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[Ottawa – August 5, 2010] – In a surprisingly active summer, there are some interesting developments in the political landscape. The relatively comfortable lead that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had secured in the aftermath of the Royal Visit, the G20 summit, and Canada Day appears to have evaporated in this unusually hot Canadian summer. Typically, little distracts Canadians from beer and barbeques in the all too short Canadian summer. Yet the Conservatives find their 11-point lead of mid-July virtually eliminated. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives fail to crack the pretty humble 30-point barrier in our last week of polling. In fact, we have not seen Harper’s conservatives under 30 points since late 2006. Putting aside the historically remarkable nature of no party attracting the support of even 3 in 10 voters, we are left wondering why this turnaround. A few hypotheses are possible.

Firstly, the Census long form decision is not playing well with the public. A voluntary census seems, frankly, senseless to many Canadians. In particular, it seems to have struck a raw nerve with the more educated class who may see this as an assault on the role of experts, professionals, and knowledge. Another hypothesis is that the Liberal Express may be producing a modest uplift for the Liberals. While it would be a stretch to say the bus was really rolling, it is clear that it is no longer stuck by the side of the road.

While 29 points may seem an inauspicious reason for celebration for Mr. Ignatieff, it is much better than the leader death watch of 24 points he was seeing a short while ago. More importantly, the Liberals are now within the margin of error of the Conservatives in race that seemed over a short time ago. This leads to the final hypothesis that Stephen Harper’s new normal is around the 32-point level has oscillated around since the beginning of this year. Much in the way that the erstwhile obscure prorogation stratagem pummelled Tory fortunes early this year, an equally obscure decision about government data collection may have caused his more recent tumble.

There is little of cheer for the vacationing Prime Minister in the second choice numbers either. Only 10 points pick the conservatives as second choice, well short of the other national parties.

The demographic and regional analyses may also shed light on what is going on in the minds of voters. First of all, there is some evidence to support the view that the backlash is being led by a threatened class of the highly educated. Whereas the Liberals have always done relatively better here, they have now opened up a very large lead among university graduates (whereas they trailed the Conservatives in this category a month ago). Neither Mr. Harper nor Mr. Ignatieff is striking a chord with women voters. Notably, the GP does nearly twice as well with women and also fares much better with young voters.

Regionally, there have been some evolving shifts of importance. The Conservative Party’s 13-point lead in Ontario (a month ago) has effectively vanished. The Liberals have opened up a solid lead in the Atlantic and a slight uptick in Quebec. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have serious problems in Quebec. Last week’s poll numbers would see the Tory Quebec caucus reduced to 4 seats. The Conservative fortress in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba is intact but BC is now a pretty tight three-way race with the Conservatives leading and the NDP in second place.

Click here for the full report: full_report_august_5


  • Islam G Mohamed

    It’s irresponsible and incorrect to attribute the Conservatives’ fall from grace to a backlash by elites and the educated. Among the 915 respondents without a university education, Conservatives are polling at just 30.5% with a margin of less than 6% over the Liberals. Compare that with results from just three months ago showing a lead of 13% over the Liberals (your poll of May 20, 35.2% vs 22.2%). You don’t need a university education to see that the Conservatives are headed in the wrong direction.

  • Vain Zero

    Islam G Mohamed:

    I have found that the ‘uneducated’ ‘nonelite’ Canadian Voter has an unusually high intelligence threshold, and so it does not shock me that they can see just as easily the slide away from fact based leadership.