Monday, July 6, 2015

Whither the Greens?

Lost a little in the epic shuffle at the top of the table has been the slow decline in support for the Green Party ever since the New Democrats began to pick up steam. But is this something real?

The projection has been updated with the latest polls from EKOS Research and Forum Research. The results have not changed much since last week, with the New Democrats still leading. They are at a projected 32.1% support, down slightly from last week. Their seat range has widened in both directions, from 113-140 last week to 110-142 now.

The Conservatives dropped 0.5 points to 28.4%, and their seat range dropped from 99-141 to 96-140. Of note, the maximum projected seat count for the NDP is now above that of the Conservatives, at 181 to 180, respectively.

The Liberals hardly budged, and are now projected to have 27.3% support and 73-106 seats.

The Bloc Québécois is up slightly from 5.2% to 5.5% (representing 22% in Quebec), enough to give them between one and six seats.

The Greens are up 0.1 point to 5%, putting them now in range of a second seat once again.

But that is a dramatic shift in fortunes for the Green Party. In the weeks ending from May 4 to May 25, the Greens were putting up between 6.8% and 7.4% in the aggregate - generally par for the course for them. However, as the NDP inched upwards the Greens dropped. They were between 6% and 6.4% in the first half of June, dropping to 5.5% in the June 22 projection and finally falling to 5% in today's update. In other words, the Greens have lost roughly 1/3 of their support in a matter of weeks.

It is hard to gauge the support of the Greens with a large degree of confidence. That is because their support varies so widely from poll to poll. In surveys done over the last three weeks, the Greens have been pegged as low as 2% (by two different pollsters) and as high as 7% (also by two different pollsters).

By comparison, the widest discrepancy over that period for the Conservatives has been just three points, and the Liberals four. 

So is this recent drop in the aggregate caused only by which pollsters are in the field? Not entirely.

The chart below shows how Green Party support has been trending nationwide since the end of March, according to the four pollsters that have been regularly in the field over that time.

It is hardly a clear trend, but there is a pattern in these numbers.

The most obvious is from EKOS, which is showing the most consistent and negative trend for the Greens. With the exception of that anomalous-looking April 28 poll, the Greens have been dropping in almost every single poll.

Forum is also showing some weakness for the Greens, who were polling at 5% or 6% in March and April before dropping to between 2% and 5% in May and June (or between 4% and 5%, if we exclude that 2% result). 

Ipsos's latest shift may just be sampling error, but certainly doesn't argue for a strengthening of Green support, whereas Abacus shows the Greens stable or growing.

But the larger data sets from EKOS and Forum are more convincing. They seem to suggest a shift away from the Greens taking place in mid-May, just as the NDP was gaining steam.

This shift has hit the Greens particularly hard in British Columbia, where they have their best shot at electing a second MP.

But you can see from the aggregate above that the Greens are heading in the wrong direction in British Columbia. The party had topped out at 13.5% support at the end of April, but they have since been on the decline. The Greens currently stand at 9.7% in B.C., the first time they have been at single digits since early December (and even that was unusual). 

The Greens could still potentially win that second seat in B.C. with these numbers, as they are still an improvement over their 2011 scores. And province wide polling can only hint at local strength. But it is hard to imagine the party winning more than two seats in B.C. if the Greens are below the 10% mark.

The shifting landscape at the national level carries a lot of local implications. And that goes for the Greens as well. In absolute terms they may not have lost as much support as the Conservatives and Liberals over the last few weeks, but proportionately it hits them just as hard. Could it be a surging NDP that blunts the Greens' hope for even a modest breakthrough in 2011?