Liberals pulling up to NDP

UPDATE SEPT. 25: The Conservatives have re-taken the lead in the Globe Election Forecast for two reasons. First, a strong performance in an EKOS poll gave the party 35 per cent of the national vote, compared to just 26 per cent for the Liberals and 25 for the NDP. If these results are repeated by other firms in the next few days, this is very good news for the government; if the poll is an outlier, this will become clear in short order, and its effect in the Forecast will wash out. Second, the NDP have polled somewhat weaker than usual in Quebec, most notably in the most recent Léger poll. While still in first, and down compared to earlier polls in the range of eight percentage points, losing grip on even 10 seats in a three-way race reduces any party's chances of winning the most seats.

Sept. 22: Public opinion data has been streaming in since the federal leaders' debate last Thursday, and all evidence suggests that voters remain as divided as ever.

Winning a debate isn't the same thing as winning an election. A better measure of who won can be seen by looking at who moved the most votes. Here, too, signals are mixed. While the Nanos 3-day tracking poll showed its usual three-way race, Ipsos had the Liberals taking a small lead. The last time they had the Liberals in first was back in late May when they were tied at 31 per cent with the Conservatives. Similarly, the Liberals continue their gradual improvement in the Globe Election Forecast.

Sept. 14: As the polls draw even to a three-way split in the popular vote, so do the odds of each party winning the most seats. While the NDP and Conservatives remain ahead, the Liberals continue to improve their chances of winning the largest parliamentary caucus primarily as a result of their recent strong polling performances in Ontario.

Friday, Sept. 8: The close three-way race in the federal election has become even tighter in the last week. A diminished Conservative vote coupled with growing Liberal support now gives all three parties with a realistic shot of winning the most seats in October. A consequence of this three-way race is seen in the Election Forecast's estimate of the likelihood of a majority government: just 2.2 per cent.

Wednesday, Sept. 2: The Globe’s forecast now predicts that the NDP are the most likely party to win the largest number of seats, with the party leading in 53 per cent of the simulations. This follows a string of seven consecutive national polls each showing a lead of between 1 and 10 percentage points for the New Democrats.

The seven poll lead was reported by seven different pollsters, using three different methods: traditional telephone, interactive voice response (IVR) and online surveys. The New Democrats have only had such a string of good polling on two separate occasions during this parliament: earlier this year in June, and in the May-June period of 2012.

In good news for the Liberals, three recent polls, by Nanos, Ipsos Reid and Forum, have showed the party in second place, ahead of the Conservatives. Furthermore, polls consistently suggest the gap between first and third place is under 5 percentage points.

This all reinforces how unusual this election is: the best a third-place party has ever done in terms of vote share was in 1988, when the Ed Broadbent-led NDP won 20.4 per cent of the vote. Currently, we’re in a situation where whatever party is polling in third is earning 25 per cent popular support.

Paul Fairie is a University of Calgary political scientist who studies voter behaviour, who designed The Globe’s Election Forecast.

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February 22, 2016 at 2:44 PM

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