Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Conservatives ahead in new Angus Reid poll

For only the third time in the last year and out of the last 49 polls, the Conservatives have placed first in a national survey. Seasoned poll-watchers know that when something so out of the ordinary has happened, it is usually an anomaly that is quickly corrected. But until a new poll emerges to confirm or refute the findings of Angus Reid Global, we can only speculate as to whether this is a blip or a sign of things to come.

Angus Reid was last in the field in early March. Since then, the Conservatives picked up four points to lead with 32% support, putting them two points up on the Liberals, who fell three points to 30%. The New Democrats were down one point to 26%, while the Greens and Bloc Québécois were unchanged at 6% and 5%, respectively.

As I wrote in my piece for The Globe and Mail yesterday, these are unusual numbers. They are not completely implausible, though, as a swing of three or four points between the Liberals and Conservatives is not enormous. Nevertheless, these sort of numbers have been extremely rare over the last 12 months, as the chart below shows.

Polls since April 2013, with Angus Reid highlighted
Each dot represents a poll that has been released since Justin Trudeau became Liberal leader. The poll highlighted in green is this Angus Reid survey. As you can see, the Conservative result is higher than any recent survey. The Liberal result is lower than any recent survey. Is it a wobble or have the Liberals really taken a hit to the advantage of the Tories? We will have to wait and see.

Angus Reid also reported support among likely voters, which they determine based on a respondent's historical likelihood of voting and past voting behaviour. This is a good model for estimating likely turnout if turnout does not change to a great degree. If the assumptions the model is based on end up being off (if, say, young people turn out in larger numbers in 2015) the estimate will be wrong. This happened in the last US presidential election for a few pollsters. They assumed that the voting patterns of 2008 were anomalous and that turnout would revert to pre-2008 patterns. That did not happen, and so some pollsters, for instance, told Mitt Romney that he was going to win.

Nevertheless, according to Angus Reid's estimation of likely voters, the Conservatives have the support of 34%, a gain of three points since March. The Liberals dropped three points to 29%, while the New Democrats were up one point to 27%. At the regional level, the major changes were that the Tories placed first in the Prairies (42% to 34% for the Liberals) and extended their lead to 17 points in Ontario (43% to 26% for both the Liberals and NDP). The NDP's advantage in Quebec also increased (36% to 30% over the Liberals).

That the Conservative lead grew among likely voters is in line with what Angus Reid has found to be the case in the past. In February, a five-point national lead for the Liberals among all voters turned into a one-point deficit among likely voters. In March, that lead of five points decreased to just one.

Among eligible voters in this new poll, the Conservatives led in Alberta and Ontario. They had 57% support in Alberta, against 20% for the NDP and 17% for the Liberals. The Conservatives led with 41% support in Ontario (a gain of nine points) while the Liberals dropped eight points to 28%. The NDP was at 23%.

The surge in Conservative support in Ontario explains most of the gain the party made nationwide. It is what put them in front. But here again the numbers are unusual, as the Conservatives haven't been pegged at over 40% or with a lead of 13 points or more in the province in over a year.

The Liberals led in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada, with 36% support in Saskatchewan and Manitoba against 33% for the Conservatives and 18% for the NDP. In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals had 57% support to 21% for the Tories and 17% for the NDP.

The New Democrats led in British Columbia with 34%, a gain of seven points, followed by the Liberals at 31% and the Conservatives at 26%. In Quebec, the NDP was at 33% to 29% for the Liberals, 19% for the Bloc, and 14% for the Tories.

With these regional levels of support among all eligible voters, the Conservatives would likely win 139 seats, with 100 going to the Liberals, 96 to the New Democrats, two to the Bloc, and one to the Greens.

The Conservatives are far from majority territory due to their poor showings in British Columbia, the Prairies, and Atlantic Canada. The Liberals are hamstrung due to their distribution of the vote in Quebec, while 71% of the NDP caucus comes from either B.C. or Quebec.

Among likely voters, the Conservatives get much closer to a majority with 157 seats, with 98 being won by the NDP, 82 by the Liberals, and one by the Greens.

Angus Reid included some leadership questions in its poll. Stephen Harper topped the list for best Prime Minister with 27%, up four points from March, while Trudeau fell four points to 20%. Thomas Mulcair was at 16%, Elizabeth May at 4%, and André Bellavance at 1%.

Mulcair had the best approval rating of the leaders, at 46% against 35% disapproval. Trudeau had 45% approval to 44% disapproval, while Harper split 38% to 55%.

Comparing these numbers to Angus Reid's March poll is problematic. That poll showed increases of about 10 to 30 points in the number of 'unsures' compared to the previous poll in February, while this current poll shows a reset, with the number of 'unsures' dropping by 16 or 17 points for Mulcair and Trudeau and by 21 to 26 points for May and Bellavance. I'm not sure why that happened, but it makes it wiser to compare the approval rating results in this April poll to the last set of numbers in February.

When we do that, we certainly see that Trudeau has taken a step backwards. His approval rating fell by six points, while his disapproval rating increased by six. Harper and Mulcair experienced only insignificant shifts. When asked if their opinion of the leaders had changed in the last three months, 30% said that their opinion of Trudeau had worsened, against 21% who said it improved (those numbers were 41% to 8% for Harper and 11% to 17% for Mulcair, respectively). So, the drop in support for the Liberals nationally is corroborated by the drop in support for Trudeau - though, of course, if the sample was unusually anti-Liberal the results would be repeated throughout.

One interesting aspect was how support for who would make the best PM did not always follow voting intentions. In British Columbia, for example, the NDP outpaced the Liberals by 34% to 31%. But Trudeau outpaced Mulcair by 24% to 20% on this question. On the other hand, in Quebec the margin between the NDP and Liberals was relatively narrow (33% to 29%), but Mulcair was the choice of 30% of respondents as best PM, compared to just 16% for Trudeau. Support for a leader and support for a party, then, is not always contiguous.

But this is one poll and an unusual one at that. We have to wait and see what other surveys show before we take these results at face value. Has the political landscape in Canada really flipped, or was this a blip? The death of Jim Flaherty, and the resulting outpouring of sympathy and analyses of his legacy, could not have had no influence on the results of this poll (the biggest Conservative jump was in Ontario, after all). We should have a better idea of the significance of this poll in a few weeks' time.


  1. My own simulator, with the 308 map, gives me:

    121 PCC
    95 NDP
    88 LPC
    3 BQ
    1 GPC

    By region, it gives:

    27 LPC
    3 NDP
    2 PCC

    46 NDP
    20 LPC
    6 PCC
    3 BQ

    59 PCC
    24 LPC
    23 NDP

    15 PCC
    8 LPC
    5 NDP

    26 PCC
    2 NDP

    British Columbia:
    16 NDP
    11 PCC
    8 LPC

    1 PCC
    1 NDP
    1 LPC

    1. Parti Conservateur Canadien

    2. Oh, sorry! I generally write those in English here, I guess this one slipped my mind. Bede is right, it should read CPC.

  2. I strongly suspect random chance, even a statistically significant result has 5% probability or so of just being due to a chance effect. In any event, if the next couple polls come out showing something similar, then clearly it wasn't a blip...But that is the problem with any single poll you cannot know if random chance caused the result.

    If people are swayed by the death of a single person into actually voting for their party at the ballot box...then I am worried about the average voter...But hey I guess that is better than not voting at all?

    1. This is an effect that's been seen before. Watch for Herb Gray''s death to move the polls. In the Flaherty case that State Funeral and the attendant hype and coverage shifted viewpoints for a while. I'll bet if you go back and look at the Jack Layton State Funeral you will find similar shifts.

    2. The projected seats represent a definite loss for the Cons. Added up the Lib+NDP equals more than majority. Sure the NDP doesn't get along that well with the Libs but they are still better than they are with the Cons hence you can expect Con bills to be defeated.

    3. Keep in mind the eligible voter numbers not likely numbers were used. I suspect if the likely voter numbers were used the Conservative seat total would increase by roughly 20. That would put the Tories Tantalizingly close to a majority.

  3. You forgot to show one North seat.

  4. Are you missing a northern seat in the seat projection?

  5. The Prime Minister did give an excellent eulogy at Jim Flaherty's funeral. A charismatic Stephen Harper is a much more popular Stephen Harper, though we haven't seen much of the charismatic Stephen Harper over the past few years.

  6. Only two seats were given to the north, they're meant to have three, aren't they?

    1. Whoops, yes. The third goes to the NDP. Will fix right away.

  7. how much of an effect does Ontario provincial politics have on the way Ontario voters sway Federally?

    Ontario people, please chime in

    1. Not an Ontario resident, but historically you would have made a lot of money by betting on whoever (of the Conservatives and Liberals) was not in power in Ottawa at the time of an Ontario election winning in Ontario and whoever was not in power in Ontario winning federally.

  8. I don't think an overall negative 12 point swing in Trudeau,s approval/disapproval ratings are due to Flaherty's death.

    I'm going to hope that this is a sign of Canadians coming to their senses.

    1. Could you enlighten me, Peter, as to what Canadians are supposed to be seeing in Trudeau? Why might we like him? Because he seems entirely without substance to me. He hasn't done or said anything of note (except when he accidentally praises Maoism or something) basically ever.

    2. That's the whole point Ira. He hasn't made one policy mistake yet !! Unlike Harper and Mulcair !!

      Plus he's young, a famous name and no real nasty politics yet. Unlike any other leader you can name. What's not to like ??

    3. Maybe it's an outlier and maybe it isn't. We can all sit here arguing about that but we won't really know until further polls are released.

    4. Absolutely correct Ryan. Plus I'd need to see this shift in three to four weeks and way more than one pollster !!

    5. C'mon Ira, let's be fair...Trudeau never praised Mao.

      He only said that he admired their "basic" dictatorship since it has allowed them to pursue their environmental policies vigorously.

      Who are we to argue with that? I mean we can all see what a great green policies China has enacted just by gazing at the Beijing skyline.

      At least the picture I'm looking at says it's the Beijing skyline. It kinda looks like the inside of a bong to me.

      Give me Mulcair over Trudeau as PM anyday. At least I don't have to question his intelligence.

      If Canadians choose to turf the government on policy and principle I would respect that.

      I would lose a great deal of respect for the Canadian electorate were they to fall for celebrity and name recognition.

      I'd ask Peter in closing where Justin would be if his last name were Smith? Would he be leader of the Liberals?, a potential PM of our great country?

      We both know the answer, so you don't need to respond. You even mention his name as one of his best qualities!

      I'd just ask you to consider the actual merits of the man, before singing his praises so loudly.

    6. "I would lose a great deal of respect for the Canadian electorate were they to fall for celebrity and name recognition."

      I think the appeal is as much not being Stephen Harper. The Conservatives have created a lot of their enemies.

    7. AJR,

      Trudeau said:

      "There's a level of admiration I actually have for China. Their basic dictatorship is actually allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime."

      Trudeau praised China's dictatorial efficiency in managing their economy not environmentalism.

    8. bede,

      That quote is out of context, and cut off mid-sentence.

      “There is a level of admiration I actually have for China, he said. “Their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say we need to go green … we need to start investing in solar.”

      Regardless of the exact quote, China was not the best answer. I suppose N.Korea would have been worse.

      Amazingly I don't remember him suffering in the polls over it, but he probably should have.

    9. AJR79 - consider this quote:

      "Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the other forms that have already been tried."

      That's Churchill, in more or less the same spirit as Trudeau's comments.

    10. Whenever I hear a man profess his admiration for a communist regime I can't help but think how like Winston Churchill he is.

      The resemblance is uncanny!

    11. Churchill never praised communism and Churchill's comment on democracy are not equivalent to Trudeau's admiration towards communist China.

      Ryan misquotes Churchill. Churchill in the House of Commons some two years after his defeat at the polls said : "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried".

      By failing to include the first five words of the speech the implication becomes Churchill thought democracy was the worst form of government. When the whole quote is read it becomes clear Churchill is being sarcastic and self-deprecating.

  9. Phil,

    Speaking personally, provincial politics has no effect on my choice federally.

    Speaking generally, I would guess that party brand strength does cross over for many in Ontario.

  10. Phil: I would say (non-scientifically) that it's probably true for about 2/3rds of people in Ontario, mostly the very strong PC rural areas and some of the liberal stronghold ridings in Toronto (The provincial and federal ridings are identical in Ontario). It's hard to tell because there are a large number of ridings in the suburbs of Toronto that are often been very close liberal/PC ridings. It would be interesting to compare the ridings to see which ones elect the same party provincially and federally and which ones don't.

  11. Who won the Riding of Victoria

    1. Most likely Murray Rankin (NDP)

    2. I have NDP by a huge margin (20%+), which leads me to think that Eric has the same too.

  12. the 2011 results were very telling, with the greatest difference being Brampton/Mississauga: 100% blue federally, not a single seat provincially. of course that likely had to do with terrible messaging in the provincial campaign, spending an entire week talking about 'foreign workers,' while the feds spent a ton of time courting ethnic minorities in the GTA.

  13. Victoria is one of the safer NDP seats in BC, and this prediction has the NDP at 20 seats and the Greens, their rivals in Victoria, at 1 (presumably their incumbent), so I think it's pretty safe to guess that this prediction gives Victoria to the NDP.

  14. Is Angus Reed historically the best pollster in Canada or not?

    They only under stated the Cons support by 2 pts and had the Liberal spot on in 2011,

    With Nanos not polling anymore ( the nonsensical which 2 parties, 2 leaders do you like can not be considered a valid poll) there is AR and a bunch of Pollsters that have been off by a huge amount.

    Why question AR?

    1. I'd say Forum has been the best pollster in recent times. They did better than the others in AB and BC elections, along with by-elections in Ontario.

      Angus is good too.

      I'd say EKOS is the least accurate. Their Green numbers are always inflated, while their Tory numbers are usually too low (and I am not even a Tory supporter!).

    2. Angus was the most precise in 2011. Nanos the most accurate. Agree totally re: Nanos' BS changes.

      Angus has not done very well provincially since that though. I have no idea if that is a sign of things to come for 2015 or not.

    3. Question them because their result is so different than any other polling. Even a statistically significant poll has a 1 in 20 chance to be due to random chance rather than a real trend. So if you take the last 40 or so polls you can conclude that is possible that at least 2 of them are due to random chance results. One really cannot conclude anything yet is the thing (from a statistical point of view), yet people are drawing all sorts of conclusions, death or x, scandal on the downlow....Just look at the numbers from the prairies and ontario, they are so vastly out of sync with anything previously it should make anyone wonder....Wait until the next poll...

    4. Thanks Carl, exactly what I've been saying to and getting blasted for.

    5. Comparing polling firms is silly. What could be considered the best methodology varies from election to election as communication technology changes, from region to region based on Canada's large land mass,and even based on language and culture. The utility in polls lies in gauging the response of the electorate to specific events, especially during an election campaign. So in this poll, a follow up question on what voters thought of Flaherty would have cleared up a lot and greatly improved the poll, no matter which pollster asked it.

    6. I'd keep an open mind at least Carl. That one crazy poll has turned out to be right quite a few times in recent history.

      There's really three possibilities here imho:

      1) The poll is wrong, and these numbers are either an artifact of the methodology or random noise. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened to a pollster either. I'm sure we all remember the time in the fall when Mulcair and Trudeau's approval ratings were reversed. :/

      2) The poll is correct, but the effect is transient. The Conservatives have a bump in the polls which will revert to the previous average.

      3) This poll is correct and the beginning of a greater trend.

      Or some combination of those 3. I don't think we can distinguish between those cases at this point. My gut is it's a combination of those factors but that's just a guess.

  15. If the Tories were up coast to coast, I would say it is due to the senate scandal dying down and the economy looking up.

    Since the gain is Ontario specific, I would say it is due to the death of Jim Flaherty and some people misunderstanding or equating the Trudeau Liberals to the provincial Wynne Liberals (even today there is a Globe and Mail article of another Ontario Liberal scandal).

  16. Ipsos Reid has the two tied. Looks like the tide is turning back towards the Conservatives. The news that Canada's middle class has now surpassed the US's just shows the benefits of great leadership such as Harper's vs the American's under Obama. As the budget gets balanced and people get sick of Canada's Bush 43 (Trudeau) I think we can get prepared for another Tory majority. The large leads amongst likely voters only underscore this fact.

  17. Okay the IR poll has the Cons in a dead heat at 33% 34-33 for the Cons for committed voter.

    If the AR poll did not put all good Liberals bailing the sinking ship because it was a lone iceberg in a sea of Tranquility The IR poll puts the Good Ship Trudeau in a the heap of trouble.

    The bigger question is how in the heck have the polls taken have the Liberals at historical highs in BC and Alberta.

    These polls simply fail the the smell test.

  18. Let's take it down a notch on the partisan sniping, please.

    1. You could of course choose not to publish those comments, it is your blog afterall


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