Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Conservatives and Liberals effectively tied

Two new polls, both showing the Conservatives and Liberals only one point apart (and to the advantage of the Tories), have nudged the vote projection into a virtual tie. That means the Conservative seat lead, which stood at 10 on Jan. 13, has now increased to 17. Nevertheless, the Conservatives are no closer to majority territory, and in fact still overlap a great deal with the Liberals.

The Liberals are still narrowly ahead in the aggregate, with 33.4% support to 33.2% for the Conservatives. That is a small drop of 0.3 points for the Liberals since the last update, and a gain of 0.8 for the Conservatives. The New Democrats are up 0.7 points to 21.3%.

In terms of seats, the Conservatives still lead with 139 (up three), or a range of between 122 and 155. Interestingly, the high range for the Tories has not moved at all. Instead, only the lower range has increased, from 117. It means the odds that the Conservatives would win fewer seats than the Liberals on current polling levels have lessened, but the Tories are no closer to the magic number of 170.

The Liberals have dropped four seats and their high range has fallen from 144 to 138. Their low range of 107 seats, however, is steady.

The NDP is up two seats to 74, but its low and high ranges have narrowed from 54 to 87 seats on Jan. 13 to 60 to 84 seats now.

The Bloc's high range has slipped from nine to four seats.

Let's take a look at the two new polls added to the model.

The poll by Forum, published in the Toronto Star on the weekend, put the Conservatives up two points (since Forum's last poll of Jan. 5-6) to 35% and the Liberals down three points to 34%.

The NDP was unchanged at 20%, while the Greens and Bloc were each up one point to 6% and 5%, respectively.

None of these shifts were outside the margin of error.

Abacus showed similar stability, with the Conservatives and Liberals each down one point to 33% and 32%, respectively, since Abacus's last poll of Dec. 18-20. The NDP was up two points to 24%, while the Greens were down one to 5% and the Bloc was unchanged at 4%.

All of these shifts were also within the margin of error (of a probabilistic sample of similar size), but it is clear from both Forum's and Abacus's trend lines that the Liberals are drooping to the benefit of the Conservatives (if not in absolute terms, at least in relative terms).

This is also the first time since Justin Trudeau became Liberal leader that two consecutive polls by two different pollsters have shown a Conservative edge.

Forum does have a regional oddity in its numbers, though. In Quebec, Forum gave the Conservatives 26% support, putting them in second place ahead of the NDP (25%) and behind the Liberals (27%). That is absurdly high for the Conservatives (you need to go back to before the 2008 election to find the Conservatives routinely polling at that level), but Forum has often had higher numbers than usual for the Conservatives in Quebec. And broadly speaking, the Tories have been experiencing an uptick in the province, so perhaps this is a product of that.

Both Forum and Abacus showed a close race in Ontario, the Conservatives ahead in B.C., Alberta, and the Prairies, and the Liberals in front in Atlantic Canada. Quebec was the bone of contention.

The projection model is showing some interesting regional fluctuations as well. In British Columbia, the Liberals have now fallen to second place, though they are unchanged at 31%. The Conservatives are up 3.1 points to 31% as well, and are narrowly ahead of the Liberals. Their seat range has improved from 13-18 to 15-22. The NDP has dropped by 2.2 points to 24%, and their range from 10-13 to 6-11.

The Liberals are sliding in the Prairies. They are now at 29%, and have been consistently dropping since mid-December, when they were at 34%. The NDP has benefited, improving from 17% in mid-December to 23% now.

Vote projection in Quebec
In Quebec, the Liberals dropped 1.2 points (and from 20-30 seats to 19-26 seats) to 28%, putting them narrowly behind the NDP, which was up 1.6 points to 28% (and from 29-47 seats to 34-46). The Liberals have been sliding here as well, having had 34% support in mid-October.

But it is the Conservatives who have taken advantage, up from 13% in early November to 20% now. They have pushed the Bloc into fourth place, and are now estimated to be in play in 11-16 seats.

A couple regions to keep an eye on, then. Overall, things remain quite close. The Conservatives are inching up in the national tally, but have actually dropped a little in Ontario. That is what is keeping them from pulling ahead more decisively in the seat projection.