Thursday, March 17, 2011

A brief note on public opinion polls

Three polls to look at today:

Lib 35%, CPC 30%, NDP 20%, BQ 11%
PC 36%, Lib 33%, NDP 8%, Ref 11%, BQ 10%
Lib 48%, PC 39%, NDP 11%

Those are the final pre-election polls for the three most recent times Canadians voted out an incumbent government (Jeff has more on the 2005/06 election here).

In all three instances - 2005/06, 1993, and 1984 - the incumbent party led when the writ was dropped. Twice, they fell by 20 percentage points during the campaign.

In fairness, the incumbent party has also led the past five times they were re-elected. Obviously, it's better to be 10 points up than 10 points down.

But campaigns matter. Let's not forget that.



  • But campaigns matter. Let's not forget that.

    Thats right, the Liberals could do even worse.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:15 a.m.  

  • Hmm.

    Your on thin ice.

    If you look at these numbers you'll find that the Libs going back to 1979 (10 elections) only once did better in the election result than they did in the last public opinion poll.

    The last five elections the Libs lost public support.

    Stats are for liars.

    It is interesting nonetheless.
    There are however other problems.

    1. The right is not split. eg Reform won't tug at the CPC or vise versa.

    2. The Bloc has solidified a good 10% of the vote. There is no chance of significant change in those votes.

    3. The Libs are so low now that it seems incomprehensible (to them anyways) that they could go lower still.

    If they do go lower the future of the party is at risk IMO.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:13 a.m.  

  • Well we can predict all kinds of things based on polls and history. The point is that anything can happen so these predictions are meaningless. So while your opinion on how the LPC could crash and burn is interesting and all, it is also meaningless.

    I maintain the poll numbers are directly related to the advertising, and that advertising will happen every time there is a threat of an election. If the LPC allow Harper to scare them from bringing him down every time he does this he will be PM forever.

    That said it appears the LPC are not afraid of an election.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 10:37 a.m.  

  • I know I'm in a minority here -- I may even be totally sole.

    I think polls are silly. Obviously in the most general sense, you can tell that:

    A) Probably, the Conservatives or Liberals will win, and

    B) Probably, the Greens and NDP will not win.

    Yet, we knew that anyway. I knew that 5 years ago!


    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 12:02 p.m.  

  • Wow Calgary, some context is in order here. When the Conservatives dropped 20% during an election their party had been split into three the Reform Party, the BLOC and the PCs. When the Libs dropped, Ad Scam was in full play.

    There is no billion dollar scandal happening now. There is no party split in three. If anything the Liberals are at a severe disadvantage during a campaign organizationally and financially. You just don't have the boots on the ground or the money.

    Penny ante scandals from the same time as ad scam aren't swaying voters. Voters don't want an election. Every time Igs threatens an election Liberal numbers tank.

    Anything can happen in an election with money, organization and the public on side, none of which the Liberal have.

    Sorry, but it's going to be a blood bath.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:16 p.m.  

  • Anons - The point is, things can shift during a campaign. In 2005/2006, we'd already had a year and a half of Adscam. There was nothing new (other than the RCMP investigation on IncomeTrusts which was fairly minor). Same in '84 - nothing new happened...but the Liberal vote still bottomed out.

    The Tories are ahead so, obviously enough, they're the favourites. But it's naive to say things won't change. Yes, it could get better for the Liberals. And it could get worse. But we're going to get shifts during this campaign.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:23 p.m.  

  • things can shift during a campaign

    I agree...

    Which is why I never understand the interest in polls. :-)

    I don't think they really mean very much. I'd be interested what the polls were saying before major elections around the world through history.

    Did any polls predict the Progresive Conservative reduction to 2 seats? (I'm asking, I don't know) Did any polls predict the Bob Rae NDP victory in that province? (I'm asking, I don't know... but I've heard people talking many times about the total surprise of that one)

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 2:16 p.m.  

  • PC reduction to 2 seats was because their party split in three, and yeah the writing was on the wall. Mulroney wasn't exactly well liked when he left. Also, possibly some misogyny towards Kim Campbell, who was inexperienced and new. Sad but true.

    Sorry Calgary, In and Out has been around for years. It's not effecting their numbers. The big difference is it's just how they used their own party donations, not how they stole tax payer dollars through kick back. Yes they get tax credits, but they would anyway, that's how political donation works in Canada.

    I also think Canadians take it for granted, expect and even prefer a strong leader for PM. Jean Chretien was a tyrant. Paul Martin Mr. Dithers. Who did Canadians prefer? I don't think calling Harper a strong arm leader hurts him with Canadians. It may even help him.

    There's nothing there that's going to go wrong. They have managed the economy well, Canadians are happy with the direction of the country. There is no big scandal. There is no new inexperienced leader, except for the Liberals. they have more money than they can spend.

    Every indication is that if polls shift during the election it will be away from the Liberals and towards the Conservatives. Every historical example, every realistic indicator of election performance, every polling trend, everything.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:07 p.m.  

  • "the writing was on the wall"

    That's nice. The question was what did the polls say?

    "it's going to be a blood bath."

    Oh no! It's all over!


    By Blogger Gayle, at 8:23 p.m.  

  • Yeah, I know things were "gloomy" for the PC Party under Campbell post-Mulronery... but did the polls say a reduction to a handful of seats?

    I'm growing more convinced polls didn't say the NDP would win under Rae vs the L and PC.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 3:31 a.m.  

  • I guess no one here understands public opinion polls are wrong when your party machine, splits in three. There numbers would also have been elevated from the leadership campaign which happened shortly before the election. They had no riding associations and no volunteers and no party machine because they went to the Reform and the BLOC.

    That scenario has no comparison to today, other than the Liberals are lacking in organizational capacity, and any deluded liberal who thinks that unique scenario means they might pick up support in this election is in for a real let down.

    If a significant drop happens during this writ, it is far more likely to be the Liberals reduced to a rump. But go for it. I really want Ignatieff to go home anyways.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:34 a.m.  

  • Regarding the vote split argument. Here are the final election results in 1993:

    Liberals 41.24%
    Reform 18.69%
    PC 16.04%
    Bloc 13.52%
    NDP 6.88%

    The PC vote dropped nearly 20 percent. The Liberals gained 8.25 percent during that election Reform gained 7.5 and the Bloc gained 3.5. A good chunk of that lost PC vote went to the Liberals.

    I have to agree with Calgary Grit, campaigns matter, and I think the Liberals are still well positioned to mount an effective challenge. At the same time, the Tories do have reason to feel confident.

    But the final result all depends on what happens during the campaign.

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