Thursday, July 23, 2009

Liberals Have Room To Grow

The new EKOS poll brings a statistical tie, more concerning numbers for the NDP, as well as interesting results for the Greens and what that may signify. EKOS also asks a series of questions asking Canadians what kind of government they would prefer and which parties have the most potential to breakout of the current dynamics. Not surprisingly, the Liberals have the most room for optimism, as it appears there are votes available, should they provide enough impetus to move them:
“The Liberals certainly appear to have more potential to break out of this deadlock,” said Graves.
“There are some structural elements that should favour the Liberals. The recession for one thing. Another is the fact that the Liberals easily outstrip the Tories as the voters’ second choice.

However, the Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, has failed so far to potentiate that secondary support, and the party has stalled.”

In fact the Conservatives lag not only the Liberals, but also the NDP and (very narrowly) the Greens as Canadians’ second choice. Almost every party apparently has more room to grow than the Conservatives do.

Second choice:

Libs 22.1%
NDP 19.7%
Greens 14.1%
Cons 13.2%
No choice 26.8%

Graves cites a Liberal inability to "potentiate" any secondary support, which basically agrees with my arguments about failing to "maximize capitalization". Still, the numbers suggest that the Conservatives are swimming in a far more narrow pool, we have more growth potential.

Along the same vein, this poll also shows the Greens doing quite well, for the first time leading all parties amongst the youngest demographic. The Greens also take third by a whisker in Ontario and Alberta, near tied with the NDP in Quebec:
But at the moment, no party is growing, except the Greens, who may be benefitting from general dissatisfaction with the political options Canadians have. Their support is near the top of the range they have enjoyed in the polls historically, and much higher than their 2008 election result.

In fact, the Greens may have crossed a new threshold in that they are now in the lead by the narrowest of margins in one demographic cohort that will grow in influence in coming years those currently under 25.

“It is hard to know whether this Green strength among the young is simply an expression of disenchantment with the existing political options, and whether the Greens can actually translate it into enduring political support,” said Graves.

You don't want to take anything away from the Greens, nor assume people aren't attracted policy wise, but Graves is probably right that their strength is also a sign of disappointment with the more traditional parties. This reality is further evidence that other parties, particularly the Liberals, are failing to make the sale with available voters, failing to attract or represent anything beyond the status quo. When you consider the second place choices, as well as the emergence of a "protest" vote, you see that we could be squandering a real dynamic at play with the electorate.

In addition, this problem seems to extend to the NDP, who in the past have capitalized on just this sentiment, but more and more are getting lumped in with the others. The Ontario result of 12% is a dreadful score. While people can comfort themselves in a differing poll here and there, I've checked the 2008 numbers and at no time did we see these low mark fluctuations (NANOS last gave the party a 11.5%, Strategic Counsel a 11% in Ontario). If there is dissatisfaction with our political process, the NDP are more part of the problem than a safe refuge for voters- the Greens are filling this space. Something to keep an eye on for sure, particularly when the high profile environment argument isn't such a glaring casual relationship.


Anonymous said...

I think your analysis is correct. However, we have to wonder why we're the second choice of these people and not their first choice. Why are we still only statistically tied with the Conservatives? I do not believe Ignatieff has been leading the party in the right direction, the little direction he has provided. We're stuck with him, but he needs to define how we would do things differently.

Steve V said...

I don't feel we're stuck with him at all, maybe we're just not letting him roam. The guy has been a bold thinker his entire life. This is more about process than the messenger, Ignatieff still has plenty of potential, armed with the right message.

Anonymous said...

Well, for my two cents when he has gone 'roaming' he hasn't gone in a direction that I found particularly pleasing.

Steve V said...

Oh well.

√Čric said...

Polling has been favourable for the Greens, but there is still no reason to think this will translate into electoral success.

The Greens are rarely in the news, and people have very little understanding of their platform. When people are disillusioned with the main parties and not in a climate to be forced to care about politics (i.e., an election) gains in losses for the Greens in the polls don't mean too much.

Will the Greens do better than the 6% they had last year? Almost certainly. Will they get more than 10% or elect anyone? Probably not.

Anonymous said...

Greens are a place where people park their vote between elections. I hope that Elizabeth May can win an a seat in the next election, but other than that there might only be one more. The good news is, as Steve points out, we have room to grow. The bad news is that the Conservatives have probably bottomed out and will start to climb slightly in the polls from here on in.

Trevor said...

Well I certainly don't have any proof but I would venture a guess that when Conservative voters were asked for a second choice option they would choose the Liberals or none of the above. I usually vote Conservative but would consider voting Liberal under the right circumstances, it would be a cold day in hell before I voted NDP. The question you need to ask is how likely the 22.1% of people who picked the Libs as second choice are to change their vote?

I would also suspect that lots of Liberal supporters would choose the Cons as second choice over the NDP. In fact I would bet that most of that 13.2% are made up of Lib supporters. Polling numbers for the Greens don't mean squat on election day.

Let's also keep in mind that the current conditions should be a golden opportunity for the Libs to regain majority polling numbers yet they are still tied or lagging behind. Surely once the economy begins to show recovery and we see the pageantry of the royal visit and Olympic games the numbers aren't likely to get better for the Libs. I suppose that might change if there is a major crisis but who can predict that.

The poll shows that Canadians want an end to the daily hysterics and the stability that a majority government would bring. If the Cons go into the next election poised to pick up another strong majority don't be surprised if you see some votes bleed to them as the only viable option to get that majority. Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

This tells me the Liberals should be supporting Instant Run-Off Voting. Conservatives would be out of government for a decade. Sadly it's still possible for them to eke out a win in the current system.

Steve V said...


Don't disagree. But, you do concede the probability that the Green vote will increase again, which is noteworthy


The poll actually covers where voters go. Liberals are the second choice for Conservatives, but the NDP is the second choice for Liberals. I find that interesting, because it says something about the political compass of Liberal voters, more apt to go left than right.

Trevor said...

I don't doubt that the NDP is the favorite second choice for Lib voters. However, 13.2% of respondents picked the Cons as a second choice, I doubt many of those are NDP or Green voters.

Malcolm+ said...

Another take on the numbers.

You and the mainstream media are misinterpreting the data on people's preference for majority government. In fact, the numbers suggest that, in general:
* Partisan Liberals want a Liberal majority
* Partisan Conservatives want a Conservative majority
* Most of the rest of us, given the four choices on offer, prefer one or another version of minority.

Anonymous said...

Ding Ding Ding.

We have a winner - Malcolm can claim his prize ;).

Jerry Prager said...

Ignatieff's anti-green positioning in an effort to woo con voters is why the party has no youth growth, his right wing economic statements are another. It has been my assumption for some time that the cons were the least popular party in the country among those not already voting conservatives, and this poll proves it. It also proves the coalition point about the numbers of Canadians who would have supported a liberal led coalition from the get-go before the con campaign that lied about the nature of Canadian democracy, and it also destroys the conservative ad campaign that suggests that 73% (or whatever the figure was) voted against the Liberals: Stephen Harper has failed in his prime directive of turning Canada into a Conservative nation.
Now if only Iggy will start talking like a progressive thinker and less like a reactionary, maybe we can bury our SOB PM forever.

Anonymous said...

Ignatieff once said that his instincts tell him there are more votes to be had on the right than there are on the left. This strategy is what has kept the Liberals at 32%. And as it becomes apparent to all that the strategy is not working the loyal Ignatieff staff response is, "steady as she goes". Conservative numbers are definitely going to go up, as others have pointed out. I would say that without some sort of game changer the next election is certainly going to produce another Conservative minority.

Anonymous said...

The Liberals really only have 11.3 room to grow because 10.8 of 2nd choice picks for the Liberals come from the Conservatives (32.9% x 32.8%). Nearly 2/3rds of the Conservatives 2nd choice come from the Liberals.

Steve V said...


Just for clarity, I never actually spoke to the majority/minority part of the poll. But since you've mentioned it, here are the totals:

Preferred election outcome:
¤ 15% minority LPC gov’t
¤ 26% majority LPC gov’t
¤ 9% minority CPC gov’t
¤ 25% majority CPC gov’t
¤ 25% none of the above

You can say "most" but then you eliminating "most" of the voters, who happen to support the two mainstream parties.

DL said...

Its interesting that Nanos is the only pollster who doesn't prompt any of the party names - and instead just asks point blank - "name which party you would vote for?". All of a sudden he has the greens at 5% instead of 11% - and that is about what they will get - if that. let's face it, they have no where to go but down. In 2008, environmental concerns and global warming were at the top of the political agenda - now they have vanished as the economy has become the elephant in the room. Also, in 2008 you had a massive number of traditional Liberal voters who were looking for some place to park their votes and since Dion and May seemed so friendly, voting green seemed like the next best thing to voting Liberal (The Liberal scheme was always to build up the Green party in the hopes that they would take votes from the NDP - but needless to say that ploy totally backfired). Its fair to say that simply having a leader ho is "not-Dion" will cause a lot of those soft-Liberals who voted green last time to go back to the Liberals. On top of that in 2008, the media treated Elizabeth may as some sort of second coming of Christ etc... now she has become a bit of an object of ridicule. I predict that the Green party will get the 4.5% or so of the vote they got in 2004 and 2006 under Jim Harris. The polls always vastly exagerrate their support. Look at BC. For a year leading up to the most recent BC election polls kept showing the greens at 15-16% - then even after a campaign where there was a lot of talk about carbon taxes etc... and where SUPPOSEDLY a lot of environmentalists who normally vote NDP were looking for a pro-carbon tax, but anti-Campbell alternative - the BC Greens got a pathetic 8% - half of what pre-campaign polls predicted for them and less than what they got in 2001 or 2005.

The parrot is dead!

Anonymous said...

I understand your response to Malcolm, Steve.

But I think his main point is it's hard to say "most voters want a conservative government" when in reality that most (51%) probably have two entirely different outcomes in mind.

As a (granted extreme) example:

It would be like concluding "most people want action on climate change" if the basic options selected by 51% of the respondents were 1) "eliminate all restrictions and taxes on carbon" and 2) "enforce strict restrictions on carbon usage".

Obviously, they don't want the same "action" even if they could be grouped together by an analyst.

I just don't think the question of how much people "want" a majority government means anything unless people are actually saying they would change their vote to a party that is not their first (or even second) choice in order to obtain that outcome. Nothing in this poll suggests that necessary questioning was done.

Steve V said...

"I just don't think the question of how much people "want" a majority government means anything "

I don't either, which is why I omitted that part of the poll in my post ;)

DL said...

The worthlessness of the question about majority government is even more evident when you see that most BQ voters say they want a majority government - yet if there is one thing that is GUARANTEED to produce minority government - its people voting BQ in Quebec. The NDP and even the Green party could theoretically argue that by virtue of running candidates in all ridings - they are at least theoretically in the running to form a majority of their own - but the BQ can never form a government - even if 100% of Quebecers voted for them!

Steve V said...


I'm not sure what your reading, but only 20% of Bloc supporters prefer a majority Liberal or Conservative government. 38% prefer a minority, 42% prefer "none of the above.

How you get "most BQ voters" out of that escapes me.

DL said...

I wasn't referring to this poll in particular, there was another poll I saw recently that simply asked "do you prefer a minority or a majority government?" or something along those lines - and it was interesting that BQ supporters overwhelmingly preferred a "majority government" - I wonder what sort of "majority government" they had in mind? Maybe they were already thinking ahead to Quebec being sovereign and there being a BQ/PQ majority government under President Duceppe!

Steve V said...

Well, let's us this poll that shows no such support, shall we?

DL said...

This poll never asks people if they prefer majority or minority government. It asks about a variety of scenarios - and lo and behold - most Liberal voters would like a Liberal majority, most Tory voters want a Tory majority and most supporters of the other parties want neither (given that they were never allowed to say they wanted an NDP or a BQ or a Green government etc...). Tell me something I didn't already know.

Steve V said...

Well gee, aren't those the only two options on a majority question? You criticizing the obvious.