OPPOSITION TO BILL C-51 NOW A CLEAR MAJORITY
[Ottawa – June 12, 2015] For five of our last six polls, the NDP has improved its standing with Canadian voters and the party now stands at 33.6 per cent, a 16-point improvement over its modern low just four months ago. The NDP have nearly double the support that they did this time out from the 2011 election. Support for the Conservatives and the Liberals, meanwhile, continues to languish with the two parties standing at 27 points and 23 points, respectively.
The NDP sits just three-points ahead of their 2011 election standing. The Liberals, while at their lowest point since Justin Trudeau became leader, are still four points ahead of where they were four years ago. It is the Conservatives who are down nearly 13 points.
The NDP’s improbable rise continues as both the Conservatives and Liberals slide
The NDP are strong in every region of the country and the party leads in Ontario and Quebec. An important caveat, however, is that the huge NDP lead in Ontario is new and should be treated with caution until we see it confirmed. The large NDP lead in Quebec, in contrast, is more stable and we definitely feel the NDP are in very strong shape there. It will be interesting to see how Gilles Duceppe’s surprise return to politics impacts the NDP’s standing and we will be returning to this issue next week.
The most troubling feature of NDP support (for the NDP, that is) is their large tilt to younger voters. One-third of the party’s constituency is under the age of 35. These voters typically don’t vote in great numbers and they are a highly fluid group in terms of their proclivity to bounce between political affiliations. Furthermore, the NDP trails significantly among seniors, a group that reliably votes in large numbers. We would therefore advise exercising caution in interpreting the NDP strength.
On the other hand, the NDP vote is hugely concentrated with the university educated who do tend to vote, which may (at least partially) offset the party’s age disadvantage. Also, Canada’s young educated vote is not that far off from the national average in terms of voting levels. Indeed, the true deficiency in youth voting is the economically vulnerable, precariat portion of that segment.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, must be concerned that while they lead with seniors, they have lost strength with the segment that is critical to their prospects for success.
So why are all of the educated voters flocking to the NDP?
“If recent history and public judgements are any guide, the citizenry of the near future, who will have to live with their consequences, will rue any further emphasis on security over civil liberties, personal freedoms, and economic productivity.”
-Frank Graves, October 28, 2014
There are a lot of potential explanations as to why university educated voters have rallied around the NDP, but we are going to look at one possible angle. Some have speculated that the Liberal position on Bill C-51 is a factor. We offer some new data to test this hypothesis. While imperfect, it leaves the hypothesis in the realm of plausibility as one of the causes of the drift. And recall that the NDP rise is pretty commensurate with the Liberal decline and is most likely churning of the promiscuous progressive vote seeking the best home to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party.
Awareness of C-51 is very high by the standards of this scale, and it has grown somewhat over the past few months. The majority of respondents claim to be ‘clearly’ aware. It therefore passes the test of having enough salience to be a game changer.
Looking at the charts below, we see that support for C-51 has declined sharply and that there is now clear majority opposition compared to majority support a couple of months back (the period which coincides with the Liberals and NDP changing places). It is also notable that strong opposition is twice as high as strong support, which suggests that growing opposition is emotionally engaging.
These findings echo the trends noted in an essay we released in the wake of the Parliament Hill shootings where we cautioned that while Canadians are often initially supportive of measures designed to protect ourselves at home, this support quickly tapers off. Virtually every response to the spectre and reality of terrorism over the past decade has ultimately been deemed to have failed in hindsight. The public downright reject the narrative that threats to our security can be resolved through further restrictions on personal freedoms and they will hold their leaders to account for any decisions which further erode civil liberties.
We believe that Conservative decline is linked to the declining salience of security. The moral panic associated with bringing in heightened security after the episodes in the fall has dissipated and Bill C-51 no longer appears reasonable, particularly in progressive Canada. Indeed, the Conservatives have now returned to the levels they were at in mid-October, before the Parliament Hill incident and the security wave which propelled Stephen Harper into a clear lead.
Nobody holds distinct advantage on best plan
Finally, it appears that no party holds a clear advantage on having the best plan for the future of the country as a whole. The NDP is doing slightly better and the Conservatives, while not necessarily down, have certainly not risen. In terms best plan for individual citizens, the trend lines are a bit clearer, but hardly substantive. The NDP has enjoyed a steady rise in terms of the perceived merits of their plan for the Canadians themselves. The party now enjoys a six-point advantage over both the Liberals and the Conservatives. The Conservative Party, meanwhile, has seen a gentle erosion in public confidence in their ability to present the best plan for Canadians.
Finally, no party has a distinct lead in terms of the clarity of their plan. While the NDP has seen a modest but sustained rise in terms of the perception that they offer the clearest plan, they still find themselves in statistical tie with both the Conservatives and the Liberals.
If there is a tentative winner in the battle for the best plan, it is the NDP, who have come out ahead in terms of offering the best ideas for individuals, but can not seem to make any real progress in terms of establishing themselves as the best party to lead the country. If there is a loser, it is the Conservative Party who, despite having passed a highly-publicized budget that was designed to cater to the personal needs of their constituents, have been unable to improve their standing in this area (quite the opposite, in fact). The Liberal Party is neither a winner nor a loser, as they have held their ground, but have so far failed to make any real headway.
There is nothing definite or clear in guiding us to understand what might happen in Ontario. What we do know is that we have a rising NDP, an incumbent in serious trouble, and a Liberal Party which appears to have switched places with the NPD as the “other” alternative. All of this has changed over the past month and it can all change again. We believe the critical ingredient for success will be who offers the best plan that most closely captures the broadest span of public values and interests.
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 June 3-9, 2015. In total, a random sample of 2,491 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.0 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 (June 12, 2015)