-Souris is definitely the race to watch - and Toronto Centre is still potentially up for grabs.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ford! Now that I have your attention...

...how about we take a look at Rob Ford's polling numbers?

Did Rob Ford's approval ratings actually go up after Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair confirmed the existence of a video seeming to show the Toronto mayor smoking crack cocaine (which he admitted to yesterday)? The answer is: probably not. I took a look at this, among other things, in my article today for The Globe and Mail (available to subscribers only, please consider a subscription if you can), but considering that the notion that Ford's approval ratings increased after Blair's press conference last week has been cited all over the place - including CNN and on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night - I wanted to address this here in more detail.

First of all, the polls in question come from Forum Research and I have already gone over some of the potential sampling issues with their methodology before. But secondly, their numbers need to be placed in a lot more context. Ford's approval ratings did go up, but only after they plummeted. After polling between 44% and 49% over the summer, he managed 39% in a late October poll. So when his numbers moved back to the 43% to 44% range over Forum's last two polls, the moral of the story seemed to be that crack cocaine is good for your re-election chances. But is that really accurate?

The chart above shows the evolution of Rob Ford's approval ratings in Forum Research's polling since mid-2011 (to give it better focus, I cut off the y-axis at 30%). As you can see, they had generally been trending slightly upwards but for the most part have been between 41% and 47% throughout his tenure. That is rather stable.

I have highlighted the four polls done over the summer, conducted after the initial aftermath of the first Gawker report on the existence of the video, and before the odd 39% poll that Forum released at the end of October. If we compare that group of polls to the more recent one, we see that Ford's approval rating is more likely to have decreased due to Blair's report than increased. That 39% poll looks a lot like an outlier. It was the worst poll Forum had put out for Ford since February 2012, and of 32 polls conducted since September 2011 it was in the bottom three.

Can we now put to bed the claim that his poll numbers increased? It seems much more likely that his poll numbers decreased from around 46.5% over the summer to 43.5% immediately after the police chief's report. Where they will go from here, we will soon find out.

Ford made it clear that (for now, at least, things seem to be changing from hour to hour) he will be running again in October 2014. His chances of re-elections are, perhaps, not very good. But they are also a lot better than they probably should be, considering the events of the last few days.

Forum has been conducting hypothetical mayoral polling for some time now, with unusual names sometimes thrown into the mix. But the field is starting to get a little clearer: Karen Stintz, a city councilor, and David Soknacki, a former city councilor, have both announced their intentions to run. Olivia Chow, a downtown NDP MP, is also considered likely to run. How would Ford do against these candidates?
Note that this poll was done before yesterday's circus, and that I have removed the undecideds (numbered at 21% in the poll on the left, 10% on the right) myself.

Against Karen Stintz, Rob Ford comes up short with just 42% support against 48% for Stintz among decided voters. Soknacki takes 10% of the vote. That is still relatively close, though, and certainly close enough that Ford couldn't be ruled out in a campaign one year from now.

And he still has a bit of a regional base. He wins North York with 48% of the vote against Stintz, as well as Scarborough with 54%. Stintz takes Etobicoke with 48%, while she dominates the old city of Toronto with 62% of the vote.

Once Olivia Chow is included, however, Stintz falls away significantly. This suggests that Stintz's support in the first poll is more about not being Rob Ford than it is about being Karen Stintz. Chow wins by a much wider margin with 43% of the decided vote, against 32% for Ford, 18% for Stintz, and 7% for Soknacki. Chow wins every region of the city, with 48% support in old Toronto, 44% in North York, 41% in Scarborough, and 38% in Etobicoke (where Ford comes closest to winning).

In the first poll, Stintz manages to drag 21% of Ford's 2010 vote towards her. In the second poll, Chow captures 20% of Ford's vote, while Stintz takes another 10%.

The Toronto mayor still has a potent base and it makes him potentially competitive in the next campaign (if he holds on until then, and his vote does not tank after yesterday's admission), but it might have shrunk to a size that does not make him capable of winning. In the end, though, we need to wait and see how things shake out before coming to any initial conclusions about his electoral chances a year from now. The current landscape is just changing too much. But reports of Ford's resilience may be exaggerated.