Friday, June 12, 2015

A new shape for Canadian politics

A new Ekos poll out today registers a clear lead for the NDP.  The poll's results and my preliminary seat estimate from the data suggest a result we would ordinarily project as a minority NDP government.

It represents a sea change from just three months ago, and is the continuation of a national trend that became apparent around the time of the May 5 Alberta election. However, growth in NDP support in both Quebec and British Columbia was evident before then.

Much attention has been focused on Liberal decline. For example, a column on by Eric Grenier today examines exactly that phenomenon. What is being overlooked is Conservative decline. Yes, the drop is a little less than the Liberals but look at the comparison below, which is based on my seat estimate average from January through to the end of March compared to today:

The Conservative drop in support is dramatic and is worthy of attention as much as the Liberal decline. These numbers are bad news indeed for Stephen Harper.

What is new for the NDP is a lead in Ontario (36 per cent compared to 26 for both the Liberals and the Conservatives) that would deliver the party more than 50 seats if an election today reflected the poll numbers.  The NDP's strong showing includes leads in Canada's three largest provinces: Ontario, B.C. and Quebec, which together represent three quarters of Canada's population. Also out today a Nanos Poll conducted for the Globe and Mail suggests the NDP is the most trusted party "to advance policies that will help Canadian families the most?" A broader trend seems to be underway.

However, the instability should remind us that voter preferences are often weak and subject to change. Graves himself notes that the Ontario numbers in particular need to be confirmed by future polling.

Polls shape political discourse, perceptions and expectations.  In the near future those will all be affected in significant measure by this poll.