Poll Tracker: Portrait of tight race clearing up as polls move into agreement

The two polling narratives that appeared to be forming earlier this week may be merging, as newer polls show that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives enjoy a substantial lead over each other.

Liberals and Conservatives move into close race, previously wide-ranging polls agree

Based on where the polls stand today, these two men have the best chance to win the election on Oct. 19. (Mark Blinch/Pool/Canadian Press)

The polling cacophony may be quieting down, as the discordant polls of earlier this week have moved into greater harmony.

But while polls may no longer be disagreeing on the overall picture of the race, the gap between the Liberals and Conservatives is tight enough that it is impossible to say right now which party has the better chance of winning on Oct. 19.

The Liberals narrowly hold the edge in the CBC Poll Tracker, with 32.9 per cent support against 32.4 per cent for the Conservatives. The New Democrats stand at 24.3 per cent, with the Greens at 4.8 per cent support and the Bloc Québécois at 19.3 per cent in Quebec.

This back-and-forth in the overall lead between the Liberals and Conservatives has been a feature of the campaign for the last two weeks, as both parties inch upward while the NDP slips in the polls.

What has changed recently, however, is that the close race used to be the result of averaging disparate polls. Now, it appears that most polls have moved into broad agreement.

A Forum poll at the end of September gave the Conservatives a seven-point edge over the Liberals, but in its latest poll published Thursday the Liberals are up by four. Abacus Data gave the Conservatives a three-point lead a little less than two weeks ago, but now puts that gap at one point. EKOS Research was showing a seven-point advantage for the Tories, but now has the margin at just two points. Nanos Research, which had the Liberals up by almost five points, now has them ahead by just two.

Though these findings may look different in that they give the lead to one party or another, the differing results are all within the polls' respective margins of error.

In fact, in these recent polls, which range across different methodologies, the Liberals and Conservatives have both scored between 31 and 35 per cent support. That is a strong indication of a tie existing between the two parties, with the New Democrats now definitively in third place with between 21 and 26 per cent.

Ontario boosts Liberals into narrow seat edge

Ontario was the province causing the most problems in the disagreeing polls, but the picture has become more clear — and to the benefit of the Liberals.

The Liberals have been scoring between 38 and 39 per cent in most recent polls in the province, with the Conservatives behind with 34 to 36 per cent and the NDP in third with between 17 and 24 per cent. The Liberals have been given the edge in polls conducted by Nanos, Forum, Abacus, EKOS and Ipsos, a level of consistency that has been rare in this campaign. The 3.9-point lead the Poll Tracker gives the Liberals in Ontario is the widest any party has enjoyed in the province in almost a month.

This has a big impact on the overall seat count, which now gives the Liberals 127 seats to 124 for the Conservatives and 85 for the NDP. The projected edge of 10 seats for the Liberals over the Conservatives in Ontario makes the difference.

But the Tories still have a more advantageous likely range of projected seats, with 109 to 155 seats against 97 to 135 seats for the Liberals.

This means that the Liberals are currently projected near the high end of their range, suggesting they would need a lot of the close races to go their way in order to end up on top. By comparison, the Conservatives wouldn't need as much luck to pull ahead.

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.


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.


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