Friday, April 06, 2007

Harper Majority?

The raw horse race numbers suggest Harper knocking on the majority door, and yet Decima's own polling tells us such a conclusion is suspect at best:
The poll, provided exclusively to The Canadian Press, put Tory support at 39 per cent -- nine points ahead of the Liberals and within spitting distance of the 40 per cent mark generally needed to secure a majority.

The NDP were at 13 per cent, and the Greens and Bloc Quebecois were at eight per cent each.

Ahead in Ontario, or just evidence of volatility?:
Over the past seven weeks, Decima's weekly polls have put the Tories ahead three times in Ontario, the Liberals ahead three times and the two parties tied once. The most recent poll, conducted March 30-April 2, put the Tories ahead with 42 per cent to the Liberals' 36 per cent, the NDP's 11 per cent and the Green Party's nine per cent.

And, what of Quebec, these numbers are hardly what the cash infusion had in mind:
The latest poll put the Bloc at 31 per cent for the second time in a month -- the lowest score the Bloc has earned in Decima polls over the past two years. The Liberals were close behind with 26 per cent while the Tories had 21 per cent and the Greens and NDP were tied at eight per cent.

The title reads "Tories closer to majority", but the thesis of this poll is articulated by Decima CEO Bruce Anderson:
Anderson said the fluctuating results in Ontario suggest voters are disengaged, do not see much difference between the Tories and Liberals and are thus able to switch preferences for little apparent reason and with little enduring commitment. And that makes them highly unpredictable.

"In a world where people feel that the risk of trying different choices is relatively low because the economy is strong, there aren't big crisis issues, all the parties are gravitating towards the centre, then the chance that voters will do unexpected things in the course of an election goes up.''

Would you prefer to see the Conservatives score less than 39%? Yes. Do these numbers mean doom and gloom for the Liberals? Absolutely not.

More and more, it looks like the actual campaign will be the difference in where people ultimately park their votes. You can't put much stock in objectively soft numbers, and if you want to take the "half full" argument, there is real opportunity in the volatility for the Liberals. If you accept the vacillating voter argument, then a mere 4% flip gets us back to a dead heat.

I would also take some solace in the fact that Harper still runs third in Quebec, despite his complete fixation with winning over Quebecers. Where is the budget bounce? Fiscal imbalance solved, yet no reward. The entire budget was crafted with Quebec in mind. Harper alienated other provinces to curry favor with Quebecers. If there is no gain in Quebec, then the real setbacks in some provinces, make the budget a net loser for the Conservatives.

One thing to consider, as it relates to Ontario. People have become accustomed to voting Liberal, they might be flirting with the Tories, but a strong platform, sprinkled with strong federalism rhetoric and talk of the "right wing" will play well. It will not take a herculean effort to bring people back to the Liberal fold, Harper hasn't endeared himself in any concrete way. A lot will depend on Dion, and his ability to get his message across.

Maybe we should be worried, but as is the case with many of the recent polls, the headline doesn't tell the real story, the devil is in the details. There's hope in them there internals.

22 comments:

A BCer in Toronto said...

I've been reading poll stories headlined "Harper edges closer to a majority" for six or more months now. Either he's edging really, really, really slowly, or he's stalled shy of a majority.

Steve V said...

Jeff

That is a great point! If I had the time, I could do a headline chronology to show the perpetual "closing in". The real story isn't the "edging", but "banging his head on the ceiling".

rockfish said...

Great vivasection, Steve. All the headline writers and managing editors may be cheerleading, but the real impression one gets is 'ennui' from the voters. Quebec's numbers suggest that, even with the Bloc at an all-time low, they would likely lose few seats and neither the Cons nor Libs would gain but a couple... In Ontario it remains fairly volatile and perhaps Harpor is preferring an election closer to the provincial one, seeing as bashing Grits will be inseason then.
But when you factor in that the Cons' strength of Alberta can only amount to 28 seats tops and these numbers, even if they stick would bring more than 140-145 seats. Weighing Alberta vs Atlantic Canada and you'd see Harpor actually lose seats!
But we can't expect him to stay the course forever. Harpor is one slippery snake and has a definite supporter in CanWest management. How they spin each announcement/step is going to be all about preparing the traction.

Anonymous said...

Again, this is one poll. It seems to be a pattern over and over again - Harper leading in the polls, other polls taken and then Harper is NOT in majority territory.

Too many polls taken? It's been the same pattern since last summer.

Steve V said...

rockfish

The Conservatives will lose seats in Atlantic Canada, and possibly Saskatchewan. Even if the Conservatives pickup seats in Quebec, it won't be a "paint the province blue" scenario, which leaves Ontario, and all the polls show no firm trend. I've seen polls with the Liberals up 8 points, others the Cons up 5-6. Who knows? Another point, has Harper done himself any favours in B.C in with his budget? I don't see how.

wayward son said...

The most interesting thing for me is the NDP at 11% in Ontario. If that was to hold (and most other polls I have seen has them at similar numbers) then they would likely be reduced from their 12 seats to 1 or 2 in Ontario.

I don't know if they could make that up elsewhere. B.C? East Coast?

Steve V said...

wayward

There is no volatility in the NDP numbers, they have been consistent, which suggests they're real. Official party status would be lost.

ottlib said...

Good analysis Steve. I see that I am rubbing off on you. :)

I have been saying for months that not much has changed in the political landscape in this country since last summer. And that is despite a Liberal convention and a Conservative budget.

It is nice to know that pollsters and the MSM are starting to come around and finally realize that. :)

Anonymous said...

I think we have to show more often and More focefully how the NDP actually Assisting Harper.. this is what could make the biggest difference in The mind of the public..

Divided we fall... should be the theme ...

marta from vancouver

Steve V said...

If you look at the NDP decline, there is a strong co-relation to the downward trend and Layton's "cozy" period, last summer. Too much time spent bashing Liberals, instead of Harper, and I think that turned people off. A minority parliament should help the NDP thrive, to my mind there is a lesson in these numbers.

As an aside, you could argue the decline is a result of the environment becoming a mainstream issue. The environmental vote isn't necessarily NDP anymore, the Liberals have caught up and the Greens are more relevant.

Ottlib

Point taken :) One caveat, it is objectively true that the Liberals lost whatever momentum they had in the convention aftermath (I don't mean the entire bounce, because that was false). There was an opportunity there in my mind, which was lost in the January confusion, where Liberals did come off weak and unfocused- that didn't necessarily have to happen, we could have kept some pace.

Anonymous said...

So are you brainiacs saying that Harper's recent show-and-tell with the War Room and whatnot was designed to SCARE Bloc+Lib MPs into joining his party thus giving him a majority without actually going to the polls?

Come on, people. He ain't that devious.

Steve V said...

anon

What are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

Layton must be feeling the "cozy to Conservative" feelings out there. He said recently on a radio interview "God help us if the Conservatives get a majority". Gee, Jack, you just realized that after 15 months?

Gayle said...

Maybe Layton is going to push the strategic voting card now - Harper is scary, we have the best chance of defeating him in this riding. Frankly I would like to see both liberals and NDP's do that rather than competing against each other so we can have a liberal minority, NDP holding the balance of power and the conservatives back where they belong.

A girl can dream can't she?

Steve V said...

gayle

Realistically, I'm hoping for another fragile Harper minority. Having said that, your scenario sound a lot better :)

ottlib said...

Support for the NDP tends to ebb and flow, reaching a high-water mark before receding again.

During the 1980s the NDP support continued to rise until it hit a high in 1984. Between the '84 and '88 elections there was much talk about the possiblity of the NDP forming the official opposition and there was even some talk that they could form a government.

(My topic for my thesis in 1988 was NDP defence policies and Canada's relations with NATO. When I suggested such a topic to my thesis advisor he did not laugh me out of his office.)

Of course an NDP opposition or government never came to pass and the '88 election saw the beginning of an electoral recession for the NDP that lasted most of the 1990s.

We have been seeing a similar pattern in the last few years. Their fortunes have been rising but we might already have seen them peak. We could be seeing the beginning of another electoral recession for them.

I believe the reason for this is progressive Canadians grow tired of the Liberals and begin to look elsewhere. It is no coincidence that the NDP seems to peak after Liberals have been in government for an extended period. However, those very same progressives become tired of Conservative governance and they realize the only party that can change that is the Liberals. So they go back.

I think we may be seeing the beginning of that phenomenon again.

The question is how quickly will the wave recede this time?

ottlib said...

steve:

I never really believed the Liberals had momentum so they really did not lose it this winter and there was no way they could have maintained something they did not have.

Mr. Dion's honeymoon lasted through December into January and really did not begin to fade until February. That was two months when Canadians began to think it was OK to vote Liberal again and when they believed that a Liberal government was not a bad idea.

That is the best we could ever hope for after the last election and the scandal that brought about the Liberal defeat.

In about a year the Liberals have gone from totally unelectable to being in contention. There is no guarantee that they will win the next election but there is no guarantee that they will lose either and that is something no one would have laid a bet on 14 months ago.

canuckistanian said...

rockfish said:
"Harpor is one slippery snake and has a definite supporter in CanWest management."

you don't say...read in the free press this week david asper was at the kickoff (punt intended) of some goober former place kicker for the bombers who is gonna take on anita neville in winnipeg south center for the harpies. too bad izzy isn't still around...

steve v:
i agree.

Steve V said...

ottlib

Let's not forget that we had polls showing us tied, or slightly ahead (within MOE) in October, so it wasn't all convention bounce. Harper peaked in the early summer, and it slowly eroded back to the Liberals.

The convention bounce was artifical, but we went back below the bounce, which was the result of some shaky first-steps, confusion on votes and overall weakness. I saw the convention as more momentum, and it could have been. It wasn't pre-determined that the Liberals would fall back this much in my mind anyways.

sheilabee said...

I would be interested in seeing the next poll that comes out. It seems to me whenever it is announced that the Cons. are edging towards a majority, those who are polled pull back and say no way do we want a majority with the Cons. Unless 5 o 6 polls show the same results for the Cons then perhaps it could be a majority or not depending how the campaign goes and what policies the Libs. have put forth.

Ken Chapman said...

Save Democracy - Lie to a Pollster!

dalestreet said...

Ken has a very good idea. With poll after poll being released, we have a government and a parliament that is perpetually preparing for an election and, as with the budget are severely influencing the way in which this country is being governed. Perhaps Canadians who are contacted by pollsters should all state that they will vote Green in the next election. As they do not have any seats (or influence) in the House, they cannot trigger the fall of the government and force an unwanted election. Having successive polls released that put the Greens in first would also cause much concern or confusion amongst the other parties as well and would, hopefully, put thoughts of an election out of their heads. Just a thought.