Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Recent Ipsos poll consistent with summer long trend

The poll released by Ipsos Reid on September 27 is essentially consistent with other polls released this summer. Translated into an election it would produce an indecisive result.

Perhaps less obvious but just as true generally for all polls since the start of summer is that there is a relatively consistent pattern across the country of vote losses and gains.  The chart below compares the Ipsos poll to the May 2, 2011 election.

The Liberals are up everywhere, more in some regions, less in others.  The Conservatives are down everywhere including in their areas of strength such as Alberta, sufficiently so that they would lose seats in Alberta if the poll accurately projects an election held today. It is possible that federal Liberal strength in Atlantic Canada is assisted by the unpopularity of the provincial NDP in Nova Scotia (if current provincial election polls are to be believed).  Perceptions of party brands normally spill over between the two orders of government. Nova Scotia accounts for about 40% of the votes cast in Atlantic Canada. Would the federal NDP benefit in the longer run from a loss by their provincial cousins in Nova Scotia?

The poll also includes some valuable data on issues.  One nugget that emerged was that there were two economic categories that respondents cited among the list of most important issues: the "Economy" and "Jobs and Unemployment".  No surprise there. However, there is a difference when one looks at additional questions about which party is best able to manage issues.  We find that while the Conservatives have an enormous advantage over other parties when in comes to managing the "Economy", but that disappears when the issue is "Jobs and Unemployment".  That category is essentially split three ways between the three major parties.

Here is a quote from the press release:
The Conservatives are perceived as the best economic policy managers among those who think the economy is the most important issue, but Liberals and NDP are more competitive in most other areas.
Economy: Conservatives (45%), Liberals (28%), NDP (14%), Green (2%), Bloc (1%)
Healthcare: Liberals (31%), NDP (25%), Conservatives (24%), Bloc (5%), Green (3%)
Jobs/Unemployment: Liberals (31%), NDP (23%), Conservatives (21%), Green (3%), Bloc (2%)
This is interesting: if the economy is viewed as an abstraction, the Conservatives are clearly ahead, but conceived of in terms of its practical impact on jobs they fall to third place. That strongly suggests that Stephen Harper does not have exclusive ownership of economic issues.

Another questions asks: "Which Federal Party and leader best understands the pressures on middle class families today and is most likely to come up with the best policies for them?"  The answer: Thomas Mulcair and the NDP lead with 38% followed by Justin Trudeau and the Liberals at 30% and Stephen Harper at 26%.  What seems to be a slightly different version of the same question has the same order of finish but the Liberals just one point behind the NDP. See this table pages 7 & 8. 

Politics is traditionally viewed in rigid perceptions and categories: Conservatives best on the economy and crime, NDP on healthcare, Liberals on national unity, etc. However, it is important to recognize that public perceptions of parties and issues are more complex than is often assumed, and perceptions of relative strengths likely much softer.