Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Léger confirms Liberal lead as PQ drops among francophones

After two polling firms dropped into the campaign for the first time last week with numbers at odds with those recorded by CROP and Léger, the two Quebec-based pollsters tracking the race, many were looking forward to the next poll from CROP or Léger that would clear things up. This morning, the newest Léger poll for the Journal de Montréal confirmed what those polls had been showing: the Liberals have moved ahead of a faltering Parti Québécois.

The lead is not nearly as large as the 13-point edge Forum recorded on March 19, and so the projection has actually narrowed. The Liberals are now projected to have 41.2% support, or between 40% and 45% when assuming normal polling error. The Parti Québécois sits at 33.1%, or between 32% and 37%, while the Coalition Avenir Québec is at 14.5%, or between 13% and 16%. Québec Solidaire is projected to have 8.7% support, or between 8% and 9%.

In terms of seats, the big Liberal majority is now a small one. The party is projected to win 65 seats with these levels of support, against 55 for the PQ, three for the CAQ, and two for QS. The likely ranges lean heavily towards a Liberal victory (and mostly a majority one), but do envision the possibility of a PQ minority.

A few notes on the projection. It has been updated to reflect the finalized list of candidates. The estimated support levels of the Greens and the 'others' are now locked-in. These support levels are determined by the amount of support these parties and independent candidates averaged per riding in 2012, multiplied by the number of candidates they have nominated. As the Greens have less than a half-slate of candidates (44 out of 125), their polling levels will no longer be taken into account. The party averaged 1.9% support in each riding they had a candidate in 2012, so with such a reduced slate of candidates the party is now estimated to take 0.7% support. That may flicker by a tenth of a percentage point as the model rounds things up or down to reach 100%. The same goes for support for the other parties and independents. Option Nationale's position in the polls will be still tracked, as they have nominated 116 candidates.

Léger was last in the field between March 11-13, for Le Devoir and The Globe and Mail. Since that poll, which was conducted before the first debate, the Liberals have picked up three points to move into the lead with 40% support. The PQ dropped four points to 33%, while the CAQ was up one point to 15%. Québec Solidaire was unchanged at 9% support.

The drop in support for the PQ is outside the margin of error (or would be, if this were a probabilistic sample). It is also the lowest that Léger has pegged the PQ to be at since early December 2013, while 40% is the best Liberal score in any Léger poll in several years (CROP had the party at 40% in August 2013).

The poll confirms the findings of Ipsos Reid, which had the two parties at 37% and 32% before the debate with a much smaller sample. And, interestingly, the Léger numbers for the PQ and Liberals match exactly the Ipsos Reid estimation of support among those most likely to vote.

As for the Forum poll, Léger does agree with the support level of the PQ. But the Liberals were at 45% in that poll, which seemed high at the time and still seems to have been a bit of an outlier. But Forum did catch that the Liberals were on the upswing.

The source of the PQ's drop was among francophones, particularly those in the regions outside of Montreal and Quebec City. The PQ fell four points to 40% support among French-speaking Quebecers, while the Liberals were up to 30% and the CAQ to 17%. QS was steady at 10% support.

Léger did a massive poll, allowing them to break down provincial support region-by-region. I was able to obtain the results broken down by Léger's usual regions, in order to be able to compare apples-to-apples (and use the right data for the model).

In the Montreal area, the Liberals led with 45% to 32% for the PQ, 11% for the CAQ, and 8% for QS. The Liberals upticked, but not significantly so.

In Quebec City, the Liberals also had an uptick to 43%, while the PQ dropped to 24% and the CAQ remained relatively stable at 21%. QS was at 9% here.

In the regions of Quebec, the Liberals were up to 37% while the PQ dropped seven points to 33%, a significant decrease. The CAQ was at 18%, while QS was at 9%.

If we look at the regions reported by Léger, we get a good idea of where the parties stand. The Liberals led in the Capitale Nationale (42%), the Mauricie/Centre-du-Québec (35%), Estrie (38%), on the island of Montreal (50%), in the Outaouais (49%), in Chaudière-Appalaches (44%), in Laval (53%), and in Montérégie (37%). None of these are particularly surprising, though the strong numbers in Laval and Montérégie could spell trouble for more than a few PQ incumbents. The Liberals were also competitive in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean/Côte-Nord with 36%, suggesting Philippe Couillard may have a decent shot of election in his Roberval riding.

The PQ was ahead in the Bas-Saint-Laurent/Gaspésie (46%), the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean/Côte-Nord (43%), Abitibi-Témiscamingue (47%), and Lanaudière/Laurentides (45%). Again, none of these are very surprising, though the PQ has definitely taken advantage of the CAQ's drop north of Montreal. The PQ was only a handful of points behind the Liberals in Mauricie/Centre-du-Québec (31%), Estrie (33%), and Montérégie (36%) so there will be plenty of close races.

The CAQ's only pocket of strength was in Chaudière-Appalaches, where the party registered 28%. That bodes well for a handful of their incumbents, but with no better than 23% support anywhere else only a handful of CAQ MNAs will survive. The party is tied with the Liberals for second in Lanaudière/Laurentides (where François Legault will have a hard time being re-elected), but trails the PQ by 22 points.

For Québec Solidaire, the island of Montreal was not even their best region (9%, the party had 12% here in 2012). They scored double-digits in the Bas-Saint-Laurent/Gaspésie (13%), Capitale Nationale (10%), Mauricie/Centre-du-Québec (10%), Estrie (13%), and Abitibi-Témiscamingue (13%), but with the small sample sizes this does not mean much.

Option Nationale did not score more than 1% anywhere, while the Greens were at 4% on the island of Montreal, where they actually do have a half-decent slate of candidates (numbers-wise, at least).

On who would make the best premier, Philippe Couillard jumped five points to 31%, his best showing ever, while Pauline Marois slipped to 25%. Legault was at 16%, while Françoise David was at 8%, no real change. Among francophones, Couillard was up to 23%, while Marois was still ahead at 30%.

The campaign has well and truly shifted. Earlier, Léger found that 52% of Quebecers thought the PQ was going to win the election, against just 25% who thought the Liberals would prevail. Now, 48% expect the Liberals to win, with just 33% thinking the PQ will come out ahead. The campaign has just been a disaster for the PQ.

Interestingly, Léger asked Quebecers whether they would prefer a PQ or Liberal government. While 48% said they preferred a Liberal government, 41% preferred a victory by the PQ. This is where strategic votes may come into play. On this score, however, the PQ might be slightly favoured. Among CAQ supporters, 51% preferred a Liberal victory against 34% who preferred a victory by the PQ. Among QS supporters, however, that split 62% to 21% in favour of the PQ. That means that, among CAQ and QS supporters, the PQ could potentially grow by 10.7 points, compared to 9.5 points for the Liberals. Narrowing the gap by one or two points could bring the Liberals down to minority territory.

But that is what the PQ appears to have been reduced to, after starting the campaign the odds-on favourite to win. There is still time to turn things around, but that time is running out. The Liberals were only out of power for 18 months after holding office for almost 10 years, and there may be a backlash if Quebecers decide they aren't ready to hand the reins of a majority government back to the Liberals for another four years. But the PQ has salted the earth to such a large degree over the last few weeks that perhaps only Legault and the CAQ stands to benefit. The campaign may not be over yet.

27 comments:

  1. "That means that, among CAQ and QS supporters, the PQ could potentially grow by 10.7 points, compared to 9.5 points for the Liberals. Narrowing the gap by one or two points could bring the Liberals down to minority territory."

    Pretty hard to have a minority government if the third/fourth party support collapses though.

    Once the election is done Eric, would you be interested in doing a simulation of the election and maybe a few different voting intention scenarios under Instant Run-Off Voting? A lot of talk on both sides seem to be about "vote splitting" but I suspect this issue isn't as big a deal as some people assume. It'd be interesting to see if the PQ's inherent advantage in close elections remains under IRV too.

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  2. Hello Eric,

    Do you think it's possible in any way that the Forum survey from last week was accurate and that this Leger poll shows that the Liberals are going down, possibly as a result of the false "Ontario voter" crisis?

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    1. It is a possibility, but I think unlikely.

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    2. If anything I expect that "crisis" to hurt the PQ even further, now that the DGE has embarrassed them by clarifying that there are in fact no irregularities and that initial reports were based on erroneous information from an "unnammed" political party, as well as rebuking the Justice Minister for trying to tell him how to do his job. All in all another catastrophic couple of campaign days for the PQ...

      Dom

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  3. Using my own simulator, with the poll's numbers, I get:

    65 PLQ
    49 PQ
    8 CAQ
    3 QS

    Note that of the 8 CAQ seats, 1 of them is won by less than 0,05%, 1 by less than 1% and 1 by less than 2%, so they are shaky wins at best. Those seats would be taken by the PQ is the CAQ were to lose them. For the PLQ, 1 riding is won by less than 0,5%, 1 by slightly more than 1,5% and the rest is almost exclusively 4% or more, placing them comfortably in a majority situation since even if they lose their close races, they would retain their majority.

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  4. Using the aggregated numbers, in my simulator, I get:

    66 PLQ
    49 PQ
    7 CAQ
    3 QS

    Obviously, very similar to the poll numbers, the only difference being L'Assomption, where the PQ wins by slightly more than 0,5% instead of losing it to the CAQ by slightly less than 0,5%. This will be an interesting riding to look at due to its close race, especially since it is the riding in which François Legault, the CAQ leader, is presenting himself.

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  5. A reader's comment to an article in one of the French-language dailies on the Léger poll recalled (with an air of desperation, I'd say) the polls conducted with two weeks left in the Alberta election...

    It's an opportunity to consider why political analysis beyond polll results is necessary to understand an election, and how this Quebec election is different from the one in Alberta.

    Almost intuitively we know that the Liberal lead is different from Wildrose's lead (even if it seemed at the time that a Wildrose victory was inevitable). In fact, a similar process is happening in Quebec to that which happened in Alberta, but with the position of the relevant political parties reversed. In Alberta, when election day approached, people finally fell back on the apparently safer bet (the incumbent party), unwilling to take a risk on an untried party. In Quebec, the safer bet is the Liberals, with the incumbent PQ appearing strikingly risky. I wouldn't say the tide couldn't turn, but it seems that only the Liberals could deliver their own defeat at this point, and there's nothing the PQ could do to win.

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    1. I stopped believing in polls when Dewey defeated Truman.

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    2. ha ha! But what was the methodology back then?

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    3. Actually, the PLQ is not so popular itself, it's just that with the PQ's unclear position on a referendum (and, especially, a very well devised strategy by the Liberals since they held no chance at all to win without this shadow hanging over the PQ), the people are flocking back to the "safe" position to avoid a referendum. But ultimately, people don't really want the PLQ in power either, so the polls may have the effect, on election night, of swinging some voters to vote strategically to avoid a majority government.

      A significant lead this early (ok, we're slightly past the half point) in the race could actually hinder the Liberals more than help them, compared to, say, if it had happened during the last week of campaign. Now, the people will have time to hear about the possible PLQ majority government, have even stronger polls for the Liberals come out, weight their option and think about what they really wish and see how things develop to place their vote strategically instead of being aware of the potential but dismissing it as a meaningless surge in the last few polls of the race.

      I'm not saying this will necesarilly happen, but reversing the lead was the "easy" part, holding on to it after the 9 years of Charest and his ghost hanging around after only 18 months since his departure, now's the real test for Couillard.

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    4. Thierry, I agree with your logic, but I can't really see people strategically voting to prevent a majority - there's the risk of allowing the more unpopular/scary PQ back into power. And even with two weeks to go, (short of a truly outrageous gaff on the part of the PLQ, which admittedly isn't impossible) I can't imagine the Liberals performing badly enough to lose their advantage vs. the PQ, who have managed a spectacularly lousy campaign.

      Éric, as I think you know, I don't disbelieve polls (I wouldn't be a regular here if I did), I just don't think they can be used in isolation to judge what's happening in an election campaign, and the tempatation to do so is evident for some.

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  6. Oh, I'm not saying the PQ will win the election because of that strategic vote (there would indeed need to be a major twist for things to turn around for them at this point), just that the PLQ majority is far from a done deal. I have a 3-4 seat majority for the Liberals right now, let's say that a strategic voting were to happen and the PLQ lost 7 seats, all of them going to the PQ (highly unlikely), they would still make it to power. If such voting were to take place, I think it would land the Liberals within 60 and 62 seats, really just on the verge of the majority.

    The only major announcement that could turn things around could be: a) arrestations due to corruption within the PLQ ranks (highly unlikely during the campaign as it would look like a political move) or b) Marois clearly stating during Thursday's debate that she will not hold a referendum during the next 4 year mandate. I doubt the PQ will dare go there because of the "radicals", but if they wish to reverse the current trend, that seems like the only potential move to me. If they do so, it's a whole new ball game and I'd be interested in seeing what would happen.

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  7. This PQ campaign has been so inept that it reminds me of Jed Bartlett's complaint from an episode of The West Wing: "every time we go to California, we are absolutely the Clampetts!" Well this campaign, the PQ have been absolutely the Clampetts.

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  8. I am curious as to why you don't put QS Max at 3, there's been a lot of people arguing that Manon Massé has a strong chance of winning. While it isn't at 100%, I believe that 3 would be a reasonable number for your MAX. Also Laurier-Dorion as well as Hochelaga-Maisoneuve are potential seats for QS. Once again, perhaps only for MAX?

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    1. Polling levels on the island of Montreal do not support giving QS a third seat, even at the maximum range. It isn't a matter of negotiation or judgment, I am limited to what the numbers show, and the numbers do not put QS in range of a third seat.

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    2. If it makes you happy, I have QS winning Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques from the PQ by 3% in my own simulator. They are second in Laurier-Dorion by 11% behind the PLQ and in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve by 10% behind the PQ.

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    3. Moreover, the simulator gives inferior results to the 2012 in Laurier-Dorion, Saint-Marie, Gouin and Mercier....which is obviously not possible especially the moment that in Laurier-Dorion PQ will be lower and QS has it's most known candidate after the 2 incumbents

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    4. Current polling level for QS on the island of Montreal: 10%. Support in 2012: 12%.

      Current polling level for PQ on the island of Montreal: 27.6%. Support in 2012: 23.8%.

      My projection is based on numbers. The QS is down in Montreal. PQ is up. I do not base my projection on hunches or anecdote.

      QS will be projected to be in a position to win a third riding when the polling numbers support it. Might the polls be wrong? Yes, of course. But the projection is based on the polls and nothing else.

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  9. Jean Marc Leger wrote this on Twitter: "Mais attention rien n'est encore joué. Le PLQ avait une avance sur le PQ de 12 points vendredi, 7 points samedi et 3 pts dimanche."

    What do you make of it?

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    1. It means we need another poll!

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    2. Should we be expecting a new poll in the next couple of days? CROP?

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    3. I am fairly certain we'll have one tomorrow morning, one that was done between Monday and Wednesday, to give us an idea of the positions before the second and last debate.

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    4. There's still "Tout le monde a parle" on Sunday between the PQ and Liberals. In Quebec, all kinds of hell can break lose from things said on that talk show.

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  10. When the folks in Quebec blink and acknowledge the simple fact that their standard of living would fall apart without the Alberta tar sands money propping them up it will be the end of the absolutely special status that Quebec has enjoyed in Canada.

    Paul Martin started the ball rolling with cutting the federal debt and rolling the debt to the provinces. Harper continued the trend and it has become obvious to anyone looking at the numbers that while Quebec could possibly survive as a Sovereign nation they have shown absolutely no ability to prosper.

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  11. Hello, I noticed your numbers haven't changed for the Quebec election in almost a week. Do you have any idea when we should expect new polls? Thanks, David.

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    1. I don't know, sorry! Hopefully soon.

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