Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New EKOS, Old Strategic Counsel

Two new polls are out: a Strategic Counsel poll from last week, and the EKOS poll for this week. They show an overall Conservative lead of 2% and 1.7% respectively, which fits into the recent trend. Sadly, Strategic Counsel polls are not very useful for projection purposes: they do not provide Atlantic Canada numbers, their Québec numbers tend to be out-of-whack, and they lump all Western provinces together. In Ontario, this poll shows a 3% Liberal lead, which is almost spot on the recent poll average.

This week's EKOS poll is good news for the NDP, who are having their strongest showing in a while in both Atlantic Canada and BC. It is also favorable to the Bloc, marking their third straight increase in EKOS polling (32.7, 34.2, 36.1, 38.5). But because Ontario, which fluctuated wildly in late Spring, is now stubbornly stable, my projection remains almost flat:

CON - 123
LIB - 106
BQ - 46
NDP - 33

The EKOS poll also asked if Canadians would prefer a two-party system. They were quite split on the question, with a slight majority (56%) answering 'no'. Variations across political parties weren't huge: unsurprisingly, the Tories were more open to a two-party system, while the NDP and Greens were less so. Liberal voters were also less prone to support a two-party system, perhaps because their base consists disproportionately of university degree holders, who strongly oppose such a system (66%). The surprise was that Bloc voters were actually the most receptive to a two-party system (51%)! Perhaps in their mind, a two-party system means BQ vs. Lib in Québec. Or maybe a lot of them would actually rather vote Liberal or Conservative, but are voting Bloc strategically.

The poll also gave the following approval ratings for the leaders: Stephen Harper is at -11% (36-47), Michael Ignatieff is at -9% (29-38), while Jack Layton barely eked out a positive number at +1% (34-33). Not surprisingly, approval figures for Harper and Ignatieff mirror party support across the country. Layton is at around 30% everywhere, except in Québec where he's the most popular federalist leader at 40%, even though the NDP will be hard-pressed to win more than 1 out of 75 seats there. Own party approval ratings are not great for any leader, and especially low for Ignatieff (Harper 79%, Layton 68%, Iggy 59%). Iggymania is definitely over, even among Grits!

By contrast, President Obama's net approval rating among Canadians is a whopping +62% (73-11). Liberals especially like him (86-7), while Conservatives are less supportive (still 66-17). Finally, 87% of Canadians believe that Canada has a better health care system than the U.S., while only 7% believe the contrary. That 87% is a combination of 80% in Québec and around 90% in all other regions (even Alberta). Like last week's EKOS poll, this one shows us that Quebecers are not as left-wing as their voting patterns or provincial politics suggest.

The problem for the Tories is that Québec conservatism is entwined with Québec nationalism, which necessitates government interventions to support the arts and preserve heritage; the Conservative base is probably the most hostile of any party's to both Québec nationalism and government subsidies. Meanwhile, I think the ADQ wouldn't have fizzled out if it had a more credible team - but that's of course a chicken-and-egg problem.

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