Wednesday, March 5, 2014

PQ begins election in majority territory

And we're off and running in Quebec's provincial election campaign, starting today and culminating with a vote on April 7, 2014. Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois will be asking Quebecers to give them a majority government instead of the minority one they were handed less than two years ago. The polls suggest she starts the campaign with a good chance of getting her wish.

The Léger/Journal de Montréal poll out this morning goes a long way to confirm the sort of numbers that CROP had in February. The gap is smaller, at two points instead of five, but the PQ enjoys the same yawning margin over the Liberals among francophones, who decide elections in Quebec.

The current projection, based primarily on the Léger poll but also incorporating other polls going back to the beginning of the year, gives the Parti Québécois 37.5% support to 34.9% for the Liberals, 15.4% for the Coalition Avenir Québec, and 7.9% for Québec Solidaire. With these levels of support, and taking into account the potential for polling error, the PQ would likely win between 62 and 81 seats. With 63 seats required to win a majority, the polls point almost exclusively to a PQ majority government at the moment.

The Liberals would win between 36 and 56 seats, with the CAQ winning between five and seven and QS taking two. The precise projection - the result should normally fall closest to it - is 69 seats for the PQ, 49 for the PLQ, 5 for the CAQ, and 2 for QS.

Check out the Quebec projection page for the full details, including regional breakdown and riding-by-riding results. Tracking charts will be added as the campaign continues and new polls emerge.

The model is virtually unchanged from the one used in the Nova Scotia campaign, with one important difference. For that campaign, the minimum and maximum projections were based on the worst polling errors in recent years. In other words, the model was assuming the exact same sort of errors as in Alberta and British Columbia would take place to derive these maximum and minimum estimations.

That was a little crude, so instead this time the minimum and maximum ranges are meant to estimate 95% of potential results. These are calculated based on polling errors in the past, so it does take into account errors like in Alberta and B.C. But it leaves a little room for further error, which is always a possibility. Put simply, 19 times out of 20 the results of the election should fall within the projected minimum and maximum ranges. For a more precise estimation, see the chart below:
What the chart above shows is the likelihood of results falling between the various projected ranges. So, for example, if an election were held on March 3 (the last day of polling), there is a 75% chance that the result would be higher than the projected average. There is a 90% chance that the Greens and Option Nationale would get lower than the projected average. There is a 5% chance that the results will fall outside the minimum and maximums for any of the parties.

A full explanation of the methodology can be found here. A link is also omnipresent in the right-hand column.

Now, let's briefly take a look at the poll.
The poll shows no major change from Léger's last survey from mid-January. It gives the PQ 37% support against 35% for the Liberals and 15% for the CAQ.

Recall that the CROP poll which resulted in much spilled ink about a PQ majority had the split at 40% to 35%, so the Léger poll is only marginally and insignificantly different. Of most consequence, electorally speaking, is the francophone vote: 45% for the PQ against 23% for the Liberals. CROP had it at 47% to 24%, which was remarkable itself. So Léger has confirmed that the PQ has made big strides among francophones, and it could be a crushing advantage.

The poll had a few other tidbits that are worth paying attention to. The PQ and PLQ had the most committed voters, with 74% and 70%, respectively, saying their choice was definitive. For the CAQ and QS, only about half of their supporters had definitively made up their mind. That isn't surprising for a small party like QS, but it is incredibly worrisome for François Legault.

The Liberals have much to gain if those CAQ voters drift away: 44% said that the PLQ was their second choice, with only 19% saying the PQ was their second option. The PQ does have room to grow among supporters of QS and ON, but that is a much smaller voter pool.

On leadership, Marois topped Philippe Couillard with 27% to 25%. That is a gain for Couillard, which is good news for him. Less glowing, though, is that he scored just 17% among francophones - putting him in a tie with Legault. If Couillard struggles to make inroads among this demographic, the Liberals have no chance of winning. Quebecers seem to agree, since 46% of them think the PQ will prevail. Only 26% think the Liberals will win.

The Liberals should be doing better, though, as they score higher than the PQ on many issues: healthcare (29% to 24% for the PQ), jobs (33% to 25%), tackling the deficit (25% to 20%), and infrastructure (32% to 24%). These are all important issues in an election campaign. Perhaps the Liberals will be able to take advantage as the campaign unfolds, but the PQ has its own issues of strength: reasonable accommodations (33% to 21% for the PLQ), tackling corruption (26% to 18%), and protecting the French language (55% to 9%). It is obvious how the two parties will design their campaign strategies, with the Liberals focusing on issues of the head and the PQ on issues of the heart.