02/10/2012 10:21 EST | Updated 02/10/2012 10:26 EST

NDP Fall Behind Liberals In Quebec, According To New Forum Research Poll


For the first time since the 2011 federal election the New Democrats have fallen into second place in Quebec, according to a new poll by Forum Research.

The poll, reported Friday by The National Post, puts NDP support at 25 per cent in the province, down four points since Forum’s last poll conducted on January 13, and down significantly from the 43 per cent of the vote the party captured in Quebec in the last election.

The Liberals have gained seven points since last month and now lead with 28 per cent in the province, while the Conservatives stand at 24 per cent and the Bloc Québécois at 20 per cent.

For interim Leader Bob Rae, that is double what Michael Ignatieff managed in Quebec in May 2011.

Of course, this is only one poll and the results are from a regional subset of a national poll, meaning the sample size was relatively small. Nevertheless, it does seem to confirm a recent trend in voting intentions in Quebec.

Two polls by Léger Marketing and Nanos Research conducted at the end of January found that NDP support had slipped to between 28 and 29 per cent in Quebec. And while the Liberals scored 22 per cent in the large-sample Léger poll, they hit 26.5 per cent in the Nanos survey. This puts the results from Forum Research in the realm of plausibility.

While this has little real effect on the political reality in Ottawa, it might have a much more important effect upon the ongoing NDP leadership race.

After the withdrawal of northern Quebec MP Roméo Saganash, Brian Topp and Thomas Mulcair are the only two remaining Quebecers vying for the party leadership. And this Sunday an all-candidates debate is being held in Quebec City.

The question of who is best equipped to keep Quebec in the NDP fold becomes all the more important now that the party may have lost its position as the preferred option in the province. If this poll’s results were repeated in an election, the New Democrats could be expected to lose half of the 58 MPs they currently have in the province. Not only would that dash any hopes of an NDP victory, it would also jeopardize the party's status as the Official Opposition.

Other polls are needed to confirm (or dispel) that the NDP have indeed fallen to second place in Quebec But the fact that the NDP are in a tight race with the other three parties in the province is quite clear.

There’s plenty of time for the next leader of the NDP to right the ship in Quebec, but convincing voters to come back is a far more difficult task than keeping them where they are. The next leader of the party will need to work toward regaining support in Quebec before he or she can look to winning new hearts and minds in the rest of the country.

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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