Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ontario Liberals inch ahead in Abacus poll

The new poll by Abacus Data for the Sun News Network shows the Liberals narrowly edging out the Tories among both all eligible and likely voters, part of a trend that seems to be building in favour of the Liberals - or, perhaps more accurately, against the PCs.

As the results of the Abacus poll among likely voters did not differ greatly from the projection yesterday, the numbers have not moved dramatically today. The Liberals are still in front with 35.8% (or between 34% and 39%), followed by the Tories at 33.2% (32% to 36%) and the New Democrats at 22.7% (or between 21% and 24%).

The seat count is virtually identical to the standings at dissolution: 48 for the Liberals, 37 for the PCs, and 22 for the NDP. The ranges still overlap between the Liberals and PCs, however, at between 40 to 58 seats for the Liberals and between 30 to 47 seats for the PCs. The New Democrats sit at between 16 and 24 seats.

For once, we're spared the whiplash caused by a new poll contradicting the one that came before it. In fact, this Abacus poll is broadly similar to the most recent poll by EKOS Research. The Liberals have now led in three of the last four polls, and the methodological trend seems to have been broken. It was starting to emerge that the IVR polls favoured the Liberals and the online polls the PCs, suggesting that there was a methodological factor behind the discrepancy. But now that is no longer the case.

A bit of a trend is developing. The charts below are the same as the one posted yesterday, but highlighting only each party. The vertical lines represent each day a poll was in the field, with a rough approximation of the margin of error relating to the poll (assuming a probabilistic sample). The horizontal lines track the trends for each individual pollster. When looked at in this fashion, the discrepancies recorded so far in the campaign do not seem too large, and the trends seem a lot clearer.

Generally, the numbers have not been moving very much. But it is clear that there is a positive trend in favour of the Liberals and a negative one for the Progressive Conservatives. The New Democrats appear stable. The Liberals have gone from the low-30s to the mid-to-high 30s, while the PCs have gone from the high-30s to the low-30s. There is a bit of a signal in all this noise.

The Abacus poll shows a great deal of stability, with even the regional results not changing from Abacus's last poll by more than five points (keeping them well within the margin of error of a probabilistic sample of similar size).

Among all voters, the Liberals picked up one point to move into the lead with 34%, as the PCs dropped one point to 32%. The NDP was also down one point to 25%, while the Greens were steady at 6%. The number of undecideds increased by one point to 15%.

The interesting result was among likely voters, which has favoured the Tories in past polling by Ipsos Reid and Abacus. Here, however, the Liberals are increased to 36% (+3 from last week) while the PCs also increase, but just to 33% (-3 from last week). Have the Tories lost their turnout advantage?

At the regional level, the races are quite close. The Liberals led in Toronto and eastern Ontario, with 39% and 40%, respectively. The Tories were second with 31% and 34%, and the NDP in third with 22% and 21%.

There was a tie in the GTA/Hamilton-Niagara region at 33% between the two parties (the PCs led here last week), while the NDP was at 25%.

Elsewhere, the PCs led in southwestern Ontario with 34% to 28% for the NDP and 27% for the Liberals, while in the north the NDP was ahead with 34% to 32% for the Liberals and 22% for the PCs.

It will be interesting to see if other polls start to echo what Abacus is recording. They are all recording drops in support for the PCs, so that is a trend that seems to be consistent. Whether that drops them into a tie or further behind, however, seems dependent on the pollster. But for now, at least, the polls are making a bit more sense.