The Conservative Party maintains the upper hand in Canada’s federal political scene, while the third-place Liberals have increased their numbers at the expense of the New Democratic Party (NDP), a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, 39 per cent of decided voters and leaners (unchanged since August 2011) would support the governing Tories in the next federal election.

The official opposition New Democrats are second with 28 per cent (-3), followed by the Liberal Party with 22 per cent (+3), the Bloc Québécois with five per cent (-1), and the Green Party also with five per cent (+1).

The Conservatives maintain a high level of support in Alberta (65%) and are also the most popular party in Ontario (42%). The Liberals have now moved into second place in Canada’s most populous province (29%, with the NDP at 24%). The New Democrats have their best showing in British Columbia (40%, six points ahead of the Conservatives).

Among male voters, the Conservatives hold a 15-point advantage over the NDP (41% to 26%). The race is closer among women, where the Tories keep a five-point edge over the New Democrats (36% to 31%). Two-in-five Canadians aged 35-to-54 (42%) would vote for the Conservatives, along with 39 per cent of those over the age of 55. Tories and New Democrats are practically tied among voters aged 18-to-34.

The retention rates for the federal parties show a significant shift. The Liberals are now holding on to 82 per cent of the voters who supported them in the May 2011 election, second only to the governing Conservatives (86%). The NDP now has the second lowest retention rate in Canada (70%), with one-in-six 2011 NDP voters (15%) now choosing the Grits.

Approval Ratings and Momentum

Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper maintains the highest approval rating in the country at 43 per cent (+3), although his disapproval numbers increased by eight points to 49 per cent. The two interim leaders are splitting opinions as they carry on with their respective assignments, with Liberal Bob Rae at 35 per cent and New Democrat Nycole Turmel at 32 per cent. Green Party leader Elizabeth May holds the approval of 31 per cent of respondents, and recently selected Bloc Québécois leader Daniel Paillé is last with 11 per cent.

All five federal party leaders posted a negative momentum score, but Rae almost reached positive territory (-1), followed by May (-6), Turmel (-10) and Paillé (-15). It is important to note that the momentum score for Harper went from -10 in August to -22 this month.

Analysis

Despite the inherent difficulty of figuring out voting intention when two of the five main parties have not settled on full-time leaders, some observations are warranted. The Conservative base remains solid, as evidenced by the high levels of support among middle-aged and older Canadians, and a decisive advantage in Ontario. The approval rating for Harper increased slightly, but he posted the worst momentum score of all party leaders.

The New Democrats appear to be facing difficulties reconnecting with their voters after the death of former leader Jack Layton. The party has dropped to third place in Ontario and is seeing 15 per cent of their voters in 2011 flock towards the Liberal Party.

For the Grits, the survey provides some hope. Rae’s momentum score was the best in a month that featured the Liberal Biennial Convention and many media opportunities. The party’s voter retention rate is similar to that of the governing Tories. The Liberals have gained three points nationally, recovered markedly in Ontario and are now an option for some voters who are no longer convinced about the NDP.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

CONTACT:

Mario Canseco, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+877 730 3570
mario.canseco@angus-reid.com

Methodology: From January 20 to January 21, 2012, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,000 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panellists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 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.