POLITICS

Conservative Support Falls As Liberals Make Gains In New Federal Polls

01/27/2012 08:52 EST | Updated 03/27/2012 05:12 EDT
CP

Things are looking up for the Liberals.

Though still trailing the New Democrats by a margin of four to seven points in the race for second place, Liberal support is on an upward trajectory according to a bevy of new polls released this week.

With four surveys published over the last few days, one might be led to believe that the country is heading into another election this year instead of in 2015.

But not all elections are won on the campaign trail. The results of the 2008 election, for example, were not far removed from what polls were saying for two years running up to the vote.

If the Liberal plan for a return to power is incrementalism, they are on the right track. Their support has increased slightly from 19 per cent in May 2011 to between 21 and 25 per cent in this week’s polls. In surveys conducted by Harris-Decima and Abacus Data the party has gained three points since the polling firms last reported in early December. Angus-Reid, which last reported in September, has the party up one point.

Nevertheless, the Liberals are not in a position to replace the New Democrats as the Official Opposition, let alone the Conservatives in government. The NDP’s support ranged between 28 and 29 per cent across the three pan-Canadian polls, with no discernible trend.

But while the New Democrats appear to be holding steady a few ticks under the 31 per cent they received in the last election, the Conservatives are on a downward trajectory.

Since December, the party has dropped between two and three points. Support across the three polls ranged widely, between 32 and 39 per cent, suggesting either a modest decrease from the 40 per cent of the last election or a near calamitous eight-point freefall.

Ontario appears to be the main cause of this Conservative decline. After capturing 44 per cent of the vote in the last election, the Tories now stand somewhere between 35 and 42 per cent. The polls record losses for the Conservatives in the province since December, while also recording a Liberal gain of between three and four points. The three surveys put Liberal support at between 29 and 34 per cent, well above the 25 per cent they received in May 2011 in the province.

The New Democrats, meanwhile, appear to be holding firm in Ontario.

Not so in Quebec, where the NDP has dropped from the 43 per cent on election night to somewhere between 29 and 37 per cent support. Most surveys, including a poll of 1,000 Quebecers by CROP, put the NDP at the lower end of the scale.

However, the NDP is still first in Quebec and their primary rival, the Bloc Québécois, appears to be dropping. Across the four polls the BQ tightly ranged between 21 and 23 per cent, representing a loss of as much as five points since December.

With his majority government, Stephen Harper can afford to ignore the polls for a couple more years. Bob Rae might ride them to the permanent leadership. But where NDP support goes once their next leader is chosen may be most significant. If he or she maintains this current level of NDP support or increases it, the party will be in a good position to defeat the Conservatives in 2015. If he or she loses that support, however, they may return to the back corner of the House of Commons.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls, and electoral projections.

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