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


  1. The Leger poll was bad news for all parties except the Liberals whose honeymoon appears to be wearing off very slowly. The Tories appear to have a problem in B.C. although I suspect much of that is residual from the last Government. If MacKay became leader I think his BC numbers would jump 10 points over night. Still, Tory weakness in BC is not new and it doesn't seem to be dissipating and so they'll have to be proactive should they want to be competitive in future.

    As bad as things are for the Tories in BC it is New democrats in that Province who should be worried. 24% for the federal party, 15 months before a provincial general election where they need 40% of the vote to have a chance to form government is problematic. Provincial and federal politics overlap in BC more than perhaps any other province, due to the issues we face that are cross-jurisdictional: The BC Treaty process and Aboriginal rights, policies and issues, the pipeline(s), shipbuilding, the low dollar's effect on natural resources and economic growth, foreign real estate investment. administratively the parties are almost identical. That only half the required voters needed for Government provincially support them federally is not a good omen representing a drop of 2% since the election. Although for Mulcair to nudge out Ambrose for best PM by 1% is a small but, important victory. It is more likely a "dead cat bounce" for a leader who may not survive much past April.

    I think Alberta and Quebec showed the most interesting polls both showing very divided electorates. I think Eric hit the nail on the head when he wrote: "voters are just tiring of both the NDP's governing and Wildrose's opposition styles". Jean doesn't get angry enough, he needs to show more passion for the job. the Opposition has been very ineffective even against unpopular measures that should elicit a good deal of public support or sympathy. I suppose this is what happens when a Province elects a rookie Government and Opposition, both have a long way to go to prove themselves.

    Quebec's numbers are fascinating. On the surface 60% of voters support separatist parties (PQ 29%, CAQ 21%, QS 10%)but, this only translates into 33% for sovereignty. It certainly looks as if some form of merger or cooperation is needed in the separatist camp, although the divergent opinions and policies of the separatist parties would make this exceedingly difficult but, a merger of the PQ-QS looks to me as the PQ's best hope for winning the next election.

    1. The CAQ are not a separatist party.

    2. Dave it depends doesn't it? They describe themselves as nationalists or automonist which all things being equal leans toward independence in my opinion. Would you call the CAQ federalists? I don't think so.

    3. They've said they'd never hold a referendum. Unless you think they'd have a UDI....

      They certainly attempt to make appeals to people who are tired of the Federalist Separatist thing. One can be a Quebec nationalist and a federalist. I have many people like that in my family actually.

    4. QS may also be benefiting from left-wing Federalist voters who are unhappy with the right-ward bent of the Liberals since Charest and now Couillard (who they may have hoped would have returned the party in a center, center-left direction, but did not).

      Also interesting is to note that Leger has essentially put QS at 10 for the last year. CROP on the other hand has had them between 12-16, usually at 13 (though last poll was 16). Why the divergence between the two polls? But at 16 points, QS can start targetting some of the more traditionally federalist seats that were NDP territory - the Outremonts, Laurier-Dorions and Sherbrookes of the world, and perhaps Crémazie, in addition to the obvious targets like Hochelaga-Maissonneuve and others from the PQ

    5. The difference between CROP and Leger can be explained by the margin of error which Leger pegged at 3.1% at a 95% confidence interval in their last Quebec poll.

  2. At this point the Conservatives need to do a couple of things. First a complete rethink of policies and ideas and a major makeover of the leader. As things are showing in the US races, relating and connecting with people with humanity and warmth are essential. Take note CPC !!

    1. Their interim leader seems to be getting accolades so ... check

      New policies? Not when Trudeau's 10 billion dollar deficits promise to rise to 90 billion dollars by the end of his term. Not when the West is unable to send its resources East due to favouritism. Not when Liberals increase the dangers on Canadian troops by ordering more soldiers on the ground in war zones, Not when the Government is too inept to fulfill its promise to bring 25,000 refugees to Canada, Not when our prime minister acts tyrannically and refuses a referendum on electoral reform and not when our prime minister fails to adhere to the Constituion and uses ultra-constitutional means to "reform" the Senate.

  3. It is hard to classify the CAQ on the federalist-separatist question. Though they have clearly stated that if in power they would NEVER hold a referendum. Perhaps if the Bloc held one they'd take a side or individual members would split into both camps.

    I think classifying them as outright separatists is wrong though, they have tried to put that issue on the backburner in order to move Quebec politics to a more traditional left-right spectrum.

    1. It is a complex question of course but, at the end of the day I stand by what I have written albeit at this stage such classification is hypothetical.

      My point being that the separatist "pool" is roughly 60% of the electorate, voters who are attuned or perhaps receptive to their message yet today, support for independence is only attracting 55% of this pool. At the moment there seems to be a large disconnect between those advocating independence on the political stage and the electorate who would vote for it. How else to explain this discrepancy or divergence?

      It is probably an indication that PKP's leadership needs a reboot or an image makeover (Remember when Preston Manning dyed his hair and ditched the glaases? Man, that was funny...).

      The problem for PKP is he is in a crowded field and is basically selling the same message as Legault. Both are well off businessman. Legault maybe the more "conservative nationalist" but, it is hard to envisage a man such as Peladeau proclaiming a unilateral declaration of independence and jeopardizing his billions. In short both preach a very conservative almost business friendly nationalism. PKP could pivot left, although I don't think he would be very believable, the QS probably does a better job in any case and is taking up most of this space. He needs to do something though because the PQ sure does not look like it is about to win the next Quebec election.

  4. The Alberta poll is very interesting. It appears Brian Jean's hope of a united right in 2019 is a long way off. With the PCs and WR essentially tied the PCs leadership race and the attention it brings may prove critical in determining which party will end up as the dominant conservative force in the Province. The NDP is down but, that is to be expected, even if they had performed better the sinking economy was bound to drive their numbers down. It amazes me how unpopular the Alberta Liberals are in single digits especially when the NDP has lost so much support since the election.

    1. Liberal is a dirty word in Alberta. There's a reason the Alberta Liberals, at the turn of the century, were openly debating changing their name to get away from the stigma associated with it.

    2. I understand the history Ira but, to punish a provincial party for their federal cousins' misdeeds nearly two generations past, isn't very rational. Even if it was: Didn't that all change last May? It should have especially considering the reckless economic and financial record of the previous Government and the nearly unprecedented changes to the resource industry over the last 18 months.

      I've lived in Alberta and I make no secret of my dislike for the place. Time to make Alberta a Territory of Saskatchewan, I have full confidence they will do a better job running the place than Albertans.

    3. Ira is stuck in the past (surprise), the lack of support for the ALP does not have much to do with PET and NEP and whatever other acronyms anymore - its just a party that has been squeezed into oblivion by political and organizational forces. There are too many actors on the stage for the ALP to find any strong constituency to attach itself to.

    4. Lack of support for the Alberta Liberals can not be attributed to the federal Liberals given that the federal Liberals comfortably out-polled their provincial cousins in 2015. The center-left strategic voter parked their vote with the NDP last spring, used it to vote for the Liberals in October and has not been given much reason to switch from NDP to Liberal provincially. The same can not be said for Manitoba.

    5. I live in Alberta now, and I'm not it's biggest fan (in fact, I find the behaviour of Albertans right now in response to the provincial recession downright embarrassing).

      But did that stigma change last May? The Liberals did pretty poorly. Voters needed somewhere to go that wasn't the PCs or WR, and they went - en masse - to the NDP. The Liberals were completely ignored by the electorate.

    6. Now that the shine has worn off the NDP one would think the Liberals would pick up some of the disaffected former NDP voters. That does not appear to be the case and I find that odd. Or perhaps Albertans have the memories like goldfish?

    7. A lot of the disaffected former NDP vote would not have supported the Liberals in the recent past (my guess is Liberal switchers make up a higher proportion of the retained NDP increase from last year), and most that did would have shifted to the Redford PCs in 2012 (when the Liberal vote dropped the most), presumably in part to keep Wildrose from winning. The most recent shift in the polls would suggest that disaffected Liberal oriented voters may be returning to the PCs, presumably because the PCs, while in third place, still have a much higher profile than the Liberals, and because they don't like Wildrose.

  5. Éric,

    The CAQ are opportunists first and autonomist second. They are clearly representative of Quebec City's right wing rump that has existed since Duplessis.

    Most of them, Legault included, were on the right previously as PQ members. Call it the Claude Morin school. Oops!

  6. And now with the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the USA the whole political scene has shifted dramatically !! Can Obama appoint before the election. Keep watching !!

    1. Scalia's a huge loss. His decisions and dissents were always a good read (especially his dissents).

      Hopefully this means Justice Thomas will start asking questions during oral arguments again.

      Scalia's absence should also free up Justice Kennedy to be a more vocal advocate for the sovereignty of states.


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