Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Liberal recovery or blip?

The projection was updated yesterday, reversing the first instance of the Conservatives leading in both the vote and seat projection. The Liberals are now back on top in the polling average, and have closed the gap in the seat count to just five. Does this mean the Liberal slide has come to a halt, or is it just a blip?

The Liberals lead again with 34.2%, up a point from the last update incorporating polls done to Feb. 3. The Conservatives dropped 0.6 points to 32.9%, while the NDP was down 0.7 points to 19.3%.

In terms of seats, the Conservatives have dropped three to 140, and their range has gone from 128-162 to 125-158. The Liberals have increased their seat tally by 13 to 135, and their range from 106-140 to 114-152.

The New Democrats have dropped 12 in the seat count, and their range has fallen from 53-81 to 43-77. This was due primarily to a drop in Quebec, where the party is down seven seats from the Feb. 3 update.

The bulk of the Liberals' gain, however, came in Ontario, where the gap between them and the Conservatives widened from 0.5 points to 2.9.

Let's look at the two polls that prompted the update. They were by EKOS Research for iPolitics and Forum Research for the Toronto Star. Both left the field on Feb. 10, but the EKOS poll had a longer tail.

Forum was last in the field from Jan. 27-28, and recorded a relatively large shift in voting intentions since then. The Liberals were up five points to 39%, re-taking the lead from the Conservatives, who were down three points to 32%. The NDP was down three points as well to just 17%.

The increase in Liberal support is outside the margin of error, whereas the drop for the Conservatives and NDP is not. But before Liberals get too excited, consider their recent trend in Forum polling: 36% - 41% - 37% - 34% - 39%. On average, Forum has had the Liberals wobbling by about four points from one poll to the next. This would suggest to me that this bump in Liberal support is more house effect than anything real.

That is, at least in terms of its size. EKOS also recorded a modest rebound by the Liberals, which argues that perhaps the party is indeed recovering from their recent slide.

EKOS was last in the field Jan. 28-Feb. 3, and put the Liberals up 1.6 points to 33.8%. The Conservatives were down three points to 32%, while the NDP was up one point to 18.9%.

Only the Conservative drop was outside the margin of error, but both Forum and EKOS recorded similar trends for the Tories and Liberals. For EKOS, this poll halts a series of surveys showing Liberal/NDP decline and Conservative growth.

Can we reconcile the two polls? One wonders whether we should bother, considering Forum's history of volatility. But if we extend the polls' results to their respective margins of error, we get the following:

As you can see, the ranges for the Conservatives and NDP overlap quite comfortably. The ranges for the Greens do not, and the Liberals only meet at 36%. I do not think that this is coincidental. The Greens are generally higher in EKOS's polls than in any others, while the Liberals are generally higher in Forum's.

The two polls suggest that the shift in voting intentions may have occurred among men. Forum recorded a jump of six points for the Liberals among men, outside the margin of error, while EKOS also showed a statistically significant jump of 4.6 points for the party. Both showed the Conservatives sliding by four to six points. Together, it puts the Liberals at either 34% or 40% and the Conservatives between 34% and 35% among this demographic. There was no similarly consistent shift among female voters.

One anomaly of the Forum poll was in British Columbia, where the Liberals were up 15 points to 47%, the Conservatives were down 11 points to 24%, the NDP was up six to 23%, and the Greens were down nine to 5%. That is a lot of movement, particularly in the context of EKOS finding no party shifting by more than a handful of points. EKOS put the parties at 31%, 29%, 21%, and 16%, respectively.

In Quebec, the province everyone is keeping an eye on, both Forum and EKOS showed a bit of a reversal for the Conservatives. Forum had the party down to 21% and EKOS had them down to 23%, though both of those shifts were inside the margin of error. They are both still, however, relatively high numbers for the party in Quebec. The Liberals appeared to take advantage in both polls, Forum recording a significant jump of eight points (but EKOS just two).

The Liberals increase nationwide coincided with a drop in Justin Trudeau's disapproval rating, from 44% to 38%. His approval rating was up slightly to 48%.

The Conservatives' decrease, meanwhile, coincided with worsening numbers for Stephen Harper. His approval rating was down four points to 36%, while his disapproval rating was up five points to 56%, the worst numbers EKOS has recorded since November. This may not be too worrying for the Prime Minister, though, as his approval rating was up in Ontario and down in the West, where he is at little risk.

Thomas Mulcair's numbers were fairly steady, at 51% approval to 36% disapproval. Regionally, his numbers improved west of Quebec and worsened east of Ontario.

It would be helpful to have a third (and fourth?) poll weigh-in on this, preferably one which uses a different mode of contact. Has the Liberal slide been reversed? Is the Conservatives' momentum coming to a halt? Or will this prove to be just a pause in the trends that have been building for the last few months? We'll see.

37 comments:

  1. As you correctly point out, Éric, it is important to read poll results fully aware of which house was doing the polling, and what their tendencies are.

    Your graphic showing the side-by-side error ranges was extremely informative.

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  2. Éric, is there a specific reason for why Forum would consistently peg the Liberals higher and EKOS peg the Greens higher? I don't seem to understand how these discrepancies appear - both firms do use a similar polling method after all (IVR).

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    1. That I cannot say. Forum does apply a turnout model during elections, but I do not know if they are applying it now. That could explain some of it, but they only mention the census in their methodological statement.

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    2. Follow up question:
      In your previous post, you've talked about Joe Oliver getting 8% incumbency bonus. In your seat projection, do Conservatives receive any kind of incumbency bonus? I understand that you use popular vote as the main "shifter" in seat outcomes, but does CPC receive any seat bonuses just because they're in government?

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    3. Each incumbent from every party receives a bonus or penalty, depending on whether their party is up or down in the polls.

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    4. I wonder if Forum is one of those who does not inlcude Green with the big 3 when asking who would you vote for if an election was held today. and just groups Green voters with 'other' that would bias Green numbers down significantly. In BC where Green support tends to be highest it could really mess up predictions.

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  3. Eric is it possible we are actually looking at a national dissatisfaction with all the political parties ??

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    1. I think the levels of voter turnout over the last 20+ years is ample evidence of that.

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    2. It looks to me that voter turn out was ~75% a little up or a little down from 1867 - 1992. There were some stretches where votes in the 60 ish% did occur. 2008 was the lowest ever in Canadian history at 58%..The 1992-2011 period likely averages in the low 60's%. That is not overly great though not shockingly low. I wonder how low would it need to drop before people question the legitimacy of the elected governments?...

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    3. if that 15% of voters who stopped voting went out and voted Green then the Green party would have plenty of seats in Ottawa and things would be quite different overall. Seeing how May winning last time led to a big increase in non-voters voting in her riding I wonder if a big Green push elsewhere could bring out more of those who stopped voting by giving voters something to vote for instead of just voting against something. I suspect Trudeau will be giving some ex-voters hope again depending how ugly the election gets.

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    4. Well, voter turnout is often below 50% in the US and the question of government legitimacy is only ever raised by the "radical fringe"...

      Election days should be a national (provincial or municipal) holiday and voting should be compulsory (with the option of spoiling the ballot).

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    5. Theory on low voter turnout.

      Unbridled prosperity.

      People are all doing so well that they don't care who is in government.

      The people who are well below the poverty line have more material goods, food and entertainment, health care, and opportunity than the average or median person from 1960 and the 1% from 1940

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    6. Perhaps I should have phrased that differently. Lets be absurd say 5% of the eligible electorate turn out to vote. Would the government which forms, have legitimacy in terms of the acceptance of authority by the people?...What I am asking is...is there point where a government has no moral authority to conduct business on behalf of the people when only a small number of voters engage in their democracy?

      And...I like what Australia does in terms of compulsory voting.

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    7. Fortunately, Canada's government receives divine authority through the Sovereign. I also favour compulsory voting but, fundamentally I see nothing wrong with not exercising the franchise

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    8. I also agree with chirumenga, make voting day a stat holiday

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    9. Make a non-vote count as a vote for the incumbent...

      What a non-vote says is:

      Things are being run so well I can't bother voting.

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    10. BCVoR
      When you advance your theory that non-voting is a result of unbridled prosperity, you are just revealing some of the prejudices built into your world view. Another individual might advance the exact opposite theory, namely that people have too little energy and time, from working multiple part time jobs for too little money, to think about politics or go to vote. In both cases it would constitute idle speculation entirely divorced from an understanding of the underlying reality. Which is fine, so long as one understands that it's nothing but idle speculation.

      As for me, I would rather a non-vote counted as a... non-vote. If we want to put in place fixed interpretations of voting/non-voting behaviour, why stop at simple non-votes. I'm sure plenty of people have opinions as to what a Con, Lib, NDP or Green vote actually means. As I am sure partisans of all stripes are happy to insist that votes for other parties are saying: I am not capable of voting wisely!

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    11. Carl,

      I don’t think there’s a percentage point of voter turnout that represents the threshold of the moral authority to govern. You can legitimately point to a turnout of 50% or less not being representative, or that the Harper Conservatives enjoy a majority government while having received 39% of the vote and less than 25% support from eligible voters. But the measure of a government’s moral authority depends on a much more fundamental index than voter turnout. It’s pretty clear, for example, that the main reason so few people vote is that they don’t feel there are represented by the available parties or by government at all. Most political parties claim to represent all citizens, but in practice – and judging by the policies that get implemented – they actually represent a very narrow percentage of the population – regardless of voting. That’s the business constituency, which far outweighs the population in general. There have been scores of studies of public attitudes vs. legislation, and with only minor exceptions, the legislation goes against public preference. Basically, public attitudes are irrelevant to government. With that in mind, there are no governments with a moral authority to govern, since they ignore the wishes of their populaces.

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  4. Using the new aggregate, my model gives:

    135 CPC
    123 LPC
    73 NDP
    5 BQ
    2 GPC

    By region, it gives:

    Atlantic
    23 LPC
    6 CPC
    3 NDP

    Québec
    32 NDP
    28 LPC
    13 CPC
    5 BQ

    Ontario
    54 CPC
    48 LPC
    19 NDP

    Prairies
    17 CPC
    6 LPC
    5 NDP

    Alberta
    29 CPC
    4 LPC
    1 NDP

    British Columbia
    16 CPC
    12 LPC
    12 NDP
    2 GPC

    Territories
    2 LPC
    1 NDP

    If we go with the two polls, the results are (EKOS/Forum):

    141 CPC 113
    122 LPC 178
    67 NDP 44
    6 BQ 2
    2 GPC 1

    Atlantic
    23 LPC 19
    6 CPC 10
    3 NDP 3

    Québec
    29 LPC 42
    27 NDP 20
    16 CPC 14
    6 BQ 2

    Ontario
    54 LPC 70
    48 CPC 39
    19 NDP 12

    Prairies
    19 CPC 17
    7 LPC 6
    2 NDP 5

    Alberta
    27 CPC 32
    4 LPC 1
    3 NDP 1

    British Columbia
    19 CPC 1
    12 NDP 3
    9 LPC 37
    2 GPC 1

    Territories
    2 LPC 3
    1 NDP 0

    The latest EKOS poll lines up very well with the aggregate, which is logical since it's the one that weighs the most in it. The CPC wins the election by receiving less voting intentions than the LPC, which exposes a major flaw in our system (mind you, it was even more obvious in Québec in 1998 when the PQ won a majority by receiving less voting intentions than the PLQ). The slim plurality of the CPC probably indicates a very short lived government, with both the CPC and the LPC feeling they can get a majority in the near future. The NDP is in a slightly more awkward situation by being the definite third party, but with a targeted election and campaign, they could hope to make strong gains too, which might also prompt them into deciding to topple the government quickly. I highly doubt a coalition under these circumpstances, with the LPC aiming at making government in a sudden election and the NDP aiming to regain at least official opposition status instead of playing second violins to the LPC. I don't expect any leaders to leave their party's leadership, except maybe Harper if someone is seen as a clear front runner to take his place and win the next election. Otherwise, he'll probably stick around to avoid a quick toppling of the government and an election without a leader for the CPC, which is a situation the two other parties would jump on.

    Forum's case is much more... interesting, let's say. The LPC gets a majority government by 9 seats, a somewhat comfortable lead. The CPC becomes official opposition, with a strong showing, while the NDP tumbles to less than half their current seats, but still better than pre-2011 numbers. The LPC sweeps every region except the "mid-west", where the CPC retains its strong lead. This scenario, in my mind, requires a lot of things to go right for the LPC, or a lot to go wrong for the other parties. If this were to happen, you can expect Harper to bow out quickly, as well as Mulcair, allowing for the full four years of the LPC majority for the new leaders to be groomed for the next election. The CPC would be in a much better position with its known members, notably ministers, whereas the NDP would have a lot to do to make its new leader known by the general public.

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    1. If the seat result came out as in the EKOS poll (144/122/67), I would honestly be shocked if the Liberals and NDP didn't come to an agreement on forming government. It wouldn't have to be a coalition - the NDP could provide support on confidence and supply in exchange for policy concessions or the like.

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    2. I personally doubt it as I don't see how they would sell it to the population. A formal alliance means a strong bond and a split of ministerial duties and the like, which can be accepted by most, especially if it means avoiding another election within a few months. The NDP gets to show a few of their star candidates, get some name recognition and a strong say in policies, which is a definite gain for them. A simple support would mean "shifting" the CPC, which won the most seats. Lots of people don't really understand our system, and this could be seen as shortcircuiting the system. And you can bet that the CPC would jump on the occasion and the public image probably wouldn't be in their favour. And, ultimately, this would probably still be a short-lived governement of two-three years (something like 2 and a half years seems logical).

      Of course, in this particular case, the LPC won the most votes, so they have a strong legitimacy to ask to form government. But what does the NDP really have to gain here? If the LPC does well, the LPC wins votes and the NDP loses some more; if the LPC does poorly, they get attached to them and loses some more again. The few concessions they would get wouldn't be worth the troubles. Unless they fall under 50 seats (and maybe even less), I don't think they want to take this gamble, they'd rather suffer 1 or 2 more years of "soft-Harper" (I'd expect this government to be very short-lived, something like 18 months) and take a chance at another election.

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    3. I'm inclined to agree with Thierry, but in particular because the NDP and Liberals to not have anything like as much in common as is supposed/claimed. While I certainly don't think the NDP is the epitome of progressive, it does bring a far more progressive agenda than the Liberals, whose concern has long been to appear progressive enough while maintaining the usual anti-progressive/corporate status quo. Put all that aside. The NDP cannot afford to be seen as pink-Liberal and the Liberals can't afford to be seen as potential underminers of the corporate agenda. That being said, there's always room for cooperation on a case-to-case (bill-to-bill) basis.

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    4. @SP8 The last time the Liberals and NDP had a numerical advantage the used it to declare the Harper government in contempt of parliament over a non-issue.

      They took this unprecedented step because the government wouldn't table the 30-10 year fully allocated costs of the F53 purchase.

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  5. In all honestly these two polls are junk, either by some kind of sampling error or 'in house effect' the numbers from both polls are suspect.

    Between the Greens showing over 15% in BC, the NDP between 13% to 16% in Ontario, the CPC basically tied with the NDP in Quebec at 24% each and Forum claiming the LPC could take 194 seats the only word I can can think of using for these two polls is junk. If there was some reason for the shifts I would be happy to agree but not much has happened in the last month or so.

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    1. Ummm delaying releasing the budget has happened in the last month. Baird jumping ship has happened in the last month. I'd call those events slightly more than 'not much'. While it's true that both of these polls contain outliers from recent data, that's why Eric's methodology is so effective as it removes poll-to-poll 'noise'.

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    2. I say this all the time and sound broken but so many things affect peoples opinions, and which events, conditions and concerns are most important to each individual vary so much on how they might vote that it is really difficult to know how much any event matters if it matters at all. Add to that that there is often a delayed response in being able to see the changes in polling with months usually needed to form a clear trend that is visible in the aggregate...and at that point you have had a number of differing events, from different parties, their leaders, changes in major news stories...that you are left without the ability to know how any single event might have moved polling numbers. ...clearly though polling numbers do change over time, obviously things happening matter and have influenced some voters, others not so much, but 90% of the posts related to voter motivations here are wild speculation and are often useless partisan opinions without any ability to prove what they claim (and you know who you are that do this).

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    3. @Carl, very well said. One other pretty significant event from within the past month is the Eve Adams floor crossing. Whether that's of riding-specific, local (i.e. her current and surrounding ridings and in Ottawa with 'gas pump-gate last year) or national significance remains to be seen. My guess is this event won't affect more than a couple of ridings...like the gas plants 'scandal' in Ontario.

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    4. Significant can have a wide meaning in politics and I totally agree that most events in the pre-writ period wont really effect polls dramatically. Which is my concerns with polls like these which have (IMO) significant problems, they give the public a false sense of what's going on and can effect how people act and involve themselves.

      And even though Eric has some compensation for error and bad polls, their inclusion into the model effects its over all performance and the continued inclusion of suspect data will over time further drift the models accuracy.

      There is a secondary concerns, in raising the profile and popularity of 308's model and Eric's own works and analysis, partisans of all stripes will use his data to make baseless and suspect arguments. I personally don't think that is Eric's or the Models intent but already I have read and been lectured by people on the viability of party X because of the Threehundredeight.com model and what Eric has been writing in here and with CBC. Several parties have turned Eric and the Model from analysis to punditry.

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    5. That is certainly not my intent. Whether it is my model's intent or not, I cannot say. It may have achieved consciousness.

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    6. Eric did you inadvertently create Skynet?

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  6. Federal voting intentions in Québec from Crop today:

    It would give me, in terms of seats:

    40 NDP
    29 LPC
    7 CPC
    2 BQ

    Link to the results: http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/politique/politique-canadienne/201502/19/01-4845470-sondage-crop-la-presse-faible-ecart-entre-le-npd-et-le-plc-au-quebec.php?utm_categorieinterne=trafficdrivers&utm_contenuinterne=cyberpresse_vous_suggere_4845462_article_POS1

    This is very different from both national polls. Of course, the sample is bigger, so Crop is probably more accurate. The CPC is not gaining as much ground as the latest polls have indicated but are first in the Québec City region, upholding my theory that Québec City is overpolled in the others ans skewing the results. The LPC and the NDP are in a tight race for first and the BQ is still very low and not competitive.

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  7. This is just poll fluxuations. Both Liberals and Conservatives are blipping back and forth over the 35% line for the past 2 years since JT became leader. The Tory increase in Quebec appears to be holding. 13% for the NDP in Ontario is dismal, so low one wonders if it is a sampling error. With these numbers Mulcair must take the fight to Trudeau if he is to have any hope of leading the first NDP government.

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  8. all depends how long the Conservatives can milk the national security card. It has been serving them well in January but I'm not sure it will last 9 months

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    1. The CBC and Canadian media have been avoiding or at the very least downplaying the ISIS atrocities but the information is on the internet, the BBC and American news outlets.

      Just when the Canadian population absorbs the beheading of a aid worker or Journalist they burn someone alive or have a mass beheading of Christian migrant workers.

      If you think that the Islamic terrorist threat has run it's course you are wistfully naive.

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    2. And all the internal spying won't stop ISIL or the like.

      Take them out with the bomb and stop blathering !!

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    3. We just want to stop ISIL from perpetrating terror acts in Canada. Internal surveillance is often effective and stopping domestic threats or planned actions Toronto 18etc....

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