Poll Tracker: Conservatives gain at NDP expense in Quebec, Ontario

For the first time in three weeks, the stalemate seems to be breaking. And that could be good news for Stephen Harper, and bad news for Tom Mulcair.

4 different pollsters suggest trouble for the New Democrats

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper exchanges words with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair during the French-language leaders' debate on Thursday in Montreal. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

After almost three weeks with the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP effectively tied at the top of the polls, is the logjam finally beginning to break?

The CBC Poll Tracker now shows the widest gap between first and third place since Sept. 8, as the Conservatives move ahead with 32 per cent and the New Democrats fall back to 27.6 per cent. These numbers represent the highest and lowest polling averages for these two parties, respectively, since May. The Liberals, in second place, are holding steady at 30.4 per cent.

The Greens stand at 4.7 per cent and the Bloc Québécois are on the rise, to 17.5 per cent support in Quebec.

The seat projection now points to a high probability of the Conservatives finishing with the most seats if an election were held today, with a likely range of between 112 and 152 seats. The Liberals are narrowly more likely to finish second, with between 82 and 120 seats, and the NDP third with between 93 and 115 seats. The Greens are projected to win one seat and the Bloc Québécois as many as two.

Just a couple of polls?

Is this recent dip in the NDP's support just the product of two polls published on Monday? The first, by Nanos Research for CTV and the Globe and Mail, awarded the Conservatives 33 per cent support, with the Liberals at 31.6 per cent and the NDP at 26.9 per cent. The second, by Abacus Data, gave the Conservatives 32 per cent, the Liberals 29 per cent, and the NDP 27 per cent.

While these two polls do point toward a slump for the New Democrats, they are not the only ones. Polling by the Innovative Research Group and Forum Research in recent days has also shown lower results for the NDP. Innovative, which conducted two polls (one via the telephone and the other via the internet), gauged the NDP's support to stand at either 27 or 29 per cent. Forum put it at 28 per cent.

When all of these pollsters were last in the field at the same time between Sept. 4 and 11, the picture was very different. Nanos pegged NDP support at between 30 and 31 per cent at the time, while Abacus and Innovative both put the NDP at 31 per cent. Forum was more bullish on the NDP's chances in early September, registering it at 36 per cent support.

So the drop the NDP has experienced is not just what two polls have found, but has been recorded by four different pollsters using different methodologies.

Contrary to what one might expect, however, it is not the Liberals that have benefited from the NDP's drop, but rather the Conservatives. These four pollsters suggest little difference in Liberal support between their most recent findings and their polls of early September. But the Conservatives are up across the board: two to seven points according to Nanos, and three points according to Abacus, Innovative and Forum.

The momentum, then, appears to be against the New Democrats and for the Conservatives. But if that continues, it could also be trouble for the Tories, if voters most concerned with defeating Harper flock to the Liberals as the stalemate breaks.

Or, if the last few weeks of polling are any guide, the numbers could revert to a three-way race in a matter of days. It's not time to pop the champagne corks or break the emergency glass just yet.

CBC's Poll Tracker aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date and the polling firm's accuracy record. Upper and lower ranges are based on how polls have performed in other recent elections. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all ridings in the country, based on regional shifts in support since the 2011 election and taking into account other factors such as incumbency. The projections are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level. The polls included in the model vary in size, date and method, and have not been individually verified by the CBC. You can read the full methodology here.

The questions asked in the polls mentioned in this article were as follows:

Nanos: "If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?"

Abacus: "If a federal election was held tomorrow, which one of the following parties would you vote for in your constituency?"


Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.