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When the polls saw a big change coming to Ottawa in 1984

A large CBC poll showed the strong appetite voters had for change in Ottawa, two weeks ahead of the 1984 election.

CBC's own poll suggested the Progressive Conservatives would claim a big Election Day victory

CBC poll suggests Tory victory in 1984

37 years ago
Duration 2:41
About two weeks ahead of the 1984 election, a CBC poll suggests the Tories will form a majority government. 2:41

The Liberals ended up facing an outcome just as bad as the polls suggested.

And they got a preview of that defeat on CBC two weeks ahead of the 1984 federal election.

"Canada appears ready to vote [Progressive] Conservative," Knowlton Nash told viewers on The National on August 20, 1984.

"A new CBC poll indicates the country is about to get its first Conservative majority government since 1958. The Tories are way ahead, just about everywhere you look."

A 17-point lead for the PCs

A poll conducted by CBC News in August 1984 showed the Progressive Conservatives far ahead of the Liberals and the New Democrats, among decided voters. (The National/CBC Archives)

It was left up to Peter Mansbridge to review the fine points of the poll, which placed the Brian Mulroney-led Tories at 49 per cent among decided voters.

"That's 17 points ahead of the Liberals, who register 32 per cent," Mansbridge said. "The NDP is back near its traditional support with 18 per cent."

Mansbridge said Mulroney's Tories were leading in all regions surveyed, including in Ontario and also Quebec, where the party had netted only 12 per cent of the vote in the previous election.

Forty per cent of those surveyed chose Mulroney as the leader they believed would make the best prime minister, putting him ahead of Liberal Leader John Turner (20 per cent) and New Democrat Leader Ed Broadbent (15 per cent).

Tough truths in the polls

Peter Mansbridge said the poll made it clear that PC Leader Brian Mulroney had caught the country's attention. (The National/CBC Archives)

Steering viewers back to the bigger picture, Mansbridge said the poll results made it clear that Mulroney had the country's attention.

"It's the national figures that have the greatest impact," said Mansbridge. 

"For Brian Mulroney, they're a confirmation that he's well ahead and has broken though in every part of the country."

Turner was staring down a 17-point gap, a deficit in support that appeared insurmountable two weeks out from the election.

On Sept. 4, 1984, the Progressive Conservatives won a commanding majority, capturing 211 of the 282 seats in the House of Commons.

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