Federal Politics: Tories down 7 points since April

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According to a new national survey by public opinion firm Abacus Data, the federal Liberal Party, Conservative Party, and NDP are now in a three-way tie for the lead in federal vote intentions.  Support for the federal Conservatives is down seven points since April 2013.

Among all Canadians, 23% said they vote for the Liberal Party (up one point since April) while 21% would vote Conservative (down seven points) and NDP (down two points).  Green Party support is up to eight percent nationally (up three points since April) while the Bloc Quebecois is steady at 4% nationally.

Twenty-one percent of respondents said they were undecided, up three points since April.

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This is the first time in our tracking since late 2011 that the Conservative Party has dropped below first place.

NOTE: Abacus Data no longer releases “decided voter” results due to the volatile nature of the electorate and the importance of understanding the motivations and size of undecided voters in Canada.  In our view, voters are not decided until they cast a ballot in an election.  See the lessons we learned from the BC election.

Subgroup Analysis

Regionally, the Conservative Party continues to dominate in Alberta (38%) and in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (36%) while being statistically tied with the Liberals in Ontario (LPC 26%, CPC 24%).

The federal Conservatives are strongest among men (26% vs. 17% among women) and among those aged 60 and over (28% vs. 17% for those aged 18 to 44).  They also do best in rural Canada (27% vs. 19% in urban communities).

The Liberal Party leads in Atlantic Canada (31% vs. 20% for the NDP), in Quebec (28% vs. 22% for the NDP) and is statistically tied with the Conservatives in Ontario (26% vs. 24% for the CPC).  West of the Ontario border, the Liberals are weaker, getting only 14 to 15% of the vote in the four western provinces.

Demographically, the Liberals are strongest with middle aged Canadians aged 30 to 44 (26%) and among those with a university degree (32% vs. 19% with those who have high school or less).

The federal NDP is strongest in BC (30%), Quebec (22%), and Ontario (20%).  They also do well among younger Canadians (aged 18 to 29 – 25%)

Women are much more likely to say they are undecided than men (women 25% vs. men 16%).

Voter Turnout Model

When we statistically weight the data to match age distributions among the actual voting population in the 2011 election (age group), we find that the Conservative support increases slightly to 22% while the undecided percentage decreases by one point.  If voter turnout in a hypothetical election was similar to the 2011, Conservative support would increase slightly, but only because of their advantage among older Canadians.

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Direction of the Country and Government Approval

Respondents were also asked to rate the direction of the country.

Overall, opinions have not changed significantly since March 2013.  Currently, 36% of Canadians believe the country is generally headed in the right direction while 47% believe it is headed on the wrong track.  Seventeen percent were unsure.

Respondents living in Quebec were more likely to believe the country was headed on the wrong track (60%) than those living in Ontario (47%) or the prairie provinces (MB/SK 38%, AB 34%).

When asked to rate the job performance of the federal government led by Stephen Harper, 31% of Canadians either strongly (7%) or somewhat (24%) approved while 50% either strongly (26%) or somewhat (24%) disapproved.

Approval was highest in Alberta (45%), Manitoba and Saskatchewan (45%) and in Ontario (38%) while lowest in Quebec (15%) and Atlantic Canada (23%).

Federal Party Leader Impressions

When asked for their overall impressions of the four main party leaders, there was little change in the overall impression of the leaders.

Justin Trudeau is the most popular leader in Canada with 40% of respondents saying they have a favourable impression of the Liberal Leader (down three points since April).  Trudeau’s unfavourable numbers are up six points since April.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also has a net favourable rating with 34% saying they have a favourable impression of the NDP leader (up five points since April) and 24% having an unfavourable impression (down one point).

Prime Minister Harper’s numbers have not moved much at all since April.  Thirty percent of Canadians have a favourable impression of him while 49% have an unfavourable impression.  Only 18% of Canadians say they have a neutral impression of the Prime Minister.

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Bottom Line

Since April, the political opinion landscape in Canada has shifted substantially.

Support for the federal Conservative Party is down seven points from 28% to 21% in two months.  This is the first time in our tracking that the Conservative Party has not been either in the lead or tied in the lead.

But despite the drop in Conservative support, neither the Liberal Party nor the NDP has been able to gain much momentum with the Liberals only up a statistically insignificant one point and the NDP down two points since April.

Instead, the support for the Green Party and the number of undecided voters is up three points respectively.

“Conservative voters who might be upset with the Government over the Senate spending scandals and the Duffy-Wright affair have moved away from the Conservatives but they aren’t shifting in big numbers to either of the main opposition parties,” said Coletto.

“Instead, some may be parking their votes with the Green Party in protest while others are telling us they are now undecided.”

“The challenge for the Liberals and the NDP is that many former Conservative voters won’t vote Liberal or NDP,” said Coletto.  “So their best hope is for them to stay home and protest the Harper Government by not casting a ballot.”

“We saw this happen in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2008.  Upset with the Harper Government and motivated by Danny Williams’ ABC campaign, former Conservative supporters in Newfoundland and Labrador did not vote NDP or Liberal, they just stayed home.  Voter turnout in the province in 2008 sank like a stone.”

“The fact that government approval is down six points since March tells me that some former Tory voters are becoming disillusioned with the government and its once rock solid core of support may be questionning that support in the future.”

Methodology

The survey was conducted online with 999 respondents in English and French using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative panel of Canadians.  The survey was completed from June 19 to 23, 2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 999 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region.

These questions were posed as part of the Abacus Data monthly Omnibus survey. 

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.  He’s an avid road cyclist.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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