Thursday, October 30, 2014

How bad are Selinger's polling numbers?

Amid calls for his resignation emanating from within his own cabinet, Greg Selinger is determined to stay on as Premier of Manitoba. The calls come on the heels of poor polling numbers, as NDP MLAs in the province fear for their job security. So just how bad are Selinger's poling numbers?

They aren't great. But they may be getting better.

Two polls have been done in the province within the last month, both showing relatively similar results. The older survey, from Winnipeg-based Probe Research, put the Progressive Conservatives under Brian Pallister at 42%, down three points from where the party stood in Probe's June poll. The New Democrats were down two points to 30%, while the Liberals under Rana Bokhari were up four points to 20%. Support for the Greens and other parties was 8%.

Insightrix was in the field more recently, polling between October 7-17. It found the PCs to have the support of 46% of Manitobans, down three points from the polling firm's last survey of January-February. The New Democrats were up five points to 29%, while the Liberals were down two points to 16%.

Certainly, those are poor polling numbers for an incumbent government. After 15 years, voters in the province may be ready to turn the page.

Selinger's decision to increase the PST after pledging not to in the 2011 provincial election has been a major contributing factor to the NDP's slide. The party dropped behind the PCs at the end of 2012, and there has been no looking back.

Monthly polling averages
As you can see in the chart above, this is a stark change in fortunes from where the party had been prior to 2012. The NDP and PCs would routinely trade the lead back and forth, but for the last two years the NDP has fallen well behind.

And it isn't due to a surge in PC support. The Tories have held relatively steady through it all, and have not seen their support move much in either direction for the last four years. Instead, the Liberals have eaten into the NDP's support, moving from the low-teens to around 20%. The Greens have also upticked a little, dragging the New Democrats down into a position where re-election is an unlikely prospect.

The seat projections for these two polls make for depressing reading for Manitoba New Democrats. With Probe's slightly more positive numbers, Pallister would still win 33 seats and form a majority government, with the NDP at 18 seats and the Liberals with six (the party's best performance since 1990). With the wider gap measured by Insightrix, the Tories would win 38 seats (outpacing their historical best), with the New Democrats at 15 and the Liberals with four. With the high support recorded for the Greens, a seat for them would not be completely out of the question.

Dire straits indeed for the NDP, but the picture might actually be getting rosier. From around December 2013 to February 2014, the party appears to have hit rock bottom. Polling by Probe and Insightrix done during that time gave the NDP an average of just 25% support, against 48.5% for the PCs and 19% for the Liberals. A spread like that would be enough to give the Tories as many as 42 seats, with just nine going to the NDP and six to the Liberals. With a margin like that, a third-place finish for the NDP in the seat count would even be possible.

Today, however, it appears the NDP has rebounded a little, averaging 29.5% across these two polls against 44% for the Tories and 18% for the Liberals. A gain of around five points in 10 months is nothing to sneeze at, but the party has a long way to go before re-election becomes more than just a hope.

Would Selinger's departure help matters? The most recent poll by Angus Reid, conducted at the end of August and in early September, put Selinger's approval rating at just 30%, roughly even with his own party. But that compared favourably to the 26% to 28% approval rating he managed between May 2013 and June 2014.

So the New Democrats in Manitoba may be experiencing a bit of a rebound from the catastrophic numbers of the last year. But the odds are still stacked overwhelmingly against them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tory, polls, big winners in Toronto's election

Though at one point in the count it looked like the result would be far closer than anyone expected, in the end John Tory prevailed over Doug Ford and Olivia Chow comfortably. The polls performed remarkably well and, on average, estimated each candidate's support to within two percentage points.

Tory took 40.3% of the vote last night, beating out Ford at 33.7% and Chow at 23.2%. The dozens of other candidates combined for 2.8% of the vote.'s weighted average was only slightly different, at 42.8% for Tory, 32.2% for Ford, and 22.2% for Chow. Support for other candidates was exactly right at 2.8%, for a total error of five points. That equates to an error of 1.7 points per candidate, or 1.3 points if we include the estimate for 'other' support.

But the average performed well not because it found the middle-road among a group of disparate polling results, but rather because each of the pollsters in the field in the final days came very close to the mark.

The closest was Mainstreet Technologies, which polled four days before the vote and had a massive sample of about 3,320 decided voters. In the first public test of its polling, its overall error was 3.4 points, or 0.9 points per candidate (including others). It was the only poll to nail one of the candidates' support levels exactly, estimating Ford to have the support of 34% of voters. It was also the closest for estimating Chow's support. Tory was over-estimated slightly and Chow was under-estimated a little, but all reported results were within the poll's small margin of error.

Ipsos Reid, which polled the furthest out from Election Day of the three (October 21-23) was the next closest, with a total error of 6.3 points (or 1.6 points per candidate, including others). Ipsos was the closest for Tory, at 41.7%. It under-estimated Ford and over-estimated Chow, but all results were again within the margin of error of a random sample of similar size.

The most active pollster on the municipal scene, Forum Research, was the furthest with a total error of 7.8 points (or two per candidate, including others). Its estimate for Tory was just outside of the margin of error, over-estimating his support by almost four points. Ford and Chow were both under-estimated slightly, but overall it was still a decent result.

It is interesting to note that without Forum's final poll, the averages would have been 41.7% for Tory, 32.4% for Ford, and 23.1% for Chow. That would have given a total error of 2.8 points, better than either the Mainstreet or Ipsos surveys.

But overall, the polls told the story of the campaign in Toronto accurately, and those surveys that had Ford at a relatively high level of support were by no means implausible. In fact, Ford ended up with more of the vote than the polling averages (with the exception of one update on October 6) ever gave him. We can reasonably conclude then that the polls served the electorate well, with little misleading information being published.

Other cities

As far as I am aware, Forum was the only pollster active outside of Toronto with the exception of Mainstreet in Brampton (if I am wrong here, please correct me).

The polling in Mississauga was done closest to the vote out of these non-Toronto polls, and the result was not exactly stellar. The final Forum poll of October 24 surveyed 308 people in Mississauga, estimating Bonnie Crombie's support to be 52% against 34% for Steven Mahoney. The result was actually 64% for Crombie and 29% for Mahoney. An earlier poll by Forum done on October 15 with a larger sample of 769 respondents was closer, with 56% for Crombie to 31% for Mahoney. The winner was right here, but the margin was not.

In Hamilton, Forum did better. The last poll of October 17 (751 surveyed) put Fred Eisenberger ahead with 37% to 25% for Brad Clark and 22% for Brian McHattie. The result was 40% for Eisenberger to 32% for Clark and 20% for McHattie. Not a bad performance, but Clark was well outside the margin of error.

Mainstreet was last in the field in Brampton, reporting a poll of October 20 with 1,602 respondents that showed 41% for Linda Jeffrey, 34% for John Sanderson, and 13% for Susan Fennell. Forum was in the field earlier on October 16 (surveying 1,020), putting Jeffrey ahead with 42% to 27% for Sanderson and 14% for Fennell. The result: 49% for Jeffrey, 22% for Sanderson, and 13% for Fennell. An over-estimation of Sanderson's support to the detriment of Jeffrey by both Mainstreet and Forum.

In London, Forum was out of the field almost three weeks before the vote (Oct 8-10, surveying 782) so it is hard to blame it for the size of its error. But it did have the winner right, giving Matt Brown 35% to 27% for Paul Cheng. In the end, Brown won with 58% of the vote to Cheng's 34%.

The one real upset, if we can call it that, was in St. Catharines, but again that is based on an old poll of October 7 (729 surveyed). The poll gave Jeff Burch the edge among decided voters with 32% to Walter Sendzik's 24% and Peter Secord's 22%. The result was instead a Sendzik victory with 40% to 35% for Burch and 20% for Secord.

Finally, there was the poll in Ottawa. This was done well before the election on September 18, surveying 1,096 people. But the campaign here was very dry and low key, which explains why Ontario's second-largest city went virtually unpolled. The Forum survey gave Jim Watson the support of 63% of decided voters, followed by Mike Maguire at 24%. In the end, Watson won in an even bigger landslide with 76% to Maguire's 19%.

So the polling outside of Toronto (featuring lower profile campaigns with fewer voters, so there is more potential for error) was hit or miss. Of the polls done within two weeks of the vote, the one in Hamilton was a success with those in Mississauga and Brampton being of mixed quality. The older surveys in London, St. Catharines, and Ottawa were only somewhat indicative of what the result would end up being. The winners were identified in London and Ottawa, and that it could be a close race was hinted at in St. Catharines. On that score, the polls outside of Toronto would get only a passing grade, compared to the straight-As the polls receive in Toronto.

This is likely to be the last major election to be held for quite some time. Newfoundland and Labrador will probably not head to the polls until next year, and it remains to be seen what will happen in Alberta. But if Jim Prentice decides to take his strong by-election results as a mini-mandate, there may be no high-profile election held before the federal vote next fall. That leaves Toronto as the 'what have you done for me lately' election for the polls, one in which they were vindicated. I naively hope that will quiet the critics for now.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Polls agree Tory will win Toronto race. Will voters?

The race for the Toronto mayoralty is finally coming to an end today and the polls are unanimous: John Tory should defeat Doug Ford and Olivia Chow by a comfortable margin. The polls are in remarkably close agreement, showing little variation that cannot be explained by normal sampling error in polls done over the last two weeks. But will voters do what they have said they would?

First, the averages. The weighted averages give Tory 42.8% of the vote, putting him a little more than 10 points ahead of Ford. He has averaged 32.2%, followed by Chow at 22.2%. Support for other candidates has averaged 2.8%.

These numbers have been steady for some time. Since the beginning of September, Tory has averaged no lower than 40.4% and no higher than 46.4%. He has led since the end of July.

Support for Ford has been steady since the end of September, not wavering from a range of between 30% and 34.3%. That does suggest he ends this campaign with slightly more support than Rob Ford had when he bowed out.

For Chow, she has been stuck since the beginning of August with between 22% and 26.7%. She lost the lead in July and fell to third at the end of the next month. She never recovered.

All of this stability might be showing the effects of a long race. After months and months (and months) of campaigning and debates, people have made up their minds.

And so have the pollsters. There has been extremely little disagreement between them. If we go back over the last two weeks of the race, we see that Tory's support has registered between 39% and 44% in every single poll - between 42% and 44% if we look at just the last five. That is incredibly consistent.

There has been a little more variation for Ford (29% to 34%) and Chow (21% to 25%) but those are marginal differences. Rarely do we see numbers clustered together so closely.

If we look at just the final three polls, we'd see a range for Tory of between 42% and 44%, Ford between 31% and 34%, and Chow between 21% and 25%. That would suggest a clear 1-2-3 finish for the three candidates. But let's extend that further, taking into account the margin of error for the highest and lowest results for each of the candidates.

When we do that, the ranges for Tory extend to between 39% and 47%, with Ford between 28% and 36% and Chow between 18% and 28%.

There are a few different scenarios in those ranges: a huge Tory victory by a margin of almost 20 points, or a close result with a margin of just three. Chow could finish in third place by a large degree, or potentially could narrowly edge out Ford for second.

If anything is going to skew these numbers, it could be turnout. It is always woefully low in municipal races, and I suspect that it might not be too high today either. If it was a closer race or if Rob Ford was still on the ballot, there could potentially be more interest. But as it stands, Doug Ford is not in range to win and Tory is not the kind of 'exciting' candidate that people will turn out in droves to vote for. On the other hand, the mayoral campaign has been so present in the lives of Torontonians for the last year that perhaps they will turn out in large numbers anyway. We'll see.

If turnout is determinant in the outcome, it seems that Tory should still have an advantage. Ipsos Reid gave Tory 51% support among likely voters, a gain of nine points over his standing among all eligible voters. Mainstreet Technologies gave him a boost of two points to 44%. Both pollsters agreed that Ford would take the biggest hit, dropping him by five to six points. For Chow, it was a bit of a wash. All signs point to a Tory victory today.

Though only a few firms were active during the race, polling in the campaign seemed omnipresent. In the end, they all agreed on the final outcome and were more or less in line throughout the last year. Will they be vindicated or could a surprise be in store tonight? Only a few hours remain before we'll find out and Toronto's long ordeal will be over.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thoughts on yesterday's events in Ottawa

The National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa is a bit of a focal point of the city, marking the intersection between Wellington, Rideau, and Elgin streets. Around the plaza you can find the trappings of Official Ottawa like the Langevin Block and the British High Commission, but also the things that make Ottawa a great city in which to live or to visit, such as the historic Château Laurier, the National Arts Centre, or D'Arcy McGee's, one of Ottawa's many (many) pubs.

On most days, the open space around the War Memorial is full of pedestrians going about their days. For the last seven years, the War Memorial has also been stoically and silently guarded by members of Canada's armed forces, who have been popular photo subjects for the many tourists from throughout Canada and the world who visit the capital.

Yesterday, that peaceful heart of the city, where the unidentified remains of a Canadian soldier who fought and died in the First World War are buried, was the scene of a horrific crime committed by a coward who deserves to be forgotten.

My thoughts this morning are with the family of Corporal Nathan Cirillo's family and friends. This young man tragically lost his life performing a duty symbolizing the respect Canadians have for the sacrifices of those who fought to defend this country. He was ceremoniously carrying a rifle that could not fire. He was defenseless.

My thoughts are also with the security forces on Parliament Hill who bravely ran towards the sound of gunfire and prevented what could have been a tragedy of even larger proportions.

I've lived in Ottawa for several years now, and have lived the vast majority of my life within a short distance of the capital. The War Memorial is less than a 10 minute drive or 40 minute walk from my home where I am writing this morning. I pass by it regularly and in the last month I've twice walked the halls of Parliament where the final shots were fired yesterday. Throughout the day, I could hear sounds of sirens.

Contrary to some opinion, as a resident of Ottawa I don't wake up this morning terrified, scared, or even angry. This city remains one of the safest in the world - nothing can be done to prevent the actions of a lone monster. We are fortunate to live in a country like ours, where someone like me can make a living writing about something, in the grand scheme of things, as inconsequential as polls. Unlike in other parts of the world, I can write about a poll that casts the government in a negative light without fear of being arrested or abused because we live in a free, democratic society.

I am saddened, however, and reminded of the enormous gratitude I have for the men and women of our armed forces.

My grandfather served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War and made a career for himself in the Royal Canadian Air Force after the conflict ended. He passed away last year and was buried in Ottawa's Beechwood Cemetery beside other former members of Canada's armed forces. 

During the funeral, I was moved by the respect my grandfather was shown by an honour guard formed of members of the army and air force. By the time of his death, he had not served for decades but he was treated as solemnly and respectfully as a soldier who had lost his life on the battlefield. 

While the ceremony itself was something I'll never forget, what sticks in my mind when I think of that day is what I saw after the service was over. As we were leaving the cemetery, I noticed a woman in uniform waiting at a bus stop. She had been one of the members of the honour guard. She had donned her pristine uniform and rode the bus to the cemetery to pay respect to a man she had never met and who had likely retired from the air force before she had even been born. She probably spent more time in transit than she had at the service itself.

It was a small sacrifice on her part, of course, but emblematic of the respect our men and women in uniform show for those who came before them and the sacrifices they were willing - or had - to make. Men like Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who died guarding the tomb of a soldier who lost his own life almost a century before in the service of his country. That, and not any feeling of being terrorized, is what I am thinking about today. And I am not alone.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Could Quebec keep the Liberals from a majority?

A new poll from EKOS Research for iPolitics and Radio-Canada suggests that, despite the fallout from the Liberals' decision not to support the government's mission in Iraq, there has been little change in voting intentions nationwide. But the poll also suggests that Quebec could be the obstacle blocking the path to a Liberal majority government.

EKOS was last in the field September 21-25, and since then has recorded no significant shift in support. The Liberals were up 0.2 points to 38.5%, followed by the Conservatives at 26.4% (+1.5) and the New Democrats at 25% (+0.6). The Greens were down two points to 5.7%, while the Bloc Québécois was down 0.9 points to 3.1%.

Suffice to say, none of the shifts experienced by the major parties were outside of the margin of error. However, the New Democrats have made gains in three consecutive EKOS polls, worth 3.6 points since the spring.

Regionally, the Liberals led in Ontario with 48.8%, followed by the Conservatives at 31.5% and the NDP at 16.4%.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals had 43% to 24.9% for the NDP and 23% for the Conservatives.

And in British Columbia, the Liberals were up 13 points to 36.1%, with the NDP down to 30% and the Conservatives at 19.5%.

The Conservatives led in Alberta with 42.7%. The Liberals were down to 27.9% in the province, while the NDP was at 12.3%.

The New Democrats led in two regions. They were ahead in the Prairies with about 39% (my estimate from EKOS's tiny samples in Saskatchewan and Manitoba), with the Liberals at 31% and the Conservatives at 28%.

The NDP was also in front in Quebec, with 38.8% support to 29% for the Liberals, 14.3% for the Conservatives, and just 12.6% for the Bloc. That was a drop of almost five points for Mario Beaulieu's party. Beaulieu's approval rating in Quebec was just 11.7%, with his disapproval standing at 47.6%.

Now, these numbers in Quebec are not unusual for EKOS. At the end of September, the NDP had 36% to the Liberals' 32%, while in July the New Democrats had 37% to the Liberals' 29%. Over that time period, other polls have averaged 38% for the Liberals and 27% for the NDP, so in this regard EKOS seems to be out of step with consensus opinion (with the exception of one CROP poll where the gap was two points, the NDP has not led in any of the last 15 polls done by other firms since mid-June).

But polling by CROP and Léger have suggested that the NDP holds the edge among francophones, a finding corroborated by EKOS's latest survey as well. This poses a problem for the Liberals. Though the party is doing respectably well among this demographic, they are at a distinct disadvantage. Francophones decide the results of the vast majority of Quebec's ridings and polls suggest that francophone support for both the NDP and Liberals is generally uniform. That means the Liberals could find themselves losing a large number of seats outside of Montreal by slim margins - but losing nevertheless.

The seat projection using EKOS's numbers shows what kind of role Quebec could end up playing in the next election.

Outside of Quebec, the projection model would give the Liberals 131 of 260 seats - a majority. But in Quebec, with the New Democrats a handful of points below their 2011 result, the Liberals win just 17 seats, with 57 being retained by the NDP. The end result is that the Liberals find themselves 21 seats short of a majority - and it is hard to imagine the Liberals doing much better in the rest of the country than what EKOS awarded them.

Even if we put the gap in Quebec at what the other pollsters think it is, we still get the Liberals falling short of a majority. This suggests that unless the Liberals can make the same kind of breakthrough that the NDP did in the province in 2011, their hopes for a majority government are likely to be dashed.

Overall, EKOS pegs Justin Trudeau's approval rating to be 46.1%, with a disapproval rating of 37.1%. That compares quite well to Stephen Harper's 29.9% to 63.3% spread, but is worse than Thomas Mulcair's 58% approval to 21.7% disapproval rating. And in Quebec, Mulcair's approval rating increases to 70.1% against 43.2% for Trudeau.

That will make it difficult for Trudeau to gain ground among francophones, though this weekend's appearance on Tout le monde en parle could help in that regard. But the prospect of forming government may not help him. The NDP led in Quebec in voting intentions, despite just 8% of Quebecers thinking the NDP would form government in 2015. Almost half of Quebecers think the Liberals will win.

For the Conservatives, this poll is a disaster. With under 20% support in B.C., the party takes just three seats there, and ties the Liberals for second in the seat count in the Prairies. With 79 seats (three-quarters of them in Alberta and Ontario), the party would find itself reduced to third-party status, with the NDP remaining as the Official Opposition. How this setup would work in practice is a little difficult to determine.

Of course, the Conservatives have not been as low as 26.4% in other polls, so these results are likely on the lower end of what is plausible. But we can still compare trend lines, and it seems that, so far, the Liberals are holding steady despite what has been widely considered to be a bad couple of weeks for Trudeau. But let's see what others have to say.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tight race in Alberta in new polls as by-elections loom

With four provincial by-elections just around the corner in Alberta, two new polls suggest the race could be tight both province-wide and within the two cities at play.

We'll start with the poll from Lethbridge College, which reports on an annual basis. We last heard from the school in October 2013.

The poll pegs Progressive Conservative support to stand at 32.6%, down 3.5 points from where the party was a year ago. That marks the lowest that Lethbridge has registered PC support to be since 2009, when it started polling.

Wildrose was up 1.4 points to 30.8%, their highest score in Lethbridge polling. 

The New Democrats trailed with 16.8%, while the Liberals were at 12.8%. Support for other parties (which presumably includes the Alberta Party) was at 7%, up 1.4 points.

It is a close race, which is in step with the last two polls we have seen out of the province from Léger (31% to 26% in favour of Wildrose in June, 33% to 29% in August-September). While that is, relatively speaking, good news for Wildrose, this does still represent a level of support somewhat below where the party was in 2012. They have come into contention almost by default, as the PCs shed more than 10 points' worth of support.

At the regional level, the PCs enjoyed sizable leads in both Edmonton and Calgary, were tied with Wildrose in the northern part of the province, and well behind in the south.

But the results in Edmonton and Calgary are out of step with the recent Léger polls out of Alberta. The Tories have averaged just 27% support in those polls in Calgary, versus 42% according to Lethbridge. While both the NDP and Wildrose polled lower in the Lethbridge polls than in the Léger surveys, it is among Liberals that the difference is most important: an average of 23% instead of the 16% here.

In Edmonton, the PCs have averaged 22% against 28.5% for the NDP and 21% for the Liberals, instead of 33% here for the PCs, 24% for the NDP, and just 10% for the Liberals (Wildrose's support seems consistent).

Now, we could consider that perhaps the arrival of Jim Prentice has transformed things in both Calgary and Edmonton, as Liberals flock back to the PCs now that it is under a Red Tory. While that might be an intuitive conclusion, Lethbridge College showed higher results for the PCs than other polls did in October 2013, so we may be looking instead at a methodological quirk.

The other poll was conducted by ThinkHQ in its 'Eye on Alberta' regular report. Only the results of the poll in Calgary and Edmonton proper (not the metropolitan regions or CMAs, as Lethbridge College has it) were released to the public.

In Calgary, ThinkHQ puts Wildrose narrowly ahead at 38% to 36% for the Tories, with the Liberals well behind at 13% and the NDP at 8%. Since July, that represents a gain of eight points for the Tories, who have been picking up steam in the city for some time. The PCs were at just 20% in Calgary proper in March, while Wildrose has fallen 10 points since then.

The contest was a close three-way race in Edmonton, with Wildrose at 27%, the PCs at 26%, and the NDP at 25%. That marks a drop of five points since July for Wildrose, and a gain of four points for the Tories. Here again, the PCs have been rising, as they were at just 15% in Edmonton proper in March.

It seems that Prentice has had a positive effect on the Tories' numbers (though he only recently won, he has been the heir apparent for months). But he has still not put the party in a position to win a province-wide election - ThinkHQ mentioned in its report that Wildrose still held a provincial lead, and even with the numbers from Lethbridge's poll the PCs would only barely eke out a majority, if at all.

So the three by-elections in Calgary and the one in Edmonton should still prove a difficult test for the Progressive Conservatives. These were all relatively safe ridings, so they should still be favoured to win them all. But if Wildrose is as strong in Calgary as ThinkHQ suggests, the PCs will be hard-pressed to hold all four seats.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

September 2014 federal polling averages

There was a relative flurry of polls in the month of September, as parliamentarians got back to work in Ottawa. Five national polls and two in Quebec surveyed almost 9,000 Canadians, showing that support has been mostly holding steady for the last few months. And that means a continued sizable lead for Justin Trudeau's Liberals.

The Liberals averaged 38% support in September, unchanged from where they were in August and marking the third consecutive month with the party between 38% and 39% support - a high for them since at least 2009.

The Conservatives were down 0.8 points to 29.9%, while the New Democrats were up 1.5 points to 22.2%. Despite the NDP's gain, the party has been between 21% and 22% for three months now, their lowest since before the 2011 federal election. Undoubtedly, the NDP slump and Liberal strength are related.

The Greens were down 0.5 points to 4.7%, while the Bloc Québécois was down 0.4 points to 4%. Support for other parties was at 1.1%.

The New Democrats moved into the lead - a very narrow one - in British Columbia, the only province where the party is in front. They were up 6.6 points to 30.1%, their best result since August 2013. The Liberals were down 5.1 points to 29.4%, while the Conservatives slipped 1.6 points to 29.3%. The Greens were up 0.1 point to 10.4%.

In Alberta, the Conservatives picked up 3.5 points and averaged 54.8% support, followed by the Liberals at 27.2% (down 0.2 points). The NDP dropped 4.1 points to 10.6%, while the Greens were up 0.3 points to 4.8% in the province.

The Conservatives also made gains in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, up 3.2 points to 39.4%. The Liberals were up 1.2 points to 32.4%. The party has been very stable in the region, polling at an average of between 29% and 33% since the end of 2013. The NDP was down slightly, by 1.7 points to 24%. The Greens were also down, by 2.5 points to 3%.

In Ontario, the Liberals continued to lead and gained two points to reach 43.1% support. The party has been over 40% for three consecutive months now. The Conservatives were down 2.3 points to 33.1%, while the NDP was up 0.8 points to 18.2%. The Greens were down 1.7 points to 4.3%.

The Liberals were also in front in Quebec, down 0.6 points to 36.6%. The NDP was up 1.2 points to 30%, while the Bloc Québécois dropped 0.5 points to 15.5%. The party has been stagnant or dropping for four consecutive months now under Mario Beaulieu. The Conservatives were unchanged at 14%, the level of support they have averaged in six of the last seven months. The Greens were down 0.1 point to 3.1%.

The Liberals dropped 3.3 points in Atlantic Canada and slid to 49.1%, their lowest level of support since December 2013. The NDP increased by five points to 22.7%, while the Conservatives were down 0.9 points to 21.8%. The Greens were also down, dropping 1.4 points to 5.1%.

With these levels of support, the Liberals would likely win around 143 seats, with 112 going to the Conservatives, 81 to the New Democrats, and two to the Greens. The Bloc would be shut out.

Compared to August, this represents a drop of four seats for the Liberals, eight for the Conservatives, and one for the Bloc, while the NDP picks up 13.

The Liberals picked up six seats in Ontario and one in the Prairies, but dropped one in Alberta, three in British Columbia, and seven in Quebec (recall that, despite the overall Liberal lead in the province, polls suggest the NDP has the edge among francophones).

The Conservatives gained one seat in Alberta and two in the Prairies, but dropped four in British Columbia and seven in Ontario.

The New Democrats were down three seats in the Prairies, but up one in Ontario, seven in British Columbia, and eight in Quebec.

Now that the show has returned for the fall and the parties are in full pre-election mode, it will be interesting to see how the polls shift in the coming months. Stephen Harper's Conservatives have yet to gain any traction or put a dent in the wide lead that the Liberals have taken in the summer. Thomas Mulcair's NDP is showing signs of life in B.C. and Quebec (vital battlegrounds for them) but is struggling in Ontario. Can the Liberals continue to hold off their two rivals?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Liberals potentially most vulnerable on Iraq mission vote

While MPs debate what kind of role Canada should play in the fight against ISIS, polls suggest a majority of Canadians are supportive of the country joining the United States and its coalition partners in a combat mission against the Islamic militants.

To read the rest of the article looking at what polls are saying about Canadians' views on the mission in the Middle East, visit

In the article, I briefly look at the partisan divide on the issue. I thought it might be worthwhile to explore that a little more deeply here.

The chart above comes from Abacus Data's report, breaking down responses by party support for the question of whether Canadians supported sending military advisers to Iraq.

Conservatives were the most enthusiastic, with 68% strongly or mostly in support of sending the advisers. Just 23% were in opposition.

Liberals and New Democrats saw things roughly equally, with 56% of Liberals and 55% of New Democrats in support. Opposition, at 29% and 31%, respectively, was also virtually identical.

Where opposition was strongest was among supporters of the Bloc Québécois. Just 18% supported sending the advisers, while 65% were in opposition. Greens were split, at 41% for and 34% against.

But what about sending combat aircraft, which the Prime Minister is suggesting Canada do?

We find similar divisions here, though with less agreement among Liberals and New Democrats.

Conservatives were 67% in favour of sending jets, with 25% opposed.

Liberals were also strongly in favour, with 55% in support and 36% in opposition.

A plurality of New Democrats supported sending jets, but not a majority: 49% in favour, with 39% in opposition.

Greens and supporters of the Bloc were against sending jets.

While the order of enthusiasm of the three parties does align with the views of their supporters, both the Liberals and New Democrats seem to be somewhat offside on these issues. The NDP is perhaps less vulnerable, as its supporters were the least likely to view a mission in Iraq favourably. But the Liberals may find themselves offside - their voters were only slightly less favourable to hitting ISIS than Conservatives were.

But what if respondents were given the option between a combat role, an advisory role, or no role at all? Angus Reid Global looked at this.

When given the choice, sending advisers is the preferred option by Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats. But again we see the same order of intensity: the Conservatives most favourable to some sort of role, the Liberals in between, and the NDP the least enthusiastic.

Among Conservatives, fully 81% supported a role of some kind, with 55% of them preferring advisers and 45% supportive of military intervention.

Among Liberals, support for a role of some kind totaled 72%, with 58% of them favouring advisers over military intervention.

And among New Democrats, still 63% favoured a role of some kind, with 62% of them preferring military advisers. Again we see the same order of support: Conservatives most, Liberals next, NDP last.

Non-voters, interestingly, were the least supportive of any sort of mission. Perhaps if they'd like to actually have a say in whether these things happen, they should go out and vote.

The New Democrats are following their more pacifist traditions, and their supporters are the most ambivalent, so the NDP is best positioned to be the dove on this issue. But these numbers suggest that the Liberals may have been better off choosing a more moderate position on the mission in Iraq.

Whether or not Justin Trudeau has miscalculated, however, will depend on several factors: the success or failure of the mission, of course, but also whether this is an important issue to voters. The polls did not investigate this question, but we may see some fallout in the voting intentions numbers in the coming weeks.