From time to tine I will post comment and graphical images on the state of the Canadian horserace for 2019. Some of the comments will be on substantive aspects of current politics. Some will ponder the institutional and historical background, often in line with arguments in my 2017 book, The Canadian Party System: An Analytic History.
The 2019 Horserace
This comment is updated from time to time as new polls come in. See below. Details on data and estimations can be found here.
The Current Situation (posted 27 February 2019)
The unfolding SNC-Lavalin debacle is moving the bottom line, to no one’s surprise. The polls can barely keep up with events, and everything I report below is probably out of date already. The last publication date for a poll in this report is 24 February and by my coding convention this represents fieldwork from late last week.
The news for the Liberals is looking bad. The plot goes back to the 2015 election and records the party’s post-election honeymoon, the 2016-2017 reversion to its October 2015 level of 40 percent, and the further erosion to the mid- to high-30s. The last few weeks have seen the share driven down, such that the value from the estimation model sits at 33.7. This is 3-4 points below the typical Liberal share of late 2018.
In one sense, the main beneficiary of the shift is the Conservative party. The estimation model puts their share at 35.2, and a modest lead. Although small, it is about as wide for the Conservatives as it was for the Liberals two or three months ago. The confidence intervals for the Liberal and Conservative estimates overlap but there is really no doubt who is in the lead right now. That being said, the Conservative advantage reflects not so much movement in their direction as flight from the Liberals. The Conservatives’ own line has barely moved. The tiny movement last week reflects the Angus Reid poll release at the start of this week.
Where did Liberal supporters go? Many of them may just have dropped out of the polls, at least for now. We know that the direction of the political winds affects sample composition (unit nonresponse) as well as willingness to answer vote intention questions (item nonresponse). But there still is the question of the distribution of the vote across the rest of the landscape.
At this point, the beneficiary is NOT the NDP. Recent polls only confirm the tanking of the party’s fortunes that dates (roughly) from Jagmeet Singh’s accession to the party’s leadership. Keep in mind that the latest poll predates Singh’s victory in Burnaby South. He inherits a party in trouble but at least there is no denying his right to be on the stage. Now that the NDP’s leadership situation has stabilized, his party might become a pole of attraction for Liberals outside Quebec.
This is pure speculation, of course, and the question remains, who picked up the slack? The numbers must add up to 100, after all. The answer is, all the minuscule alternatives in suitably minuscule amounts. No other party is in double digits, but each has moved up a few. The Greens are now in reasonably high single digits, better placed than they were after 2011. The Bloc is a bit behind the Greens, but of course contests only seats in Quebec. Depending on further evolution of SNC-Lavalin, the Bloc may once again have some credibility as the only party able to speak unconditionally for Quebec. And merely by existing, the People’s Party grabs a few percentage points. The Burnaby South vote hints at more. Bear in mind that the movements in the last few weeks, although consequential, have been tiny. Watch this space!