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             Federal Election Polls For Ontario: Crucial But Still Quite Murky

 

By Randall White

It is now the week after Labour Day, in the middle of September. And the first plain truth about polling in the 2015 Canadian federal election is that there continues to be much indecisive subtle movement, since the unusually long campaign officially began back on August 2. 

At one point or another, each of the three major parties has now been a marginal front-runner in one poll or another. 

Yet, with five weeks to go until the October 19 election day, the underlying deepest truth is that all of the Harper Conservatives, Trudeau Liberals, and Mulcair New Democrats remain in serious contention.

As matters stand, any of Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair, or Justin Trudeau could be Canada’s next prime minister — for a while, at any rate. 

Another pretty deep truth is that we are having five or six different regional contests rather than anything that seriously resembles a single cross-Canada event. 

Just looking at the Nanos Nightly Tracking released on Monday, for example, the Liberals retain a substantial lead in Atlantic Canada (43% of the regional vote).

The New Democrats similarly still have a strong lead in Quebec (42%). And the Conservatives are still in the driver’s seat on the Prairies (45%). 

There have been some ups and downs in these three regional leads over the past while, but they have shown a degree of stability as well.

All three regional leads in the Nanos nightly tracking are also broadly confirmed by an Abacus poll released on the same day: Liberals ahead in Atlantic Canada (48%), NDP in Quebec (47%), and Conservatives on the Prairies (49% in Alberta, 41% in Manitoba/Saskatchewan).

In the two largest English-speaking provinces — in beautiful BC and the most populous battleground province of Ontario — the scene remains more volatile. 

Both BC and Ontario are provinces where the Harper Conservatives did well in their triumphant 2011 majority government election. And the current polling averages are at least saying they will not do as well in 2015.

Yet exactly how much worse the Conservatives might do, and to who’s main advantage, in each of the still different cases of Ontario and BC, remains somewhat murky at best. (And perhaps especially in Ontario.)

The parliamentary seat allocations based on the polling averages in Eric Grenier’s latest CBC Poll suggest different winners and losers in Ontario and BC.

It gives 21 of BC’s 42 seats to the Mulcair New Democrats, 10 to the Liberals, and 10 to the Conservatives.

The same source gave 54 of Ontario’s 121 seats to the Harper Conservatives, 46 to the Liberals, and a mere 21 to the elsewhere high-riding NDP!

This is all tidy enough, some will say, so long as you stick to the smoothed-over world of polling averages. But the picture grows murky all over again, when you start looking at individual polls. 

Ontario, by virtue of sheer demographic weight and heft — i.e. with 121 of the 338 seats Canada-wide — is almost certainly the utterly crucial case in point. 

The CBC Poll Tracker averages, for example, still include a Forum Research poll of 1308 Canadians taken on September 9–10. And it reports “In the crucial battleground of Ontario, the NDP has a slight lead (34%) over the Conservatives and Liberals (31% each).”

This was different again from a September 4–10 poll from Innovative Research, which reported, “Libs now hold 10-point lead in Ontario.”

Like the CBC Poll Tracker, the September 14 Nanos results for Ontario show the Conservatives ahead on September 13, with 36% of the regional vote. And this rank and number are confirmed by the September 14 Abacus poll, based on data from September 9–11.

At the same time, the Nanos Nightly Tracking data itself shows the Liberals ahead of the Conservatives in Ontario as recently as September 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11.

So ... another aspect of the thirst for change in this election seems to be that the voters of Ontario (and let’s bring BC back into the story now too) keep changing their minds. A bit.

Whatever else, it seems that whoever finally wins or loses enough Ontario seats on election day will probably win or lose the election — whatever “winning” may exactly prove to mean on October 19. 

Yet Election Day is still almost five weeks away. And the ultimate Ontario result is still quite unclear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Randall White

Randall White is a former senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and a former economist with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He is the author of Ontario 1610-1985: A Political and Economic History and Ontario Since 1985. He writes frequently about Ontario politics.
Posted date : September 15, 2015

View all of Randall White's columns
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