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Duffy Awakening Slumbering Electorate


[Ottawa – August 28, 2015] Voters are awaking from their summer slumber and noticing that they have been asked to follow what is going to be a very divisive and acrimonious campaign. At 34 points, the NDP maintains a clear and stable lead. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have dropped to 28 points. The Liberals, at 27 points, are doing much better than a month ago and are statistically tied for second place (and are not far off from the lead). The Green Party remains at six points.



Looking at the demographic and regional numbers, we see most of the usual patterns. The NDP is dominant in British Columbia and Quebec, where the temporary resurgence of the Bloc Québécois seems to have faded away. The Liberals, however, have eked out a narrow lead in a tight three-way Ontario race and have recaptured a lost lead in Atlantic Canada. The Conservatives retain a sizeable lead with seniors and remain the dominant party in Alberta, but may be falling back in Ontario, which will be a crucial battleground they can ill afford to lose if they have any ambition of securing a fourth mandate




What is interesting is the apparent convergence of the university and college votes. Traditionally, the Liberals have always led with university graduates, while the Conservatives have been the go-to party for the college educated. In recent months, however, both camps seem to have parked themselves with the NDP. These findings are eerily reminiscent of the Alberta election earlier this year where the educated vote rallied around Rachel Notley’s NDP, propelling them to a majority win.

Duffy awakening slumbering electorate

It is not the campaign that has torn voters away from their summer BBQs; it’s the ongoing Duffy scandal. Attention to the Duffy trial is taking off in a big way; most Canadians are now following the trial and 29 per cent are following closely. A newly attentive public is watching this with considerable interest and the news is all bad for Harper.


Most notable about this finding are the demographic splits in terms of who is paying attention to the trial. Not surprisingly, those who are generally more politically engaged – university graduates, boomers, and seniors – are more likely to be following the trial. But it seems that Canadians of all political stripes are following this affair, with the exception of Conservative supporters. ‘Nothing to see here, move along!’


The issue has always been one of basic trust. If that is the yardstick the public are using to measure the Prime Minister on this affair, he is failing miserably. Mr. Harper could not have been clearer or more consistent in his account; he staunchly denies any prior knowledge of the affair and he maintains that Nigel Wright acted alone. However, only 21 per cent of Canadians buy his version of events and our nightly tracking suggests this figure is on a downward trend. Not only has this had a corrosive impact on his basement level approval ratings, but confidence in the direction of the country and federal government is plumbing record lows and these are important leading indicators of drag on the government’s already sagging voter support.


The Duffy affair is seen as on par with the Sponsorship scandal in terms of severity. Interestingly, the 2011 federal election voter suppression scandal (i.e., the Robocall scandal) is seen as more serious than either of these affairs. While both the Liberals and NDP have been hammering relentlessly at the Duffy affair, it is interesting that the Robocall scandal – a far graver concern in the minds of Canadians – has remained relatively untouched.


Trudeau up, Harper down on approval

In another bit of good news for the Liberals, Justin Trudeau’s approval numbers have rebounded and he once again enjoys a net positive approval score. Stephen Harper’s approval rating, meanwhile, has gone down and less than one-third of Canadians now approve of the way he is running the country. Mr. Mulcair maintains a huge advantage on approval and continues to be the only leader who can boast that a majority of Canadians approve of the way he is handling is job.





It’s the economy (and middle class), stupid!

Finally, we updated our tracking on most important election issue. The economy is now blotting out social, fiscal, and ethics issues; restoring middle class progress is similarly eclipsing issues related to the environment, security, and democratic renewal. These findings come at a particularly bad time for the current government, when both short- and medium-term economic outlook looking lousy (and possibly falling).

All in all, the Conservatives seem to be sitting on an inventory of gloom: the Duffy affair, Mr. Harper’s sagging approval ratings, abysmal ratings on direction of country and government, and a downright lousy economic outlook. Furthermore, our internal tracking suggests that Conservative supporters are actually less certain that they will show up and vote on Election Day. All of this leads us to think that the Government is on a banana peel and could be headed for an uncorrectable decline at a time when they desperately need to grow.




Direction of country/government




This study draws on data from two separate surveys, both of which were 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 the first survey are August 12-18, 2015. In total, a random sample of 2,893 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The field dates for second survey are August 19-25, 2015. In total, a random sample of 3,524 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-1.7 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 (August 28, 2015)

3 comments to Duffy Awakening Slumbering Electorate

  • Abram Wiebe

    My choice for party will be decided on one issue alone. I’ll choose the party that commits itself to problem solve by seeking a consensus from all stakeholders and then acting.

  • Wascally Wabbit

    Frank – For the last 2-3 elections – I have found your analysis / numbers more interesting than say NANOS, IPSOS or ANGUS-REID. OK – enough praise.
    clearly – when I compare numbers across all four polls differences arise – which I can put down in part to on the day poll variations and more obviously – weightings applied by the models to the raw numbers. One of the most oft quoted is that 60+ demographic votes more consistently than say 19-29 demographic. What is interesting in your polls is that education level is now looking to be a bigger influence than pure age – and all things considered – there will be more college and university grads in the younger demographics – even as these sub-groups are represented in ALL age demographics. So – first question – is your model weighted to take ths into account – because if not – I’d say you may be understating the NDP support by 2-3% and inflating the support for the other two main parties by that amount (shared) even by your own analysis here.
    Second point – most (all) of you are now trying to allocate the undecided as soft votes against the parties (based upon what they voted in 2011). I am wondering whether this is prudent – because they must be sitting on the fence for a reason – and presumably will jump down off that fence close to the election – triggered by some event or action – and though they could jump 50% black and 50% white – they could also mainly jump down on one side and produce the kind of last minute surge that blew pollsters minds in 2011 and last year in Ontario. Are there any other ways to skin this cat?

  • michael burke

    I have never been called or asked for my opinion in the 47 years I have lived in Canada, just wondering how that can be, have I been put on someone’s black list, It sure looks that way.

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