Monday, March 16, 2015

Stability in the polls, or Liberal decline?

At the moment, the only pollster giving us regular updates on the political situation in Canada is EKOS Research. The firm is reporting every week on Fridays via iPolitics. This far out from the election, the week-to-week changes have been usually quite marginal. But this may be masking a wider trend that is not a good one for the Liberals.

The latest numbers from EKOS put the Conservatives ahead with 32.9% support, an increase of 0.7 points since the previous week of polling.

The Liberals were down 0.8 points to 30.5%, while the New Democrats slipped 0.2 points to 19.7%.

The Greens were down 0.2 points to 8.8% and the Bloc was up 0.2 points to 4.8%, while 3.2% of respondents said they would vote for another party.

None of these variations were outside the margin of error. Also note that this poll has not yet been added to the projection.

EKOS's reports contain tracking data stretching back to the beginning of 2012. That gives the numbers good context, but makes it difficult to look at the week-to-week trends the pollster is recording. So let's focus on that.

When we look at the polls over the last few weeks, it is difficult to discern any serious trends.

The Conservatives seemed to be trending downwards slightly, before up-ticking over the last two polls. EKOS's method of reporting to the first decimal point makes it look like there is more movement than there really is - if we round off those numbers as other pollsters do, the Conservatives have polled at 35%, 32%, 32%, 31%, 32%, 33%. Really not much movement there, and we can't even find a statistically significant shift between their current 32.9% and their high and low marks since EKOS began reporting weekly.

Not so for the Liberals, however. Their trend line is slightly negative starting with the poll ending on February 10, when the party was at 33.8% support. The drop of 3.3 points since then is outside of the margin of error. We could indeed be looking at an actual decrease in Liberal support over the last few weeks.

The issue, though, is that it is difficult to corroborate this with other polls as there haven't been many that have been conducted over the same time period as EKOS. What we do see is that Abacus Data recorded an uptick in Liberal support worth two points between its polls of January 26-28 and February 12-16, while Nanos Research had the Liberals down two points between its four-week rolling polls ending February 20 and February 27.

That the Conservatives are stable seems to be the consensus opinion of the polls. The question appears to be whether or not the Liberals are on the downswing.

In terms of seats, the Conservatives would win about 148 with these levels of support, with the Liberals taking 120 and the New Democrats capturing 54. The Bloc Québécois, benefiting from low NDP support in Quebec, could win about 14 seats despite having dropped more than three points in support since 2011. The Greens would win two seats.

Outlier British Columbia?

Back to the EKOS poll itself, the only regional result worth looking at is British Columbia. Last week's EKOS poll had the Greens at 21%, and solicited some excitement on the part of Greens in the province. It also happened to have the Conservatives at just 23%.

Now, we see the Conservatives jumping 12 points to 35% and the Greens falling eight points to 13%. Both of these shifts are outside the margin of error, but it looks to me like a reset (and maybe an over-correction) rather than an actual shift in voting intentions.

Why? Take a look at the Conservatives' results in B.C. since the beginning of EKOS's weekly polling: 

Feb. 3: 27%
Feb. 10: 29%
Feb. 17: 28%
Feb. 24: 31%
Mar. 3: 23%
Mar. 10: 35% 

The result of March 3 certainly stands out from the pack. The March 10 result also stands out, but seems much more intuitive and matches some of the results other pollsters have recorded in British Columbia. It does correspond with weaker than usual numbers for the Liberals (23%, rather than the 28% to 33% recorded in earlier polls), so we could see another reset next week with the Liberals up.

Now let's look at the Greens in B.C.:

Feb. 3: 16%
Feb. 10: 16%
Feb. 17: 15%
Feb. 24: 12%
Mar. 3: 21%
Mar. 10: 13%

Here again, the March 3 result stands out rather dramatically. The conclusion we should reach is that, as far as B.C. was concerned, the March 3 poll was a bit of an outlier. Nothing wrong with that as it should happen from time to time, but it was a lot of fuss for not much at all.

Party divisions over ISIS mission

Moving on, I though it would be interesting to note EKOS's results on support for the mission against ISIS. Overall, 60% of Canadians support the mission while 33% oppose it. But the party breakdowns shed some light on the politics of it all.

The Conservatives are safest in their robust support for the mission, as 80% of their voters are in favour of the mission. Only 16% aren't.

The New Democrats are better positioned to be the voice of opposition, as 45% of their voters do not support the ISIS mission. Nevertheless, 54% do. It is a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation for Thomas Mulcair, but his opposition to the mission fits within the historical position of the New Democrats. 

And the Liberals off-again-on-again relationship with the mission can perhaps be best explained by these numbers: 38% of their voters oppose the mission, while 60% support it. The party has not seemed quite comfortable with the position it took in September, and their supporters seem to agree. It will be interesting to see whether the Liberals will walk it back when the vote for renewal comes up. 


  1. All these polls manage to hide the public dislike of Harper. That will be very key come election time as will all the current public protest against C-51 !!

    1. I don't know, public support for C-51 is apparently quite high, even if many within those who support it also haven't read the details.

    2. That's what I thought to Ira and then I saw those public protest meetings over the weekend. With apparently more and bigger to come. This Bill will pass, after all what are majorities for, but will not, as soon as it is applied, enjoy public support !

    3. But support for C-51 is conditional... for the most part, those who support the bill also want firm oversight so that abuses of the powers granted can be avoided. In other words, they want their sucurity, but not at the expense of their privacy and other rights.

  2. With those EKOS numbers, I get:

    147 CPC
    109 LPC
    68 NDP
    12 BQ
    2 GPC

    By region, it gives:

    19 LPC
    9 CPC
    4 NDP

    26 NDP
    25 LPC
    15 CPC
    12 BQ

    54 CPC
    48 LPC
    19 NDP

    18 CPC
    6 LPC
    4 NDP

    27 CPC
    4 LPC
    3 NDP

    British Columbia
    23 CPC
    11 NDP
    6 LPC
    2 GPC

    1 CPC
    1 LPC
    1 NDP

  3. The ISIS issue is a good one because it really highlights the core deficiency of the federal Liberals:

    They don't stand for anything, and haven't for 30 years.

    1. That's not quite true. The Liberals stand for big business, while attempting to appear as though they also stand for progressive social and economic values. Because support for big business is now so obviously at odds with progressive values, the Liberals are caught in a bind - they have to continue to support the corporate agend to have any hope of defeating the Conservatives, but to openly do so conflicts directly with their pretense of progressive values. Net result? They appear to stand for nothing.

    2. Ira
      You do realize that there is a difference between data and interpretation? Between facts and narratives? The fact that you don't like the federal Liberals, based on whatever data you choose, doesn't mean they are the caricature you make them out to be. The issue is really what percentage of the population subscribe to the same views you hold, and what do not.

      In any event, we are approaching a situation where a significant proportion of the population feels that the existing Conservative government is so terrible, that even a party appearing to stand for nothing might win plenty of votes. And then there are those who don't share your opinion.

    3. A policy position or issue is good because it divides the opposition? Wow, thank you for your honesty in articulating this government's cynical and destructive approach to policy-making.

    4. Canadians should want to know where the parties stand on issues. An issue that forces parties to articulate those positions is therefore a good thing, yes.

      I would like to see the Liberals produce a detailed policy document that explains what it is they want to achieve, and how. I would like all the parties to produce that. I pick on the Liberals since they've just gone the longest since doing it.

    5. And Ira the Liberals have clearly and repeatedly said they will NOT release their policy program until the election campaign starts. Given the CPC ability for attack ads that makes real sense.

    6. @Ira,

      What use is a detailed policy document, when it goes out the window as soon as they are elected? How about the CPC policy of "restoring democratic accountability into the House of Commons by allowing free votes. All votes should be free, except for the budget, main estimates, and core government initiatives." As such the CPC, just shoves everything into a "core government initiative" and by-passing the need for a free vote. Or how about the detailed position of "On issues of moral conscience, such as abortion, the difinition of marriage, and euthanasia, the CPC acknowledges... the Members of Parliament to adopt positions in consultation with their constituents and to vote freely." Is that the general wishy-washy-ness that you expect the LPC to match? Or the one about "The CPC believes the government should continue to pay down the national debt... We support the introduction of a debt repayment plan with the MAIN PART of budget surplus being allocated to debt repayment", which conviently doesn't look at budget surplus before taxbreaks to core supporters. Finally, the opposite of C51, "We support our Canadian justice system as defined by our Charter and Constitution and does not support a parallel justice system which would contravene our existing rights and freedoms." C51 violates Sections 8 to 11.

  4. Greens at seven in Quebec? That's hard to believe.

    It seems the Greens have a history of polling much higher (almost twice as much) than what the eventually get come election. This occurred during the 2011 federal election and in just about every provincial election, including BC where the Greens are a little stronger than the rest of Canada.

    Now, despite media speculation that we may be on the cusp of a Green wave, I see no reason to believe the polls we are seeing (Greens at 16% in BC, 10% in Manitoba, 7% in Quebec) are just a continuation of the trend of Greens polling higher than what we can expect them to get on election night.

    Eric, do you think this phenomenon occurs Green voters, before just about every election, shift en masse to one of the major parties, or are pollsters over-sampling Green supporters for some reason (a 4-7pp bump due to the MOE can double the ostensible Green support, for example)? I know Green support is soft, but I think it is unlikely Green supporters would so consistently abandon their party before each election. If that is the case, however, perhaps once polls report (correctly or incorrectly) a critical mass of Green support (such as the party at 21% in BC, in a close 4-way race) that would be enough to convince Greens to stick with their party for once. Though, I shudder to think that a few polling companies (with fairly dubious records) could influence an election like that.

    1. Green support is not over-estimated on the eve of an election to a huge degree - in the last election, the polls at the end of the campaign over-estimated the Greens by just over a point.

      But their support has tended to trend downwards in the run up to a vote, which is a very different thing. Green support was cut by about half between pre-campaign polling and the result in 2011, but this was a gradual thing - not an error by the polls. It certainly makes sense that the Greens can be a place to park a vote, but then people change their minds in light of an election and our FPTP system.

    2. @Jordan,

      I think the Green party suffers from the FPTP system and strategic voting. Would you rather "waste" your vote on your true preference or "use" your vote to keep a more undesirable candidate from winning? It would be interesting to see what percentage of Green supporters actually voted in previous elections.

    3. Thanks for the clarification. I must have been mistaken on Green polling last federal election. However, it does seem that, at least provincially, pollsters have a harder time predicting the Green vote than the votes of other parties.

      In more recent provincial contests, some polls juts prior to the election greatly over-estimated the Green vote. In BC in 2013 the Greens got 8%, yet some polls just days before the vote had them as high as 14%. In Nova Scotia the Greens got less than 1%, but were predicted to get around 3%. Similarly, the Greens polled as high as 8 or 9 % in Ontario in the later stages of the 2014 campaign (although polling in that election was erratic in general), yet they received less than 5% in that contest. Paradoxically, in the recent New Brunswick election, in which there was little polling, pollsters accurately predicted the Greens' 6% take on election night.

    4. In 2011, Elizabeth May was shut out of the leaders' debate. The media dutifully followed that lead and reported on three parties running nationally. Not surprisingly, the Green vote tanked. Mindshare is critical.

      Since 2011, news articles have generally given four political views. Four parties will be seriously covered during this year's campaign. That will make all the difference.

    5. How so? When Elizabeth May was in the debates in 2008 it didn't help her win any seats.

      The problem with our debate system is that it's devoid of rules. IMHO only official party status should grant access to the debates or if you want to have regional debates then you can look at polling data and grant access that way.

      Just because the Greens field 338 candidates doesn't give them automatic access to the debates. If that is your threshold then why not the CHP or Libertarians?

    6. The 2008 debates definitely helped, just not enough. The Green Party has now hit the tipping point where the question is how many, not whether.

      With respect to debate participation criteria, wouldn't it be better to restrict debates to the leader of the previous governing party only? That would guarantee a certain decorum, since there would be no cross-talk or impertinent questions. Speaking of which, all questions from the moderator should be prepared by the governing party to ensure that the audience will be given a crisp response.

    7. I like the current UK set-up. One open debate for every party, one likely debate between those expected to win seats, and one head-to-head debate between the top two polling parties. Cross-talk is punishable by a warning followed by a mike-off time-out.

    8. I would love to see the big parties deal with the Libertarian leader asking them why various government departments exist.

    9. @Ira, which government departments do you have in mind? What about agencies, offices and crown corps?

    10. Anybody who "doesn't use their first preference but, instead votes for a lesser candidate to keep a less desirable one from office" is not acting rationally since, there is no guarantee the second preference will act according to the voter's wishes.

    11. Your logic is non sequitur. There is no guarantee that the first preference will act according to the voter's wishes. The logic is to vote for the candidate most likely to be able to act in accordance with the voter's wishes.

  5. Basically I don't expect anything of note until September. While dreaming about that 21% in BC was fun for a week for Greens, it was just the 20th poll (19 out of 20 being in the margin of error). These things happen. I remember one from a few years ago that had the Greens as #1 in Quebec but that was far from reality.

  6. CPC up 12 points in BC in one week.....nope.

    1. Up 4 points in 2 weeks - I can believe that.

    2. More realistic than Ekos showing 12 points in 7 days.

      That is just wrong.

  7. And the new Forum poll shows a 3 point drop for the Liberals, as well (though their Liberal numbers do seem to fluctuate a lot).

    1. So the Libs lead by 4 points in the Forum poll despite the results that show 2/3 don't support the niqab. The wedge does not seem to be working as far as vote moving is concerned.

    2. This far out before an election people being polled are not always aware of what's going on.

      No one , not even Trudeau, knows what the Liberals stand for and are going to campaign on.

      A question of are you in favor of banning the Niqab at citizenship ceremonies obviously is the position of the vast majority of Canadians without politicians or commentators --- just by common sense and Canadian Values.

      Someone not following the news closely would not imagine that Trudeau would come out totally and unequivocal in support of the right to wear the niqab wherever and whenever.

      The pollsters do not set out to educate the people being polled.

      If their was a follow-up question that said

      "you have indicated that you are not in favor of wearing a Niqab at a citizenship ceremony. You have also said that you would vote for Trudeau/Liberals. Mr. Trudeau is strongly in favor of having the right to wear a niqab at a citizenship ceremony.

      Does this change your plan to vote for Mr. Trudeau?

      Other polls have more than 50% liberal supporters against the Niqab.

      The follow-up question would likely change the voting preference of half of these people dropping Liberal support by 8-9 % pts. from 36 to 27-28.

      After an election campaign (attack ads and all) most Canadian voters will know Trudeau's position.

    3. "No one , not even Trudeau, knows what the Liberals stand for and are going to campaign on."

      This sounds like a Conservative attack ad! Not exactly a very accurate or objective observation.

    4. What exactly is common sense or Canadian Values about restricting religious expression? Are devout Jews going to be banned for wearing yamakas or Christians crosses? Maybe we should just ban women from wearing anything above their waists at these things.

    5. Jimmythedeke - Don't forget the house effect. This is Forum we're talking about.

    6. Latest poll shows niqab issue has clearly not helped Harper.

  8. I'm surprised that the Conservatives are tacking this far to the right on rhetoric during an election year. Seems like the Tory mantra these days is tough on crime, terror and the niqab. Comments by John Williamson and Larry Miller are not going to help the Tory cause.

    I feel the Conservatives maxed out in the RoC in 2011. They are not going to win in areas where they did not win a seat in 2011. They need to defend what they have in the RoC and perhaps make some gains in volatile Quebec. That is the winning strategy. At this moment in the game, it seems difficult.

    Their base is secure at 31-33%. With a divided opposition that may as well mean leading in the popular vote. But that gets the party no where. The Conservatives need either a majority to govern.

    Another scenario is for the Conservatives to come close to a majority and for the Liberals and NDP to be almost equally divided. An example of this case is if the CPC wins somewhere around 160 seats, while the LPC wins 90 and NDP wins 80. At this point, I don't feel the LPC and NDP can work at forming a government. But the Conservative government will survive 18 months max and I do not see many legislative accomplishments.

    It is much simpler if the math works out to be the projection now of CPC 143, LPC 123 and NDP 66. The Liberals can either form a coalition or accord with the NDP while the Liberals are still firmly with nearly twice as many seats.

    1. Hey Jay in your Liberal government supported by the NDP do the NDP accept the pipeline? or does the tail wag the dog?

  9. One odd thing about the Liberal numbers in this EKOS poll is that the Liberals are only at 43% in the Atlantic. That's 13 points lower than CRA's new poll which has the Liberals at 56%. (The CRA poll began a few weeks ago so some of its sample is older, but it's still a big difference.)

    Therefore, it's possible EKOS is underestimating Liberal support in the Atlantic and that the Liberals are a bit higher Nationally than this poll shows them.

  10. Craig go and check out Eric's piece today on the CBC . Put's a different perspective on a lot we discuss.

    1. The liberals aren't doing well at all in Ontario, and their support will only decline more.

  11. Finally a non-EKOS poll..... Leger has the Cons at the same level of support as they had them in their last poll before the election.

    I know there will be huge hew and cry the last Leger poll before the 2011 election had the cons at 36% and this one has them at 34%..... but it is a statistical the same level of support for the Cons.

    1. The difference is we are 6 months out from the election. It is becoming fairly obvious the Tories will win the election and with the high Quebec numbers appearing to solidify a second majority looks very much to be in the cards. One really have to wonder if the Grits made a mistake with young Trudeau-they picked style over substance and now the whole party is looking vacuous, they would be much helped if they release some policy but, are so scared to do so they have effectively paralysed themselves. One must conclude their "policies" must be lacking since they don't have the backbone to release and defend or justify them-This will be the Liberals last election.

    2. Capilano Dunbar,
      You are arguing the same point as BCVoR: the supposed upcoming CPC Majority. How is it fairly obvious when no polls or polling average are putting the Conservatives in range of a majority? The Liberals have tried expertise over image and it costed them dearly. Even if the LPC suffers a PC-like devastation, they are still regionally strong in the East and North. The CPC should hope that this isn't the last election for the Liberals, because without them splitting the vote in Quebec, a lot less seats would be available to them.

    3. Mapleson,
      The liberals have a majority on one poll, and a minority on the other--but if you add it all up, a majority of provinces are actually conservative, as well as Ontario which is starting to change. Only Toronto is mainly liberal.

      The liberals have lost 6-7% of votes. They had 38% in September, and lost votes on their ISIS stance, they lost votes on their Niqab stance (where 88% of Canadians agree with Harper--60% Liberals, 54% NDP), and lost votes on their Eve Adams (where a majority of Liberals disagreed with Trudeau's decision)

      The source: IPSOS Reid Polls. The percentage numbers might be slightly off.

    4. Mapleson:

      The Nanos weekly polls generated the Headline:

      "Liberal Party top on index, Harper top as preferred Prime Minister"

      This makes it seem as though the liberals are running ahead of Trudeau.

      Would the Liberals do better with a different leader as the headline implies?

      I know intuitively that this is absurd. The good looks and personal charm of Trudeau is directly responsible for the Liberals polling above their 3rd place party status.

      I thought Nanos was organizing a what-if poll with each voter having 2 votes to make the Liberals look stronger than they actually were.... Generate some excitement propping up a 3rd place party

      Nanos is using the obvious in that Conservative voters being forced to a 2nd vote would support the Liberals rather than the socialists or the Suzuki party). Now and it appears to have backfired and is making Trudeau look like the Liberal problem rather than hero.

    5. OnealY,

      I still believe we'll have a Conservative government in 2016, but I also believe we'll have a Liberal opposition.

      I missed out checking on the list before yesterday's update, but the CPC is only a majority in one province (Alberta) and the plurality in four (everything west of Ontario). The LPC are actually the ones with a plurality in a majority of provinces. However, the CPC are lucky that seats are awared by riding, not province. Thus the real divide of Canada becomes apparent: rural conservatives and urban liberals.

      The LPC has lost vote share in the polls since their honeymoon high after electing a new leader in Trudeau. However, they are also substantially improved over their 2011 showing, which allowed the CPC to claim 53.9% of seats with 39.6% of the vote.

      The poll question of the niqab ban greatly influences the results.
      Option A: Do you support the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling that the Harper government's selective ban of religious headgear, such as the niqab, during ceramonial oaths, violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
      Option B: Do you believe the niqab should be ban while swearing of Canadian Oath of Citizenship?
      Option C: Do you care what happens during Canadian Oath of Citizenship ceramonies and the less than 0.01% of the population that may choose to wear a niqab there?

      The Leger poll reported by The Sun has 70% "support" for the ban, split into 48% strongly agree and 22% somewhat agree. As it's an internet based poll and support increases with age, I wonder if it was correctly demographically adjusted and how accurate the numbers are for the 65+ demographic, which is the only one to show 88% "support".

    6. BCVoR:

      The Nanos poll has the LPC/CPC and Harper/Trudeau in statistical ties (MOE 3.1%), so really it's a lot to do about nothing.

  12. The longer the Ontario liberals are in charge, the worse it gets for them, and the more CPC/NDP voters. She has NO support out of the Toronto region and her disapproval rating is a high 56%.

    As for Trudeau, he seems to have a stance on NOTHING. He was against the ISIS mission, but after finding out that a majority of Canadians actually supported the fight against ISIS, he "flip-flopped" and said that he supported combat. Now he is saying that he doesn't support the mission extension. The man is trying to win votes as well--not just Harper.

    He also didn't seem to get an overwhelming amount of support on his Niqab stance. According to Ipsos Reid Polls, 88% of Canadians agree with Harper on this Niqab issue (including me).

    If you also look at the provincial bars, you'll notice the drops in the liberal premier approval ratings, as well as Alberta's Jim Prentice, but he still has a higher approval rating (43%-39% disapprove).

    With that said, the liberals were literally LEADING the polls back in September (38% had liberal voting intentions) and now it's 33% or 34% or 32%, where as like mentioned in the article--the Cons have had a consistent voting stance.

    If you ask me, i think that the Conservatives will win another majority, judging by the liberal votes declining (not to mention, Mr. Trudeau's awful choice to allow Eve Adams as MP--that made his liberals mad).


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