The New Democratic Party (NDP) has solidified its position as the second most popular party in Canada, and is now five points behind the leading Conservatives as a federal election looms, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in partnership with the Toronto Star and La Presse has found.
In the online survey of a representative national sample of 2,040 Canadian adults, 35 per cent of decided voters (-1 since mid-April) would support the governing Conservative Party in the May 2 federal election.
The NDP is second with 30 per cent (+5), followed by the Liberal Party with 22 per cent (-3), the Bloc Québécois with seven per cent (-2), and the Green Party with five per cent (=).
The Conservatives remain strong across Western Canada, with three-in-five Albertans (60%) and 44 per cent of British Columbians saying they would vote for the Tory candidate in their riding. The New Democrats are now in first place in Quebec with 38 per cent, 11 points ahead of the sovereignist Bloc Québécois. The NDP is three points behind the Liberals in Ontario (27% to 30%), with the Tories solidly in first place (37%).
The NDP has managed to gain significantly compared to its result in the last federal election, while the remaining four parties are currently below their 2008 totals. The party is attracting more than one third of decided voters aged 18 to 34 (37%, +7 since mid-April), while the Tories hold on to a similar proportion of respondents aged 35 to 54 (38%) and those over the age of 55 (also 38%).
The Conservatives continue to post an impressive retention rate, keeping 82 per cent of their voters in the 2008 federal election. The proportion of electors who are sticking by the NDP is also high (77%). The Bloc and the Liberals hold lower retention rates, at 70 per cent and 64 per cent respectively. In fact, 24 per cent of Liberal voters in 2008—and 27 per cent of Bloc voters in the same election—are now supporting the New Democrats.
While the NDP maintains the lowest proportion of committed voters at 71 per cent—those respondents who say they will definitely vote for this party on May 2—this proportion has increased by 12 points since the mid-April poll. The Conservatives preserve the highest level of committed voters (84%).
Approval, Momentum and Preferred Prime Minister
NDP leader Jack Layton continues to hold a considerable edge on approval, as half of Canadians (49%, -1) are satisfied with the way he is doing his job. More than one third of respondents approve of Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper (36%, +3). Green leader Elizabeth May garners the approval of 25 per cent of Canadians (-1). Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is now fourth on this indicator with 21 per cent (-3), while Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe is at 13 per cent.
Layton’s momentum score increased markedly since the last Angus Reid Public Opinion poll and now stands at +36, with almost half of Canadians (46%) saying that they now have an improved opinion of the NDP leader. The remaining contenders all posted negative momentum scores, with 44 per cent of respondents saying that their opinion of Ignatieff has worsened since the start of the election.
Harper holds a four-point edge on Layton in the preferred Prime Minister question (31% to 27%), with Ignatieff dropping to 11 per cent. The Liberal leader gets his highest level of support on this question in Atlantic Canada (14%).
There was very little movement in this question since mid-April, with Harper getting the best score on handling the economy (38%) and crime (37%), and Layton keeping his dominance on health care (38%) and ethics and accountability (31%). Despite her party getting the support of only one-in-twenty decided voters, May is seen as the best person to handle the environment (34%).
Three-in-ten Canadians (29%) believe the Conservative government has performed well, and deserves a majority in the House of Commons after the May 2 election. However, a majority of respondents would prefer either a minority for the Tories (15%) or a different party forming the government (43%).
About three-in-ten Canadians (29%) say they definitely or probably would consider voting for a party they dislike to force the defeat of a specific candidate in their riding. Liberal voters (43%) and NDP voters (33%) are more likely to partake in this practice than Conservatives (21%).
Also, more than a third of Canadians (37%) are considering voting strategically in order to reduce the chances of a specific party forming the government, even if it means casting a ballot for a candidate they dislike. More than half of Liberals (53%) and more than two-in-five NDP supporters (43%) are thinking of this option on election day.
Overall, none of four possible election outcomes gets the endorsement of a majority of Canadians. Two-in-five (39%) would be satisfied with a Conservative majority after May 2, but more than seven-in-ten supporters of current opposition parties dislike this notion. A similar proportion of Canadians (38%) would also be content with a Conservative minority government, if the Tories win more seats than any other single party.
The idea of a coalition government featuring the Liberals and the NDP, if these two parties have more combined seats than the Tories, is appealing to 41 per cent of Canadians. Grit and NDP supporters like this scenario, but four-in-five Tories reject it. By far, the least popular option is a Liberal-NDP coalition government with the support of the Bloc. Liberals are split on this idea, half of New Democrats express dissatisfaction, and Tories decry it by a 9-to-1 margin.
Earlier this month, we showed the NDP moving into a tie with the Liberals for the first time since the 2008 federal campaign. Now, the NDP surge has become more solid, with marked increases in Quebec and Ontario, and a higher level of committed voters who say they will not change their mind before election day. These gains have come at the expense of the Liberals and the Bloc. The Grits are holding on to just 64 per cent of their voters in the 2008 election, and one-in-four of these voters who supported the Stéphane Dion-led Liberals in 2008 are now backing the NDP. The Bloc is also losing 27 per cent of its voters to the NDP, and is no longer the frontrunner in Quebec.
The shift is not affecting the Conservatives too much. While slightly down from the last poll, the governing party maintains the highest level of committed voters (84%) and the highest retention rate of all contending parties (82%). However, there has been very little movement on the preferred outcome question, suggesting that the call for a majority mandate has not attracted many undecided voters to the Tory fold.
In this scenario, the possibility of a majority mandate for the Conservatives hinges on voter turnout and on the way the centre-left vote will split in the ridings that are being defended by Liberal incumbents. Half of Liberal voters say they would be willing to vote strategically to reduce the chances of a specific party forming the government.
While there has been an increase in the proportion of respondents who are open to the coalition scenarios since December, the notion is still not palatable for a plurality of Canadians. The idea of the Bloc buttressing a Liberal-NDP government is only appealing for supporters of the sovereignist party.
Jaideep Mukerji, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+514 409 0462
Methodology: From April 25 to April 26, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,040 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.