Unsurprisingly, the new Ipsos Reid poll (more details via ThreeHundredEight.com) has the Conservatives far ahead, 39% to the Liberals' 30%. The NDP, however, has dropped to 12% from 14% in the previous Ipsos poll. In my projection model, that 2% and the way it's distributed across the country really hurt: the NDP drops from 30 to 21 seats in one-poll projections. Also, based on this poll alone, I have the Tories winning exactly half the seats in the House - literally on the cusp of a majority.
Incorporating this poll into the aggregate projection gives CON 131, LIB 99, BQ 48 and NDP 30. However, I've also decided to change the way in which I project Nunavut, in light of the great attention that it has received from the Harper government, and that Leona Aglukkaq will enjoy the first-time incumbent advantage. So the new projection is now:
CON - 132
LIB - 98
BQ - 48
NDP - 30
In one week, the NDP has lost 7 seats, and the Conservatives have gained 10. The NDP may feel that things are bad now, but it's not hard to see how things could get even worse if they prop up Harper enough times to avoid a fall election (i.e. both on Friday's ways and means motion, and on the Liberal non-confidence motion in 2 weeks). After all, I'd guess that a good chunk of 2008 NDP voters were actually Liberals voting for an MP that would not roll over on confidence votes; if the NDP starts supporting the government, those voters are gone. In addition, many Dippers could become demoralized and stay home if they see Layton vote confidence enough times.
Without fatigue at a dozen years of Liberal government and the sponsorship scandal like in 2006, and without a disorganized Liberal party with a weak leader like in 2008, the NDP is likely to return to 2004 levels of support. Their current saving grace is that they are the party that opposes the Conservatives, but that credential could evaporate over the next month.
In fact, according to polls, the NDP's popular support is already back at 2004 levels. I still have them at 30 seats (vs. 19 in 2004) because their vote has become much more efficient (e.g. they got 7 seats in Ontario with 18.1% in 2004, and 17 seats with 18.2% in 2008). But with Jack Layton not as new and exciting as back then, a toothless NDP could dip further, thus returning their seat total to 2004 levels.
If the NDP supports the government on Friday, they will have until the Liberals' motion to choose: do they accept to go into an election where they will likely sustain moderate losses? Or do they postpone the election in the hopes that things get better, but also risk losing all of the gains they made over the past 5 years?
If the NDP does get Harper through the fall, and if its support indeed collapses as a result, we might get a semi-stable Parliament, with the NDP wanting to avoid an election at all cost. Of course, then, each vote for the government risks pushing Layton's band further into irrelevance.