Friday, May 21, 2004

Free Falling:

I was going to post something on the changes to the gun registry today (and, as an aside, since I'm always praising Harper here and knocking the Liberals, I just want to point out that, I am a leftist...and as an example of that I'm 100% behind the gun registry, even if it costs 100 million a year, which it doesn't...but maybe I'll have more on that this weekend). But the polls that came out today make it abundantly clear that we are heading towards the first epic election since 1988. I've been predicting a Liberal minority for quite some time but I'm now feeling more and more like Stephen Harper will win the next election. Even though they're going into the election in front, the "hidden" numbers have got to be absolutely petrifying for the Liberals. Just so you can follow along at home, the numbers I'm quoting are pulled from either the COMPASS or the Ipsos-Reid polls. Let's start with the Compass poll:

1) The Liberals once again sit at 39% in this poll which is consistent with every other poll we've seen. However, the Conservatives are now at 31%. This should be extremely scary for the Liberals since it will only take a 4% swing in vote to leave the two parties in a dead heat. And since polling has existed, the incumbent party has dropped an average of 7% during elections. And the absolute scariest number is this one: In Ontario the Liberals lead 42% to 39%. That translates into 40 Conservative seats by my count. Given that there's no way the Tories get under 60 seats in the West and that translates to an opposition party with over 100 seats for the first time since 1980.

2) An interesting part of this poll is the "issue section". They ask respondents how they'd vote if the election were decided on certain issues. On "Health and Education" which are the Liberal strong points, they have a very modest 38-29-24 lead on the Cons and NDP. The Liberals also do very well on the economy, terrorism, leadership and separatism. However, I can't see any of these issues, except perhaps leadership taking a dominant role in the campaign. What I can see being a major issue is the sponsorship scandal, which actually puts the Torries in front 37-30. The Torries also take the lead on "change" (wouldn't they have to by definition?).

3) The poll found that the Liberals had little chance to make gains by attacking Harper on tax cuts, or the fact that he's from Alberta or the fact that the Conservatives are full of "religious fanatics". Considering the Liberals appear hell bent on "demonizing" him and attacking him on tax cuts...well...I think the results may be closer to the anti-Chretien gameplan of '93 than the anti-Day gameplan of '00.

4) 76% say there was "much corruption" in the scandal and the Liberals "helped their friends". 71% think Martin was in the loop. And in a very telling number, 40% feel they are worse off than they were four years ago, compared to 27% who feel they are better off.

Now we move on to Ipsos, who have the Liberals with a healthier lead but with absolutely scary peripherals. Consider,

1) 61% of Canadians believe the Liberal Party is corrupt. And that number is at 70% in Quebec. When I first saw this, it occurred to me that this means the Liberals won't do anything unless people are willing to vote for a corrupt party. Well, it looks like they are. 35% of Liberal voters feel the Liberal party is corrupt. Eek!

2) 58% of Canadians believe Martin is "too friendly with big business". Remember the CSL fiasco that hit the week before the sponsorship scandal? My prediction is the NDP will capitalize on this massively. I heard a report the NDP was planning to go to the Barbados for one day during the campaign to play up the offshore flags angle but backed out. Regardless, you'll have the NDP attacking on CSL, the Bloc on Sponsorship and Harper on money management. It's going to get ugly.

3) "only 23 per cent of Conservatives say they might change their minds, whereas 29 per cent of Liberals say they could." Uh-oh. Guess who has more growth pottential?

4) 2 in 3 Conservatives say they will definitely vote this election. That compares to 56% for the Liberals. That 10% swing means the Liberals will lose about 3% of their lead on voter turn-out alone.

5) And finally, we get to the absolutely scary stuff. 47% of Liberal voters feel the country is better off with a minority government. Unbelievable. 36% of Canadians feel the Liberal Party deserves to be re-elected under "the new leadership of Paul Martin". wow. They question was even phrased to favour "Team Martin" and they could only get 36%. How on earth do you get over 36% when only 36% of Canadians feel you deserve to be re-elected. Not surprisingly, 60% of Canadians feel it's time for another political party to be given a chance to govern.

Putting all of this together and we see that the Liberals cannot win a majority unless:
-People who feel they are corrupt vote for them
-People who feel they don't deserve to be re-elected vote for them

Now, as I mentioned before, with the exception of 1974, the incumbent party has lost support during the campaign since modern polling came into being. Given that the Liberals have the weakest support, the voters least likely to vote, and the pottential to lose an election fought on the sponsorship scandal and I don't see how they can reverse history. This party has to drop at least 5% during the campaign, which leaves Harper dangerously close to them. I still think Martin will eek out a minority since some NDP vote might bleed to the Liberals but I would not be surprised to see the Conservatives on top.

And despite this, Herle and co are set to drop the writ this Sunday. I don't know what the Earnscliffe focus groups are telling them but if it's anything like these two polls, it's a mind-boggling decision to go right now.

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