JUST WHAT COLOUR(S) OF MINORITY GOVERNMENT ARE WE HEADING FOR?
[Ottawa – April 21, 2011] – As Election 41 grinds it way to an uncertain conclusion, we are seeing some truly surprising developments in the past week or so. Building on a solid if unspectacular rise from the outset of the campaign, Jack Layton’s NDP party is scaling heights not seen since the NDP’s salad days under Ed Broadbent. Moreover, the NDP may be closer to the political elixir of real federal power than they have been since their inception on the federal scene some half century ago. This new dynamic will undoubtedly tax the imagination of pundits and the algorithms of seat forecast models as they try to plot what implications this might have for the next parliament, if these trends were to stabilise, let alone continue to burgeon.
First the basic numbers. The Conservatives continue to hold on to a significant lead at 34.4 points, short of the last election and down from our last poll where they were 37.4. It is highly likely that this shift is a real decline but the fact is that for both the frontrunners, this campaign has been an inconclusive ebb and flow. What is clear is that this level of Conservative support would not secure a majority and would steer the results perilously close to a parliament where not only the opposition would control more seats than the ruling party, but the NDP and the Liberals would control more seats than the Conservatives.
With the spectre of necessary collusion with the Bloc off the table, it is difficult to imagine that some sort of NDP-Liberal coalition wouldn’t transpire. If Mr. Harper has been insistent that anything short of a majority would trigger a coalition, it’s difficult to express surprise that an alliance without the “dreaded” Bloc wouldn’t trigger the scenario he has been cautioning against. It is also difficult to imagine what defence he can jerry rig to argue against the legitimacy of a pact would see him with around one third of the popular vote and significantly fewer seats than what he had when he began to appeal for a majority or his parties defeat.
The Liberals at 24.7 haven’t moved much since our last poll and they are mired around the historical nadir they experienced with Mr. Dion in 2008. They may end up backing into contention in a still on race but it really hasn’t been a product of any rise in their own fortunes. There is some better news lurking in other parts of this poll but they are fortunate to still have any shot at governing given the unexpected permutations of voter support, which brings us to the real story of Campaign 41 – the NDP.
For those who see no real changes in the electorate since the outset of the campaign, ponder our time series. On March 24th, the NDP stood at 14.2 points. Since then, they moved up steadily to around 17 points, then they started closing in on 20 and, in this poll, they find themselves at 24.7, tying themselves with the Liberals and only 9 points shy of the once-distant Conservative Party. This steady progression from “also ran” to contender has been a smooth and steady. It is very uncertain whether it will be sustained or whether it could even advance further.
Notably, while the NDP has grown, they have actually held on to a major advantage on second choice and they now lead all parties by a large margin in terms of their theoretical ceiling (around 50 points). Their rising fortunes have been largely at the expense of the Bloc in Quebec and a flagging Green Party in English Canada. The reality is that these numbers were unimaginable at the outset of the campaign. Whether this is more akin to a Nick Clegg surge and fold or a Bob Rae like shocking ascension to power is very unclear. What is clear is that the race has entered an almost totally unexpected new territory which none of the pundits predicted, but which is clearly evident in our (and others) polling. Which leads to the less positive story of the Green Party and the Bloc, whose stumbling has been the principal fuel of rising NDP fortunes.
For the Green Party, who have not recovered from the body blow of exclusion at the televised debates, they have slipped from around 11 points to 7.8 points. It may be that their supporters, spurned in the debates, and destined for another sterile outcome from the first past the post system, have decided to go to more fertile territory in the NDP. As for the Bloc, this may well be the most stunning feature of this campaign. Most expected a rather boring recitation of past results based on an ineffectual saw off of the three main federalist parties in Quebec. Shockingly, the NDP have how eclipsed a clearly faltering Bloc Quebecois (down nearly 15 points). The only good news for the BQ is that their residual base is firmly committed. They must now hope that vote splitting and a fairly neophyte ground game come to their aid.
Click here for the full report: full_report_april_21_2011