The Conservative Party is holding on to a double-digit lead in Canada’s federal political scene, but a surging New Democratic Party (NDP) is now tied with the Liberal Party for second place, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.
In the online survey of a representative national sample of 2,032 Canadian adults, 36 per cent of decided voters (-2 since early April) would support the governing Conservative Party in the May 2 federal election.
The Liberals have shown no growth and stand at 25 per cent (-2), but the New Democrats have seen their support increase by four points and are now even with the Grits (25%). The Bloc Québécois is at nine per cent (+1), followed by the Green Party with five per cent (-1).
The NDP’s ascendance is tied to the support of voters in two areas. The party is now second to the Tories in Western Canada. In Quebec, the NDP has become a popular federalist force at 26 per cent, 10 points behind the sovereignist Bloc. The Tories hold a seven-point lead over the Grits in Ontario.
There appears to be no discernible gender gap, with support for the five parties being relatively stable across male and female decided voters. The NDP, however, is the top choice for voters aged 18 to 34 (30%), and is now second to the Tories among voters aged 35-to-54 (26%). The Conservatives maintain their dominance among Canadians over the age of 55 (43%).
The Conservatives show an impressive retention rate, keeping 84 per cent of their voters in the 2008 federal election. The proportion of electors who are sticking by the Bloc (79%) and the NDP (78%) is also high. Conversely, three-in-ten people (31%) who voted for the Stéphane Dion-led Liberals in 2008 are now looking elsewhere.
Approval, Momentum and Preferred Prime Minister
The performance of NDP leader Jack Layton in the televised debates has led to the highest approval rating recorded by any Canadian federal politician in an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll over the past three years. Half of Canadians (50%) approve of the way Layton is doing his job.
One third of respondents approve of Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper (33%), while one-in-four feel the same way about both Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (24%) and Green Party leader Elizabeth May (also 24%).
Layton’s momentum score stands at +26, with more than a third of Canadians (36%) saying that they now have an improved opinion of the NDP leader. The remaining contenders all posted negative momentum scores.
There is a virtual tie in the preferred Prime Minister question, with large proportions of Canadians choosing either Harper (28%) or Layton (27%) for the country’s top political job. Ignatieff is a distant third with 13 per cent, while Duceppe and May are in single digits.
Layton is clearly a popular choice for younger Canadians and Quebecers, while Harper remains dominant in Alberta, the Prairies, and among respondents over the age of 55.
Harper maintains the upper hand on being the best person to handle the economy (36%) and crime (35%), while Layton is now the clear leader on health care (36%) and ethics and accountability (28%). May is regarded as the best person to handle the environment (32%).
Overall, about three-in-ten respondents (28%) believe that the Conservative government has performed well, and deserves a majority in the House of Commons. This notion is most popular in Alberta (53%) and British Columbia (40%). Conversely, 45 per cent of Canadians—including 61 per cent of Quebecers—believe the Tories have performed poorly and do not deserve to form the government after the next election.
The Tories have dropped three points since the start of the campaign. In Quebec, the federal governing party has fallen to fourth place. However, the Tories are keeping solid levels of support in their traditional areas of strength, and remain ahead of the Grits in Ontario.
The Liberals are now sitting slightly behind their 2008 election total under Stéphane Dion, registering below the 20 per cent mark in British Columbia and Quebec. Ignatieff is third when Canadians are asked who they would prefer at 24 Sussex, and he does not garner the backing of one-in-five Canadians on being the best person to handle any one of five key issues. The Grits are losing ground to the NDP, particularly among middle-aged Canadians.
The Bloc is maintaining its frontrunner status in Quebec, as the federalist vote begins to split among three other parties. The Greens, without the benefit of the debate, are floundering. Half of respondents cannot issue judgement on the performance of May as leader, and the party is now at its lowest level in two years.
The biggest winner in the first voting intention survey conducted after debate week is Layton. The NDP leader has successfully connected with voters, providing his party with a marked boost. Layton now commands the approval of half of Canadians, something no other party leader has been able to do in three years.
In the middle of the 2008 campaign, also after the debates, the NDP managed to tie the Liberals in voting intention. Whether this post-debate surge for the NDP continues hinges on voter turnout. Layton has managed to court a large proportion of younger voters, who have traditionally been less likely to cast a ballot on election day. The other complex issue for the NDP is voter softness, as two-in-five current supporters (41%) claim they could change their mind before the election takes place.
The next two weeks will provide some guidance on whether the NDP’s popularity can actually become a challenge to the federal two-party hegemony, or remains an ephemeral reaction to a good debate performance.
Jaideep Mukerji, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+514 409 0462
Methodology: From April 15 to April 16, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,032 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.