Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Further signs of Conservative slump?

As we approached the summer, it appeared that things were improving for the governing Conservatives. They were no longer routinely scoring under 30% support and had closed the gap with the Liberals enough that they could plausibly hope to win the most seats in a new election, even if they finished second in the vote count. But the two most recent polls - one by Forum putting the Tories at 28% and the other by EKOS showing them at just 25.6% - hint that the Conservatives may have taken a step back.

The question, though, is whether this is a product of which companies are in the field or if it is something real. New numbers today suggest it might be something worth keeping an eye on.

Every week, Nanos Research releases its Nanos Party Power Index, derived from an amalgamation of various questions. I'm not a particular fan of indices like these because it is impossible to compare the results to anything tangible, but two of the questions included and reported by Nanos are revealing. They are on whether respondents would consider voting for a party, and who they prefer for prime minister. On both of these measures, the Conservatives are dropping.

The latest set of data, out of the field on August 8, put Justin Trudeau ahead with 30.6% of Canadians saying they prefer him to be prime minister. That was up 1.6 points from last week's monthly-rolling poll.

Stephen Harper was second with 26.4%, down 2.3 points since last week, while Thomas Mulcair was at 18.6%, down 1.2 points.

But it is not the weekly back and forth that is of note here. Trudeau's numbers have been wobbling up and down for some time now, but Harper's have been decreasing consistently. Trudeau's 30.6% is only slightly higher than the 12-month average of 29.6%, but Harper's 26.4% is quite a bit lower than the 12-month average of 28.6%, and it has been falling.

Four weeks ago, Harper was at 31.1% on this question, near his 12-month high of 32.4%. But that dropped to 30.8% the next week, then 30.3%, then 28.7%, and now 26.4%. In this are we seeing what Forum and EKOS have recently recorded?

On whether respondents would consider voting for a party, the Conservatives have also slumped significantly. Over the last 12 months, they have averaged 39.6% - exactly the share of the vote they captured in 2011. Four weeks ago, they were at 43.2%, just down from their 12-month high of 44.1%.

But they have since fallen to just 37.6%. That is a very low ceiling for the party and even if they captured all of those votes a majority government would be unlikely.

It is an especially low ceiling considering that the New Democrats sit at 42.9%, slightly above average for the last year, while the Liberals are at 53.9%, well above the average. That is a lot of leeway for the Liberals and NDP - they have plenty of room for growth and each could, potentially at least, win more than enough to form a big majority government. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have alienated a large section of the electorate and this limits their ability to win.

We will have to wait and see whether other pollsters will confirm the recent weakness in Conservative support. It was not too surprising to see it from EKOS (which often has the Tories low) or Forum (which often has the Liberals high), but Nanos tends to tack towards the middle and the evidence is mounting. It could be that this is indeed a cruel summer for the Conservatives.

35 comments:

  1. Brace yourself for a flood of derision from certain posters here, Eric.

    Meanwhile I think these numbers are reflecting public opinion fairly closely. Now will these numbers hold for the year + till the election ?

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  2. When you throw in loaded phrases like this being a "cruel summer" for Conservatives, you are really inviting some fairly obvious ripostes about chickens coming home to roost or some such.

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  3. I wonder if this advents the return of the Real Governing Party ??

    And maybe the Kelowna Accord ??

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    1. I'd be worried about making such a prognostication this far out from an election. The polls could be completely different during week 2 of the election campaign and even then on voting day.... Just saying. There are 2 "governing parties in Canada"...at the federal level at least, the Conservatives (17 governments) and Liberals (23 governments)....until the NDP wins a good string of elections or some other party for that matter those 2 carry that mantle...at least in my opinion

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    2. Oh sure Carl and I agree. Still it is kind of fun

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    3. The Liberals were coined as the "natural governing party" because they were in power for 69 years during the 20th century. A distinction that no other political party in the developed world had.

      Of course, no one can predict what would happen this century. Too many pundits were quick to write the Liberals out after the 2011 election and some were even claiming that the modern Conservative Party will be the "natural governing party".

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    4. Thankfully, the Kelowna Accord is not coming back regardless of what party is in power.

      The Kelowna Accord was bad policy and frankly a perfect example of the rot and lack of ideas of the Liberal party. The Kelowna Accord was simply a new form of colonialism, it gave Indians much needed funding under Federal supervision, it was not a Government-to-Government relationship but one of dependence. There were almost no mechanisms for transparency or accountability.

      Fortunately, recent Court decisions have given First Nations and Aboriginal people greater access to resources including natural resources and the opportunity to build their own governments and communities how they see fit. As well as the potential to craft their own mechanisms to ensure accountability among their political class.
      Just like the Liberals' management of Kyoto the Kelowna Accord simply pushed the problem to the next generation. without solving the problem.

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    5. Sort of agree with your comments but waiting for the courts to overturn laws for the current government isn't exactly acting on the problem either is it.

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    6. Nobody is waiting on court decision the ball is in the Aboriginal court. Will more litigation arise? Most likely but, negotiations may be equally as difficult and lengthy. The courts are often where inter-governmental disputes are resolved. First Nations have a wide range of powers including the ability to tax- part of the problem is First Nations' unwillingness to exercise these powers as long as other governments will carry out or pay for governmental activities.

      Nobody wants or expects Crown funding to end over night, however, a strategy is needed to ensure First Nations have the ability and resources to govern themselves. First Nations must also show more willingness to take hold of the less pleasant aspects of governance such as public prosecutions, security (policing) taxation and economic development of natural resources. For years First Nations have asked for a Nation-to-Nation relationship taking responsibility for their people is the only way such a relationship will come about. Obviously the Crown has a role to play but, responsibility must be turned over to First Nations

      After 130+years of throwing money at the problem very little was achieved and first nations issues were ignored at both the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.

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    7. This particular issue is far too complicated to have really good discussion in short posts. So I won't add much but I did want to mention that the mix of aboriginal groups some with treaties some without, some with resources and some groups without any resources of value means the solutions automatically are complex and complicated.

      My experience being from Manitoba is one where unemployment is incredibly high on treaty reserves, mostly because many groups were moved to locations to make way for settlers who needed the valuable agricultural land. We had residential schools which took aboriginal children away from families, moved them away from their homes, sexually abused them, beat them in some cases and removed their language and culture (as devil worship) in many more. Such a complicated issue. No resources, no employment, is no tax base. Court challenges for groups in BC might help empower those communities to gain economic benefit and self sufficiency it does nothing to very little for the treaty communities in Manitoba.

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  4. Looking at their regional breakdowns seems to tell the tale of what is going on - echoing Forum and Ekos. NDP is on a modest rebound in Quebec and Atlantic. Conservative support is on a steep decline in Ontario.

    There has been a lot of media about the economy floundering - consumer confidence is dropping precipitously (lowest level in 7 weeks). The underperforming regions of the east and the stagnating BC economy have curried little favour for the Conservatives. Alberta and Saskatchewan simply lack the economic firepower and size to buoy the economy - the rest of the country is really beginning to feel that.

    Putting all of your eggs in one basket only works if the basket can hold all of the eggs.

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    1. The challenge for the NDP is that outside of Québec, they don't have another big region where they are dominant. They need to get out of 3rd in the Ontario polls. I don't think anyone has won a Federal election unless they finish at least 2nd in Ontario.

      The Conservatives, despite their deterioration in support, are unlikely to finish 3rd unless something catastrophic happens, as it did for Mulroney in 1993. They have so much support in the West that they can finish at least 2nd, even if they take big hits elsewhere.

      Trudeau seems to have more stable core numbers at this point than Dion or Ignatieff. After their initial honeymoons, they had dropped quite a lot by their 2nd year as leader. Trudeau is doing really well in Atlantic Canada & Ontario, and not bad in Québec or the West. If his Nanos Leadership Index numbers are beating the PM again, that's a good sign.

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    2. Kim Campbell was prime minister for the 1993 election and the polls didn't really start to decline for the Tories until the campaign.

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    3. @FCPete
      That's simply evidence of your partisan blinders. The fact is that Ms. Campbell became leader in part because the writing was on the wall and leading contenders didn't want the job... or maybe the brain trust thought it was a free shot at appointing the first female leader? Anyway, the scale of the devastation was not known until after the writ (until after, really, John Tory's disastrous "wouldn't you be embarrassed to be represented by funny-looking Chretien" ads), but the fact that the Tories were going to lose big had been generally understood for a long time. Mulroney picked his time to resign for a reason.

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  5. A lot can happen between now and the next election depending on how the three parties play their cards. All three major party leaders have a chance of being PM after the next election (of course, Harper and Trudeau have a better chance than Mulcair).

    An uncharismatic PM who has been in power for 8.5 years,a government full of scandals, overtly partisan rhetoric, tiring soundbites and a floundering economy in certain parts of the country. It should be no surprise that the governing party is hovering below 30% support. Add to the fact that the two opposition are stronger than they were years ago under the leadership of Mulcair and Trudeau.

    Progressives would be foolish to count the Conservatives out. They have a superior war chest, they have strong grassroots support and they have nominated most of their candidates.

    Trudeau should not be underestimated. The Tory attack on him calling him a gaffe-prone lightweight who will give kids easy access to pot is not working. The NDP attack of "Liberal, Tory same old story" is not working either. The Liberals are clearly in an uptick - racking in fundraising dollars and quality candidates.

    While the NDP have slumped post-Trudeau and many of their provincial cousins have faced disappointing elections - they should not be counted out either. Mulcair has proved himself to be an impressive politician and this is the first time the federal party is seriously attempting to form government. A slight decrease in Liberal support and a tick in NDP support could leave the Liberals in a uncomfortable position of choosing to prop up Harper or Mulcair.

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  6. Considering how static things have been over the last year I think its going to take something major to change that one way or another. My first thought about this recent Liberal uptick its more artifact than real and next set of polls will bring the liberals back down to around ~35%.

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    1. But Carl as long as the Cons are below 30% the result won't change that much and I can't see the Cons rising in the face of the countries economic problems.

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    2. Peter,
      The economy grew .4% last month (4.8% annualised) and inflation is at 2.4% annually that is fairly robust growth. even when we take inflation out iof the picture a 2.4% real GDP growth per year is more than respectable.

      The one drag on the economy is Kathleen wynne and her Government whose inability to bring borrowing under control (adding $4 billion a month to the debt) is scaring investment and prevents Ontario from improving its productivity and competitiveness. Even Quebec is finally confronting its fiscal maladies with an aggressive plan to get the Province's books in the black. Wynne's failure to improve the economy can be seen most profoundly in her inability to improve employment. Of course this is what Ontarians voted for to be a heavily indebted "have not" province.

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    3. And created 200 jobs in July.

      Welcome to the "Do Not Respond" file !!

      Meanwhile the Cons wear the Sona robocal conviction .

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    4. albert: Ontario massively rejected the Conservative spin that Wynne is responsible for Ontario's stagnant economy in this year's election. It didn't work for Hudak, and its no going to work for Harper.

      The drop in Conservative support in Ontario is a sign that this is actually backfiring. The lack of Conservative response to this shows that they are panicking and don't know how to respond. They may just bury themselves with their own over-the-top rhetoric.

      This government doesn't care about you unless you're in a province with oil.

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    5. @Albert
      That, dear sir, is partisan twaddle, and a profound reluctance to face actual facts on the ground. As if the jobs numbers outside of Ft Mac all relied on Kathleen Wynne's budgets!

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    6. The job numbers are bad because Ontario lost jobs, investment is not occurring because of Wynne's fiscal policies. More problematic is Ontario's reluctance to improve productivity or emerge as a 21st century economy. Manufacturing is not coming back so long as China artificially deflates the Yuan -Wynne doesn't have a plan and her pension plan will create more job losses by reducing consumer spending.

      There is really nothing The Federal Government can do they have done their part to reduce taxes and promote Canadian industry and resources and improve productivity but, when a provincial government is unwilling to modernise Ontario is forced to suffer. It's sad really because tailored spending cuts, tax relief and strategic investment would greatly improve Ontario's prospects instead Ontario wishes to be like France.

      Thingamabob, I was responding to Peter, who once again exaggerated and misinformed. He didn't specify about his "economic problems" and a quick review of the statistics demonstrates the problems are minor and growth is on a healthy pace even if job growth is sluggish. I did not suggest Wynne is responsible for any economy outside Ontario.

      Peter,

      So I'm in the "Do not respond" file yet, you replied to my comment. Clearly you are a very confused individual whose personal philosophy and commitment are intellectually inconsistent with one another. You shouldn't make promises you are unable to keep!

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    7. Unless you are posting under multiple names, I am pretty sure Peter has not replied to any comments of yours, least in this thread.

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  7. Chantal Hebert did a similar analysis and came to similar conclusion in a recent Toronto Star article on the recent Ekos poll. This might have something to do with the upcoming high-profile by election in Flahertry's old riding of Oshawa-Whitby. The Liberals have recently nominated their candidate(the Conservatives have not). With Trudeau visiting in support, this may have lead to some local coverage.

    This could be a very telling by election. If the Conservatives lose this once safe riding, it could lead to a Conservative caucus revolt in the GTA as they fear getting swept out like Hudak.

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    1. And now Stats Can has revised their apparently flawed report and added another 42,000 jobs !! Why am I suspicious ??

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    2. 42,000 jobs not 200- what were you saying about economic problems. 2.4% annual economic growth is healthy.

      You are probably suspicious because you have a limited understanding of economics and how economic statistics are reported. It is not the month-to-month numbers that are important but, the longer trend. Revision to economic statistics is commonplace amongst every major economy except China.

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    4. Carl the other point that is important is that 42K is almost all are part-time jobs. So things aren't as good as the Cons paint.

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    5. I feel Whitby-Oshawa is a Flaherty family seat more than a Conservative seat, although it does trend slightly more towards the CPC/PC than other parties.

      The federal Liberals under Paul Martin won this riding back in 2004.

      I feel this is a must win for the Liberals to demonstrate they got their mojo back in Ontario - especially at a time when the governing party is weak.

      This is an exurb relatively detached from Toronto, but with growing and changing demographics. Wynne's Liberals would have won this seat if it Christine Elliott wasn't the incumbent.

      I don't know what a caucus revolt would do to benefit Tory GTA MPs. Most of them got elected in 2011 thanks to Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney's ethnic outreach efforts and Ignatieff's implosion. They came in with the tide and they will go with the tide.

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  8. Guy_Smily,

    Allow me to argue that one must examine the construct of the Conservative government to see if it is even possible for a part of caucus to revolt in the face of disappointing -- or worse yet, disastrous polling.

    This government is a top-down one-man operation. There are no John Majors, Michael Heseltines or Geoffrey Howes waiting in the wings for their chance to put it into Stephen Harper. Harper remains secure unless or until he loses outright the next campaign. Until then, he won't need any sleeping pills.

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    1. Is it that Ron or the "great bureaucracy" of the PMO.

      At times I get the feeling the PMO drives Harper and not the other way around ?

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    2. Peter,

      I think I would make a distinction here. I would argue that the PMO takes its cue from the PM. However, where it gets interesting is how PCO behaves. I don't get the feeling that Wouters drives Harper although I would say his opinion is influential but Harper still makes the command decisions. However, I tend to agree with you as regards Pitfield who served during the patriation process. Perhaps a case can be made that Pitfield was the most influential clerk on the government in modern history. But how does one measure such a thing???

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  9. I don't know about the rest of you but the response to the report on Lac-Megantic by the Tory spokes people was absolutely revolting. Including Raitts "OUR govt" line. No Lisa it ain't yours it's mine and every other Canadian !! And fulsome praise for the PM really revolted !!

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  10. Peter,

    A lot of people are expecting Lisa Raitt to run for the big job. I am not among them.

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    1. Me either Ron. On a really important issue a rotten performance.

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