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A New Normal

UNDERSTANDING A NEW THREE-WAY FEDERAL RACE

[Ottawa – May 22, 2015] We have seen the NDP in the lead more than once during the last three years and we have also seen tight three-way races. But we have not seen that since Justin Trudeau assumed leadership of the Liberal Party and today’s horserace looks strikingly different than what we saw five months out from the last election. In this update, we are trying to do three things. First, we would like to establish that this is a real and important shift. Second, we will offer some reasoned conjecture as to why it has occurred. Third, we will speculate as to what this means as we enter the next stages of the pre-campaign period.

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The NDP rise is real and isn’t simply an echo of the Alberta results

For those in denial about the rise of the NDP, we would suggest that they consider abandoning that skepticism. We can question how long it will last, but we are past the point of seeing it as a rogue poll or sampling error. It is real – get over it. The NDP rise began in mid-February and was undoubtedly given a more immediate boost by the election of Rachel Notley in Alberta. This result has been confirmed in every night of polling we have done over the last ten days and we have conducted a totally independent test using our hybrid probability panel and a random experimental test using live interviewers. Guess what? They are all showing the same thing. We will be presenting those tests in the coming weeks.

The overall results show a tight three-way race with the NDP in an insignificant lead over the Conservatives and a marginally significant lead over the Liberals (the Conservatives and Liberals are statistically tied). If we were to summarize across the other results we have been testing, we would probably give the NDP the nod as being in a slight lead over the other two contenders.

For context, it is helpful to compare these results to the last federal election. The NDP have returned to where they were (shocking as that was at the time). The Liberals are up seven points and the Conservatives are down almost 12 points. Hidden in this very good news for the NDP and mixed-leaning-negative news for the Liberals is really bad news for the Conservatives. Despite pulling out all the advertising and tax incentive stops they could imagine, they are sitting fully twelve points back of where they were on election night in 2011. There isn’t much in the approval or directional indicators to suggest that they should be overly sanguine about another majority at this time. So let’s colour the NDP very bright, the Liberals grey, and the Conservatives dark grey in terms of what this might mean come October. We could make a reasonable guess that the current results would see the NDP and Liberals winning such a large majority of seats between them that any form of Conservative government would be both unlikely and have the shelf life of a mayfly.

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The regional and demographic figures:

Ontario is very much a three-way race, which is good news for the Conservative Party, despite their erosion in support since 2011. The near-parity of NDP and Liberal raises the possibility of vote splitting and the prospect a narrow Conservative victory with small pluralities of the vote.

Meanwhile, the Liberals and the NDP have become the key contestants in Quebec, while the Conservative Party and Bloc Québécois have been largely squeezed out of this race. The Liberals and NDP both rely on different segments of the Quebec voter base (for example, the Liberals do well with Anglophone and Allophone voters, while the NDP does better with Francophones), so the Conservatives are unlikely to benefit from vote-splitting to the same degree as in Ontario.

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The NDP continue to lead with university graduates, although their advantage here has weakened since last week. Interestingly the NDP have dramatically improved their standing with the college educated, which is reminiscent of the convergence of university and college graduates that led the Alberta NDP to victory earlier this month.

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Finally, we also see evidence of two distinct faultlines emerging between Conservative and NDP supporters. The first runs along age. The NDP base is disproportionately younger and support for the party declines with age; they have a sizeable advantage with youth but are reduced to third place among seniors. Conservative support, in contrast, progresses in the opposite direction; they lead handily with seniors but have relatively little support with those under 35.

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Second, we are beginning to see something of a class conflict between the NDP and the Conservatives. The NDP draws its strength more from the vulnerable, such as those who are not employed. More than two-fifths of NDP supporters define themselves as lower class or lower middle class, while barely one in seven classify themselves as upper middle or upper class. Among Conservative supporters, however, we see the exact opposite trend and their support rises dramatically as we move into the upper classes. Liberal support, meanwhile, is more heavily concentrated among Canada’s middle class. Interestingly, these trends have not spilled over into educational attainment.

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What happened?:

There are a broad range of factors underpinning the latest attraction to the NDP. First, there is a rising backlash coming from the highly educated portions of the electorate (particularly the university educated) who seem to be bridling over the Harper government’s perceived indifference – if not outright hostility – toward expertise, professionalism, science, reason, and evidence. They are expressing mounting dissatisfaction with what they see an anti-intellectual, populist governing style and the NDP has come out as the key beneficiary. Could this be the revenge of the latte-sipping elites?

Second, the party’s fortunes appear to be linked to the Alberta NDP’s recent victory. Indeed, if something so seemingly implausible – in this case, a sweeping NDP victory in the heartland of Conservative Canada – can happen, frustrated progressive voters may now be looking more closely at the NDP as the best option to depose Stephen Harper.

Finally, there may be some backlash over the Liberal Party’s position on Bill C-51, which has been widely rejected by voters outside the Conservative base. While we have no direct evidence that Bill C-51 is a major factor in the NDP’s success, the party’s position lines up much more closely with that of Canada’s university educated, which may at least partially explain the party’s success with this group.

Rise of the labour vote?

One of the factors that was key to the success of the Alberta NDP on May 5th was the convergence of the union vote. Indeed, our final poll showed that the party held a clear majority with union members, while the race was drastically tighter outside of this group. We are now seeing a similar situation at the federal level (albeit less vividly) where the NDP is now benefiting significantly from the labour vote. Indeed, one-third of union members (both current and former) now support the NDP, compared to 27 per cent for the Liberals and just 24 per cent for the Conservatives, who have seen their fortunes within Canada’s labour movement dwindle in recent weeks.

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Best/Clearest Plan

Given recent NDP fortunes, it is perhaps not surprising that the NDP’s plan for the future is increasingly resonating with Canadians. Indeed, they lead in terms of both holding the best plan for the country as a whole and, to a lesser extent, in terms of presenting the best plan for individual citizens.

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Concluding remarks

While we don’t see much that would disrupt in these figures in the short-term, this is still very much an unclear and open race. NDP prospects are looking bright and they now find themselves on the upswing. The Liberals are stuck and their outlook is leaning negative. The Conservatives, meanwhile, are facing an increasingly improbable challenge of re-capturing their majority mandate.

However, nothing is fixed and we still have five months until the next federal election. Seventy per cent of Canadians do not plan to vote Conservative, but many have made no final decision as to where they are going to go. We have seen a lot of fluidity over the last five years across the progressive voters searching for some kind of solution to end the stranglehold that the minority of unified Conservative voters have exerted over the federal landscape. The Alberta election vividly underlines the potency of a unified progressive vote, but the new-found strength of the NDP complicates the political calculus of those wishing to vote strategically, particularly given the new parity between the NDP and Liberals in Ontario (and elsewhere).

In the end, we believe that this race will be determined by whichever party forges the strongest connection to voters in terms of values and interests and that game is still very much up in the air.

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 May 13-19, 2015. In total, a random sample of 2,675 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-1.9 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 (May 22, 2015)

19 comments to A New Normal

  • David R Mann

    Someone should study voters who switch NDP\Conservative. I do not accept the idea that Liberals and NDP can change sides so easily. Politics is never one or two dimensional.

  • This is the real deal and the NDP orange wave is getting bigger and bigger nothing going too stop it we will have a NDP MAJORITY GOVERNMENT come OCT 19TH VOTE NDP!!!

  • Denise

    I am a would-be NDP supporter but would vote otherwise when the NDP had no chance in my region. I would choose the lesser of the two evils (such as the other politial parties). In THIS political arena, an NDP vote could effect a change and I think many would-be NDP supporters will make their presence felt.

  • Paul Stacey

    Interesting. Substitute WR for libs, and this was very much what Alberta looked like 4 months before the election ………..

  • Burris Devanney

    I wonder whether seniors are aware that the NDP intends to return to the age 65 start-date for Old Age Security, while the Conservatives have changed it to 67? The Liberals, for their part, are not thinking about seniors. They are just trying to get their leader out of short pants.

  • Michael Griffin

    Justin
    As I lifelong Liberal I have only one thing to say.

    Sorry sonny. Your support of Steven Harper and C-51 erased any chance of myself or anyone in my extended family voting Liberal on Oct. 19th.

  • Stephen Walker

    There have been prior studies that indicate that NDP voters are more likely to support Conservatives than Liberals. The same studies indicate that Conservative voters are more likely to support the NDP than the Liberals.

    Since the Liberals are AGAIN demonstrating that they will say anything to attain power, the soft Conservatives that are now disgusted with the direction the Harper government is going are now trickling into support for the NDP.

    I think that the Liberals are going to find themselves the third party again in this election. A party can only sell a daycare policy that they didn’t implement when they were government so many times. A party can only sell the idea that they support and invented National Health Care so many times until people realize that it was the Liberals that moved the cost of Health Care onto the Provincial governments and that it was a Conservative government with the support of the NDP that implemented National Health Care in the first place.

  • James O'Reilly

    Given these results, voter’s can expect extreme fear tactics by our sitting Conservative Government. Fear is the only thing that thwart’s change. However, let us all remember the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real. I for one know it is time for a change. I do not fear it, I embrace it. Certainly there is no evidence to substantiate that an NDP Government would fair any worse than the alternative options. There is, however, plenty of evidence to support criminal investigations into the acttions of the present PMO. The Liberal track record isn’t much better…

  • Mike Hunt

    The shift to NDP is a new socialist movement in Canada. Slackers are no longer happy because the unionized manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Now they want a re-distribution of wealth. Calls to mind a man by the name of Pol Pot. It’s really unbelievable. Alberta NDP won because of the influx of socialists and union proponents to the province.

  • It’s crucial to know how religion affects voting preferences. Is it true that Christian fundamentalists overwhelmingly intend to vote conservative and is religion the main factor in the high proportion of seniors who intend to vote for the conservatives? Second, it’s important to examine the effect not just of immigration status, but of ethnicity, and country of origin. Is immigration from selected areas being used to bolster support for one political party or another? Are the effects statistically significant?

  • Sharry Schneider

    Be wary of results that may make you complacent. The NDP looked like a sure thing in B.C. In the last election, and it is possible that kept NDP voters away from the polls. So get out and vote NDP! Alberta has shown it can be done, but we must not get complacent!

  • Kent

    What I think is very interesting is how vote intention breaks down by class.

    Low and low-middle income voters were promised very big, fat cheques by Trudeau & Co. That doesn’t seem to have resonated with them.

    What’s also interesting is the Liberals and Conservatives are second and third place, respectively, on who has the best plan to benefit you personally. Again, the Grits have promised tax cuts to a large group of the population, but they aren’t winning on this scale either.

    Interesting.

    The provincial victory in Alberta is certainly benefiting the NDP federally. What I would be interested in knowing is, historically, how long have these bumps lasted? If I were to look back to 2011, the federal NDP victory helped it’s provincial counterparts and the Liberal collapse hurt its provincial counterparts, too. That echo affected didn’t last very long in some provinces.

  • Jack

    The spirit of Jack Layton is going to effect this election too. NDP will win this election going away. Sorry, Vladimir Harper but it is time to heave Steve!

  • Franz

    Reaction against the Cons’ anti-intellectualism is the first reason for the recent shift to the NDP? Really? Why didn’t that happen before?

    The third, maybe, reason is the Liberals’ support for C-51? Looks like someone doesn’t want to offend the cynical dumbasses who made the latter decision.

  • Stephen Walker

    With the announced departure of Peter MacKay, the Harper government doesn’t have many that can handle a nuanced line of inquiry.

    With an Iranian wife, it just became too difficult for Peter MacKay to continue to bite his tongue.

  • The NDP is the ONLY!!!! party that will scrap Bill C-51 and the parties like the Tories and Fiberals should not get your vote because of Bill C-51 fascist bill goes against our charter of RIGHTS AND FREEDOM VOTE NDP!!!

  • the liberals arre the only party that projects comman sence and reasonand have deliverd good programs in thepast years they deserve your vote !.

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