Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gap closes between Liberals and Tories in new Ipsos Reid poll

We have been starved for new polling data of late, so what better way to feed the beast than with a massive poll with a sample of over 8,000 people and breakdowns for every province (and even the GTA)?

Last night, Global News reported on the newest survey from Ipsos Reid conducted over three weeks between November 10 and December 1. The numbers continue the trend of softening Liberal support and a Conservative Party that, either by default or due to a small uptick, has moved into a near-tie with Justin Trudeau's party.

The Liberals were nevertheless ahead in the poll with 34% support, a drop of four points since Ipsos Reid's previous survey of September 9-12. The Conservatives increased by two points to move to 33%. The New Democrats were up one point to 24%.

Support for the Bloc Québécois was unchanged at 5%, while support for other parties was up one point to 4%. Note that, as is usually the case with Ipsos's polling, that includes the Greens.

Only the drop in support for the Liberals would be outside the margin of error of similarly sized probabilistic samples, and it is really the only trend we can definitively identify. Other pollsters have also recorded a drop in Liberal support from the highs of the summer. The numbers appear to be returning to where things were in the spring - in fact, Ipsos's poll of April 17-22 had the spread at 33% for both the Liberals and the Conservatives and the NDP at 24%.

But are the Conservatives in the midst of an upward swing? The evidence is accumulating that their numbers are improving, but the size of the uptick is exaggerated by the steeper decrease in Liberal support. The party has gone from 38% in Ipsos's previous two surveys to 34% here, whereas the Conservatives have gone from 31% in the previous two surveys to 33%. It looks more like a reset or wobble than momentum, but we will have to see where things go from here.

That the Ipsos poll was taken over three weeks does give us an indication that the Conservatives may be building up steam. Between November 10 and 24 (the bulk of the sample with 5,034 decided voters) the Conservatives were around 32% to 33%, while the Liberals were around 34% to 35%. The last week of polling (the smallest of the three samples, though still 1,468 decided voters) had the Tories at 35% and the Liberals at 33%. A statistical fluke or a sign of things to come?

The Conservatives had a small edge in this poll among men with 36% to 35% for the Liberals (and 21% for the NDP), while the Liberals were ahead more comfortably among women (34% to 30%, with the NDP at 27%).

Other tidbits from this large-sample survey: the Liberals led among voters between the ages of 18 and 54, while the Conservatives were ahead among voters over the age of 55. A turnout advantage may be hiding there.

The more educated a person was, the more likely they were to support the Liberals, while the less educated a person was the more likely they were to support the Conservatives. Greater wealth meant a greater likelihood of support for either the Conservatives or Liberals, while as income dropped support for the NDP and Bloc increased.

And of particular note, considering the Conservative family-friendly policies unveiled over the last few weeks, is that the Liberals are actually doing better among households with children. They were up in these with 35% to 32% for the Conservatives. The two parties were tied at 34% in households with no children. Perhaps it is not the game-changing policy the Conservatives are hoping it will be. In fact, compared to the September poll the Conservatives made more of their gains among households without children.

At the regional level, the Conservatives and Liberals were tied in Ontario with 37% apiece, while the NDP was in third with 22%.

In Quebec, the Liberals were at 32%, followed by the NDP at 29% and the Bloc Québécois at 21%. With the exception of a single EKOS poll that put the party at 22% in October, that is the best result the Bloc has managed since Mario Beaulieu took over the party in June. The Conservatives had 15%.

The Conservatives were ahead in British Columbia with 33%, followed by the NDP at 30% and the Liberals at 28%.

In Alberta, the Conservatives were at 58% to 24% for the Liberals and 14% for the NDP.

In the Prairies, the Conservatives led with 41% to 33% for the Liberals and 23% for the NDP, with support for other parties jumping three points to 4%. The Greens have been putting up some oddly good numbers in the Prairies in recent polls, which coincides with this Ipsos uptick that is outside the margin of error. Something to watch?

And in Atlantic Canada, the Liberals led with 53% to 26% for the Conservatives and 19% for the NDP.

But because of the large sample in this poll, Ipsos kindly broke down the numbers even further. Let's take a look.

With the exception of PEI and, to a lesser extent, Newfoundland and Labrador, all of these are respectable samples.

Some of the numbers fall well in line with the sporadic results we've seen from other pollsters. The Liberal lead in Toronto is much like what we've seen elsewhere (and at the provincial level), while the closer race with stronger Conservative numbers in the 905 area code are not unusual. They do suggest that the Tories are not dead in the water in the GTA.

The numbers in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick are well within the margins of what we usually see from the Corporate Research Associates when they put out federal results - big Liberal leads throughout. The numbers in PEI look a lot like the 2011 results, though CRA tends to give the Liberals a bigger lead here as well.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba are quite different from what we usually see from EKOS, the only pollster regularly putting out numbers for the two provinces. EKOS usually has the NDP in second in Saskatchewan and the Liberals either neck-and-neck with the Conservatives or first in Manitoba. If the Liberals are really that strong in Saskatchewan, we could see another MP from the province to join Ralph Goodale.

With these numbers, including the provincial-level results for the Prairies and Atlantic Canada, the likely seat outcome would be as follows.

Despite the one-point deficit, the Conservatives would come out on top with 132 seats, followed by the Liberals at 118 and the NDP at 83. The Bloc would win four seats again, and the Greens would take one.

The Liberals are unable to win the plurality of seats despite having the plurality of votes as they are penalized primarily in British Columbia, where they are only two points back from the NDP, and Quebec, where they are three points up on that party.

Though relations between the Liberals and New Democrats appear to be at an all-time low at the moment, it is worth noting that the two parties could easily combine for a majority government. Otherwise, the Conservatives would have some difficulty governing in this scenario.

House effects?

I wanted to take a moment to discuss the topic of house effects in relation to this poll. I often see comments along the lines of this or that pollster being biased towards one party or the other. The search for house effects is certainly a legitimate exercise as Nate Silver has shown again and again, but often the reputation a pollster has does not align completely with the data. And there is also an insidious insinuation that the bias is deliberately partisan, rather than methodological. Unless that can be explicitly proven, I chalk it up to silly tin-foil-hat conspiracy theories.

But anyway, let's look at Ipsos Reid and whether they have any house effects. It is worthwhile to compare Ipsos Reid to other pollsters, rather than snapshot election results more than three years ago.

In the six polls Ipsos Reid has conducted in 2014, the Liberals have averaged 35.5%, the Conservatives 31%, the NDP 24.3%, and other parties 3.8% (we'll put aside the Bloc in this case).

In polls conducted by other companies with field dates within two weeks of the start and end of these six Ipsos Reid polls, the Liberals have averaged 35.7%, the Conservatives 29.4%, the NDP 22.3%, and Greens and others 7.6%.

Ipsos is sometimes charged with putting out higher numbers for the Conservatives, and here we see that indeed they have been 1.6 points higher for the Tories than other pollsters in 2014. But that is a rather small discrepancy when we consider the Ipsos sample is only six polls, in addition to the margin of error of all of these polls. And to focus on this number would be to miss the point - Ipsos is right in line with other pollsters for the Liberals, and is instead more bullish for the New Democrats than they are for the Conservatives. Yet Ipsos is rarely charged with being an NDP-friendly polling firm.

The biggest difference with Ipsos is that support for the Greens and others is roughly half of what other pollsters peg it to be. This is significant because what differentiates Ipsos most from other pollsters is that they do not give the Greens as an option in their questionnaire. Undoubtedly, this drags down what would be Green support, with consequences for the support of the major parties. This alone may explain more of the discrepancy between Ipsos and other pollsters than anything else (and we should note that Ipsos is, by far, not the pollster that most often finds itself out of the peloton).

Some might think the exclusion of the Greens from Ipsos's surveys is a problem, but consider that in the 2011 election the Greens and other parties totaled 4.8% support. Other pollsters would have us believe that this support has increased by more than half. That is certainly possible, but polls consistently over-estimate the support of the Green Party in virtually every jurisdiction. One of the pollsters that consistently does this the least is, as it turns out, Ipsos Reid.


  1. Could the Conservatives govern with 132 seats versus 201 NDP/LPC? Who wins the election with this result?

    1. How many NDP MPs would it take to cross the floor to bring down Harper? In this scenario, four. Two traits are not recorded in polls. Strategic voting was demonstrated in recent provincial elections in Ontario and Quebec. These are key battlegrounds in the next federal election. Quebec will not help Harper by regurgitating NDP MPs and Ontario has gone solidly Liberal only a few years ago.

    2. I think Canadians have generally rejected parties usurping power unless it's done through elections.

    3. "I think Canadians have generally rejected parties usurping power unless it's done through elections."

      A few things are inaccurate about this statement.

      First, it wouldn't be 'usurping', since the reality is that Canadians don't elect their governments; we elect Members of Parliament, who then decide on a governing arrangement amongst themselves. If a majority of MPs from two different parties convened a government, that would be perfectly legitimate. Indeed, it would even be more democratic, because it would be on side with a larger share of voters.

      Second, Canadians never "rejected" the coalition arrangement that was proposed in 2008. Harper prorogued Parliament before it happened, and at the time, polls on the issue showed mixed public opinion. Many speculated that a large reason for trepidation was the fact that the Bloc Quebecois would have been a partner. That would not be the case in 2015, and also, Canadians will have endured that many more years of the Harper nightmare.

      Re. John Austin's original question: there's no necessity for any New Democrat MPs to cross the floor. A governing arrangement could be struck between the two parties. There is no rule anywhere that precludes a government of consisting of Ministers from more than one party. I'd argue it's not even a "best practice", never mind a rule.

    4. You don't even need to have a coalition cabinet (although that is certainly an option). The Peterson-Rae model from Ontario 1985 would be quite fitting -- another instance when the Liberals got slightly fewer seats with slightly more votes than the (in that case Progressive) Conservatives.

    5. Yared,

      The Crown chooses the Government not M.P.s. Secondly, in 2008 the opposition cabal was unable to defeat the Government on a confidence vote but, still tendered unconstitutional advice tot he Crown so the coalition was unconstitutional by the way they attempted to become Government.

  2. Election date is Oct 19, 2015

    We are just a little over 10 months before the next election.

    In June 2010 .... just over 10 month prior to the May 2 , 2011 election.... there were 7 polls done...

    The un-weighted average of the 7 polls had the CPC at 32.7.

    The Ipsos Reid poll had the CPC at 35%.

    Harper seems very well situated for similar results to 2011.

  3. No One Total grid lock

    Liberals support the Minority Cons for a year. NDP need time to get a new leader

  4. BCVOR,

    You sure are in a rush to chuck Mulcair post 2015 election. Remember that the Lord over all he surveys actually lost in 2004...surely you would allow Mulcair the same courtesy -- another kick at the can.

    As for Liberals propping up Conservatives, only one thing makes sense politically: sink them at the very first opportunity in the context of a minority Harper government.

    1. If Mulcair's NDP drops 20 seats why would the NDP think that he could ever do better?

      Would they be satisfied with the NDP returning to being a fringe 3rd/4th place party?

      In 2004 Harper went from 72 seats to 99

    2. If the NDP drops 20 seats, they'd still have about double their pre-2011 historic best.

    3. Ignatieff sank the CONs at his first opportunity. The Canadian people almost wiped out the Liberal party.

      There is a lot of responsibility on the 2nd place (or supporting) party in a Minority situation.

      It is too easy to see them putting their interests first.

      Also The Cons will be replacing Harper if he does not bring back a majority.... and likely in 2017-18 if he gets a majority.

    4. BCVOR,

      I remain today what I have always been: an unapologetic Ignatieff supporter. However, the political world chose to see things differently regarding his personal and political views. And the electorate took their cue from there. What will be, will be, I suppose.

      Why were the Liberals almost wiped out? Was it because of the actions taken by Ignatieff, or was it because voters couldn't cotton to Ignatieff. Unfortunately, in my estimation, it was the latter that undid what might have been.

    5. Yeah...quite likely anything less than a majority is a loss, so it would be time. Should that scenario turn out, I can imagine 2 years of relatively stable minority before an election as the cons pick a leader. I do actually think the NDP would not dump Muclair unless it is a complete disaster. Cycling leaders has not seemed to work for the Liberals in the last decade cannot imagine the NDP would think it would work for them either.

    6. Ignatieff's performance in 2011 was entirely in keeping with the Liberal trend that ran through Chrétien, Martin, and Dion. A steady decline.

      Plot the results. If you just keep the line going from Chrétien, Martin, and Dion, it leads pretty much exactly where Ignatieff landed.

      Ignatieff isn't to blame for the Liberal performance in 2011. The Liberals are.

    7. Agree with Ira 100%. Liberal infighting was the cause of the Liberal party's decline. No leader had a hope in hell of winning an election under those circumstances.

    8. I think Ira and Ryan are partly right, but how can you not mention the most powerful contributor to the fall of the Liberals? Their record. Chretien won election with the Red Book, then failed to implement any of it, even enacted policies directly opposed to the document's promises. There followed Martin, already unpopular as a slash and burn Finance Minister and personal tax skiver, who as PM took the party further to the right than Chretien already had and added his own lack of charm while doing it. There wasn’t much enthusiasm for Dion, apart from that which rested on his reputation as an environmentalist – his first promise as leader? To trash the environmental proposals he’d put forward before becoming leader. Without that, he had nothing. Ignatieff arrived as a known military hawk (not something that sits well with many Liberal supporters) and economic neo-liberal, a long-term non-participant in Canadian political culture – or anything else Canadian for that matter, and with an even nastier demeanor that Martin had exhibited. For many Liberal voters, their party of preference appeared to have transmogrified into a charmless, incompetent pageant in imitation of the Conservatives (I’d say they’d been largely that since day one, but I’m hard to please).

  5. Eric, do you have a break-down of the Liberal and NDP seats in Saskatchewan and Manitoba?

    I'm curious what they are given that Liberals have been polling well there and the NDP, despite relatively poor polling of late, gets almost as many seats as the Libs in the region, according to your model.

  6. This latest IPSOS poll should really be counted as 3 separate polls - each 1 week apart (even at that they would each be large polls). Would that have made a difference in the polling averages and the seat projections?

    1. We don't have regional results for each of the three week segments, so I could not do that if I wanted to.

  7. Hey Eric,

    I'm curious: do you recall the last time your seat projection produced a majority government, for any party? Seems it's been a long time since we've been wallowing in minority territory. Not that I mind... keeps things interesting.

    1. I can't recall, actually. I'm sure there have been a few individual polls, but no party has sustained itself in majority territory long enough to be captured by the monthly averages.

  8. There has been commentary that Mulcair will be pushing reinstatement of the long gun registry which will play very well in Quebec, less so in rural Ontario. Will that hurt the NDP in Ontario GTA? If it does with GTA LPC and CPC polling closely, it could tilt some seats Liberal.

    With 338 seats, a majority is 170. I doubt there will be any shilly shallying a la Dion if the CPC comes up short.

    We will be facing the unusual circumstance of FPTP producing a seat count more proportional to vote percentage than usual, except that the NDP will benefit from its strength in Quebec.

    1. Up here in Thunder Bay it will kill the NDP. I'm sure the NDP member for the western side (John Rafferty) is wondering if he should've joined Bruce Hyer in leaving the NDP and joining the Green Party at times. His travel budget was cut, he was demoted to a made up portfolio (economic something for Northern Ontario) and I suspect will get minimal assistance in the election. Meanwhile we are setting up the re-elect Bruce Hyer office as I type this and there is a support base for him.

      In truth, this riding will be big. If Hyer wins then I bet we see more MP's do what they think their constituents want regardless of threats from the party leaders. If he loses then the whips will be stronger than ever.

  9. You know here and on the other blog about voting systems we've all been ignoring the fact that voting turnout keeps slipping.

    Anybody want to talk about mandatory voting ??

    1. Mandatory voting decreases the signal to noise ratio. We'd end up with a lot of votes being cast by people who otherwise wouldn't care enough to vote, and probably don't have a firm understanding of why they're voting as they are.

      I'd be more supportive of adding barriers to voting rather than taking them away.

    2. We should consider that if people were forced to vote, many of these new voters would probably try to get a little informed before casting a ballot.

    3. Ira, "I'd be more supportive of adding barriers to voting "?! You know that time didn't stop in 1900, right?

    4. If we are going to call ourselves a "Democracy" then everyone should have a voice. Since many choose, for whatever reason, not to speak the concept of mandatory voting may just be the thing to get the real needs and desires of all the public seen and understood.

  10. The thing to remember is that the government is only partially connected to Parliament. Harper is now the Prime Minister. If he loses every sear but his own, he is still Prime Minister, and will stay Prime Minister until an MP (of whatever party) moves a vote of non confidence. The House divides, and the motion is successful. Harper then goes to the GG and asks for a new election. If the election was a couple of weeks back, the GG will say “No”, and Harper resigns. “Who should I send for as a new Prime Minister? Mr. Harper, what is your advice?” And Harper then tells him the name of the leader of largest party in the House. The GG send for him/her, and he/she forms a government. Then s/he meets the House. The House is perfectly at liberty to do to him/her what it did to Harper.

    The House is paramount in rejecting a potential Prime Minister. Ignatieff was badly advised, and he gave new life to the canard that the leader of the largest party ALWAYS becomes PM.

  11. Peter, I have two major problems with mandatory voting.

    Firstly - and this is a deal breaker for me - it is an unnecessary violation of personnel liberty. My right to not to vote is important, and for whatever reason I choose.

    Secondly - and a more practical concern - is that I do not want uninformed voters casting a ballot any which way, only because they are required to. If you are the type of person who will let voting day slip by without exercising your most important civic duty, then I am inclined to say good riddance, as I don't want you deciding who runs the country.

    For those who like to say that, "If you don't vote, you can't complain.", I disagree. All Canadians have the fundamental right to complain about their government. It is this freedom which is at the heart of our democracy.

    1. I must respectfully disagree. Voting is the right and privilege of the citizen, but it is also the duty of the citizen. Canada has every right to expect that every voter should do his or her duty.

    2. As you can tell from my post I also consider voting a privilege and a duty. I also recognize that not everyone holds that view. If someone does not wish to vote (for whatever reason) I am inclined to say, "It's a free country", or even, "If that's what you think I don't really want you voting anyway.".

      Canada is an idea, and it is an idea that is there to serve the people who live there. I believe it does this best by allowing the maximum individual freedom of opinion. To my knowledge Canada has never before compelled its electorate to vote, and I see no good reason why it is necessary now.

  12. When is that polling firm that does a poll on the popularity of all the provincial governments going to release their next survey

  13. "it is an unnecessary violation of personnel liberty"
    @AJR79, as long as you're permitted to spoil or decline your ballot, I wholeheartedly disagree. Is having a speed limit on a road a violation of personal liberty or any other sensible law for that matter?

    As for the second point, just because you vote, doesn't mean you're 'informed'. A prime example of this is the municipal elections in Ottawa. A woman who was a candidate for Catholic School Trustee who dropped out of the race (but missed the deadline to take her name off the ballot) explicitly stated on her website's homepage that she was dropping out of the race. Guess who won the election? Yup the woman who for all intents and purposes dropped out of the election. You're lucky to get 35% voter turnout at the municipal level. Based on the above example, what would the voter turnout look like if we only permitted 'informed' people to vote? If that's the case, why don't we permit 'informed' 12, 14 or 16 year olds to vote? I know the Conservatives would never want this as 'kids' aren't conservative.

  14. Liberty and security are always being balanced against each other. There are obvious reasons why speed limits are a necessary infringement on our liberty. What compelling reasons can you give for taking away a persons right not to vote? Who is being harmed when someone chooses not to vote? The only answer I can think of is the legitimacy of the government, which for me is not nearly good enough.

    I love my country, but I view the government as there to serve the people, not the other way around. If you are not harming others, I'd prefer the government stay out of your affairs. Compelling people to vote is an idea too far up the authoritarian scale for my liking. If the Canadian people ever decide to cede their right to not vote to the government, and allow it to punish us for not voting, then so be it. I will not be greatly effected.

    As it stands now I like living in a country where you can choose not to vote, for whatever reason you like. I see no good reason to change that. Hopefully any change of that nature would be put to a referendum, where it is my guess that it would be crushed like an egg.

    Also, I never claimed that those who currently vote were informed, but it is obvious to me that they at least take some interest in the election they are voting in. Forcing those who have no interest in an election to vote in it, seems to me a good way to achieve worse results. It waters down the votes of those who actually care enough to vote without being compelled. So not only do I feel that mandatory voting is unnecessary, I also find it undesirable.

    Are you really suggesting that we should all be forced to vote in every municipal election as well? How about a couple years mandatory military service while we are at it? If we are going to force people to vote, then why allow them to spoil/decline their ballot? Does this not defeat the purpose? When you start giving away rights for no good reason, don't be surprised if others are taken from you for equally bad reasons.


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