Monday, April 18, 2011

Poll Vault: The Story of the NDP

Up until now, the commentary on #elxn41 (including here in the ivory towers of A Guy Watching Politics) has focused on the battle between the Conservatives and the Liberals. One is the party of the government; the other the party of the government in waiting.

So far, so good. It all made sense.

While nothing has changed the fact that the next Prime Minister will come from one of these parties, events over the past seven days have changed the landscape.

The strength of the NDP was always going to be an important variable. We knew that going into this campaign. What's interesting is not that the NDP are an important player, it's the shift over the past week.

For the first two weeks or so, the NDP had a poor campaign. They received limited visibility and their message was being drowned out by the Liberal and Conservative campaigns. Heading into the debates, a major talking point was the falling levels of NDP support, particularly in vote-rich Ontario.

That was certainly the top-line story. Below this line, we also had the story of the NDP polling well in Quebec. Something that read well and was interesting, but perhaps not compelling given the broader national narrative.

Enter the debates.

I am the first to admit that I am not a fan of Mr. Layton. He's affable and passionate - I get that. However, his message and style don't resonate with me. I find it sometimes too flippant and the economics too idealistic. All said I'd have a beer with him, but I don't think I would vote for him.

However, putting aside my views, I think during the debates (particularly in French) he did come across as natural - impassioned, interested, and at times above the fray. I think that resonated with voters in Quebec who are tired of the same old struggle, and with voters in Ontario who had moved Liberal in the first two weeks.

The result is that over the past few days we have seen an NDP "poll vault." They have reversed the losses in Ontario (at the expense of the Liberals) and have made gains in Quebec (at the expense primarily of the Bloc, but also to the detriment of the others). Add to this the resonance that the anti-HST campaign is having in BC and you have the potential for something meaningful.

Today Angus-Reid had the Liberals and NDP both at 25% nationally. Other polls show a similar resurgence, though not a tie with the Liberals.

The two weeks left are an eternity. The NDP numbers nationally may not mean much in the grand scheme of things. However, the NDP numbers in Ontario, Quebec and BC could be significant. The question is how?

Will this last? Will it result in greater vote-splitting on the left, allowing the Conservatives to come up the middle? Or do the polling numbers translate into NDP seats? Put another way, how is the Conservative quest for a majority affected by a resurgent NDP? What does this mean for the Liberals?

Tell me what you think. How will this affect the final two weeks of the campaign?


  1. My thoughts?

    I wonder if the same percentage of people who may switch to the NDP would equal the number of people who may wake up and realize Harper has to go and dust off their ID and vote for once. For the Liberals.

    I get a sense that some people have reached their limit of Harper and will vote strategically.

    I don't think it will be enough. But it may offset any gains made by the NDP.

    I think about these things.

  2. Kendall,

    You raise some interesting points. I think that the situation we are now in, particularly as the "coalition fear" argument has again kicked into high gear, may lead people to think "no Harper" rather than "go Jack!" Time will tell.

    A bigger question for me is what will the overall turnout look like. It was 58.8 in 2008 - an all-time low. My sense is that it will increase this time around.

    The question is, from what group will the added turn-out come? If it is a shored up Conservative base, that leads to one outcome.

    But, if it is the "stop Harper" type then we may see some impact. Look to see whether students come into play too!

  3. My sense is we will see a higher youth vote. And I think that's more than just a hope this time around.

    Social media may capture the imagination of the younger generation. Some of them may even feel an obligation to vote because of initiatives aimed at the youth vote. Some organizations have been using social media effectively in building momentum with younger voters.

    I think this will hurt the Conservatives. But I'm not sure it will be drastic enough.


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