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338 Sunday Update: Liberals Keep Sinking
Polling suggests Poilievre's CPC inching towards "Mulroney territory"
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was yet another difficult week for the Liberals in the polls.
While keeping a cool head and not overreacting to poor numbers can be a major asset in politics, one has to wonder how sustainable it is for the Liberals (and their NDP junior partner) to keep governing while their overall approval numbers plummet, and with a majority of voters wanting change at the top — a situation without recent precedent in Canadian federal politics (sorry, the 1980s aren’t ‘recent’ anymore).
More on precedents below, but let us first summarize the week’s numbers, and then dive into the projection update.
Here is a short round up of federal numbers released this past week:
The Angus Reid Institute measures CPC support at 39% nationally, against 28% for the Liberals and 21% for the NDP. The regional breakdown offers no solace for the Liberals: a statistical tie in Atlantic Canada (against the CPC) and Quebec (against the Bloc), a 10-point lead for the Conservatives in Ontario, the usual Conservative dominance in the Prairies, and an 11-point CPC lead in British Columbia. And that was the week’s best poll for the Liberals. (See ARI report here.)
Fresh numbers from Abacus Data put the Conservative at 40%, 14-point ahead of the Liberals. In Atlantic Canada, Abacus sees the Conservatives alone in first place with 45% support. In Ontario, the CPC sits at 42%, 12 points in front of the Liberals. The CPC dominates west of the Ontario-Manitoba border, with the Liberals in 3rd place in each of the West’s polling regions. See Abacus Data CEO David Coletto’s tweet with tables here.
The weekly Nanos Research update (data paywalled) showed similar overall trends in favour of the Conservatives, with the CPC leading in every polling region except Quebec. For those wondering: We do not show the Nanos numbers here (or on 338Canada.com) unless they are published elsewhere (usually The Globe and Mail or CTV) in order to respect Nanos’ paywall.
Adding these newest polls to the 338Canada federal projection, we now measure the Conservatives ahead nationally by an average of 12 points: 40% for the CPC, 28% for the Liberals, while the NDP remains stable at 18%.
Consequently, and taking into consideration the regional and demographic breakdown of these polls, the already broad chasm in the seat projection between the main parties keeps widening. This week’s update has the Conservative climbing to a stunning 205 seats, while the Liberals fall to 81.
Of course, these are averages and the seat projections contain their fair share of uncertainty (the brackets indicate the 95%-confidence intervals, with distributions that follows gaussian-type curves, meaning that extremes are less likely than values near the mean). Nonetheless, we are now at a point where the Liberal and Conservative seat distributions don’t overlap — meaning that if an election were held this week, the worse-case scenario for the Conservatives would have stood above the best-case scenario for the Liberals (see chart below).
As mentioned above, one would be hard-pressed to find a precedent for the current political landscape in Ottawa.
While polls showed Stephen Harper had become deeply unpopular in his last years in office, his party had remained mostly competitive even near the end of his reign. In the summer 2015, just month before Harper’s defeat, the federal horse race still showed a three-way tie between Harper’s Conservatives, Mulcair’s NDP, and Trudeau’s Liberals.
Moreover, Conservative voters had not turned on their leader the way polls suggest Liberals voters have soured on Trudeau. To wit: The Angus Reid Institute’s (ARI) latest federal poll measured that 41% of 2021 Liberal voters want Trudeau to step down before the next election. Majorities in all age groups concur. As for approval of the Prime Minister, 64% of respondents disapprove of Trudeau — including 64% in Ontario and 59% in Quebec.
Going back a little further in time: Paul Martin’s Liberals never trailed their opponents that badly for any such extended period of time. Neither did the Jean Chrétien’s LPC for its decade-long reign in the 1990s and early 2000s.
So the closest precedent to the current situation would the latter years of Brian Mulroney’s second mandate? Before the Progressive Conservatives, under new leader Kim Campbell, went from holding a majority in the House of Commons to a mere two seats? That’s grim.
To be fair, the Liberals aren’t splitting up in smaller parts like the Mulroney/Campbell’s PC did in 1993, with the surge of both the Reform Party in the West and the Bloc in Québec. Nevertheless, the wear and tear of time in power (l’usure du pouvoir), which has been apparent for months if not years by now, appears to be catching up to this government in ways we had not witnessed for decades in this country.
If there is a single silver lining in the numbers for the Trudeau Liberals — and it is a slim one — it is that although the CPC is way ahead in voting intentions, Canadians aren’t especially enamoured with Pierre Poilievre. Half of Canadians (49%) have an unfavourable view of the CPC leader according to ARI — 53% in British Columbia, 48% in Ontario, 54% in both Quebec and Atlantic Canada. In the latest Abacus poll, Poilievre positive impressions stood at 36% against 34% of negative impression, a near-even net rating of plus-2. Despite strong party support, Canada is not in the midst of a Poilievre-mania.
But how popular has the Conservative leader really have to be against a Prime Minister in his ninth year in power who is bleeding support among the very voters who put him in the PM’s seat in past elections? Sometimes you win elections, sometime your opponent loses them.
Without taking anything away from the CPC and its campaign against the Prime Minister, current numbers point to a government badly losing ground among its core voters, more so than an up-and-coming challenger storming in.
Which, one could argue, is even worse news for Justin Trudeau himself, but perhaps the slimmest of path to recovery for the Liberals? We shall see.
More to come this week, so stay tuned. Thank you for supporting 338Canada.
To access the complete list of publicly available federal polls (excluding paywalled data), visit this page.