Election 2015: Race narrows to Conservative-Liberal contest with NDP in third place; soft voters still cause for volatility

Election 2015: Race narrows to Conservative-Liberal contest with NDP in third place; soft voters still cause for volatility

Trudeau’s personal appeal among factors propelling Liberals forward

October 9, 2015 – As the Election 2015 campaign heads into the long weekend and the start of advance voting, the ‘Mulcair Momentum’ that looked like it could push the New Democratic Party (NDP) into power in Ottawa for the first time in its history is in full reverse, leaving the governing Conservative Party (CPC) the slight favourite to form the next government, with the resurgent Liberal Party (LPC) now running a close second among decided eligible voters surveyed by the Angus Reid Institute.

That said, a volatile and uncommitted angus reid instituteelectorate may yet bring more changes in this final campaign stretch, as data from ARI’s latest public opinion poll shows more than one-in-five eligible voters say they’ll make their final  decision either right before or on October 19th.

Many of these uncertain voters are younger Canadians – a historically fickle demographic that is largely responsible for the Liberal surge. The outcome of this election may well depend on how well the LPC is able to convert these 18-to-34-year-olds from “soft” supporters into actual votes on Oct. 19.

The party standings & the uncommitted factor:

This ARI online poll of 1,083 eligible Canadian voters shows the Conservatives holding steady at 33 per cent of decided voters, just two points ahead of the Liberals (31%), and well ahead of the NDP, now standing at 25 per cent.

Compared to data released by the Institute at the end of September and at the end of August, these survey findings speak to the continued shift in soft support from the NDP to the Liberals, with the Conservatives maintaining consistent levels of voter support from September.

A high-level scan of key regional races shows:

  • The NDP’s continued slide and stall in Quebec opens up potential gains for the Bloc Quebecois and Liberals (see detailed tables at the end of this release)
  • In must-win Ontario – the Liberals and Conservatives are now neck and neck at 36 per cent each, making it tough for the NDP to make a comeback in the most vote-rich province in Canada
  • While the NDP does manage to hold its lead in battleground British Columbia, the LPC are making gains too – at the expense of the CPC

Nearly half of the electorate (44%) – including many who indicate some party preference – has yet to “lock-in”, while one-fifth of eligible voters (22%) say they won’t make up their mind until the final couple of days or on voting day itself.

angus reid

Leadership appeal and momentum favours Trudeau and the Liberals:

Mirroring his party’s rise in the polls over the last week, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is more likely than any other leader to be seen as either “very” or “quite appealing.”

Fully half of the electorate (50%) finds Trudeau appealing, compared to 45 per cent who say the same of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and 34 per cent who say so of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

angus reid

On whether respondents’ opinions of the party leaders have improved over the last week, momentum is in Trudeau’s corner:

  • More than one-quarter (26%) say they think better of Trudeau today than a week ago
  • Trudeau’s improvement number is more than twice Harper’s (12%)
  • And more than three times the level of improved opinion for Mulcair (8%)

When looking at this issue with a “momentum score” (subtracting the percentage who say their opinion of each leader has worsened from the percentage who say it has improved), the following graph indicates Trudeau is the only leader with a positive momentum score heading into the election’s final stretch:

angus reid election poll

Age demographics and vote certainty favour Harper and the Conservatives:

While political watchers may see lots of good news for the Liberal party in this poll, positive does not equate to victory on Oct. 19. At least, not yet. This is because the Liberal voting base is composed of a disproportionate number of younger eligible voters (those ages 18 – 34). Indeed, the Trudeau Liberals enjoy a substantial lead with voters under 35:

stephen harper poll

But, historically, younger Canadians have been least likely to actually vote in elections. Turnout is much higher among older Canadians (those aged 55 and older), who skew solidly Conservative in their vote intention.

Relatedly, this poll asked respondents not only which party they intend to support, but also how certain they are that they will vote for that party – as opposed to changing their mind sometime before election day:

  • Seven-in-ten CPC supporters (71%) say they will definitely vote Conservative, and there’s no way they could change their minds
  • Notably far fewer Liberals express this level of commitment about their voting intentions (52% do)
  • Fewer than half of would-be NDP voters (44%) are now certain about their choice

So, if the Liberal Party is to win this election, it will need to ensure that its young supporters actually go to the polls on Oct. 19, and it will need to convince “soft” NDP voters – many of whom indicate that they would consider voting strategically – that the LPC is the best choice to defeat Stephen Harper.

There is still time for the Liberals to make this argument. As previously mentioned, many soft voters say they will make up their minds in either the final couple of days of the campaign or on election day itself. 

Bracing for a minority:

Regardless of how respondents themselvesoctober7 indicate they’ll vote, their views on which party they think will win the election are of note. A telling sign of the NDP’s crumbling over the course of this campaign is that just one-in-ten (10%) expect the New Democrats – the party that came into the campaign as the one to beat – will actually win the election:

As the preceding graph shows, fully one-third of Canadians (33%) expect the Conservatives to win again. Another three-in-ten (30%) are uncertain what the result will be.

Regardless of how people see the election turning out, they’re expecting it to be a close one. Among those who say they expect a particular party to win the election, almost two-thirds (64%) see the winner forming a minority government. Less than one-quarter think any party is bound for a majority.

The following graph shows how respondents view each of the parties’ chances for a majority or minority:public opinion poll

A Note on Methodology

The data from all survey respondents or “eligible voters” uses standard census-based targets to ensure a national sample that is representative of the adult Canadian population as a whole by key demographics such as region, gender, age and education. All survey results are reported for this total group.

Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey

Shachi Kurl, Senior Vice President: 604.908.1693

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