Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Post Budget Reid Poll

The general tone of media coverage of polls and the upcoming federal election is that the Liberals can win no better than a minority. The lead for the story the Globe story on Saturday March 27 on the poll was: “Prime Minister Paul Martin's leadership is providing little help for Liberal support still mired in minority-government territory…” This is a reasonable guess at the outcome. However, my own seat calculation actually has the Liberals winning a small majority so I think the Globe’s estimate should be more qualified.

I have three ways of translating poll numbers into seats, and all yield, in the case of the Reid poll, similar but not identical numbers. My core estimate is as follows:

Liberal 157
Conservative 78
NDP 18
BQ 53

A bare majority would be 155 seats. Given the errors inherent in polling & seat estimates, 157 would be right on the line between minority and majority. A very slight shift in opinion would either yield a comfortable Liberal majority or a weak minority.

Some further observations:

1. I have the impression that there may be a good deal of latent anti-Liberal sentiment that might not be fully captured by any of the polls. Any long-established incumbent government tends to accumulate voter grievances, and the Martinites efforts to distance themselves from the Chr├ętien era simply can’t completely overcome this phenomenon.

2. One problem facing the analyst like myself who must rely on published polls is that there are relatively few, and most are from a single source: Ipsos-Reid, the company that polls for the Globe and Mail. In general, I think the Reid polls are ok but I do think they overestimate Green and “Other” support. For example, the Globe poll reports 5% for the Greens and 4% for “Others”. The NDP will be running on a very Green type platform. You can’t really tell for sure but it is possible that Reid is underestimating NDP support. I am guessing that they include the Greens in their ballot question. In 2000 the Greens received 0.8% of the vote and “Others” received 1.5% so this poll is estimating a huge increase in these two categories. I am skeptical.

3. I think the Conservatives are a great deal weaker overall than is the impression conveyed in media reports. When the Mulroney PC coalition split up between ’88 and ’93, it divided into three parts, not just two. Add Bloc support to Conservative support and you get 37% compared to the Liberals’ 38%. If the Mulroney coalition could be recreated you would get a race that is genuinely competitive. But the Mulroney coalition is still in two distinct parts, so for the Conservatives to be really successful they must win over large numbers of Liberals.

4. This poll was taken too soon after the budget and the election of Stephen Harper to really capture the impact of either.

That is enough for now. I haven’t been posting much partly as a consequence of problems with my back and neck.

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