By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto
The year 2014 ends with a tightly competitive race between the federal Liberals and the Conservative Party of Canada. The two parties are within a point of each other, (CPC 34%; LPC 33%).
The trend lines we see over the period since March should provide some seasonal cheer for Conservatives, who have gained six points over the last ten months. Liberal and NDP support is roughly the same in December as it was in March of this year.
Strengthening Conservative support is a steady improvement in the view that the country is heading in the “right direction” from 39% in March to 50% in December (we ask this question at the beginning of the survey before any political questions).
There has also been a gradual improvement in public feelings towards Stephen Harper. In March 28% had a positive feeling about the PM, while 46% had a negative feeling. Today, 34% are positive and 38% negative, a sizeable shift.
Thomas Mulcair ends the year with 28% positive and 20% negative opinion. Justin Trudeau ends the year with the best personal ratings, (35% positive/29% negative), slightly better than in March. Since September there has been a drop in positive impressions and a growth in neutral opinions towards the Liberal leader.
Our latest poll also shows that voters are becoming more inclined to think the Conservatives might win the next election. While 34% predict a Liberal victory, 39% thought this in August. Belief that the Conservatives will win has risen from 25% to 30% during the same period of time. A small (6%) and consistent number of people believe the NDP is likely to win.
In Atlantic Canada we see a strong lead for the Liberals, who have 41% compared to 29% for the NDP and 24% for the Conservatives.
In Quebec our data shows the Liberals ahead with 35%, compared to 28% for the NDP, 19% for the BQ and 14% for the Conservatives.
In Ontario the new data show the Conservatives ahead with 40%, followed by the Liberals at 32%, and the NDP at 20%.
Across Saskatchewan and Manitoba we see the Conservatives with 49%, followed by the Liberals at 28% and the NDP at 17%.
In Alberta, the Conservatives show 46%, followed by the Liberals at 27% and the NDP at 21%.
In BC, the Conservatives have 36% in this latest poll, followed by the Liberals at 33% and the NDP at 21%.
Looking at the perceptions of Stephen Harper, we note that improvements have been seen in all three provinces with the largest numbers of seats: Quebec, Ontario and BC.
2015 promises to be one of the most interesting years in Canadian politics in a long time, and this year-end data confirms that the Conservatives have become more competitive in recent months.
Our data earlier in the year suggested that for many uncommitted voters the challenge for the Conservatives was in significant measure about tone and style. To my eyes the improving Conservative standing is likely attributable to a combination of factors, including:
• For most people (70%), the economy seems relatively healthy.
• The federal budget is all but balanced once again and the tax cuts and benefit measures announced by the Conservatives will appeal to a fair number of voters.
• The PM and some of his most prominent spokespeople had been seen as preoccupied with narrow partisan interests. Of late, the PM has been more visible on broader, global matters and has a less partisan tone when he intervenes on day-to-day domestic questions. As well, the latter part of 2014 has seen less prominence for some of the most aggressive partisans on the Conservative side of the aisle.
• The government has taken a less strident tone on the intersection of energy and environmental issues compared to the earlier in the mandate.
These numbers bear signals for Mr. Harper’s opponents as well. For Mr. Trudeau, they are a reminder that while he has a real chance of winning the next election, Mr. Harper is determined and likely to be a very competitive rival.
For Mr. Mulcair, the numbers signal an ongoing challenge in terms of being seen as the most logical alternative for those voters who want a change in government. As such, the NDP leader can ill afford to focus on only beating the Conservatives; he must also worry about not losing support to the Liberals.
Our survey was conducted online with 1,438 Canadians aged 18 and over from December 18 to 20, 2014. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading provider of online research samples.
The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.6%, 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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