Friday, February 12, 2016

The Week in Polls: Trudeau and Couillard lead, Ontario PCs win, Alberta NDP in third

The Liberal honeymoon continued in a new poll from Léger, which gave the party a wide lead over its rivals. Only in Alberta did the Liberals register less than 43% support, and that was also the only region in which the party was not in front.

This was the first poll from Léger since the election, and it showed the same kind of significant gains for the Liberals that we've seen in other polls. Overall, the party had 49% support, followed by the Conservatives at 27% and the New Democrats at 15%.

Of note at the regional level was that the Conservatives were trailing the NDP for second place in British Columbia, while in Quebec the NDP narrowly edged out the Conservatives and Bloc for second spot.

Léger federal poll
The poll also showed wide satisfaction with the government, at 54% to 33% dissatisfaction. Even 54% of NDP voters said they were satisfied with the Trudeau government.

Trudeau led on who would make the best prime minister with 40%, followed by Tom Mulcair at 10%, Rona Ambrose at 9%, and Elizabeth May at 4%. Trudeau led in every region of the country, while Ambrose only hit double-digits in Alberta and the Prairies. Mulcair only did so in Quebec.

Those numbers were somewhat different from the polling done by Nanos Research, though the permitted responses could have been behind that. Léger allowed respondents to say "someone else" or "none of them", which together captured 20%. Nanos only provided an "unsure", which stood at 17% in its last poll — not too different from Léger's combined 16% for "I don't know" or "I prefer not to answer".

The weekly poll from Nanos showed little change of significance from its previous independent sample. Trudeau led with 51%, with Ambrose at 15%, Mulcair at 12%, May at 4%, and Rhéal Fortin at 1%.

Ontario PCs win Whitby–Oshawa by-election

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives won yesterday's by-election in Whitby–Oshawa in dramatic fashion. The PCs' Lorne Coe took 52.9% of the vote, with the Liberals capturing just 27.5% and the New Democrats 16.1%. Turnout, however, was only 28.9% of eligible voters.

This represented a big increase for the Tories over the 2014 provincial election, with a jump of 12.3 points. The Liberals dropped four points and the New Democrats shed seven points.

The by-election results were forecast quite closely by Mainstreet Research.

As you can see, its final poll taken on Monday pegged the PCs at 46%, compared to 29% for the Liberals and 12% for the New Democrats. Considering the low turnout and the difficulty in polling both by-elections and individual ridings, I'd consider this a very respectable showing.

Pierre Karl Péladeau falters in Quebec

Léger was also busy at the provincial level in Quebec, finding that the Parti Québécois continues to struggle to make inroads despite the unpopularity of Philippe Couillard's Liberal government.

Léger poll in Quebec
The Liberals led in Quebec with 36%, followed by the PQ at 29% and the Coalition Avenir Québec at 21%. In fourth stood Québec Solidaire at 10%.

That represented a drop of three points for the PQ since November, but remarkably the Liberals improved their score slightly despite satisfaction with the government sliding three points to only 29%. Fully 62% of Quebecers said they are dissatisfied with the government.

PQ leader Pierre Karl Péladeau does seem to be part of the problem for the PQ, as just 17% of Quebecers see him as the best person to be premier. That is down five points from November, putting him behind Couillard (23%) and just narrowly ahead of François Legault (15%). Françoise David stood at 11%.

Support for sovereignty was also down to just 35%, as Péladeau is in the midst of setting up an organization to promote sovereignty and there is talk about more concerted efforts between sovereigntist parties. At this stage, though, a divided vote doesn't seem like the issue — even if one party garnered all of the sovereigntist vote, it still might not win an election today.

Three-way pile-up in Alberta with the NDP at the bottom

In Alberta, the governing New Democrats have taken a hit in the polls, dropping to just 27% support in the latest Mainstreet Research survey.

Mainstreet poll in Alberta
Wildrose held onto its lead with 33% support, but also took a bit of a tumble. The Progressive Conservatives, against all odds, were the beneficiaries, jumping over 10 points to 31% support.

But if an election were held today, the PCs would have some difficulty winning a lot of seats. The New Democrats continue to hold a wide lead in Edmonton, while Wildrose narrowly edged out the Tories in both Calgary and the 'rest of Alberta'.

We will have to wait and see if this is just a blip or not, as there hasn't been much going on in Alberta that would warrant the PCs making such significant gains — unless voters are just tiring of both the NDP's governing and Wildrose's opposition styles.

A check-in south of the border

The most exciting electoral battle at the moment, though, is taking place in the United States. And, little surprise, my go-to for the data on this is

Polling for South Carolina and Nevada (where the primaries/caucuses head next on February 20 for the Republicans and Democrats, respectively) has been thin, with no new data for Nevada since before the New Year. Nevertheless, the FiveThirtyEight poll averages there give Hillary Clinton a lead of 50% to just 28% for Bernie Sanders.

At the time of the last polling in Nevada, the national polls gave Clinton a 25-point lead over Sanders. Now, that leads stands at 16 points. So, it is reasonable to think that Clinton's lead in Nevada may have narrowed as well, but perhaps not enough to put her at risk of losing the caucus.

On the Republican side in South Carolina (where polling dates from mid-January), FiveThirtyEight gives Donald Trump an average of 36% support, followed by Ted Cruz at 20%, Marco Rubio at 13%, Jeb Bush at 9%, Ben Carson at 9%, and John Kasich at 2%.

The site's "polls-plus" forecast, which takes into account other factors like endorsements, gives Trump an average forecast of 33% to 23% for Rubio, 19% for Cruz, 12% for Bush, 6% for Carson, and 5% for Kasich.

Again, looking at how the national polls have shifted since the last polling was done in South Carolina, we would expect Trump to be down a few points, Cruz to be unchanged, and Rubio to be up a few points. So, as in Nevada for the Democrats, not enough to change the dynamic dramatically — but I suspect the results in New Hampshire would be more likely to give Trump some new momentum, while sapping Rubio's.

My CBC articles this week