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[OTTAWA – June 1, 2009] – The largest-ever survey of Canadians’ vote intentions reveals a see-saw race between the ruling Conservatives and the opposition Liberals, shifting as erratically as the morning’s headlines. Most recently, the Liberals received a statistically significant bump after the government’s bad deficit news last week.

The poll also reveals starkly different political races among men, women, Quebeckers, Westerns, young and old, rich and poor.

The poll, conducted by EKOS and released exclusively to CBC, contacted 10,896 Canadians over three weeks. It is the first of a series of very large polls we will be conducting regularly for release by the CBC in coming months.

Because EKOS sampled large numbers of Canadians each weekday during this period, it is possible to see how uncertain and perhaps unsettled the race between Liberals and Tories is.

The Liberals, who have run behind the Conservatives on some days in recent weeks, suddenly shot up after the news that the government now expects to run a $50 billion deficit this year.

“The overall picture these numbers paint is slightly more positive for the Liberals, who are ahead more days than they lag, and who benefit from the fact that some of the Conservative vote is ‘wasted” in electoral terms, by piling up large majorities in Alberta,” said EKOS President Frank Graves. “But the situation is clearly quite volatile, and neither party could force an election right now confident that they would win, much less form a majority.”

Up until the deficit news, during the period of this poll the Conservatives appeared to be benefitting from the fact that some more prosperous Canadians, perhaps with an eye more to the stock market than the job market, were becoming more optimistic about the economic future.

However, their advantage among the more prosperous appeared to vanish after the deficit news.

By and large, Canada’s regions remain in historical patterns: Alberta strongly for the Tories and Ontario still a battleground, though looking gradually better for the Liberals.

“One place where things are changing dramatically is in Quebec, where the Tory charge of recent years has come to a disastrous end. The Liberals are once again becoming an important force in Quebec – growing notably in popularity among French-speakers,” said Graves.

Michael Ignatieff trails Stephen Harper as the choice for “best prime minister”. Still, his numbers have improved somewhat in recent days, despite the Conservative ad campaign attacking him personally.

Not surprisingly, Conservative voters overwhelmingly say they’d prefer Stephen Harper to Michael Ignatieff as prime minister, and Liberal voters generally prefer Ignatieff. But here’s a warning to both parties, as they attempt to scoop up votes from the smaller parties: between two-thirds and three-quarters of the supporters of other parties said “neither” when asked to choose which of the two would make the best prime minister.

The poll also reveals very different election races unfolding among different segments of the population. If an election were held tomorrow among men only, the Conservatives would win and perhaps have a shot at a majority. If only women voted, the Liberals would be in a similar position.

If our youngest voters – those 25 and under – had their way, the Liberals would do best, but not by much, and the Green Party would be as important as the Conservatives or the NDP.

“In recent years, the political parties have increasingly targeted their appeals to narrow slices of the electorate,” said Graves. “Now, Canadians will have a deeper appreciation of the choices their fellow citizens are making than ever before.”

“With this enormous wealth of data, we are able to get a better picture of the Canadian voter,” said Graves. “For the first time, we can look with precision at some smaller demographic groups, such as young people, and with much greater accuracy at provinces such as British Columbia.”

“On the surface, what we see is the two major parties locked in close combat for winning government in the next election,” said Graves. “But a closer look tells us that all the parties are prisoners of their historical constituencies to a degree. The breakout each party is looking for to transform the minority government landscape of recent years has yet to happen.”

Click here for complete survey results: full-report-june-1

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