This week's EKOS results are similar to last week's, but it is now the Liberals that have a small, statistically insignificant lead (0.5%). The poll was strong for the Tories in Atlantic Canada (3.3% lead; small sample size though), and for the Grits in Québec (29.1%) and Ontario (7.6% lead). As a result, both the Conservatives and the Liberals gain a seat in the projection, while the Bloc loses two:
CON - 129
LIB - 95
BQ - 48
NDP - 36
Several news outlets have also reported the national numbers of a recent Harris-Decima poll, which gave a 1-point edge to the Tories (32-31). However, the poll has not been added to the projection due to a lack of regional numbers.
The national poll average corresponding to the above projection shows a 2.5% Conservative lead. Why does it translate into a large 34-seat advantage? (Remember that the Tories won the 2006 election by 6%, but only 21 seats.) There are several reasons, the first two of which explain the difference with 2006:
1. The Ontario gap (the difference between the Lib-Con gap in Ontario and nationally) is quite small: just over 5%. In 2006, it was just under 11%, while in 2004 and 2008, it was about 6%. A large Ontario gap favours the Liberals, while a small one is good for the Conservatives; by my reckoning, 7-8% would be about neutral.
2. Quirks in the 2008 Ontario results: the Tories won just 3 seats by between 1% and 8%, but 10 seats by 8% to 12%. The projected swing is currently 8%. As you can see, the Liberals are approaching the Red Zone (apt expression here, isn't it?). In fact, if my projection accounted for swing uncertainty, the Liberals would take a few seats from the Tories.
3. Québec: Were the Liberals ahead of the Tories by 8% in any other region with 75 seats, it would get an advantage much greater than 8 seats (for example, it would be about 24 seats out of 106 in Ontario, which is 17 seats out of 75 if pro-rated). That doesn't hold in Québec due to the presence of the Bloc. Of course, it's hard to say if the Liberals would actually lead the Conservatives by 8% in Québec if the Bloc were absent...
4. Liberal/NDP split in MB, SK, BC: The Conservative vote is extremely efficient in these regions due to the split. The Tories get about half the seats in BC with just a third of the vote, and almost all the seats in Saskitoba outside Winnipeg with just 45% of the vote. The Liberals cannot do that in any region.
Wasted Tory votes in Alberta act as a counterweight to the 4 points above, but not enough to balance things out. As a result, to pull even in terms of seats, the Liberals probably need a 1-2 point lead in vote intentions.
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