Discover more from 338Canada.ca
The Wayward Soul of the New Democrats
Recent Pallas polling says most would be less likely to vote NDP if Singh was replaced
On Monday, 338Canada published an exclusive federal poll from Pallas Data, which featured the following question: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for the following parties if they had a different leader?”
Among the poll’s respondents, 43% answered they would be less likely if Jagmeet Singh was turfed from the leader’s seat, while only 27% say they’d be more likely to vote NDP if he was gone.
This made me wonder; why?
Singh has proven himself to be a likeable individual, which tends to be the case for NDP leaders (Always more well liked than the party brand, as the inside joke goes). He’s the only leader that consistently earns a positive net-favourable when compared to the likes of Trudeau or Poilievre and it’s this likeability that made Singh out to be a minor saviour of the party.
Back in 2019, the NDP was in dire straits. They were tied with, if not behind, the Greens in some polls, and Singh was an unknown. There were fears that the party was going to crater to single-digit seats from their 2015 result of 44 (under Tom Mulcair).
Cue the lights and the debate and Singh proved himself on stage. He managed to drag the NDP up in the polls, enough for the party to minimize its losses from a previously predicted catastrophe. In the end, the result was a mixed bag. The NDP didn’t win single digit seats, but they still bled almost half their 2015 seat count during the 2019 election.
Then time went on and 2021 rolled around, along with a new federal election. This election was unremarkable with all parties staying almost exactly where they were two years earlier; barring a couple seat swaps here and there. Unlike the Conservatives, the NDP took this as a win. Singh was let off without any real damage. After all, how could you criticize a leader for gaining a seat in an election where all parties remained unchanged?
Lost in the Woods Without a Compass
We’re going on eight years since Justin Trudeau swept to power and the New Democrats have seemingly had a bit of an identity crisis in the meantime.
Historically, the NDP has been a labour party; a party of blue collar, union workers. It’s a party that has been able to compete well in rural areas in the past and act as a solid alternative to those voters who don’t like the Liberals but don’t necessarily want the Tories.
As the years dragged on, the NDP has found itself shifting with the times. They’ve always been a progressive party but in the past decade they’ve had to compete against a comparatively more progressive Liberal party under Trudeau. That has understandably taken the wind out of the NDP’s sails. Couple this with the NDP slipping in traditional working-class towns (Windsor, Hamilton, etc) and you start to see the identity crisis the NDP is facing nowadays.
The party has an option to either reinforce their old base; A base made up of union workers (of which have been decimated by economic policies over the last forty years), more rural voters, and young voters both within and outside of the cities, or the party changes.
The obvious transition for the NDP would be to go and fight for downtown voters in the largest cities in the nation, working to win over young professionals, urbanites and low-to-middle income voters typically drawn to the other parties. Downtown Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal are all ripe for the NDP to do well in if the Liberals tank in the polls, but they haven’t been doing so.
Fellow 338Canada contributor,, ran the Pallas data as a stand alone model. If the results of an election are reflective of this poll, the NDP wins 15 seats, down 10 from where they are now and losing the likes of Winnipeg Centre, Skeena-Bulkley Valley, Burnaby Central, while picking up Outremont and Halifax.
Is Singh What the NDP Needs?
As the Conservatives have seen their fortunes improve over the summer and the Liberals have faltered, the NDP haven’t been quite so fortunate. The NDP remains seated in the high teens nationally while their regionals are comfortable at best and detrimental to their seat count at worst.
Pallas’ federal vote intention has the NDP between their 2019 and 2021 result, pegging the party at 16.6%. They could pick up a couple seats in Quebec, but they’d likely lose more in British Columbia given the breakout of these results. Yet this has been the story of the NDP in recent years, losses here and gains elsewhere but overall unchanging or at worst declining.
I think the 43% of respondents that said they’d be less likely to vote NDP if Singh left the leader’s seat could be flawed. My gut tells me that includes respondents who simply wouldn’t vote for the party regardless of who’s in charge. Yet, if that number is true and the party would do better with Singh remaining in power, then what does that say about the state of the party?
You can chalk this up to the lack of real change since 2015. The Liberals have been in government, the Tories in opposition and everyone else is minding their own business.
At this point, I think the only way the NDP will drastically increase their seat count in the next election is if they pick a new leader who re-orients the party in one solid direction or the Liberals crash so hard the NDP picks up the spare votes as a result. But banking on another party to fail isn’t a good electoral strategy, you need to get out there and persuade voters to your cause on your own merits, and so far this hasn’t been the case for the federal New Democrats.
338Canada.ca is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.