Saturday, April 5, 2014

EKOS, Léger show new CAQ strength

Billed as the poll everyone was waiting for, Léger's final poll of the campaign for Le Journal de Montréal this morning showed significant gains for the Coalition Avenir Québec, as the Parti Québécois takes a further step backwards. But an EKOS poll for the day before showed similarly strong numbers for the CAQ, while an Angus Reid poll just released in the last hour shows the CAQ at even higher levels of support. These final days of the campaign are turning into a whirlwind.

Unfortunately, the Angus Reid poll emerged too late for it to be added to the projection, so it will need to wait until tomorrow morning's update. But the EKOS and Léger polls do give us an indication of where things stood up to April 3. The Liberals have held mostly steady in the projection, though they have slipped slightly to 39.1% support (or between 38% and 43%). The PQ is also down a little to 28.1% (or between 27% and 31%), while the CAQ made another big jump to 21.2% (or between 20% and 23%). Québec Solidaire dropped to 9.3% (or between 9% and 10%).

In terms of seats, the Liberals fell from 72 to 69, while the PQ increased from 46 to 47 and the CAQ from five to seven. The ranges have changed more significantly, however, with the Liberals now projected to win between 58 and 75 seats and the PQ between 41 and 58. Thus, a Liberal minority is more likely than it was in the last update, while a tie can now be envisioned. The CAQ increased to a range of between 5 and 11 seats. The maximum and minimum ranges for the CAQ and QS now extend to 18 and four seats, respectively.

Léger was last in the field on March 21-23. Since then, the Liberals have dropped two points to 38%, while the PQ has fallen four points to 29%. The CAQ picked up eight points to reach 23%, while QS was unchanged at 9%.

That surge for the CAQ is enormous, and most definitely outside the margin of error (of a probabilistic sample of this size). The PQ's drop is similarly notable.

The shift came among francophones, as the PQ fell five points to 35% while the CAQ gained 10 points to reach 27%. The Liberals were mostly unchanged at 29%, while among non-francophones the party had 71% support to 11% for the CAQ.

Regionally, the Liberals suffered losses in the Montreal region (down six points to 39%) and Quebec City (down eight points to 35%), but were steady in the rest of Quebec with 37%. The PQ was down slightly in each of the three regions, to 28% in Montreal, 20% in Quebec City, and 32% in the rest of the province.

The CAQ made large jumps in the Montreal region (up 11 points to 22%) and Quebec City (up 15 points to 36%), where they narrowly edged out the Liberals for the first time in this campaign. The party was up more marginally in the rest of the province, to 22%.

However, the CAQ's supporters remain the softest. While 83% of Liberals and 85% of PQ voters said their choice was definitive, only 67% said the same of the CAQ (and 56% of QS). So, there is still the potential for movement towards the two main parties.

But François Legault has certainly made gains. He went from 16% to 24% on who would be the best premier, putting him ahead of Pauline Marois (who fell to 23%). Philippe Couillard was also down, by four points to 27%. Nevertheless, a majority of Quebecers think the Liberals will form the government.

The EKOS poll certainly suggests as much. EKOS shows the Liberals leading with 40% support, followed by the PQ at 26.3%, the CAQ at 21%, and QS at 9.6%. While it is the firm's first foray into Quebec in this campaign, it does jive with other surveys.

Among likely voters, the numbers change only marginally: 39.8% for the PLQ, 27% for the PQ, 21.1% for the CAQ, and 9.4% for QS. These were the numbers used for the model.

EKOS did not report a breakdown by language, but I did manage to obtain a regional breakdown. As EKOS polls by telephone, their breakdowns were by area code. While the 514 area code corresponds with the island of Montreal, the others do not fit in so well with the regions used by Léger and CROP. The 450 area code encompasses the suburbs to the north and south of Montreal, but also much of Montérégie. The 418 area code includes Quebec City, but also the rest of eastern Quebec north and south of the St. Lawrence. And the 819 area code stretches from Abitibi to Trois-Rivieres and Sherbrooke.

The Liberals led in all four regions, though the 450 was far closer: 30.3% for the Liberals against 28.8% for the PQ and 27.4% for the CAQ. QS had its best showing in Montreal with 15%, echoing the high numbers recorded by Ipsos Reid's most recent poll. The Léger poll also implies about that much support for QS on the island, which puts them in range of three or four seats.

EKOS did have an interesting breakdown by place of birth. Among Quebecers born in Canada, the Liberals were ahead with 37% to 28% for the PQ and 22% for the CAQ. Among immigrant Quebecers, however, the Liberals had 70% support to 10% for the PQ and 7% for the CAQ.

The poll also included an interesting snapshot of the federal voting intentions of Quebecers by support for each provincial party. Provincial Liberals were largely federal Liberals (68%) or Conservatives (18%), while PQ supporters were primarily from the Bloc (59%) or the NDP (22%). The most interesting result, however, was the breakdown of CAQ voters: 42% NDP and 29% Conservative. It is difficult to fathom how such diametrically opposed federal parties could attract the same provincial supporters. It may speak to Quebecers appetite for a 'third way', rather than anything left-right or sovereigntist-federalist.

Clearly, the Liberals are now the overwhelming favourites to win on Monday. The PQ's campaign has faltered and there looks to be little likelihood of a significant rebound. But the CAQ is making up some serious ground, which Angus Reid also seems to be suggesting. If the CAQ continues to make inroads, the result on Monday could indeed be a bit of a surprise.