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Signs of Life from Moribund NDP?

ORANGE HICCOUGH!

[Ottawa – February 27, 2015] Well, it’s well short of a wave and not very crushing, but the NDP seems to be the only mover in an otherwise frozen voter landscape. Whether this new Orange Hiccough will develop into anything more impressive remains to be seen; but the NDP has risen from the depths of high teens to 22 points and there is some alternative evidence that they may be doing a bit better than that (our live interviewer test shows that they receive more of the Bloc vote than is recorded to our more impersonal robot). Otherwise, all is pretty well stable from last week. There are, however, a few trends to watch and we get the sense that this current stability has the potential for fairly quick and significant change.

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A relatively disengaged public are responding to the security issue but probably without all that much attention. Polls reporting vast majority support for Bill C-51 should be treated with caution for a variety of reasons. The added stakes and volume as we get closer to the campaign period could yield a different optic, as could the rather grim impacts of an already stagnant economy which will most likely continue to cool. All of this rather mirthless outlook on the economy could be magnified as Canadians park whatever smugness they might have had about the superiority of their economy for the few years following the 2008 meltdown and now see the Americans doubling our growth, with significantly lower unemployment rates and the erstwhile muscular Canadian dollar causing shudders as consumers note the alarming rise in grapefruit prices, not to mention newly unaffordable Disneyland vacations. The relative prudence of a carbon energy superpower bet may look comparatively dumb when contrasted with the newly vibrant US economy, steaming along under the spur of middle class economics and far removed from the austerity and minimal government model favoured by our incumbent.

Demographic and regional patterns steady with a bit more orange showing

Regional races remain tight outside of Alberta and the Atlantic. The NDP have opened up a small lead in Quebec, and the Bloc Québécois has faded slightly. This Quebec race, reshaped by the prominence of the terror and culture files has seen Harper moving from baked to very much alive, particularly in the Quebec City area. Quebec is the most unpredictable of the current races and could hold the key to who wins Election 42. This is confounded by the quite loose levels of engagement in Quebec (they are currently least likely to be certain to vote). The current blend of tough on terror and nativism may be a very unstable political compound in Quebec.

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Will the Orange Hiccough recapture wave status? This will be interesting to watch, but Justin Trudeau may have to improve his relatively poor status with Francophones (he leads handily with Anglophone and Allophone populations) to secure the Prime Minister’s chair. Right now, there are four competitive parties staking out different regions and demographics in a very interesting and potentially dynamic context.

The older and less educated you are, the more you like Stephen Harper and his new accent on “tough on terror”. It helps to be male as well. The Liberals continue to do very well with new Canadians who may have been a political casualty (for the Conservatives) of the “offensive” niqab appeal.

National direction approval sliding

Satisfaction with broad national direction appears to be on a downward pattern. This may well be linked to the economy and the danger for Stephen Harper is that the newfound favour from tough on both terror and niqabs may have a limited shelf life as the exaggerated depiction of the threat levels reconciles with reality and reason as time goes on. Time also is unfolding against the truly threatening backdrop of much more profound fears about an economy in which less than one if five Canadians feel they are doing better than the year before. We suspect that barring a very high profile terror episode, the economy will loom larger in the political vision of Canadian voters. (Spring Election anyone?)

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Best vision and some final thoughts

This week, we asked Canadians to rate each of the three party leaders’ plans along three separate dimensions: clarity, impact on the country as a whole, and impact on the individual respondent. In terms of clarity, Mr. Harper comes out with a clear advantage, which is likely a reflection of his aggressive ad campaigns (or was that the Government of Canada’s “Strong, Proud and Free” campaign?) and his presentation of some specific measures in recent months. In terms of the merits of each plan for improving either the country or benefitting the individual respondent, Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau find themselves in a dead heat, with responses largely divided along party lines.

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These questions will be more useful as tracking items and it will be interesting to watch as the opposition parties gradually unveil their platforms over the coming months. In the meantime, however, the mere fact that Mr. Trudeau has been able to keep pace with Mr. Harper – despite relative silence on the Liberal front, as least compared to the endless carpet bombing of ads and pronouncements from the Conservatives – is quite impressive. It appears that despite dominating the airwaves, the best that Mr. Harper has been able to achieve is a tie. Indeed, this must be particularly concerning to the Conservative Party, especially since what momentum he has isn’t likely to last – particularly as mounting anxieties over the economy begin to eclipse security concerns, which has been the key driving force behind Conservative fortunes in recent months.

Finally, we asked Canadians who they believe will win the next federal election. Once again, the Liberals and Conservatives find themselves in a tie, with roughly the same number of Canadians predicting a Liberal victory as another Conservative win. In either case, Canadians seem fairly confident that we will be looking at a minority government either way. These results reaffirm the closeness of the race and the folly of making any forecasts at this time.

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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 February 18-24, 2015. In total, a random sample of 3,607 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-1.6 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 (February 27, 2015)

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