EPHEMERAL OR REAL?
[Ottawa – May 14, 2015] In a striking new development, the federal horserace has morphed into a virtual three-way tie with just three points separating, the Conservatives, the NDP, and the Liberals. Interestingly, we saw similar results about two years ago, when all three parties were within five points of each other.
The NDP has jumped five percentage points over the last week and the story here appears to be one of NDP success, rather than a decline in Conservative or Liberal fortunes (who are both just slightly down from their rolling average over the past few weeks).
There are clear echoes of the shocking Alberta result, but it would be a mistake to see the NDP ascension as merely a bounce from Alberta. Indeed, there has been a clear pattern of an NDP rise over the last four months (from 18 points in early February to 29 points today). There are some important sources of this rise.
There are two prevailing trends that are driving NDP fortunes. The first is a dramatic capture of the university-educated vote, which was critical to the Alberta NDP’s historic victory last week. Whether this is a ‘strategic’ response of the promiscuous progressive segment of the electorate (who are more focused on how best to depose Stephen Harper than any particular party choice) or just rising antipathy to the perceived anti-intellectualism of the current government is unclear. The second factor is a decisive lead in what was a log-jammed Quebec race. The NDP is also newly competitive in Ontario which is now a three-way race.
Harper’s approval rating drops sharply, federal direction also down
Stephen Harper’s already last-place approval rating is down sharply, as is the directional approval of the federal government, which has reached a new low for this year. Given these two findings, one could argue that Mr. Harper may be poised for decline. Mr. Harper now finds himself in a cluttered three-way tie, stuck ten points below his majority achievement in 2011. Moreover, this challenging position exists in spite of the fact that Mr. Harper and the Conservatives have clearly owned the airwaves and the podium.
Whatever problems the Liberals are having, they do not appear to emanate from voter response to their leader. Justin Trudeau’s approval numbers remain high and are comparable to those of Mulcair, suggesting that the Liberal Party’s stagnation is also due to other factors. In fact, Mr. Trudeau has seen a modest rise in his approval rating over the past few polls.
Finally, we see that Thomas Mulcair’s approval is actually down from last month (albeit insignificantly). This suggests the NDP rise is linked to factors beyond the luster of the party’s leader. It may be interesting whether Mr. Mulcair receives more critical scrutiny now that he is part of this new three-way tie.
The critical question now is whether these shifts represent a new normal or whether they are an ephemeral bounce produced by the Alberta election. We believe that the public are indeed becoming engaged and that they are now in motion. Any forecast of where things are going at this stage would be foolish conjecture. Race on!
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 6-12, 2015. In total, a random sample of 2,177 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.1 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 a PDF version of this report: Full Report (May 14, 2015)