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One Year Out: A New Normal with Considerable Room for Further Change

[Ottawa – October 19, 2014] It is exactly one year to the day until the 2015 election and the country remains in a funk, with unusually poor ratings of both national and federal government direction. Outside of the diminished Conservative base, the vast majority think both the country and the federal government are moving in the wrong direction. While our most recent poll has shown a slight uptick in federal direction, is not meaningful and the Conservative Party remains mired at 26 points in vote intention.

The Liberals have a commanding lead and are nearing or within majority range. The Conservatives and the NDP are within the margin of each other at 26 and 25 points, respectively. The (no longer as it is our third consecutive poll with this result) shocking implications of this are that Stephen Harper would exchange places with Justin Trudeau as leader of the third party and, despite the party’s third-place standing in terms of popular vote, the NDP’s efficient seat distribution would see Thomas Mulcair remain leader of the Official Opposition.

The Bloc Québécois, who were registering nearly 40 points one year out of the last federal election , have utterly imploded. Their leader, to the degree that he is known, is almost universally seen with disapproval (Gilles Duceppe, in contrast, enjoyed the approval of nearly half of Quebeckers). While the pronouncement of Liberal death was clearly premature following 2011, it may now be time to anoint the Bloc with political corpse status.

The most important and impressive feature of Liberal strength is their solid and wide lead in Ontario. They also have twice the support of the Conservatives with the immigrant vote which was so critical to Conservative success in 2011.

Canadians predict Liberal minority in 2015

We also asked Canadians who they believe will win in 2015. The public view seems to mirrors the trends discussed above. By a margin of 45 to 27, the public sees a Liberal – not Conservative – government succeeding in 2015. Of those who see a Liberal government, however, the clear lean is to see a minority rather than majority (29 per cent versus 16 per cent). Just 12 per cent see another Conservative majority in the cards, and just four per cent predict some type of NDP government at this time.

NDP the party to watch in the coming months?

At first glance, the horserace numbers don’t look particularly encouraging for the NDP. The party is down nearly six points from the 2011 election and they are now in third place, a far cry from two years ago when they actually found themselves leading in the polls. However, the party has several advantages that could have major implications in 2015. First, while 25 points is lower than their election performance, they are showing modest upward growth and they are nearly 10 points stronger than they were one year out of the last election. Second, their leader is considerably more popular than Jack Layton was at that time. Third, they have a strong fortress in Quebec; indeed, given the efficiency of the distribution of their support, they would likely retain their seat count from 2011, despite a modest drop in popular vote. Finally, they lead all parties – by far – in terms of second choice, suggesting that they have considerable room to grow.

Closing remarks

The impressive rise of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party from opposition lead to minority government and then to the surprising majority victory in 2011 appears to be in full reverse and the prospect of another majority seems increasingly implausible. The incumbent cannot seem to lift out of his current slide and there is little in the poll to offer cheer to Conservative supporters. Their leader remains extremely unpopular outside of the loyal but dwindled base. As we shall see in an upcoming release, the tax cut and austerity messages are not registering well with voters and the cherished law and order, security, and terrorism emphases of the current government are the lowest priorities of those tested in our trade-off testing. Perhaps more importantly, there has been a clear and inexorable shift to the progressive side of the political equation in Canada on many issues and a more ideologically divided Canada is now locating itself on the progressive side of the ideological spectrum. While there is still a year to go, Harper’s Conservatives appear poised to follow the eventual path of all incumbents – losing power.

It is now Justin Trudeau who appears to be in command and his party is the clear and stable front runner. Stephen Harper doesn’t seem to be able to find uplift even while approaching a surplus and finding himself in a rare state of majority accord on his ISIS stance. Although all parties would covet the Liberal position at this stage, the party to watch is the NDP who seem to have a leader who is the most popular. Moreover, they are the most popular second choice and this momentum could see some further shifts over the next while as a growing portion of center-left voters, fatigued with the current regime, seek the best configuration to provide an alternative government.

Approval ratings:

Direction of government/country:

Methodology:

This study was conducted using EKOS’ unique, hybrid online/telephone research panel, Probit. Our panel offers exhaustive coverage of the Canadian population (i.e., Internet, phone, cell phone), random recruitment (in other words, participants are recruited randomly, they do not opt themselves into our panel), and equal probability sampling. All respondents to our panel are recruited by telephone using random digit dialling and are confirmed by live interviewers. Unlike opt-in online panels, Probit supports margin of error estimates. We believe this to be the only probability-based online panel in Canada.

The field dates for this survey are October 10-15, 2014. In total, 1,671 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey. Of these cases, 1,511 were collected online, while 160 were collected by computer assisted telephone interviews (CATI). The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

Click here for the full report: Full Report (October 19, 2014)

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