Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Two new polls give Ontario Liberals the lead

After two polls at the end of last week gave a narrow lead to the Progressive Conservatives (or a wide one, if only looking at likely voters), the two latest polls now give the Liberals a lead, and a somewhat wider one than the Tories had previously enjoyed. It may be confusing, but this is what a close race with a disengaged electorate looks like.

The projection has now swung marginally in favour of the Liberals, with a 4.6-point gain to 36.7% support (or between 35% and 40%). The PCs dropped 2.8 points to 35.5% (or between 34% and 39%), while the New Democrats are down 3.3 points to 20.3% (or between 19% and 22%). Support for the Greens stands at 6.3%, or between 5% and 8%.

The Liberals have also moved ahead in the seat count, with a 10-seat gain to 47, or between 41 and 54. The PCs slipped six seats to 43 (or between 37 and 48) while the NDP was down four seats to 17 (or between 14 and 21). The likely projection is thus a minority Liberal government, though a majority is just possible and a PC plurality is also in the cards. It remains very close, and even small variations in support can swing a few seats.

The chart above, which represents each day a poll was in the field, the confidence intervals of those polls, and the trend lines of each individual pollster, suggests the Liberals may be on the upswing at this stage of the campaign, while the Tories, after a mid-point slump, have settled in. The NDP could be holding steady or dropping.

Though the poll-to-poll shift from Abacus's last survey of May 21-24 is within the margin of error (of a probabilistic sample of similar size), the trendlines are moving towards the Liberals. They were up three points to 37%, the second consecutive poll from Abacus in which the Liberals have been picking up steam. Both the Tories and NDP have been dropping in two consecutive polls, this time down two points to 30% for the PCs and one point to 24% for the NDP.

The Greens had 7% support, up one point, while undecideds were down two points to 13%.

Among likely voters, the Liberals were up one point to 37% and the PCs were up two to 35%. The NDP fell two points to 22%. The Tories have been wobbling back and forth among likely voters in Abacus's three polls, but the Liberals have been moving up and the NDP down.

The only regional shift worth noting was a 10-point gain for the Liberals in Toronto, where they led with 49%. They were also in front in the GTA/Hamilton-Niagara region with 35%, and were tied with the PCs in eastern Ontario with 38%. The PCs were narrowly ahead in the southwest with 31%, while the NDP was well ahead in the north with 47%.

The Abacus poll had a few other extra tidbits that were interesting. When asked who they expect to win, 32% of Ontarians picked the Liberals, while just 22% chose the PCs and 7% the NDP (39% said they did not know). The Liberals do seem to be winning the swing vote. Among three-way swing voters, the Liberals were ahead with 45% to 20% for the PCs and 18% for the NDP. Among OLP/PC swing voters, the Liberals led with 52% to 40%, while among OLP/NDP swing voters the Liberals were in front with 57% to 34%. The PCs remain ahead among PC/NDP swing voters, with 62% to 35% for the NDP.

The EKOS poll also pointed to a Liberal victory, with the party up 2.7 points to 38.5% from the last survey. The PCs were down 3.7 points to 33.7%, while the NDP was down 3.5 points to just 16.9%, the fourth consecutive drop in EKOS's polling. That is a very low score for the NDP, however, and must be at the low end of the margin of error.

The Greens were down 4.1 points to 7.8%, while 18% of Ontarians said they were undecided.

None of these shifts were statistically significant, though the sustained weakening of the NDP is worth noting.

EKOS is supposed to publish its likely voter estimates today, and will be reporting on a daily basis going forward. We can probably expect the likely voter numbers to boost the PCs, as the margin between the two parties shrank to one point among 45-64 year olds (36% to 35%) and flipped to a four-point edge for the Tories among voters 65 or older (40% to 36%).

The only regional shift outside the margin of error was in southwest Ontario, where the Tories were up 9.6 points to 39.6% and the NDP was down 10.2 points to 11.2%. That seems like a very anomalous result, as the southwest has been one of the strongest polling areas for the NDP. Also, it puts them just behind the Greens, and Abacus (using the same definition for the region and polling over most of the same period) put the three parties in a tie with around 30% support.

Elsewhere, the Liberals led with 47% in Toronto and 41% in the GTA suburbs, while the Tories were ahead in eastern Ontario with 41% and the north/central part of the province with 39%.

The Abacus and EKOS polls were quite similar in Toronto, the other region where their definitions are identical. The numbers themselves were broadly the same, considering the sample size, at 47% to 49% for the OLP, 24% to 25% for the PCs, and 17% to 20% for the NDP. The trends were also heading in the same direction, with the Liberals gaining and both the NDP and PCs slipping.

So, the stage is set for tonight's debate. Both Kathleen Wynne and Tim Hudak have a lot riding on it, as with the race as close as it is a good or bad performance could break the deadlock. For Andrea Horwath, she needs to finally build some momentum as only nine days remain before the vote.


  1. I trust you saw the Nanos Ontario poll today Eric?

    1. As we discussed on Twitter, I did. It is quite old, though (ending May 26) so while it will be added with the next update, it won't change much.

  2. With the 308-aggregate, I get:

    48 OLP
    41 PC
    18 NDP

    With the Abacus, using the reported numbers, I get:

    56 OLP
    30 PC
    21 NDP

    And the likely-voters give me:

    48 OLP
    40 PC
    19 NDP

    And, finally, the EKOS gives me:

    56 OLP
    36 PC
    15 NDP

  3. Eric, as a polling aggregator/analyst covering this election, I have a question only someone in your position could answer:

    What fermented beverage is best for trying to glean truth from the mass of entropy some laughingly refer to as "data" on this contest?

    1. I'm partial to cider, Magner's lately. And lots of it!

  4. Dunno, but my experience is that dealing with large amounts of conflicting data is helped more by caffeinated as opposed to fermented beverages.

  5. I've been following the Abacus swing voter data with some interest. The numbers seem consistent except for a moderate swing to the Liberals in the Con/Lib vote (I think). We're talking about 10%-15% of the sample here, so you cannot put much statistical stock in it. The only reason I can think for this is that Hudak has an X-factor that rubs centre-right voters the wrong way.

    However, with 3 polls showing reasonably constant numbers, I'd say this constitutes a good base to gauge how the swing votes react to the debate.

  6. Like I said a couple of posts ago about the East numbers not making any sense with such a commanding PC lead (considering the 3 solidly Liberal ridings of Kingston, Ottawa-Vanier & Ottawa-Centre), these two latest polls make more sense, especially if you average them out. Note: my Liberal observations about Eastern Ontario are in no way an indication of how I'm voting on June 12th as I'm part of that 18% undecideds at this point...just an indication of the part of the province I live in & my associated interest with those numbers. The North & Southwest numbers in the EKOS poll though now seem totally out of whack. Greens ahead of the NDP...did they over-poll in Guelph? If the Libs are closing in on 50% in Toronto proper, they could potentially take every seat within the city I'd imagine. Likewise, the PCs could/will likely take every seat north of the 905 until North Bay.

    1. Yeah, it's important to remember that regional numbers have a larger margin of error - the overall average between all the polls is probably the most important indicator. It's unlikely the Liberals will win every seat in the 416, although they are now poised to take seats like Trinity-Spadina & Davenport that probably weren't in play when the election began. Remember that incumbency & name recognition of an MPP can sometimes hold off regional trends, too. So a big name like Doug Holyday in Etobicoke-Lakeshore might still win for the PC's even though the OLP is way ahead in the 416, and the NDP will probably still hold Toronto-Danforth, Beaches-East York & possibly Parkdale-High Park.

  7. I think after the election it would be worthwhile to revisit how you weight polls with respect to date. I'd suggest "decaying" old polls from firms that have newer polls released faster than old polls from firms that haven't reported backa gain. Something to consider after June 12.

    Also <3 Sommersby cider.

  8. Well all I can say after watching bits of that debate is we need a REAL moderator. Best political debate I have ever seen involved a bunch of enclosed booths and the moderator had a switch for each microphone and thus we never got any of the insane "talking points" intrusions tonight's effort involved !

    1. I think Steve Paikin is a very good moderator on his own show - keeping things moving along, interjecting with important questions, not allowing talking points to go unchallenged. Usually. Unfortunately, I guess he wasn't allowed to do any of that in this format, because the parties didn't want any intrusions from an informed non-partisan journalist who knows all their flaws and talking points. He might as well have been a robot last night for all the good he did.

      Wynne was over-prepped - seemed like she had a list of things she "had" to mention, and missed almost every chance she had to really hit the other two where it hurt (no mention of Hudak's "inflated by 8 times" jobs numbers? Or his claim that heavy corporate tax cuts will bring jobs, even though Harper tried it and it hasn't worked? No mention of Horwath and Hudak also promising to remove the gas plants, and Hudak quoting a billion dollars as how much he thought that might cost?) Plus she talked too much about vague things (like how many billions of dollars she plans to spend on programs - no one cares! They care about what those things actually ARE) and not enough about specifics (no mention of the several GTA LRT lines that Hudak would cancel? And of how much longer people will have to wait in traffic in the coming years if nothing is built there?). It was like she was speaking to business audience. The public doesn't want to hear about "partnering with business" - that's a good line if you're speaking to your wealthy business donors, not in a late-stage debate watched by mostly ordinary voters. That said, she did make her own case well sometimes (about being the leanest government in Canada - which even Hudak acknowledged, keeping health spending below 3%, implementing 80% of the Drummond report)

      Hudak got very lucky - he was able to sell his bogus plan and inexplicably, no-one seriously attacked him for being dishonest and unable to admit that it has serious math errors pointed out by everyone who's looked at it (should've been the main attack line for the other two). Hudak seemed to really like telling "human interest" stories.

      Horwath came off fairly well by the end. She seemed better at one-liners than the other two (Wynne had none at all). Spent a bit too much time on policy debates that weren't that important, though.

      I'd say the three main parties currently have the following distinct "brands":

      Liberals: complicated long-term planning that sometimes goes spectacularly wrong (due to bad implementation or bad assumptions)

      NDP: simplified populism (used to be left-wing intellectualism & unions - not any more)

      PC: "I got mine, and I'm not sharing"

    2. Even when Paikin tried to bring some order Hudak simply ignored him.

      I think your party descriptions are quite accurate !!

    3. I think the traditional debate format is obsolete. I would prefer a moderator who asks direct questions and then cross-examines each candidate's answer with no mercy.
      The traditional format is simply an opportunity for each candidate to run down lists of talking points and take cheap shots at each other.
      If we had a moderator like the BBC's Jeremy Paxman, we would have candidates who would fear talking points and prepared to actually explain the particulars of their platform and policy.

    4. myeo I quite agree. And allowing one debater to outshout another simply is not valid.

      I saw a debate a few years ago out of I think the USA where each participant was in a separate booth and the moderator had switches to control their mic's. Thus while they could hear only the one speaking could say anything. Sure made a real difference !!

  9. Debates are interesting. Up here in Thunder Bay-Atikokan we had our TV debate yesterday morning (taped for tonight) and the PC and Liberal were going at it (I was inbetween them and almost had my face taken off with the arm swinging). Funny thing is the NDP is generally viewed as the real competition here against the Liberals but she was easily the weakest up there. A shame as I expected her to be the one fighting Bill Mauro. I think I had the best attack of the night on the PC 100k job cuts (knowing numbers helps, makes it hard for them to challenge when they know you know the numbers best) but didn't do as well as I hoped (price of being a rookie).

    Interesting notes from behind the scenes - the Liberal had by far the most notes (a full binder) and was writing stuff down inbetween camera shots. He was amazingly good at knowing where to look and when without missing a beat. The day before at another debate the Liberal ignored the rest of us and I got a couple good shots in at him (fun when you can get him trying to talk back even though it was a 'no talk back' period in the debate), this time he talked with me and tried to be my friend (helping get me into another debate, a few tips too) and (unintentionally) I ended up going harder on the PC this time. Luckily I am smart enough to see what the two of them were doing and plan a different line of attack in my final debate next week. The local NDP candidate... well... even though she should be able to win she just doesn't seem much in debates. She had notes but was obviously reading off the sheets (eyes down when the camera was on her) and when she wasn't on her notes she was rambling off on other topics. A shame as she is a nice person, but nice isn't what wins.

    The interesting thing is how all candidates do talk with each other behind the scenes and try to figure out what your goal in the debate is, and could try to steal your thunder or direct you to attack another opponent. Rookies, like myself, really have to watch out for that especially when all others have multiple elections under their belts.

    Btw, it was nice to see at both debates that they let the Libertarian join in to some degree. Poor kid really was out of his element though. No idea what happened to the Northern Heritage candidate though (told he was invited both times but never showed).

    Still frustrated that the CBC and local Chamber of Commerce kept me (Green Party) out of their debates.

  10. So now after the debate the pollsters that have been propping up the Liberal campaign to make it look close can re-adjust and point to the CP majority that was on its way since McGuinty resigned in disgrace.

    They will point to how the debate changed the voting pattern and that their prop up polls were correct at the time.


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