Monday, April 28, 2014

Conservatives and Liberals tied in Ipsos poll

When Angus Reid Global reported last week that the Conservatives held a narrow two-point lead over the Liberals, many eyebrows were raised. And with good reason: the number of polls released in the first year of Justin Trudeau's Liberal leadership in which the Conservatives held a lead could be counted on the single hand of a clumsy butcher. But instead of the next poll to hit the wires refuting these findings, Ipsos Reid's poll for CTV/CP24/Newstalk1010 has corroborated the new state of affairs.

Now that a month has passed since its initial release, the price of "Tapping into the Pulse: Political public opinion polling in Canada, 2013" has been reduced to $9.99. With elections approaching in Ontario and New Brunswick, now is the time to review what happened in 2013 and how the new leaders of the provinces' respective Liberal parties fared. The ebook can be ordered in all formats from Gumroad, or direct from Amazon for your Kindle or Kobo for your Kobo reader.

Ipsos Reid was last in the field between February 14-18. Since then, the Liberals have dropped four points to fall to 33%, while the Conservatives have increased by four points to meet the Liberals in a tie. The New Democrats were unchanged at 24%.

The Bloc Québécois was up one point to 6%, while the Greens were unchanged at 3% and 1% of respondents said they would vote for another party. Of the entire sample, 16% were undecided (a drop of two points). 

None of these shifts, including that of the Liberals and Conservatives, are outside the margin of error of a probabilistic sample of this size. However, the Tory and Liberal swing is large enough - and backed up by the swing recorded by Angus Reid - to pay attention to it.

(As an aside: Tapping into the Pulse includes a complete record of polling data from most of Canada's major pollsters for 2013. Ipsos Reid is one of the firms included in that record.)

Among what Ipsos classifies as likely voters (those who say that nothing short of an emergency would prevent them from voting, a method I consider preferable to turnout models based on potentially out-of-date assumptions) the Conservatives inched upwards to 34%, while the Liberals and NDP were unchanged. Compared to the mid-February poll, that represents a three-point gain for the Tories among likely voters, and a drop of two points for the Liberals.

While that is a small blip, the Conservatives have increased by six points among likely voters since Ipsos's previous poll of January 31-February 4, while the Liberals have dropped five points since then.

The surge in support for the Conservatives recorded by Ipsos Reid was less dependent on an increase in one province alone, which was the case of Angus Reid. For example, the Tories were up by double digits in Alberta and Atlantic Canada, as well as more modestly in Ontario, the Prairies, and British Columbia.

In B.C., the Tories led with 41% against 27% for the NDP, 25% for the Liberals, and 7% for the Greens. While the shifts since February 14-18 were insignificant, the Conservatives have now registered increases in support in three consecutive Ipsos polls stretching backing to November 25-27. In all, the Tories were up 13 points since then, while the Liberals dropped 12 points over three consecutive polls.

The Conservatives were up to 63% in Alberta (a gain of 17 points over the last two polls), while the Liberals were down 23 points to 16%. This is likely more of a reset from an anomalous poll than anything serious. The NDP was at 16% support here.

In the Prairies, the Conservatives led with 45% (up eight points over the last two polls), followed by the Liberals at 31% and the NDP at 20%.

The Conservatives were narrowly ahead in Ontario with 36%, followed by the Liberals at 34% and the NDP at 27%.

The Liberals were leading in Quebec, however, with 37%. That is up six points over the last two polls. The NDP was unchanged at 28%, while the Bloc stood at 24% and the Conservatives at just 9% support.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals were at 54% (down eight points over the last two polls), followed by the Conservatives at 33% (up 21 points since mid-February) and the NDP at 10% (down 15 points).

With these levels of support, the Conservatives would likely win around 150 seats, with 111 going to the Liberals, 58 to the New Democrats, 18 to the Bloc Québécois (thanks to vote-splits), and one to the Greens. 

The strong showing for the Conservatives in the West puts them back into a position to flirt with a majority government. They can win many more seats than the Liberals thanks to their advantage west of Ontario.

But what would the Conservatives need to push that bar over the 169-seat mark needed to form a majority government? Let's start with this Ipsos Reid poll, and adjust the numbers by one point at a time in each of the regions. We'll take 0.6 points from the Liberals and 0.4 points from the NDP for every uptick.

By using this method, once we get to 38% for the Conservatives, with the Liberals at 30% and the NDP at 22%, the Tories reached the 169-seat mark (the Liberals take 94 and the NDP 50). So, they are still quite a long ways from a majority government.

The Liberals are even farther. Starting with the same assumptions but subtracting 0.6 points from the NDP and 0.4 points from the Conservatives for every point gained by the Liberals, the party surpasses the 169-seat mark at 42%, with the Tories at 29% (and 118 seats) and the NDP at 19% (and 26 seats). This starts with the Conservatives at a relatively high level and the NDP at a relatively low one, so it may be overly penalizing on the NDP, but nevertheless the relative efficiency of the Liberal and Conservative vote is clear.

These two polls by Angus Reid Global and Ipsos Reid might mark a significant turn in the Canadian political landscape. Have the Conservatives really recovered from their historic lows? Is Trudeau's appeal starting to waver? Is this a momentary blip or something real? While we now have a much better idea of what is going on than we did when Angus Reid first reported, we are still in wait-and-see mode to see whether this shift is going to stick.