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.


  1. Judging by the reaction on Twitter, Trudeau's appearance on Tout le monde en parle probably hurt him more than it helped.

    1. true that, French speakers who watch that show weekly were not impressed. I face palmed myself knowing that he hurt himself

  2. Don't know about his appearance on French TV but that show he did on CTV last night will yield massive dividends !

  3. I don't think a 148 LPC-109 NDP is very likely. If Justin Trudeau remains popular enough during the campaign there will be a bandwagon effect and the Liberals will have a solid majority.

    If on the other hand he waffles the election we will have a minority conservative government with either the NDP or the PLC as balance of power.

    Judging from the repeated "exposes" by the National Post (often bordering on the desperate) about Justin Trudeau it is very clear that the Conservative party considers him a major threat.

  4. This seat projection is like a wet dream for left-of-centre political junkies like me, haha.

    But in reality, it would be hard to see the Tories go down this low. Stephen Harper is unpopular, but he is shrewd. The economy is alright in Canada. The Conservatives have incumbency, financial and organizational advantage in them not to get at least 30% of the vote.

    Would Quebec keep the Liberals from a majority? Likely. I've beens saying this in many forums and discussions before that the NDP will hold its own in Quebec. This is not a one-election thing for them.

    The same goes for the Tories in Ontario. The Liberals are unlikely to make significant gains in Southwestern Ontario outside of London and Kitchener. Even in the Golden Horseshoe region, Harper's party should fare better than Hudak's party.

    The Liberals are well positioned for form government after the next election. A majority might be too much of a stretch since the Tories and NDP are led and organized competently. Besides going from 34 seats to 120-150 seats and forming government is a tremendous achievement for the party.

    1. "This is not a one-election thing for the NDP. "

      I agree, but in my opinion their current seat count there is more their ceiling than their floor. I expect them to hold on to about half of their current seats. Last election was the perfect storm: the BQ unexpectedly weak, the Liberals way more hated than usual in Francophone regions.

    2. Personally, I see the Liberals getting wiped out outside Montreal, and then losing some of those Montreal as well.

      Trudeau is riding high right now, but it's an extremely high. He has been given free publicity by some incredibly stupid Conservative attacks that have raised his profile as the alternative to the Conservatives.

      Mulcair is using the strategy he used succesfully campaigning with Jean Charest to beat a surging Mario Dumont (the topped out in the polls at 48%) in 2003 Quebec elections to oust the PQ; that is, promote the party platform at the riding level in the year before the election to raise the profile of his party, his candidates and himseld by taking advantage of the PLQ's province wide network that was far more extensive and deep than Dumont's.

      Mulcair put this network to work for the NDP last election, and he'll do it with a huge incumbency advantage over the decimated Liberals in the next election. I don't think Trudeau and his Liberals have the depth, the experience, the policy, or the organization to translate a shallow lead into votes on voting day. Maybe in a few years.

    3. I agree Polstats but, if you believe Ekos' poll results it could be the perfect storm part II for the NDP. Liberals weak compared to historical averages at least, The BQ at a historic all time low.

    4. @Guy_Smily, just because some leaders rode high in the polls and then fell it doesn't mean that every candidate who is ever high should go down. Just look at Harper in the last election.

      I also think that there is a tendency in this type of chatter to due overly importance to side factors. Sure, lawn signs help as do name recognition and a good organization on the ground, but none of them are a must for a win. For example we have the case of the Vegas bartender with zero name recognition who became an MP for the NDP.

      A month before the election the LPC will release its platform, much to the dismay of the CPC which cannot wait to start running negative ads against it. Then provided JT doesn't verbally stumble he should coast to victory. Notice that this last is not a given since JT is a bit of a novice at this game.

    5. @Capilano:

      "it could be the perfect storm part II for the NDP."

      From today's CBC news, just a few minutes ago:

      "Two Quebec MPs announced today they're forming a new federal political party."

      Not looking like the perfect storm any more. If this effort takes hold, the new party+NDP will split the old BQ vote and we are now talking about the liberals sweeping la belle province.

    6. I think that is a pretty big "IF".

  5. Even as a more left-wing supporter I find this poll to be more problematic. The sample sizes are way, way too small and the margin of error is too large (just look at the green vote in Alberta!). As much as I'd like EKOS' numbers to be true, they seem problematic.

    What confused me the most was that they lumped in B.C. with the northern territories... is that standard practice?

    1. That number is very achievable for the Greens in Alberta. They took 25% in the Calgary-Centre byelection two years ago.

    2. That by-election was a one-off and involved a fair amount of intra-Conservative rivalry. This in turn lead to increased interest in the Liberal party which made a three way race possible. It was a unique event and I would not read too much into it. There are certainly a handful of ridings where the Greens could expect to achieve double digit results but, 14% for the Greens in Alberta is more likely an outlier.

  6. I agree with all of these comments, save Malcolm's. If Trudeau looks like the real deal, I think his coattails will lead to a Lib majority of some size. If he's looking vulnerable, we could even see an NDP minority government (provided they campaign well). It's harder for the NDP because a lot of that 2nd choice vote only comes to them when it appears that the Libs are in danger of losing to the CPC. But a year is a long time, and election campaigns can change the entire scenario, and these sample sizes aren't that large. What it suggests to me, however, is that a) Trudeau has been almost "inoculated" against the CPC attacks, but b) he will still have to have a credible platform and good campaign to fend off both the CPC and the NDP.

  7. Change "Could Quebec" to "Should Quebec" and we get a really different view !!

  8. And then Abacus has the Liberals and Cons in a statistical tie.

  9. There is no way the Conservatives ever get that low in the BC seat count.

  10. Abacus has the Conservatives and Liberals in a statistical tie and the New Democrats close by - a portend of a three-way 2015 race?
    Here in BC , Alta and Ontario the Liberals seem really high.
    If Trudeau eventually settles on being Centre-Right then they may pick up some Alta/Ontario seats but enable the NDP to pick up some more BC, Edmonton and urban/northern, southwestern Ontario seats..

  11. Eric, why haven't you updated the federal polling intentions with the latest poll from Abacus? I am very interested in knowing how the seating projecting turns out with voting intentions fairly close for all major parties.

  12. It will be interesting to see whether Beaulieu himself can finish off the Bloc by this time next year or whether they'll retain a couple of seats (they're already 1/2 way there). In Quebec, the Libs definitely have way more room to grow than the NDP do. The NDP can probably pick up the last 4 Bloc (especially the 2 independents) seats. However, the Liberals will probably regain their dominance in Montreal and I kinda expect the Outaouais to shift back to their traditional Liberal grounds with 2011 really being a protest vote on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. If the Federal Liberals mimmick the Provincial Ontario Libs, they'll definitely form the next government. If Ontarians are fed up with conservatism as a whole (e.g. Baird, Clement and Polievere fall) then the Libs have a majority within grasp as I fully believe all of Toronto and the 905 will be painted red (except Hamilton). If Trudeau stumbles (and the above 3 survive), while unlikely, I could see a Con minority.

    The Whitby-Oshawa by-election I think will foreshadow what's to come in Oct. 2015 (i.e. a Liberal win = heading for a majority, a narrow Liberal loss = Lib minority, a big Con win = Conservative minority, a surprise NDP win = a toss up or maybe even an NDP minority).

  13. Regarding Monday's Abacus poll which ad the Libs only two points ahead of the Cons:

    Abacus uses an online polling model. Research, including that of PEW Research in the US holds this model as being less than reliable number of reasons.

    "The accuracy of a poll depends on how it was conducted...most online polls that use participants who volunteer to take part do not have a proven record of accuracy. There are at least two reasons for this. One is that not everyone in the U.S. uses the internet, and those who do not are demographically different from the rest of the public. Another reason is that people who volunteer for polls may be different from other people in ways that could make the poll unrepresentative. At worst, online polls can be seriously biased if people who hold a particular point of view are more motivated to participate than those with a different point of view. A good example of this was seen in 1998 when AOL posted an online poll asking if President Clinton should resign because of his relationship with a White House intern. The online poll found that 52% of the more than 100,000 respondents said he should. Telephone polls conducted at the same time with much smaller but representative samples of the public found far fewer saying the president should resign (21% in a CBS poll, 23% in a Gallup poll, and 36% in an ABC poll). The president’s critics were highly motivated to register their disapproval of his behavior, and this resulted in a biased measurement of public opinion in the AOL online poll."

    Food for thought, combined with Abacus's past performances, should cause everyone committed to solid, reliable polling to take these latest numbes with a huge grain of salt.

  14. Yeah I agree. In fairness polls have a hard time capturing this kind of bandwagoning, but I feel like, if we're a day or two out and the Liberals are still at 38%, that's going to produce a further swing in their direction. It's well attested that last-minute vote-switchers tend to switch to the anticipated winner. Additionally, voters in competitive NDP/Liberal ridings may want to ensure a Liberal majority (in a kind of reverse play of the 2011 election where voters in Ontario fled the Liberals to avoid a NDP win and ensure a Tory majority).

    1. I don't think Ontario NDP voters fled to the Tories to avoid a NDP government in 2011. The NDP were at 31.6% nationally two days out and ended with 30.6-well within the margin of error. In addition the probability of a NDP government of any sort was small due to their low poll numbers in Ontario.

  15. If the CPC fall to third in the seat count the Liberals do a deal to govern as a minority government with CONSERVATIVE support while the NDP continues to function as a center-left opposition. The incoming Trudeau government would govern as a center-right administration with neoliberal anti-welfare and moderate social policies, leaving the bulk of the electorate disenfranchised. There will be little change and Harper would continue to be calling much of shots under this scenario.

    1. Um. Who says the Liberals would need to do a deal to govern as a minority government? If they have the most seats, all they need is for the other parties to not do a deal. 148 seats would be a pretty strong position for Trudeau to be in, especially since a third-place finish would likely trigger some major infighting in the CPC.

      Now, I don't believe the Conservatives are likely to come third, but I think your concerns are pretty ridiculous. If the NDP took 148 seats, would you be worried about a Mulcair-Harper government? Please...

    2. Of course the Liberals will govern conservatively, they are a small "c" conservative party! If you look at the Liberal party statement on "Jobs, Growth and balancing the budget" they emphasize the balanced budget part (perhaps because they have so little idea on how to accomplish the first two). Balancing the budget is a fiscally conservative policy. Chretien cut tens of billions in program spending but, hey he put a couple billion into the "Millennium Scholarship Fund" so he must be a liberal. The only thing liberal about the Liberal party is the coincidental spelling of its name. They are better thought of as the Whigs for that is their true mercantilist mantra.

      If the Conservatives fall to third on Harper's watch he'll resign pretty quickly I think. Not much chance of him becoming an eminence grise in a Trudeau ministry.

      If the Liberals win a plurality they can probably govern for some time without some form of agreement (assuming they have the votes to form government in the first place) especially if one or more of the now opposition parties are in the midst of a leadership race.

  16. This poll strikes me as an outlier but, all 3 major parties are within their ranges of the last year or so albeit on the extreme of them. This poll is not particularly good news for any party. 26.4% for the Tories is poor but, Trudeau only garnering 38.5% and a minority should be of concern to the Liberals; they're not sealing the deal.

    This is a good poll for the NDP but, it also shows their biggest flaw-the poor showing in Ontario. A party can not reasonably expect to compete for government when they're polling 16% in Ontario. Until they become competitive in Ontario they'll be looked upon as the "third party" and if the "Big Mo'" gets behind the Liberals during the campaign I suspect a lot of Quebec NDP seats could turn red.

    I think we'll see more volatile polls in the run-up to the election.

  17. I'm a partisan Liberal, but if I had to choose between Ekos and Abacus, I'd go with Abacus any day. Frankly Abacus' numbers are where I suspect things will be on election day, with the possible exception of lower NDP numbers.

    @Capilano Dunbar - what deal is it that you feel Liberals aren't sealing exactly? Lol. If Trudeau forms even a weak minority government, it will be the first time in Canadian history that a party has gone for third place to government in a single election. That's the only deal I'm worried about sealing.

    Keep in mind the bar is far lower for the opposition to form government than it is for the Conservatives. For Harper, it's majority or bust. You can't keep poisoning the well and then go back to it for water. If the CPC comes even 1 seat short of the combined seat totals of the federalist opposition parties, they're done.

    1. Ryan,

      It will not be the first time a party has gone from third place to first. Arthur Meighen vaulted the Tories from 49 seats after the 1921 to 115 seats in 1925 and was only prevented from forming Government by Mackenzie King's parliamentary machinations.

      Trudeau has a large problem when the Conservatives can be at a historical low in a poll and the Liberal party is not in majority territory. I doubt it has ever happened before. It shows that for all the dislike of Harper and for all Trudeau's supposed charisma Canadians are not willing to let him govern without restrictions.

      The bar is higher for opposition parties to form government. Trudeau may need to defeat the Government on a motion of confidence even if the Liberals hold a plurality of seats. Will Mulcair acquiesce to Trudeau? Unlikely I think. With a split opposition the Conservatives could well find themselves holding another minority government. Mulcair is not going to defeat Harper just so Trudeau can become PM and Trudeau would be foolish to defeat Harper just so Mulcair can become PM. The 2015 election may be more important to determining who becomes the dominant left of centre party than 2011. If the Conservatives win a plurality I would not expect a Red-Orange coalition to be a certainty.

  18. JT's last apparence at Tout Le Monde En Parle did not do him any favours; he needs lots of improvements when confronted with questions from TV hosts and journalists because the debates will be brutal.

  19. I don't know what EKOS is seeing in the CPC numbers, but no other pollster sees it.

    Abacus shows a 2 point gap. Forum shows a 4 point gap.

    EKOS shows a 12 point gap. What?

  20. The BC, Ontario and Quebec polling numbers count far more than the national number -- very bad news for the CPC in BC and ON.

    The CPC squeaked in their majority where the NDP and Libs polled close to each other. Jack Layton was the best thing that happened to Harper, but now the Libs have pulled well ahead ot the NDP in ON while it's opposite in BC.

    Methinks Northern Gateway is turning BC voters away from the CPC.

    1. Some perspective on The EKOS Numbers in BC ( a smell test):

      Eric ran his numbers provided by EKOS and found the CPC to be able to get 3 seats in BC.

      In BC there were 10 seats where the CPC MP won with more than 55% of the votes cast.

      The candidates that the Liberals and NDp will get to stand for elections in these ridings will likely be party hacks- not strong candidates. Sames as the CPC candidates in Cullen's and Libby Davies ridings where the NDP have the same sort of support the last election.... These were the only non-CPC candidates that had over 55% of the popular votes in BC.

      In 7 out of these 10 seats the CPC margin of victory was over 30% pts. ie the NDP and Liberal vote was split evenly.

      There are no significant scandals (ad scam / shawingate/ ) that would drive the incumbent vote away from the Cons the way Quebec eventually abandoned the Liberals.

      If any one of these 7 absolutely safe CP seats were not to go CP there would be serious analysis and discussions as to how the upset were to happen.

      Elizabeth May (with her imported voters) had a 46 % of the popular vote and a 10% pt margin is a more likely upset than the soild 7-10 CPC incumbents.

    2. George Not Bush,

      This may copme as a shock to many Central Canadians but, Northern Gateway was last year's issue. It gets very little media play nowadays on the West Coat or even in the Interior. We essentially had a provincial election on the matter and Christy Clark and LNG won! Most First Nations have come out in favour of at least negotiation on the issue. Those who oppose the Conservatives because of Northern Gateway would never vote for the party so I don't think one can tie declining CPC numbers solely to this issue.

  21. I think right now virtually all the polls are saying "end of CPC Govt" !!

    Now a year from now it could be totally different?? So how to envision ?

  22. Mayor Judy Wasylycia-Lies (who was elected in an Oct 4 poll published by CTV news) :

    "According to the poll, the former NDP MP and MLA has the support of 41 per cent of decided voters in Winnipeg. In second place, lawyer Brian Bowman has 23 per cent, while former city councillor Gord Steeves is a distant third at 16 per cent.

    Read more:"

    This poll seems eerily similarly to the EKOS poll .

    Less than a month later the election had Bowman with 47.5 % of the vote and Judy W-L with 24 %.

    1. I'm not sure what kind of comparison you are making between a federal election to be held one year from now and a poll done a month before the mayoral vote in Winnipeg. Campaigns matter, I suppose? Of course they do, but it doesn't always change things - and sometimes it just gets worse for the trailing party (think Nova Scotia).

    2. so you would put forward the hypothesis that the poll of Oct 3 was correct and the voters changed their mind based on the campaign?

      The two biggest events were Judy W-L not being able to say where the funding for the Rapid transit was coming (Not having funding for projects is as close to a federal Liberal/NDP platform as can be found) and her not being able distance herself from the 1% PST raise done by the provincial NDP.

      I contend that similar to the EKOS poll the landslide Judy poll was wrong and possibly a campaign trick.

      The EKOS poll on its own is obviously out side the norm but when you run your analysis and get only 3 Cons re-elected in BC and 7 liberals elected in Alberta it's absurdity becomes clear.

      ..... the real debate should be whether EKOS is just trying to be sensational, is just wrong or is trying to create a winnable image for Trudeau.

    3. Insightrix released a poll done later in the campaign showing Bowman up by two points, after initially showing the same numbers as the Probe polling. So yes, I would say the evidence supports that voters changed their minds based on the campaign.

    4. As for the BC numbers, I suggest you not get hung up on the results from smaller regions. The margin of error for the BC sample was over eight points.


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