Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Two Bad Polls for the Liberals

Angus Reid and EKOS have the Conservatives up by 7 and 5.2 points respectively over the Liberals. This confirms the anti-Liberal tendency observed since Ignatieff declared that he no longer supports the Harper government. This also makes the most recent Ipsos poll less of an outlier, and suggests that something odd, beyond methodological differences, was going on in the mid-August Ipsos poll (Really Conservative data points? Rogue interviewer?)...

Although the Angus Reid and EKOS polls give the Tories similar national leads, the Angus Reid poll is by far more devastating to the Liberals: it has the Conservatives 12% ahead in Ontario, compared to just 4.6% according to EKOS. For this reason, the Angus Reid poll - just like the Ipsos - would actually imply that the Tories are very close to a majority (despite having only 36% nationally), while the EKOS poll - just like the Harris-Decima - suggests that they are nowhere near.

All this makes the Liberals lose 5 seats in my projection, mostly going to the Tories:

CON - 134
LIB - 93
BQ - 48
NDP - 33

It will be interesting to see how the NDP fares in the next round of polls now that it has all but declared that it would support the government long enough to avoid an election in 2009. Will left-wing Canadians reward Layton for "making Parliament work," or will they punish him for allying with the Devil? This looks like a make-or-break moment for the NDP. Fortunately for them, it's in Harper's interest not to damage the NDP too much, in order for the Liberals to remain weak. So perhaps the Prime Minister will try to keep the number of confidence votes to a minimum, in order to avoid embarrassing the NDP each time. Heck, he may even decide to move to the center just to make Ignatieff look like the bad guy! But if Canadians punish the Liberals too much in the polls for election mongering, Harper may decide to introduce a poison pill that would force the NDP to defeat him.

I feel that although the NDP may not feel too much public opinion pain in the short run due to public relief at avoiding an election, this is a tremendously dangerous strategy for Layton: if he indeed carries through supporting the government for months, he risks being Dionized, and losing a good number of left-wing voters come next election. These voters will eventually get over their relief of avoiding an election - probably, and inconveniently for Layton, just as the next campaign begins.

The numbers look bad for the Liberals for now. But if the next few months indeed feature a Conservative government propped up by the NDP, both will lose their main attack line against the Liberals. Who's forming an alliance with the socialists now? And who's the chicken? Ignatieff is getting a pretty good deal out of this, provided that Canadians do not hold it against him to have almost provoked an election this fall. Historically, voters don't care about such things once a campaign is underway. Will this time be different?

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