07/12/2012 04:59 EDT | Updated 09/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Is The NDP Becoming A National Force?

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After the last federal election some observers felt the NDP had reached its peak based on the popularity of then-leader Jack Layton and the surprising success of the "orange wave" in Quebec.

Since then, the party has seen the death of Layton and a leadership campaign won by Thomas Mulcair, and recent polls have shown the NDP leading the federal Conservatives in national support.

What is happening with the NDP — is it turning into a possible national government alternative? How deep are these roots, and is there a spillover effect to its provincial fortunes?

"What's a bit of an eye-popper, is a recent poll that was completed by Environics Research on what is happening in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador," says Nik Nanos of Nanos Research.

The poll found support for the provincial NDP at 38 per cent in June, up 13 points from their showing in the provincial election last October. By contrast, support for the provincial Tories were at 35 per cent in June, down 21 points from the election. The Liberals were at 26 per cent, up 7 points from their 19 per cent showing in October.

Those numbers put the NDP at an all-time high in the province and show the Tories, who had a strong hold on the province under former leader Danny Williams and won the last election under current Premier Kathy Dunderdale with 56 per cent support, dropping significantly.

"In this province, the traditional parties have been a lock, in terms of the government and winnability," Nanos told host Evan Solomon of CBC News Network's Power & Politics. "The interesting thing when we look at [these] numbers is that, when the Tories drop, the main beneficiary are the NDP.

"For every three voters lost by the Conservatives provincially, the NDP pick up two and the Liberals only pick up one."

Nanos said the numbers can be extrapolated to federal vote intention. The Environics survey shows the NDP at 49 per cent federally in the province, up 16 points; the Conservatives are down 11 points and the Liberals are down four.

"Voters that have traditionally, almost forever, focussed on the two traditional parties are now looking at alternatives both federally and provincially."

The provincial numbers hold a significant warning for the NDP's federal rivals, Nanos said.

"Don't just look at the national numbers, watch what's going on in the provinces because they may be a leading indicator as to how deep, if at all, this change is for Thomas Mulcair and the New Democrats."

Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, Nik Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a Fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association and a Research Associate Professor with SUNY (Buffalo).

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