Monday, December 15, 2014

Polls show Liberals still leading, but by how much?

Two polls published over the last two days show the Liberals still leading in national voting intentions. But the surveys by Léger and EKOS Research differ significantly over the size of that lead - as well as whether it is shrinking or growing.

First, the numbers themselves.

Léger, in the field between December 8 and 11 and reporting for Le Devoir, found the Liberals to have 38% support, up two points from where the party stood in Léger's previous survey of November 3-6.

The Conservatives were down one point to 32%, while the New Democrats were unchanged at 19%.

Support for the Greens was down one point to 6%, the Bloc Québécois was up one point to 4%, and support for other parties was unchanged at 1%.

None of these shifts would be outside the margin of error of similarly sized probabilistic samples.

EKOS, in the field between December 4 and 12 for their new poll published by iPolitics, gave the Liberals 31.8% support, down 1.7 points from the previous survey of November 4-6.

The Conservatives were up 0.6 points to 30.8% and the New Democrats were down 0.5 points to 20%.

The Greens were down 1.9 points to 7.8%, the Bloc was up 1.5 points to 5%, and support for other parties was up two points to 4.6%.

Only the shifts for the Greens and others would be outside the margin of error.

The differences between these two polls are well within the margin of error for the Conservatives, New Democrats, and Bloc, and just about within the margin of error for the Greens. So those discrepancies can be easily explained away by standard sampling error.

But the differences between the Liberals and support for other parties is harder to explain. About three points of the discrepancy between EKOS and Léger for the Liberals cannot be explained by the margin of error, and about 2.6 points for 'other' parties. That those numbers are very close may not be coincidental, as EKOS routinely has support for other parties to be significantly higher than other firms. Throughout 2014, for example, 'others' have averaged 3.3% support in EKOS's IVR polling, compared to 1.1% for everyone else.

Discrepancies like these, however, can often be chalked up to methodological differences. EKOS is conducting its poll via interactive voice response, whereas Léger did its poll online. The two modes of contact may inherently produce slightly different results. The focus, then, should be on the trends instead.

Here there is a little more clarity. Over the last three Léger polls, all three major parties have been very steady. The Liberals went from 37% in October to 36% in November, before ending up at 38% here. That is a statistically insignificant wobble. The Conservative numbers have been 32%, 33%, and 32% - very stable. And the NDP has registered 21%, 19%, and 19% support over that time.

It is a little more complicated with EKOS. In the time span that Léger did those three polls, EKOS has done four. Three of them were on virtually the same dates, but the first was done online. The last three were done via IVR. It wouldn't be appropriate to look at the trends by mashing together those two very different modes of contact.

So if we just look at the IVR polls by EKOS conducted since the end of October, we see similar stability to Léger: 33%, 34%, and 32% for the Liberals, 28%, 30%, and 31% for the Conservatives, and 21%, 21%, and 20% for the NDP. Trend-wise, at least, Léger and EKOS are not in complete disagreement.

But Léger is showing a very different sort of margin between the Conservatives and Liberals, growing from three points to six points in this poll. Considering the stability in the numbers, we could say that the margin is simply moving back and forth with the wobble. But EKOS's trend is more towards convergence, with the gap being about five points at the end of October, four points at the beginning of November, and now one point. If those trends continue, the Liberals will be overtaken. On the other hand, if Léger's trend continues the Liberals will continue to lead comfortably.

Adding to the confusion this morning is a new poll by Forum Research, which I only noticed after I had updated the averages (it will be added tomorrow). The poll gives the Liberals 41% to 33% for the Conservatives and just 17% for the NDP. This would suggest Conservative stability, a Liberal uptick, and consistent NDP decrease. But Forum's one-day flash polls are perhaps more vulnerable to showing wonky results.

Returning to Léger and EKOS, however, the two polls do tell us something. The parties' support appears to be relatively stable, solidifying the newer, more competitive race that has taken shape since the summer. And the NDP remains stuck in third place without any sort of momentum.

But the differences in the numbers themselves have enormous consequences. If these were the final polls of an election campaign, we'd have a long night ahead of us.

With EKOS, the Conservatives would manage to win a plurality of seats, taking 138 to 125 for the Liberals. The NDP would be reduced to 60 seats, while the Bloc would benefit from vote splits to take 13 seats in Quebec and obtain official party status again.

With Léger, however, the Liberals would win the plurality of seats with 146, the Conservatives taking 134 and the NDP just 55. The Bloc was not high enough in Léger's poll to be in a position to win more than a seat.

These seat numbers tell different stories. In the EKOS scenario, Stephen Harper might try to stay in office and govern with a minority. The opposition might then topple the government, but would need to work together to convince the Governor-General to give them a chance to govern rather than sending Canadians back to the polls (which could be the other outcome). The role of the Bloc would be marginal, but the party would be 'back' and regain much-needed funds and staff.

In the Léger scenario, convention would allow Justin Trudeau to head-up a minority Liberal government that would likely rely on the NDP to survive. Unlike the EKOS scenario, the Liberals and NDP would not necessarily have to formalize any sort of agreement, which might be more palatable to their bases. Harper likely steps down and a leadership race ensues, delaying any threat of an election, while the Bloc is marginalized further and might just cease to exist.

And all of this is with a few percentage points of difference, showing just how significant minor shifts can be when the race gets close. If things continue this way, particularly if the NDP can regain some ground, 2015 is setting up to be one of the most exciting elections in recent memory.


  1. How come you didn't include the latest poll by Forum that has the Liberals in majority terroritory?

    1. I explained in the post above.

    2. My apologies, I got excited and should have finished reading the entire post.
      Love the great work you do Eric - I check this site multiple times daily, and turn up the TV when I see you on CBC. Keep it up.

  2. The great surprise for me is the strength of the Bloc in the EKOS poll, which given the current leader and recent infighting I find hard to believe.

    A question, if you can stand it: When was the last time you projected the Bloc at 13 seats (or higher)?

    1. It happens relatively often - don't be fooled by the seat count. At 21%, the Bloc is below their 2011 support level. They just benefit from vote splits.

    2. Yes, it looks like EKOS has the BQ higher than any of the other pollsters right now. Leger has the BQ 5 points lower than EKOS, and Leger presumably knows Quebec better than EKOS.

      That's one of several things I find odd about this EKOS poll. It's not necessarily wrong, but it does seem EKOS is a bit at odds with Leger & Forum this week.

  3. It's hard to know what to make of pollsters these days. They often show so many different & conflicting results.

    My main concern with pollsters is their sample sizes. If they want to prevent the accusations from the press & the public that they are unreliable, they need to double their sample sizes to have greater reliability and precision.

  4. Ontario seems to be shaping up as the key battleground and it would be interesting to see the seat projections for the two polls.

    NDP strength in Ontario gave the CPC its majority in tight 3-way races; so we can expect large swings in seat count from 1-3% vote swings.

    It may well be decided in BC.

  5. It is almost exactly 10 months before Election Day Oct 19, 2015.
    July 2, 2010 was the equivalent 10 months before the 2011 election.

    EKOS poll June 26, 2010
    CPC 31 Lib 28 NDP 17 BQ 9 Grn 13
    EKOS poll June 15, 2010
    CPC 31 Lib 26 NDP 17 BQ 11 Grn 12
    EKOS poll June 8, 2010
    CPC 31 Lib 27 NDP 17 BQ 9 Grn 13

    So 10 months out EKOS has the Cons dead even to where they were out 10 months last election … the Liberals up by 5 , the NDP up 3 , the BQ down by 4 and Green down by 5.

    So EKOS is basically things are pretty much the same for this election cycle.

    No need to worry about coalitions or minority governments.

    1. Except, there is an actual campaign, where its not without reason to see a party move 10% or more in the polls during...the actual campaign.

    2. That's not a particularly logical or convincing way to project what might happen in the next federal election. It makes much more sense to simply look at the current trends and speculate from there.

    3. EKOS had the CPC at 35 % the day before the election where they got 40.

      Are the Cons really anywhere close to 31% or were they anywhere near 31% 10 months below last election?

      Bias or bad polling (questions, sampling, definition of the voting universe) or bad algorithms turning the raw data into the published polls.... whatever the reason...EKOS has consistently and invariably under estimated CPC support polled to what actually happens at the election.

      Every poll EKOS has taken has been outside the MOE... This is supposed to happen 1 times out of 20 not 20 times out of 20.

      If someone flips the coin and tells me it comes up heads 40 times in a row... it really makes me suspect that either the coin or the flipper is not true.

    4. carl Do the voters intentions change or just the polls?

      The pollsters always say that the voters changed too fast for them to catch it..... It is at least 50/50 that the polls were just wrong.

    5. BCVR, I think you're grasping at straws here. You can't really extrapolate trends from a past election that had a completely different environment. If your point is that polls change quickly... everyone here already knows that if they've read more than 2 of the posts here.

    6. Lukas

      What has changed since the last election cycle?

      The Liberals have a new exciting Leader now. In June 2010 the Press couldn't praise Ignatieff enough. He was on his great Bus tour. Liberal donor and Members were trending upwards.

      There was huge huge dissatisfaction for Harper. He had prorogued parliament. His PBO had said that he was not giving full costing of the F53. They had parliamentary committee hearings where witness after witness hammered Harper.. Eventually he was held in contempt of parliament.

      Now the big scandal is a Senator cheated on his expenses and some rich dude paid it off??!!!

      Harper's big pluses were getting rid of the LGR and the Wheat board.

      This year Harper is cutting back on the CBC... And the CBC is self -imploding and showing itself to be not only irrelevant but also very ugly and anti-women,

      Harper is putting a couple of thousand bucks in the hands of Families with young children.

      Mulcair for sure is going to try to take it away... and Trudeau since he is going to have to rely on NDP support to be PM is likely to go along with it.

      If you thought the Gun registry was a focus point for CPC support.... then you have never tried to get someone to give you back money they have already spent.

      PS As for trends over the last 10 months Trudeau support has gone down from clear Liberal majority to Conservative plurality.

      Where does that trend end up in the next 10 months?

    7. Sorry for running on Lukas but Harper also is in a much better place this cycle because the largest failing premier in the history of Ontario has declared war on him.

      There is a spring budget that Ontario has to present

      You tell me will the Ontario budget be pleasing to to the folks of Ontario? Will it be a plus for Wynne's buddy Trudeau?

    8. Obviously voter intentions change during a campaign...thats why they have them. Why not just skip it entirely then and vote...because parties fell that an election campaign (with announcements, debates, and contact with the public) gives them a chance to sway voter intentions and vote for their party, local candidate, or their preferred choice in prime minister. Just because it is impossible for you to ever change your mind, does not mean the average voter will not.

  6. There seems to have been quite a decline in the NDP national average over the course of 2014, yes? Not only does the NDP not get anywhere near the 30's anymore as in the early day's of Mulcair's leadership in 2012, they don't even seem to poll in the high 20's anymore. They seem to be falling down to the low 20's and at risk of falling even below 20. Is NDP support in danger of collapsing?

    1. Craig,

      You're right the NDP poll numbers have declined but, a year out from the 2011 election the NDP was averaging 16% and a year out from the 2013 BC election the BC Liberals were averaging 25%. It doesn't look good for the NDP at the moment but, it may only take one Trudeau gaffe to change NDP fortunes.

      I think the high teen range is the NDP's base and there is not much danger of a collapse a la Audrey MacLaughlin. Whatever one think of Tom Mulcair (and I have plenty of criticisms toward him) he is a far stronger leader than MacLaughlin.

      Throughout the 60's, 70's and 80's the NDP consistently earned in the high teens during elections. In the four elections under Layton the NDP earned 15% or better of the popular vote. Today Canada appears to be back in a two party plus system. If history is any guide the safe money is on the NDP garnering 15% or better in 2015.

    2. But Mulcair is not Layton. The party is not likely to do as well under him. Obviously the NDP can't be totally ruled out as long as it keeps a base in Quebec and is doing well there, but even there Mulcair is in a closer race than he expected with Trudeau. I don't think the NDP should be counting on Trudeau 'gaffes' to change their fortunes. They need to start showing they can beat Harper.

    3. Well, I think we can all expect a few Trudeau gaffes; his high praise of communist China, his confusing and dangerous position on giving humanitarian aid in Northern Iraq/Syria (It's a war zone but, Trudeau thought good wishes would ensure Canadian aid would not fall into the hands of Islamic State), His pro-pipeline positions,

      Once the campaign begins Trudeau's gaffes will start to mount up!

    4. But Trudeau is similar to Iggy and Dion, he has no policies and is essentially campaigning on the past.

    5. And that bede has been said in national newspaper articles as well as TV about ALL THREE leaders. So none are worth squat in your opinion.

    6. Peter,

      Insults are the last resort of the out-argued. Your writing appears confounded by basic undisputed facts. Trudeau made those gaffes not me, or Stephen Harper, people will rightly question whether someone who praises communist dictatorhip has the moral compass to lead a democratic Western nation.

      I didn't praise China, Justin Trudeau said he had; "a level of admiration ... for China because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime",

      Peter, you are just angry because what I wrote was a metaphysical certainty, Trudeau praised communist China, is in favour of pipelines (and one can assume dirty oil) and made a strategic gaffe on delivering aid to Northern Iraq/ Syria.

      Don't blame others for the failures of your party leader! Someone who increasingly appears out of his league, Maybe Mulcair will take pity on Justin and get him a job with Quebec Solidaire after the Liberals lose the next election!

    7. I'm sorry you can't accept TRUTH bede. I was quoting several national sources. All you could see was an attack on Harper. Change your glasses.

    8. The truth Peter is that Trudeau expressed admiration for China's "basic dictatorship".

      The truth is that you do not quote anyone since you fail to use quotation marks or cite.

      The truth is that in August you promised you would not respond to my posts and have broken your word on multiple occasions!

      Peter, please stop being economical with the truth.

    9. "Peter, please stop being economical with the truth. "

      bede I recommend that you try that. I didn't use quotes because there were so many instances. Drop the rose coloured glasses.

    10. You admit that you "didn't use quotes".

      So in fact you were not quoting "several national sources".

      Please don't talk to me about the "TRUTH" when it appears you fail to uphold it!

  7. Expect a significant decline in the NDP numbers as the two majors battle it out.

    1. Don't bet on it Peter.

      With the current distribution of voter support the NDP is a major party in Quebec and parts of Ontario, BC, Alberta, the Atlantic and the Prairies. Mulcair can make a credible argument that a vote for Justin is a wasted vote!

    2. NDP support is down all across the country though, including in Quebec. So while Mulcair still has his Quebec base, he's in a weaker position now than he was a couple years ago. Mulcair can't win the Maritimes, Ontario or the West. Even Quebec may go to Trudeau if Mulcair can't show he can beat Harper.

    3. Once the election begins in earnest Mulcair will be more than able to go up against Trudeau. Liberals think Mulcair "can't win" but, that is because they know how precarious their position is. Liberal support is a mile wide and an inch deep. Liberals so distrust Canadians they have not released any policies. Trudeau is as weak a leader as Dion or Iggy, albeit in different ways.

      Quebec won't go to Trudeau because Quebeckers remember their betrayal at the hands of PET. Sure the Liberals will win seats around Montreal but with Trudeau as leader the majority of the NDP Quebec caucus is safe. The truth that Liberals ignore is Liberals have not won a majority of Quebec seats since 1980!

      Last election the NDP went from 16%-31% only a fool or the arrogant would discount the NDP today especially when the Liberals have an untested leader; the last two elections the Liberals had rookie leaders and returned very poor results, the NDP and Tories are chomping at the bit with the next rookie Liberal leader, Liberals are deluding themselves if they think the next election will be a cakewalk.

  8. Eric,

    When you get a series of odds lemons, better to make lemonade. Nik has the Nanos Number. Mine would be the level of dissatisfaction with the incumbent. If Harper's number is anything like Pauline's, then the CPC is done.

    1. Ron I think you are dead on with the dissatisfaction comment. Even in a solid Conservative areas the murmurs are significant.

    2. Wouldn't be so sure Peter, the CPC is nearly impregnable in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and non-urban BC and Manitoba. They'll also likely get southern Ontario (even Hudak won it).
      And living in the GTA, I think incumbency might play against the Liberals' numbers. The GTA incumbents are no Quebec NDP incumbents. MPs like Julian Fantino (despite his veternas affairs problems), Bal Gossal, Parm Gill, and even Pat Perkins are just too solid locally to lose their ridings. I live in Vaughan-Woodbridge and would be shocked if Fantino won by less than 8%. The Italians just know and like him too much. I can imagine it's similar with the Indian MPs in Brampton.

    3. Julian Fantino has some support in the Italian community, I agree. I'm part Italian myself and I've seen that. But Fantino may not run again, and Italians voted for Pierre Trudeau in large numbers, and some of them will come back to Justin Trudeau. Don't assume the Liberals will do as badly in Vaughan under Justin as they did under Iggy.

  9. I personally think based on the recent Whitby-Oshawa byelection that Léger are bang on with their Ontario and Quebec polling. The ABC (Anyone But Conservative) block of voters are flocking to the party that they think can oust Harper in October...which is exactly what the Liberals need in order for their vote to be more 'efficient'. The EKOS poll has the BQ way too high in my opinion especially given how they've been in the 16% range for months now.

    Eric, also the EKOS has 'others' at over 4%? Either they polled an incredibly disproportionate number of Libertarians and Marxists or is that the new Quebec Forces et Démocratie coming into play? If that's the case, wouldn't the separatist vote be further divided making 13 BQ seats completely implausible?

    1. As an anti-Liberal voter, I actually take a bit of comfort in Whitby-Oshawa. The Libs are polling high in Ontario but yet failed to break through in a key Battleground. I think incumbents in the GTA such as Pat Perkins, Julian Fantino, Bal Gossal, and Parm Gill will play against the Liberal numbers in that key region. The ethnic MPs like Fantino or Gossal have strng support from their communities.

    2. Fantino may not run again if he becomes too much of a liability to Harper. And the Italian-Canadian vote may start returning to its traditional Liberal home under Trudeau. As for Bal Gossal, he must have been a bit worried about getting re-elected where he was, because he moved to a new riding.

  10. The CPC is up from last year. They're improving. Slow and steady.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. By-elections are strange beasts, voter turnout is a fraction of general election turnout, candidates are often unknown or re-tread. The BC NDP won the Chilliwack by-election in 2012 (a long held Liberal riding) only to lose the riding and general election in 2013.

      Frankly if the LPC can't win Whitby-Oshawa at a by-election the chances they will capture it at the general election are slim.

    2. The BC election is a provincial example, so it can't be directly compared to federal politics which is very different.

      As for Whitby-Oshawa, it shows that the Conservatives are doing well to hold onto their core vote, but that they are losing ground to the Liberals as they have in many other by-elections. Btw, Whitby-Oshawa does not determine elections in Ontario, not even provincially. Dalton McGuinty & Kathleen Wynne never won Whitby-Oshawa either, and both of them became Premier with Majority Governments.

    3. Yes provincial and federal elections can be compared I do it above. Voters are voters so your assumption that they are incomparable is strange. There is a long history of the unique character of by-elections, I would advise educating yourself on some by-election history.

  12. @Ettore, your comments indicate you're a Conservative no matter what and are anti-everything-but-Conservative (i.e. just because you're anti-Liberal, would mean you'd be willing to vote Green, NDP, other, but clearly your comments indicate otherwise).

    Who won the Whitby-Oshawa byelection is irrelevant to the point I'm trying to make, namely the dramatic rise in Liberal support and the dramatic collapse of NDP support, albeit in this small sample size of 1 riding. If this plays out across Ontario, ABC voting will take place, which in most instances, outside of Hamilton and a couple of Northern Ontario ridings means the Liberals have the most to gain.

    1. I'm not anti-everything-but-Conservative. I'm open to the Greens, NDP, and Bloc. I did not vote for Hudak. The Whitby-Oshawa election showed us the Cons still have what it takes to hold on to the GTA.

    2. Whitby-Oshawa shows that the Conservative core vote is holding, but it actually shows that they have lost ground since 2011, (as they have in the other by-elections). Some of the moderate Tories have left Harper, although he's doing well with the hard core base. Harper is at risk of losing much of the GTA because the Liberals are up from 2011 and the NDP vote is coalescing behind Trudeau.

      Harper probably isn't panicking yet, because he still has a good shot at winning a Minority, but he's not near a Majority.

    3. By-elections mean nothing they almost always produce different results than general elections. The NDP is holding 70% of their Ontario vote it's not unusual to see fluctuations in the polls.

      A year out from the 2011 election the Tories were polling exactly where they are today 32-33%, I'm sure back then people like you opined he was nowhere close to a majority government. The Liberal party today is in a stronger position compared with 2010 but, one gaffe from Trudeau, perhaps renewed praise for the efficiency of the Chinese dictatorship or perhaps actually releasing an ill-thought out policy and the Tories may very well end up with another majority.

  13. Still my 308 map, can't find the 338 yet... It does give an idea of the potential look of the House after the election though.

    With Léger, I get:

    138 LPC
    102 CPC
    66 NDP
    1 GPC
    1 BQ

    With EKOS, I get:

    122 CPC
    108 LPC
    64 NDP
    13 BQ
    1 GPC

    With Forum, I get:

    154 LPC
    108 CPC
    45 NDP
    1 GPC

    And for those interested, the Léger poll also had a question about Québec politics, here are my projections using my 2018 model (because I can find that one...):

    57 PLQ
    36 PQ
    28 CAQ
    4 QS

  14. People:

    Crazy stuff is going down in Alberta! Looks like Wild rose may merge with the PCs!

    1. Yup, a party of principle.

    2. Oh it was never that but, it was becoming an effective Opposition. WildRose like Alberta itself has sold out for 30 pieces of silver.

      Time to repeal S.92A of the Constitution Act, 1867 (sub-surface resource rights) as well as the Constitution Act, 1930 that gave federal sub-surface rights to the Province.

      Albertans are incapable of governing themselves! Obviously Alberta does not want responsible government so let's make Alberta a territory once more or better yet give Alberta back to its rightful owners-the Aboriginal people of the Prairies.

  15. bede dunelm,

    I voted against merger federally (shows what I know..) but I must say that Deputy Premier Danielle Smith does have a nice ring to it. LOL.

    1. I have no problem with Smith.

      The problem is Alberta is not a well governed province precisely because of its historically weak opposition.

      I also voted against Alliance-PC merger not due to ideological concerns but, because I thought the PCs were in the ascendance and had a strong chance of becoming the main conservative party after the next election (2004).

    2. Alberta has occasionally been well-governed, but it hasn't been for about 15 years.

  16. Answering my own question from a previous post. The Angus Reid Institute is out with its latest ratings of the provincial premiers.

    Brad Wall 65%
    Jim Prentice 50%
    Stephen (no beard) McNeil 48%
    Phillipe Couillard 41%
    Brian Gallant 40%
    Kathleen Wynne 39%
    Paul Davis 34%
    Christy Clark 34%
    Greg Selinger 17%

  17. I suspected the reason the polls narrowed before was because of the shootings in Ottawa and the public's tendency to rally around the government of the day.
    However, as the Ottawa events fade into the past, I think the real feelings of Canadians are showing again
    thus the increase of support for the Liberals.
    Also. the whole mess at Veterans Affairs and the problem with Fantino must be driving people away from
    People are supporting the Liberals more and more because they dislike the Conservatives more and more.
    It's not about Trudeau, its about Harper.

    1. If your theory holds then Liberal support is fragile. One Trudeau gaffe and Liberals will be polling in third place again.

    2. But his theories never do hold up !

  18. Is Wynne determined to take Trudeau down with her.?

    Headline #1

    "Wynne hopes Harper doesn’t have a ‘vendetta’ against Ontario"

    Headline #2

    "Fitch Downgrades Province of Ontario, Canada to 'AA-' from 'AA';"

    The cost of debt servicing goes up in Ontario.

    Wynne has some very unpopular budget decisions coming this spring. Not the best political ally going into Trudeau's first election as leader.

    I think that Harper will stick to the Oct election date but if he is going to call an early election it might be the day after Ontario's 2015 budget... to deal with the national crisis of Ontario going down the toilet.


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