Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Environics Poll

I thought I would do another post on the Environics Poll because there are several intriguing internals which are quite revealing. The last poll for this outfit was done in March, which is a good benchmark, because conventional wisdom assumes that the Conservatives have hit a rough patch in the intermediate. Harper's approvals are indeed down:
There have been some shifts in the approval ratings of the party leaders over the past three months. The proportion of Canadians approving of the job being done by Stephen Harper has fallen below the 50-percent mark for the first time since he became prime minister and now stands at 48 percent (down 6 points from March). Approval of St├ęphane Dion has declined once again to 38 percent (down 2 points) and the proportion expressing disapproval of him has risen to 48 percent (up 5 points). Jack Layton has the highest approval rating of any of the party leaders at 56 percent (up 2 points), and a similar share of voters in Quebec approve of the job being done by Gilles Duceppe (53%, down 3 points). Approval of Elizabeth May has dropped three points to 42 percent.

We have two concurrent themes. Although Harper is lagging, Dion doesn't seem to capitalize, in fact he keeps failing further, from an already concerning level. A 48% disapproval number is objectively horrible, particularly because it came during a period when the Conservatives were in full fumble mode.

What I find staggering, Dion actually finds a new bottom in Quebec. On the question of who would make the best PM, Dion scored a dismal 12% in March, for his home province. In the latest poll, Dion is down to 10%, almost half the total for the seatless Layton and the NDP. Nationally, Layton is up 3% and is now the clear second choice amongst voters.

Overall, the poll has the Cons at 37%, Liberals 28%, NDP 17%, Greens 11%. Given the other polls, I think the Conservatives numbers are a touch high, although it is noteworthy that they remain virtually the same as the March poll, which was a supposed highwater mark. The only reason I can conclude that we haven't seen more Conservative erosion, is the real apprehension about Dion and the Liberals preventing a noticeable shift.

Pouring through the internals, the NDP seems the only party that can claim any momentum. Is it policy or lack of alternatives? I'm inclined to think a little of each, clear policy, coupled with relative weakness in others.


Anonymous said...

...thus the NDP will win a mass majority on the basis of Jack-ass's popularity.
See how stupid the argument sounds?

ottlib said...

The MOE for the Montreal sample is 6.7%, so I would not put any stock in the estimates.

This is an Environics poll, which has a different methodology from Decima and the others, which will explain some of the differences in their estimates with regard to the national numbers.

It should be noted though that this poll's estimates are almost identical to the one taken in March. So this poll is a further indication that Canadians have parked their support and it will take a major event to change them, such as an election. In other words nothing has changed.

What support Jack Layton and the NDP is receiving in Quebec is very thin and very soft. Don't expect him to hang onto it once the byelections begin.

Anonymous 9:09 in the previous thread makes a good point. If the Conservatives and the Bloc split the separatist/nationalist vote it will benefit the Liberals in between 20-30 seats outside of Montreal.

I would also point out that the Liberals are the only ones in Quebec whose support has pretty much held steady. The Conservatives and the Bloc bounce around alot but the Liberals are steady. That would indicate they have held on to their base and as the anger of the sponsorship scandal continues to fade they will be in a good position to grow their support.

Mr. Dion's internals are a concern but the news on them are accompanied by the news that Mr. Harper's are falling as well. There is always a lag between the falling of the incumbant's internals and the increase of the challenger's. So if the decrease in Mr. Harper's numbers persist and deepen then we will eventually see an increase in Mr. Dion's numbers.

When folks who used to believe Stephen Harper did a good job begin to believe othwerwise they are going to look at the alternatives before switching support. Such a process takes time so it will take time for the erosion of Harper support to be reflected in support for an alternative.

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Wow, I'm afraid that I don't have anything nearly as scientific as ottlib to add. I just found the cascade theory to be an interesting proposition for explaining voting patterns (TNR). Prof Cass R. Sunstein (U of Chicago) suggests that voting fluctuations may be less rational than we think. So, it may have less to do with particular policies, etc, and more to do with one's ability "to manage, and to spark, favorable cascades".

Cascades are basically bandwagons. For example, relatively apathetic Joey will vote for Dion becuase his girlfriend Jane will vote for him after she saw him in an interview. And Billy will vote for Dion because his friends Peter, Paul and Mary decided they will vote for him, who read a particular columnist that day. The common theme is that all of them seem to have a spark or a set of sparks, which get the ball rolling. Interestingly, this kind of theory fits in the same vein as the "tipping point".

Perhaps, managing such cascades, if true, might come down to closing the "brand gap". Essentially, each candidate must make particular maneuvers to propagate their given political brand, along side that of their party. Closing the gap means that each candidate ensures their "creatives" (ie, policy and speech writers) maintain a consistent, readily accessible brand to be picked up by the media.

Blogging Horse said...

It's worth remembering that no one -- not even on the inside -- predicted that the ADQ would increase their seat count 925% in the March election . . . but it happened.

Steve V said...


That is pretty interesting.


The NDP support could be soft, but that doesn't detract from the reality that people are bypassing the Liberals.

I'm not buying the spin of the Bloc and Cons splitting the vote, to the benefit of the Liberals. The Liberals appear to be non-existent outside of Montreal, so I don't see a scenario where they can really benefit from vote fracture. If they were competitive yes, but they don't appear to be, so I'm afraid that might be wishful thinking.

I agree, that if Harper continues to tank personally, you should see a Dion bounce, with the lag you suggest. That thesis could be dicey, in the sense that normally you also see the Liberals rise when the Tories fall, and all the polls have shown little evidence of this scenario.

ottlib said...


Quebec politics is odd. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives were considered to be dead ducks in Quebec until about January 2, 2006.

Conventional wisdom stated that they were too conservative for the sensibilities of Quebecers.

Now conventional wisdom is against Stephane Dion. Do not believe a word of it until we actually see what happens during the next election.

As well, I would point out that for Montreal and about 30 seats around it the conservative policies would offend the sensibilities of a great many Quebecers.

Conservative strategy seems to be to target soft nationalists and those folks who voted for the ADQ because of their ideology. If they do follow that strategy those folks in the 30-40 ridings in and around Montreal would be hard pressed to vote Conservative. So, the idea of Liberals coming up the middle is a genuine possibility, albeit a long shot at this point.

Finally, with the continued decline in support for the Afghan mission you can be certain that his opponents will bring up his more militaristic quotes over the coming weeks and months, which will blunt alot of what he is saying now and cost him support.

It is odd that the decline in Conservative fortunes is not resulting in an increase in Liberal ones. However, it should be noted that even during the height of the revelations during the Gomery inquiry the Conservatives did not gain alot even when the Liberals tanked in double digit proportions.

We seem to have entered a period where Canadians are not automatically choosing one over the other. Instead what we are seeing is a decrease for one party usually ends up causing the undecideds to climb.

I believe that this is the result of the generally low esteem Canadians hold for politics and politicians. If Stephane Dion can live up to the perception of being a man of integrity maybe he can turn that around when he becomes PM.

Steve V said...


All good points for sure. Just one point on Afghanistan, don't you think Layton might be able to make some political hay in Quebec with his ratcheting up of the rhetoric? It appears there is some fertile ground, in the short-term anyways.

ottlib said...

To answer your question Steve, I don't know.

However, I think most Canadians are in support of living up to the commitments made by our government.

Although I see increased opposition to the war I still do not see a huge groundswell of desire for an immediate withdrawal. That is true in all provinces.

So I do not think that Mr. Layton's "pull the troops out now" rhetoric will resonate as well as he is hoping.

Most Canadians would agree that living up to the commitement made by our government would be a good idea but after that things have to change. That just happens to be the Liberal position which is why I wish they would articulate that more. Get ahead of it before the Conservatives claim if for their own.

I have to admit I have been rather disappointed in the knee-jerk, partisan response of the Liberals to the shift from Mr. Harper. They find themselves in sync with Canadians opinion and they should be shouting that fact from the rooftops and pointing out that the government is shifting its position on the war to that of the Liberals.

ottlib said...

I just noticed my last comment contradicted itself.

My first sentence Steve should read, "I don't know for certain but..."

I guess I should have followed my own rule of not blogging before my 5th cup of coffee. :)

Steve V said...

"I have to admit I have been rather disappointed in the knee-jerk, partisan response of the Liberals to the shift from Mr. Harper. They find themselves in sync with Canadians opinion and they should be shouting that fact from the rooftops and pointing out that the government is shifting its position on the war to that of the Liberals."

I agree, because you can criticize the government by embracing their epiphany, if that makes any sense. The only caveat, I think it important to pull out Harper's vicious attacks on a position he now holds. Put the Liberal position as ahead of the curve, with the Conservatives as the stubborn stragglers. Let the commentators decide on who was motivated by principle and who was motivated by polls.