September 5, 2019

By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto

 In our recent national survey of 4,549 Canadians, completed on August 28, we asked our usual political tracking questions.  Here’s what we found:

 LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES DEADLOCKED IN POPULAR VOTE

 If an election were held at the time of the survey, the Conservatives (34%) and Liberals (33%) would capture the same amount of popular support, followed by the NDP at 17%, the Greens at 9%, and the BQ at 4%.

However, over time it’s become more challenging to understand the flow of the campaign without looking separately at the two provinces where the Conservatives enjoy very strong support and the rest of the country where more parties are involved in a tighter race.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Conservatives have a massive 38-point lead over the Liberals.  Over the year, the Conservatives have never been above 61% or below 50% in this part of the country, and the Liberals have never been above 23% or below 15%.

In contrast, in the rest of the country, the Liberals hold a five-point lead.  Since the start of the year, they have never been above 38% or below 34%. The Conservatives have traded in the range of 27% to 31% through the year.  The gap between the two parties narrowed to 3 points in April but has been 5 points or more since then.

The NDP has had a range of 15%-19%. The Green Party rose from a low of 8% to a high of 13% but more recently have been tracking a couple of points below that high.

Our latest numbers show the Liberals with a substantial lead (13 points) in Atlantic Canada, a 12 point lead in Quebec and a 4 point lead in Ontario.  BC is a tie between the Liberals and Conservatives with the NDP and the Green parties together corralling 36% of the vote, considerably higher than their combined impact in any other region.

ACCESSIBLE VOTERS: LIBERAL POOL GROWING A BIT, CPC STEADY.

When we asked people whether they would consider voting for each of the main political parties, 52% would consider voting Liberal, up 4 points from April lows. 48% would consider voting Conservative unchanged since earlier this month. 44% would consider voting NDP, while 41% would consider the Greens.  Comparing those living in Alberta and Saskatchewan and those living in other provinces, we find big differences in the voter pools.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan, 69% are open to voting Conservative, which is 29-35 points ahead of the other three parties. Elsewhere in the country, the Liberals have a 9-point advantage over the Conservatives and NDP. Since June, the Liberal accessible voter pool has recovered somewhat, almost to the levels seen before the SNC Lavalin issue emerged.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT APPROVAL: REMAINS MORE NEGATIVE THAN POSITIVE; HOWEVER, APPROVAL UP 5-POINTS SINCE APRIL

37% approve of the job the federal government is doing, compared to 46% who disapprove.  Approval is up five points from a low point in April.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan, approval has never been above 30% since the end of 2018, while disapproval has ranged from 56% to 65%, and stands at 61% today.

Outside of Alberta and Saskatchewan, 38% currently approve of the federal government’s performance while 43% disapprove. The government’s approval hit a low of 34% in April but has improved by 4-points since then.

LEADER IMAGES SHOW LITTLE MOVEMENT

Preferred Prime Minister results show 35% preferring Mr. Trudeau and 32% for Mr. Scheer. Both Ms. May and Mr. Singh are preferred by 14%.  In Alberta and Saskatchewan, Mr. Scheer has a 29-point lead over Mr. Trudeau. In other parts of the country, Mr. Trudeau leads by 12 points. Preference for Mr. Scheer’s as PM among Alberta and Saskatchewan residents are below his party’s vote share.  Mr. Trudeau’s number fairly closely parallels his party’s level of support in the rest of the country.

Personal approval of Mr. Trudeau shows 35% positive, 45% negative, slightly improved over his 32-46 split in April. Ratings for Mr. Scheer are 33% positive, 37% negative. The trajectory for the Conservative leader has been to see his positives grow 14 points in two years and his negatives grow by 17.  Over most of the last two years, the Opposition Leader’s negatives have been higher than his positives.

Ratings for NDP leader Jagmeet Singh are 26% positive, 26% negative, and have barely moved in months. Ratings for Green Party leader Elizabeth May are 29% positive, 19% negative, which is the best net rating of any of the leaders, but off the peak Ms. May saw in May of this year.

Positive impressions of Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Scheer also differ sharply regionally.

UPSHOT

According to Bruce Anderson: “The election of 2019 isn’t one race, and won’t turn on one issue. It will involve a mix of factors including the feelings about party leaders, and fears, anxieties and hopes about the cost of living, taxes, the environment, health and education, and economic opportunity.  It might well be different depending on your generation, or gender, but it almost certainly will be different in different parts of the country.

The Conservative lead in Alberta and Saskatchewan is an important asset for Mr. Scheer but comes with risk. Opinions among conservative-inclined voters in those two provinces can be so different from those found among other Canadians (on issues such as climate change or in terms of feelings about Mr. Trudeau), that it may be tempting to campaign on messages and policies that turn out to limit opportunity elsewhere, where a great number of seats are in play. The Liberal voter pool is widening, while the Conservative tent is not.

For the Liberals, the picture in Alberta and Saskatchewan is obviously very challenging, but perhaps also reinforces the need to win key, and tight, battleground situations in Ontario and BC, and to nurture and strengthen their leads in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.  At this moment, the challenge for the NDP and the Green Party may be to gain a bigger share of voice – which is never easy, but might be getting harder than ever given the disruptions in how people gather news that shapes their opinions.“

According to David Coletto: “Our latest read of the political landscape indicates a very close race nationally but one that is more nuanced and regionally based. While the Conservatives have a massive advantage in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Liberals have been trending positively in other regions of the country.

We split out Alberta and Saskatchewan from the rest of the country because the election is so different in those areas. The Liberals, NDP, or Greens will be hard-pressed to win much in those two provinces. This election will ultimately turn on how the rest of the country feels and the polarization between Alberta and Saskatchewan and the rest of the country muddies the water in terms of anticipating how the public is reacting to the pre-campaign period.”

METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 4,549 Canadians aged 18 and over from August 23 to 29, 2019. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 1.5%, 19 times out of 20.  The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

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