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Three-Way Tie as Voters Try and Sort Out Who Can Solve the Economy


[Ottawa – September 4, 2015] There have been some movements in an electorate that is becoming reluctantly engaged in a now month-old campaign that they are loosely acknowledging. If there was a sense that the Duffy scandal was beginning to awaken voters and weigh down on the Conservative fortunes, that sense has pretty well evaporated over the past couple of weeks. Attention deficit disordered voters appear to have at least temporarily moved on and the Conservatives now find themselves in a three-way tie with the NDP and Liberals.

In what has been a familiar dance, promiscuous progressive voters have been shifting again. This time, the movements clearly favour the rejuvenated Liberals who have moved up by about as much as the NDP has moved down.



These movements reflect the most fluid group in the electorate but they also leave Stephen Harper’s constituency intact. Ironically, this is probably increasing Harper’s prospects of re-election, precisely the opposite of the goal of those voters casting back and forth across the NDP and the Liberal Party in search of an antidote to Harper rule. This dynamic is no more vividly evident than in Ontario where Conservatives will be direct beneficiaries of a futile split of NDP and Liberal voters who share a higher order goal of displacing the incumbent.

NDP losing ground everywhere outside Quebec, Liberals improving standing in Ontario and Atlantic Canada

In recent weeks, the NDP has fallen back just about everywhere except Quebec, where they remain the dominant party by a huge margin. The Bloc Québécois has lost whatever momentum they briefly picked up upon the return of Gilles Duceppe, but they are still hanging around and are not out of the game yet. The Liberals now find themselves on the winning end of what is a tight, three-way race in Ontario and Atlantic Canada is looking increasingly positive for them. Alberta and Saskatchewan remain safely in the hands of the Conservative Party.

The NDP seems to be losing traction with seniors, while the Liberals are clawing back some of the university vote they lost to the NDP. The numbers on direction of country and government are largely unchanged, although the gap between NDP supporters and other constituencies in terms of federal direction has disappeared. In short, the NDP is no longer a rallying point for disgruntled voters.




So why are some progressive voters shifting back to the Liberals? Before we answer this question, it is important to understand where Canadians stand in terms of their most important issue.

The role of the economy and middle class progress

First, we will try and refine what we think is on the minds of Canadians when they think about the economy; it’s really quite different than the media narrative and none of the parties have provided a convincing answer, yet.

It is important to note the radical disconnect across the relatively sanguine and mirthful account of the economy coming from Mr. Harper (‘envy of the G7’) and the jarringly different world that voters, consumers, and workers live in. For some time, a huge majority of Canadians have felt that we are in recession. As the official statistics catch up to the wisdom of crowds we also note that arid discussions of what type, how serious and whether we are in recession at all may be grist for the media and punditocracy, the positive economy is risibly preposterous to what most Canadians are experiencing and feeling. It is also not simply whether we have entered a recession, but rather a deeper concern that it comes on the heels of an unusual and protracted period of very tepid growth where most of the meagre pie has been going to a small sliver at the top of the heap.

Moreover, this sense of stagnation – and, for many, decline – is less troubling than the even darker future Canadians see for themselves and their children. Granted, this dark picture is much brighter for the Conservative base, but the overall economic mood is very bleak indeed. The concerns do not simply or even mostly concern the immediate issue of the R-word. The broader concerns are a deep anxiety that progress and the middle class bargain are broken. It is these daunting issues that Canadians want dealt with and for most available progressive voters, a balanced budget is a much lower priority than investments in new measures to grow the economy.



Clearly, the economy and restoring middle class progress are the dominant issues (by far). While no party has ownership of these issues, it is notable that public favour is shifting from NDP to the Liberals. The NDP still retains a commanding lead on social issues, but these issues have waned in importance amid growing economic uncertainty and unless the NDP can link these issues to economic well-being, their advantage in this area will do them little good on Election Day.



These movements – along with his improved standing on both approval and vote intention – suggest that Justin Trudeau has helped himself with his proposed deficit-funded infrastructure spending program. Thomas Mulcair, meanwhile, seems to be hurting himself with his promise of a balanced budget, suggesting that Canadians are leery of focusing on fiscal rectitude – rather than kick-starting the economy – when middle class workers have not seen a real wage increase in years. Furthermore, concerns with fiscal discipline are largely concentrated in the Conservative camp, which is largely unavailable to the NDP. At best, Mr. Mulcair may be making himself mildly less objectionable to those who won’t vote for him and ignoring the preferences of his available constituency. While we understand the importance of signalling fiscal prudence, the NDP may want to consider the potential fall-out more carefully.

Some NDP supporters shift Liberal, but no net change in vote ceiling

As we mentioned earlier, virtually all of this week’s movements have occurred with the ‘promiscuous progressive’ segment of the electorate or, rather, those voters who express ambivalence between the Liberals and NDP and are predominantly focused on a change in government. Looking at second choice, we see that Liberal gains have led to a corresponding rise in the percentage of Canadians choosing the NDP as their second choice. In the end, neither party has seen a net shift in their potential vote ceiling. These results once again underline the challenge of the centre-left continuously cannibalizing its own vote in search of gains.



While voting splitting among the centre-left certainly benefits the Conservative Party, these results also highlight the challenges faced by the current government. While the party is the first choice of nearly 30 per cent of eligible voters, they have almost no room to grow. Indeed, just six per cent of non-Conservative voters would consider casting a ballot for Stephen Harper, giving the party a potential vote ceiling of 35 points – well short of what is generally considered the minimum threshold for a majority government.

Duffy affair fades

With the trial on break until November, the Duffy effects that seemed to be weighing down Conservative fortunes have largely dissipated. It is the economy that now looms as the master issue for a public who saw this recession clearly some time before the ‘official economy’ has anointed it with the R-word. At this point, the economy is largely eclipsing all of the other major concerns that Canadians hold.


Direction of country/government:



Approval ratings:







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 August 26-September 1, 2015. In total, a random sample of 3,243 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 (September 4, 2015)

32 comments to Three-Way Tie as Voters Try and Sort Out Who Can Solve the Economy

  • Ed Loeppky

    “Attention deficit disordered voters”? Seriously? I guess I can’t expect too much from a lefty biased site.

  • Hubert Honeycotte

    Because we have several more weeks to decide, maybe by that time we will have something more solid to help us make the right choice.

    Mr. Harper near the bridge is similiar to Mr. Day at the falls several years ago. (Remmember the water flowing south or north).

  • Hubert Honeycotte

    No more comments at this time.

  • well, i was going to suggest that’s a deep analysis for results that are mostly within the margin of error, but i do agree that you’re pulling out a measurable trend in the liberals being preferred to the ndp on the economy.

  • Liam

    The CPC need to be in the teen percentage.Harperman it’s
    time for you to go.

    • CRAP are Gits

      The Communist Party of Canada has always geared their message to the young.
      Are you referring to the CRAP? Conservative Reform Alliance Party?

  • John Graham

    Is that an error on your graphic about Manitoba supporting the Liberals at 45%? Doesn’t fit with any of the other polls and that could be a source of error which puts the Liberals a bit higher in this poll than others.

    This is definitely a ‘throw the bums out’ election, so tactical voters will be looking to see whether the NDP or Liberals are their best bet and then will swing to that. I still think the NDP are well positioned.

  • Wascally Wabbit

    I still have a concern that your current model – allocating undecideds as soft votes – based upon previous voting actions – rather than showing the numbers of undecideds – is skewing your results.

    • Frank Graves

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your feedback.

      To be clear, we do not allocate undecided votes based on previous voting actions. Instead, we ask them a follow-up question:

        Even if you do not have a firm idea, are you leaning towards a party? (yes/no)
        As it stands, towards which party are you leaning? (LPC/CPC/NDP/GP/BQ/Other/undecided)

      If an undecided respondent indicates that they are indeed leaning towards a party AND they provide a valid response to the second question, we include them with the decided voters. Otherwise, we leave them as “undecided” and we don’t include them when we report on federal vote intention. In our last poll, about six per cent of voters were “leaning” voters.

      There are arguments both for and against using leaning voters and we believe that our method is correct but, in the end, it makes very little difference either way. The differences between only using first declaration and getting leaning intentions are trivial at best. As you can see in the chart below, including leaning voters shift this week’s results by only a few tenths of a percentage point:

      Decided vs. Leaning

      Frank Graves

  • Brian C

    There’s still lots of time to make up your minds but the way I see it we need the competent person to lead our country and of course all the other parties can come up with more spending and ruin the economy. They just say what the electoral wants to hear in order to win. Just like Kathleen win did. She promised everyone everything. Harper truly is what this Country needs federally to keep our country safe and with sound fiscal management. Let the provincial governments take our tax money just like the billions in the E Health, Orange and the Gas plant scandals, and it’s so ironic that they won a Majority. Keep spending , but where are we going to be ??? Federally we need sound fiscal management and a leader that has to say No even though it is difficult. Wake up Canada , let’s stay at the top of the heap and keep our Government intact with the proven leadership that we all deserve with the Conservatives!

    • Patrick Rogers

      I am 100% sure you mean well, but on the Federal level, balancing the budget when growth is extremely tepid and we need infrastructure spending and we can borrower cheap, is not the correct move per straight forward economics.
      Find some economic blogs to follow on the web(ones that have gotten things right, not wrong) and you may find that focusing on a balanced budget right now, does not make any sense.
      Also some mild borrowing that does not up the debt to GDP ratio, is perfectly safe.
      Ignoring the needs of Canadians and our infrastructure, is not perfectly safe.




  • R B

    Careful assuming that Liberals can rescue the economy. They rescue by throwing gas/money at fire, remember…

  • rk86

    One thing that theses polls show is that more people think this gov and country is moving in the wrong direction. That alone could force a higher turnout, and a higher turn out isn’t good for Harper. A month before the 2011 election 41% thought the Gov was moving in the right direction and 51% thought this country was moving in the right direction. This poll now shows that only 35% think the Gov and 43% think the country is moving in the right direction.

  • Martin Jones

    We have seen enough of Harper. We’re unfortunately going in the wrong direction with him. He’s attacking freedom of speech, doing very little for the economy (we’re in a recession because he failed to help all sectors and put all his eggs in one basket. He tried to balance the books too soon and was too harsh and it blew up in his face), obviously hidding the truth to Canadians and deteriorating our international image (I’ll admit the last point is not critical but it doesn’t represent who we are). Let’s not even think about the environment. Some may like his ideas and in fairness, he’s far from being stupid. But it’s in the way he does things. It’s in the way he will cut on jobs, its in the way he cuts on EI, it’s in the way he will favor those who already have money (tfsa, income split), it’s in the way he’s prepared to wage war but will not assist refugies… he’s just plain mean and somehow, to hold this job, you have to care for your people. He cares for power and control and for those who have money. The others, they’re on their own.

    One man was saying that he was still voting for Harper because he preferred the devil he knew. Following this logic, it means that as soon as someone cares little about his people and puts in a regime of austerity and fear you should keep voting for him, just in case someone else may be worst? How can we loose hope to that point? You may not like the other guys but ask yourself about their intentions. They may have done something unclever but consider their intentions towards their people and to democracy.

    Tonight, before going to bed, ask yourself if you really want to live in a country where we no longer care about each other. You see, when you get in this mindset, you’re assuming that you will always get the upper hand and that you will never need anybody to give you a hand at a time of need. Perhaps you will succeed for a time but there will always be someone hungrier waiting for a moment of weakness to take your place. That person may be your neightbor or someone from a country far away. If you want to live by these rules and do a burnout be my guest. We can’t keep on living like Harper wants us to live. Another 4 years of this regime and it will be a country where the rich will richer and the poor will be poorer. The books will be balanced and in order for sure. But ask yourself:are you going to be poor or rich? Even Albertans can’t tell you right now…

  • Martin Jones

    Don’t get me wrong. We need some form of fiscal restraint. It goes without saying. But we need to do it smarter. For instance, cutting public services jobs is not the best thing at this moment. Last thing we need is more unemployed. However, nothings says we can’t cut on some conditions and benefits that creates an unfairness right now. Nothing says we can’t ask departments not to replace departures. Over the course of 2-3 years, these measures can save billions while making sure we keep a light government focused on the essential items. But Harper chose another way. He instead chose to put people out of jobs and did nothing to correct the unfairness.

    At the end of the day, you still have a low paid job in the private sector, work far too many hours and are on the brink of a burnout. All you have is less jobs and more people competing with you for the remaining jobs. But if you have money, this is great news. You have people ready to compete and work for you for less and at any condition you dictate. But if all you have is a private sector job, don’t expect Harper to do anything to improve on your condition. Sure, he’ll cut 1-2% on your taxes eventually, but is this what makes the difference? Do you even see the difference? But having more jobs available with a better salary, trust me, that makes a difference. Did you see Harper doing this in his 9 years except maybe for Alberta? And even now, in their time of need, he won’t do anything to help them. They’re on their own. Now that they have 300,000 mortgage and no more jobs, tough luck. His answer to the fall of oil prices: let’s now consider another sector. Oil is so yesterday. Don’t trust this guy to work for you because he won’t. He works for whoever has money at the time.

  • Bruno

    Brian how much is Harper paying you to say that?

    ” Wake up Canada , let’s stay at the top of the heap and keep our Government intact with the proven leadership that we all deserve with the Conservatives”

    How about no? Harper has a proven failed track record with broken promises.

  • Mike Pond

    The NDP is better positioned foe a shot at running Canada lets guve them
    A majority and let them lead us.what can we lise we sent the Liberals into 3rd
    party status because as voters we can do that so join together and do the same to Harper.Justgo and vote its your right. But don’t forget your correect documents (thanks Steve) or you can’t vote. KEEP CALM AND ORANGE CRUSH ON.

  • shirley haggar

    Justin Trudeau is an honest person and a ‘breath of fresh air’ from the unreal talking points we have had to listen to from especially the Harper team. I hope he continues to show the country what a common sense and honest direction the country can go in and help build back our country and credibility around the world. The young people who are trying desperately to pay for an education and our apprenticeship programs need to be funded by the federal government, a much better way to use our tax dollars.

  • jam dye

    Hopefully, across all issues the fight between backroom scripts re-announced versus a leader’s extended understanding of those issues will pit the final contest between “just not ready” and “ready for change”

  • mark b

    Really? People are actually considering voting for the NDP..or is this a joke? I guess if people are fine with paying even higher taxes to help pay everyone else’s bills then sure, vote NDP or liberal. Just dont forget where Greece and Spain are financially these days. To think there are this many Canadians willing to risk an NDP government and start Canada on a path to utter demise is truly disturbing

  • Martin Jones

    What is disturbing is people ready to vote conservatve. What good is balancing the books if you no longer have a job or can’t just afford a home or simple vacations because you’re working like 60 hours a week at minimum wage? Harper doesn’t care about your living conditions. I’m not saying balancing books and being disciplined doesn’t make sense. But now is not the time and you have to be careful how you implement it. We need to restart the economy first and then worry about the debt. What we should immediately do however is cut on public service benefits and put a freeze on hiring for 2-3 years. You would be surprised at how much money those simple measures represent. All of this without a single loss of a job.

    In all that has been said so far, Harper said nothing to reassure me. He’s thinking all is fine and that staying the course will magically solve everything. I tend to disagree. I’m surprised that Alberta which is being hit the hardest is not asking for some form of stimulus to wait out the storm on gas. It may be a couple of years before oil prices come back up. China may also cause our economy to take a dip for a couple of years. Just doing nothing and staying the course is in my opinion the dangerous option right now. An example of the result of doing nothing: Harper did close to nothing to stimulate manufacturing. Yes, he gave a tax break to companies but he didn’t tie it to any requirement to invest the tax break back into the economy. Result: we have Flaherty trying to get back money from fiscal paradises in 2013 because the owners just decided to get richer. Flaherty understood how it worked back then. He never openly disagreed with Harper but you could feel this man really wanted to make sense and care for his people. The day he left, the conservatives lost the only common sense they had… and now, our manufacturing is not performing enough to take advantage of the US recovery…

  • mike mason

    The polls above tell us a certain amount about the Canadian electorate. First of all, the NDP voters tend to be better educated and younger than Conservatives. Imagine recent g graduates from universities and their profs. Second, they tend to be women. Women predominate in universities and several caring professions- teaching, medicine, social work. Organized labour is obviously strongly NDP- in Windsor, northern Ontario, Quebec, the BC coast. This must be heartening for the NDP. Conservatives tend to be rural and suburban males, rednecks in rural Ontario, the Fraser Valley, retirees in the Okanogan and men associated with the oil patch. Liberals are in between and strongly represented in the richer urban ridings. Caricature as CEOs, bankers, etc. It is not clear where the various “ethnics” and religious minorities stand: Anglos in the Maritimes are Liberal, Francos in Quebec and northern Ontario are NDP, evangelicals, Anabaptists, South Asian businessmen go for Harper (and the BJP), Chinese probably Liberals, Israel supporters for Harper although much of this is not clear.
    Pity there are so few women like Elizabeth May running as this would probably influence voters. Much of what passes as common sense is just impressionistic hot air: the world price of oil which has scuppered the Tories is something no Canadian politician has control over.

  • mark b

    I wonder how much mulcair and justin we’re thinking about refugees and fighting terrorism while they marched merrily along in the gay pride parades…oh wait never mind, I forgot those two aren’t interested in combating terrorism

  • am i correct in deducing that the national average of “other” is 2%, but the value in alberta is 4%?

    your polling has put the conservatives not far from their historical floor, which is more believable. and you’ve got big sample sizes and proven methods. but, other polling firms are consistently putting them in the mid 20s – numbers that the national conservative party has only ever seen when it’s fractured on it’s RIGHT.

    so, it’s getting harder and harder to deny that they’re polling in the 20s. but, that requires an explanation, and “they’re voting for the ndp” kind of doesn’t cut it. demographics change over time, sure. maybe the country is on the brink of a generational overhaul. it does happen. but, i think that occam’s razor means paying close to attention to this “other” vote, first. you’re actually doing this right, so you’re probably the best firm to draw attention to this to.

  • CRAP are Gits

    Prior to their departure into oblivion, Myron Baloney’s government had spent everything, cut taxes, and left us with a 69 cent US dollar.
    When the Liberals came into office, they turned the economy around. We had a dollar that eventually became worth more than our neighbours to the south. Stever and crew came into office with a government running a SURPLUS. The deficit and the debt were being paid off. So began the usual Conservative Reform Alliance Party system of economics of slashing taxes and spending money; like Myron Baloney’s time. Ten years in with a debt larger than Myron left behind, these idiots are saying, ‘we are going to balance the books’ this coming from someone who studied, but never worked as an Economist. Should have learned how to balance the books like his father who was an Accountant. Had the CRAP stayed the course, and cut taxes later, we would be better off. Got fooled then, but not now.

  • Seasoned Westcoaster

    The Conservative American style attack ads have really swayed my opinion….I’m gonna vote for the guy with the nicest hair! Apparently so are a lot of others as polling numbers are now beginning to show! 10 years of arrogance is enough! So long Blueboy with the chipmunk smile…..not many believe you anymore!

  • Les Witt

    I have been reading these posted notes. It seems to me that in an economy subjected to international pressures, the Canadian Federal government can do little to change the outcome. To throw TAXPAYERS money into short term make work programs is both foolish and short sighted. Once the money has been spent one should never be under the assumption that the employer who spent the money it received from the Government is going to continue operations. Governments do not create long term jobs. Small business and entrepreneurial risk creates tax paying jobs. For Mr Trudeau to recommend that his government would add a minimum of 30 billion borrowed dollars to the national debt is irresponsible and foolhardy. Whether you people know it or not, Canada has been at the mercy of the Global economy for several years now. We do not have a magic wand that can negate its effects. The Canadian Government is one small player that is subject to international politics and Power. Our little economy will continually be bounced and negatively affected by forces we do not control. From where I stand. it does not matter who is
    Prime Minister, the result will be the same. So the choice is clear. Do we grit our teeth and wait this out, or do we borrow billions of dollars only to find out at the end that the money is spent, and the situation remains unchanged? If you guys think for 1 minute that Mr. Trudeau’s plan to tax the “wealthy” a little bit will help us, or Mr. Mulcairs little 2% tax hike on small business is going to be an incentive to create jobs and stir the economy.. Give your head a shake. No one is feeling the pinch more than small business and you can bet your last dollar, they will lose and employee before they lose the business.

    NDP is tax And spend, (remember they were once named the” Canadian Communist Federation, and now since they have seen the light they are now a socialist party – small difference. CSo if you want your government interfering and legislating your life in ever increasing waves vote NDP or if you want to be taxed to death vote Liberal. Get a grip folks, there is no choice to be made here if you actually take time to think about it.. welcome to the real world.

  • Sarah B.C.

    It is genuinely terrifying to read what devoted conservatives believe. They are like a cult of uneducated rednecks that are swooned by big words from a white guy in a suit… the conservative’s I have had the chance to meet in my life are prejudice, racist and would rather waste gas on having massive bonfires during a fire ban… but, to their credit, they get off their arse’s and vote… as if rallying to some mud pit to drive around aimlessly to cover their trucks in, well, mud.

    Yes Canada, that is truly who you are contending with, conservatives in this country are destroying it UNKNOWINGLY in every way imaginable out of sheer ignorance and lack of education. The liberals and NDP definitely have their work cut out for themselves, mainly the ones who support them! Oh the green party, as a nation we won’t see her as PM, however she has proven to be the most capable for the job, her education, eloquence and calm and concise demeanor of actually explaining her agenda has been a breath of fresh air, but alas that utopia will have to wait.

    Literally anyone, yes that’s right you conservative rednecks, ANYONE is better than harper, I hope you all get your heads out of the mud pit and think, read and educate yourselves FOR ONCE, when you do, it is painfully obvious how manipulated and wrong your views about Harper and the conservatives really are.

    If you know a conservative supporter, it is time for an intervention. We as a country need to show the conservative supporters some empathy and sit them down and explain things in a way they can understand. I recommend starting with a case of beer and wearing neutral clothing, but be sure to get their attention at the driveway, you wouldn’t want to startle them as they might greet you with a (unregistered) shotgun.

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