Wednesday, April 2, 2014

CAQ gains in Forum poll

The first new poll of the final week of the campaign emerged yesterday from Forum Research via the Montreal Gazette, the first survey to be in the field and publicly released in over a week. The poll showed a minor drop in support for both the Liberals and Parti Québécois, but also a significant gain for the Coalition Avenir Québec, echoing the results of the CROP/CAQ poll leaked on Monday. But the Forum poll is, again, not without its issues.

The Liberals remain on top in the projection with 41.3% of the vote, or between 40% and 45%, assuming normal polling error. The PQ has dropped to 30.7% (or between 30% and 34%), while the CAQ has jumped to 17.8% (or between 16% and 19%). Québec Solidaire slipped to 7.7% (or between 7% and 8%).

That is a big jump for the CAQ, but it doesn't give them many more seats. They are currently projected to win just four, though their high likely seat haul is now six (and their maximum is now eight). A complete wipe out of the party is no longer considered plausible. The Liberals dropped just one seat to 64, while the PQ was unchanged at 55. The ranges tightened up, however, securing the Liberal spot as the likely winner: they should win between 60 and 70 seats at these levels of support, compared to between 52 and 57 seats for the PQ. So a minority government is still possible, though only the PLQ is likely to form it.

In addition to the Forum poll, two riding level polls were released for the ridings of Papineau in the Outaouais and Nicolet-Bécancour in the Centre-du-Québec. I'll go over them at the end of this post.

Now to the Forum poll. A few notes before we get into it. The report says that 854 Quebecers were surveyed, but if you look at the crosstabs it seems that 697 were actually surveyed instead, and that 687 of them responded to the vote intention question. That increases the margin of error to closer to 4%, rather than the reported 3%.

Also, the language numbers reported by Forum and repeated by numerous media outlets (CTV, at least, had the wherewithal to mention how odd they were) are unweighted. In other words, perhaps too many francophones in Quebec City were polled, or too many older Quebecers. Those language numbers weren't adjusted to make them reflective of the general population. So, while Forum reported that the Liberals had 39% support among francophones and the PQ 30%, what this means instead is that the Liberals had 39% support among the francophones polled by Forum. Unlike other firms, like CROP and Léger who report properly weighted results even at the sub-sample level, Forum is reporting their raw results here. 

As the numbers were unweighted, they are not necessarily reflective of the population. And since the numbers make no intuitive or mathematical sense, then we know that they are certainly not reflective of the population. The overall numbers should be weighted properly and are thus fine, but the language numbers as reported by Forum should be ignored.
Forum was last in the field on March 19, in a poll first reported by the Toronto Star. Since then, the Liberals dropped four points to 41%, the PQ dropped three points to 29%, and the CAQ increased by six points to 19%.

Considering the small sample size of this poll, only the last shift in support appears statistically significant.

Québec Solidaire was unchanged at 7%, while the Greens, Option Nationale, and other parties split the remaining 4% between them.

From what we can glean from the language numbers, it does seem that the CAQ has indeed made a jump among francophones, as suggested by the internal CROP/CAQ poll. Roughly speaking, for the provincial numbers to be what they are the PQ would need around 35% support among francophones, with the Liberals at 32% and the CAQ at 23% (give or take a point or two for each party). That is quite close to the CROP/CAQ results, but I'd prefer to see a public Léger or CROP poll before confirming that the CAQ is on the upswing among this demographic.

Regionally, the Liberals led in and around Montreal with 48%, followed by the PQ at 28% and the CAQ at 14%. That was a gain of five points for the CAQ, outside the margin of error. QS was at 7% in the region.

In Quebec City, the Liberals were ahead with 47%, followed by the CAQ at 27% and the PQ at just 17%, a drop of 10 points. QS was third with 7%.

And in the rest of Quebec, the PQ led with 35% against 32% for the Liberals (a drop of 10 points) and 21% for the CAQ (a gain of six points). QS had 8% support here.

This would suggest that the CAQ's gains among francophones came primarily from the PQ in Quebec City and the PLQ in the rurul regions of the province (which does make some sense).

Forum reported an approval/disapproval rating of 31% to 63% for Pauline Marois, virtually unchanged from March 19. Philippe Couillard's score (45% to 42%) was also generally unchanged from the previous poll, but François Legault's improved considerably. His approval rating jumped six points to 54%, while his disapproval rating fell five points to 27%. He could indeed be experiencing an uptick due to his debate performance last week.

But, again, we need to see some more polls. Forum's results align with what the CROP/CAQ poll implied, so the numbers are not unusual in that regard. Nevertheless, that their poll draws such a disproportionately Liberal-friendly francophone sample, as suggested by the raw data, puts up some red flags. On the other hand, Forum has been a bit of a leading indicator in this campaign. We'll see what the others show.

Riding polls

Now to the riding polls, which have been oddly absent from this campaign after nearly one in five ridings were individually polled in 2012.

The most interesting is from Somum Solutions for Le Courrier du Sud, polling the riding of Nicolet-Bécancour. This is a useful poll due to the departure of Jean-Martin Aussant of Option Nationale. Who fills that vacuum?

The IVR poll by Somum was conducted on March 26 and surveyed 1,908 residents. Among decided voters, it found the Liberal Denis Vallée in front with 36%, against 30% for the PQ's Jean-René Dubois and 22% for the CAQ's Donald Martel (the incumbent). The Québec Solidaire candidate had 8%, while the Option Nationale candidate replacing Aussant had just 3% - suggesting that voters in 2012 were voting for Aussant, and not ON at all.

The current projection for the riding gives a range of 37% to 42% for the PQ, 25% to 28% for the Liberals, and 22% to 26% for the CAQ. So, it will be necessary to add this poll to the projection in order to reflect the unexpected Liberal strength in the riding. This will be done for the next update.

The other riding poll was conducted by Segma Recherche for 104.7 FM, polling the very competitive (at least in 2012) riding of Papineau in the Outaouais region. It was conducted between March 28-31 and polled 624 residents.

It found the incumbent Liberal, Alexandre Iraca, well ahead with 48% to just 28% for the PQ's Jean-François Primeau. The CAQ was well behind at 13%, with QS at 9%.

The projection currently has the Liberals at 39% to 45% in the riding, against 31% to 35% for the PQ and 14% to 17% for the CAQ. Though the projected results are well within the margin of error of the riding poll, the poll will still be added to reflect the Liberals' strength, though it will have much less effect on the projection than the one in Nicolet-Bécancour.