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Landscape Frozen as We Enter Election Year

[Ottawa – January 16, 2015] The political landscape appears as frozen as Canada is. The Liberals hold a slight but statistically significant lead, while the Conservatives appear to have stabilized at 31 points, which is good news for a party that hadn’t broken 30 points in two years. So all in all, there isn’t much going on as we enter a new election year. Nevertheless, there are some interesting signals and harbingers worth watching. And sometimes, the absence of movement is notable in itself.

In particular, there are two fundamentally different views on the economy that will be critical in determining how one will vote in Election 42. We will explore these in detail in our next piece, available on our website.

For now, it is notable that the last part of the poll was conducted in the aftermath of the horrific murders in Paris. Given the depth of the horrors associated with this event, and the level of public focus, one might expect that it would have registered an impact. Shortly after the event, the Prime Minister opined on just how serious this threat had become and that there may be the need for more security powers to deal the threat of this ‘international jihadist movement’. One might have thought that the event would have provided a positive boost to the Prime Minister, given he had already seen his electoral prospects rejuvenated following the Ottawa shooting. Notably, there is no evidence of any boost whatsoever, which suggests that he has already reaped those benefits and may have even overplayed his hand.

What is notable in this otherwise inert landscape is that we now have a two horse race with the NDP continuing to gently but inexorably slide into relative insignificance, particularly outside of Quebec. The Conservatives are now clearly competitive with the Liberals, who continue to hold a small lead.

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Conservatives enjoy net 20-point gain among seniors

What is perhaps most notable about this poll is the gradual but now dramatic return of older Canada to the Conservative fold, and their defection from the Liberal Party. Whereas the Liberals led by 10 points as late as last September, the Conservatives now lead by a similar margin, a net 20-point gain. Given the reliable turnout of seniors, as well as the stability of this new trend, this is a real plus for Mr. Harper’s election prospects. Mr. Trudeau must re-capture the senior vote if he hopes to be victorious in October. Nevertheless, the Liberals do well with baby boomers – an equally important group – meaning the chances of the Conservatives securing another majority are pretty slim at this stage.

Also notable is the lack of a gender gap in terms of party support. Over the last few years, Conservatives have consistently done well with men, but have also lagged badly with women, often finding themselves in third place. However, this gap has drastically narrowed in recent weeks. Indeed, we are no longer seeing a ‘battle of the sexes’, but rather a battle of the generations.

Meanwhile, the Liberals do extremely well with university graduates, small families, and new Canadians, who have jumped back and forth between the Liberal and Conservative camps in recent months. The Liberals and NDP do quite well with union members, who have little interest in voting Conservative.

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Liberals lead in Ontario, Greens making inroads in BC

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals might covet the senior vote, but they may have an even more important card in their hand: a clear lead in vote rich Ontario. Furthermore, the Liberals do well in every region of the country outside of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Liberals have also overtaken the NDP in Quebec, where both the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois have picked up momentum in recent weeks, suggesting that Quebec has not entirely gelled yet. It is possible that NDP support is superficially parked with the Bloc, meaning their Quebec numbers are understated, but they have completely fallen out in other parts of the country, save British Columbia where they are running well.

British Columbia has been somewhat volatile over the last year, with the Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP all vying for the lead. Notably, the Green Party does very well in British Columbia, where they have been consistently polling around 15 points for more than two years. While Green support is typically overstated due to the comparatively poor turnout of the party’s supporters, it is quite likely that they would capture seats at these levels.

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Mulcair leads in approval, but is this helping his prospects?

In our latest update on approval ratings, Thomas Mulcair enjoys a small advantage, with half of Canadians saying they approve of how he does his job. However, his approval rating at this stage seems more analogous to vanity points, as it has not translated into cold hard votes. Nevertheless, he does extremely well in Quebec and he is generally well liked outside of the Conservative Party.

Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau’s approval rating stands at 46 per cent and he is well liked among new Canadians. He does quite well across all regions and demographic groups save Alberta and Saskatchewan. Interestingly, he does comparatively better with larger families.

Finally, Stephen Harper is perhaps the polarizing of the three leaders. He has the highest in-party approval rating of any of the three leaders, but he finds little appreciation elsewhere. He is very well liked in Alberta but is utterly rejected in Quebec, British Columbia, and Atlantic Canada. Seniors love him while those under 35 express very strong disapproval. He fares very poorly among university graduates, but does comparatively better with other educational cohorts. He receives a lukewarm reception outside of unions, but is met with some hostility among current union members.

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Is hope Trudeau’s ticket to winning back the senior vote?

Turning to emotional engagement, the majority of Canadians respond to Stephen Harper with some form of negativity (i.e., anger or discouragement). The plurality of Canadians looks at Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau with a sense of hope, although a sizeable number also express discouragement. What is perhaps most notable, however, are the emotions elicited by Justin Trudeau among senior voters. Half of seniors say they feel hopeful about Justin Trudeau, which runs almost contrary to their recent shift to the Conservative Party. There are two possible interpretations to this apparent paradox: 1) hope is simply not enough to drive senior voter engagement; or 2) hope is Mr. Trudeau’s best ticket to winning back the senior vote.

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It’s the economy, stupid! …but which one?

In our next piece, we will examine Canadian attitudes towards the economy and the labour market and how these views may come to shape the next election. We are seeing the worst-ever results for personal financial outlook, yet in something of a contradiction, Canadians are highly confident regarding their job security. What is behind this apparent paradox? Visit ekospolitics.ca for more.

Direction of Country/Government

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Methodology

This study was conducted using High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cell phone, as well as cell phone only households and landline only households.

The field dates for this survey are January 5-13, 2015. In total, a random sample of 4,412 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-1.5 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 by age, gender, region, and educational attainment 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 (January 16, 2015)

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