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Quebec Liberals Headed to a Win

Quebeckers Reject Referendum Adventure as it Appears They Have Already Emotionally Separated from Canada

[Ottawa – April 4, 2014] As a rather unusual campaign nears completion, it appears that Pauline Marois’ gambit to secure a majority mandate and a path to a new referendum, has gone horribly wrong for her and the Parti Québécois (PQ). Barring some frankly unforeseeable collapse Philippe Couillard’s Liberal party is going to emerge with a victory on Monday. It is unclear whether it will be a majority or not, but the high hopes of a PQ win, let alone a majority, lie in ruins. The wild card in all of this will be turnout and seat efficiencies but it is almost inconceivable that the PQ can eke out any form of victory.

We applied a new “likely voter” model where we drop “serial” non-voters (i.e., those voters who did not vote in either the last provincial election or the last federal election) and we weight the remaining results to the demographic composition of those who actually voted in the 2012 Quebec general election (we normally weight the result to match the demographic composition of the population as a whole). This new model had only a trivial impact on the results.

If this turns out to be true, the relatively high turnout in Quebec, along with the relatively even representation of all eligible voters in the population of actual voters, are democratic achievements to be envied by the rest of Canada which features lower turnout and very large gaps between voters and non-voters.

We think that our projections of popular vote are solid but we don’t pretend to have the same fluency on the peculiarities and nuances of Quebec politics as some of our colleagues in Quebec. We do have a serious interest and experience in how this connects to the federal political scene. This campaign appeared to be ushering in a new referendum at the outset of the campaign and we are very interested in this now fairly obscure prospect. We will show that our tracking shows that the Quebec citizenry have decisively turned away from the adventure of another referendum and the Liberal’s imminent victory is a vivid indicator of that decision, as is our tracking of attitudes to various sovereigntist and federalist scenarios. We will also show that Quebeckers are turning their backs on this prospect not over any new affection for federalism. In fact, the latest attachment numbers suggest that another referendum may well be moot as Quebeckers have already left confederation in any emotional or symbolic sense.

Consider the connections across federal and provincial support:

Two-thirds of Quebec Liberal support comes from federal Liberal supporters. The Parti Québécois seems to complement its federal Bloc Québécois counterpart, with both parties relying largely on each other’s bases. The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), meanwhile, is something of a puzzle, as they enjoy strong representation from all sides of the political spectrum – NDP, Conservatives, and Liberals. In contrast, Québec Solidaire is overwhelmingly NDP.

Half of lapsed and new voters going to Liberals

One of the key issues to watch will be whether the Liberal strength with new and lapsed voters carries over to the ballot booth. Roughly half of those who did not cast a ballot in the 2012 Quebec election intend to vote Liberal and 16 per cent of the party’s current support comes from new voters. This is a potential frailty in Liberal support.

The party has also been successful in drawing in former CAQ and Québec Solidaire supporters, with both parties having lost roughly one-quarter of the 2012 supporters to the Liberals. Coalition Avenir Quebec and Québec Solidaire, meanwhile, have counterbalanced these losses by siphoning votes off of the Party Québécois. Indeed, one-quarter of current CAQ supporters and one–third of Québec Solidaire voters are former PQ supporters.

Economy ranks as leading election issue (but intertwined with sovereignty)

We also asked Quebeckers what they consider to be the single most important federal election issue and this provides a useful proxy for their issues for their issues for the provincial election. Compared to the rest of the country, Quebec residents are more concerned about economic and social issues. Furthermore, in a recent EKOS poll commissioned by the CBC, Quebeckers were asked, unprompted, to identify what they consider to be the most important election issue. Respondents overwhelmingly pointed to jobs and the economy, with issues such as language, sovereignty, and the Charter – all key elements of the PQ platform – receiving little attention by comparison.

Our analysis suggests that sovereignty and a referendum were a critical factors in explaining the outcome of this campaign but that the underlying dynamic was a rejection of sovereignty and a referendum on two grounds. First the economic risks of this adventure did not seem prudent to Quebeckers at this time given economic anxieties. Second, and less obviously, it appears that emotional engagement to Canada has unravelled to such an extent that emotional separation has already occurred hence diminishing the need for legal separation.

Support for sovereignty eases up as economy takes priority

Finally, we asked respondents about their views on Quebec sovereignty. Support for sovereignty has softened recently, with 58 per cent of Quebeckers opting for a federalist option. What is more interesting, however, is the triumph of simply maintaining the status quo. In a forced choice exercise, respondents were asked whether they would prefer complete independence or the leaving things the way they are now. By a two-to-one margin, Quebec residents say they prefer the status quo. Indeed, as we have argued in a recent article, the province has already achieved autonomy in an emotional and symbolic sense. Quebeckers seem content with this achievement and there is little appetite for taking on the risks associated with complete independence.


This study was conducted using Interactive Voice Response (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. This methodology is not to be confused with the increasing proliferation of non-probability opt-in online panels which have recently been incorrectly reported in major national media with inappropriate margin of error estimates.

The field dates for this survey are March 27-April 3, 2014. In total, a random sample of 1,422 Quebec residents aged 18 and over responded to the survey (including a sub-sample of 1,339 decided voters). The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.6 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 sex, age, education and region). All the data have been statistically weighted by gender, age, and education to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Quebec according to Census data.

Click here for the full report: Full Report (April 4, 2014)

Cliquez ici pour les résultats : Tableaux de données (4 Avril 2014).doc

1 comment to Quebec Liberals Headed to a Win

  • M. Marquis

    English website only!?
    Did you also survey Quebecers in English?
    Get serious! Hire francophones and become a national, and bilingual, firm!