Liberal support slides to lowest levels since 2015 election

Liberal support has dropped almost seven points over the last three months, erasing the gains the party made after the 2015 federal election.

The Liberals have lost most of the gains they made after forming government in latest quarterly poll report

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals have dropped 6.8 points over the last three months in national voting intentions. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Support for Justin Trudeau's Liberals has sharply declined over the last three months, dropping to its lowest levels since the last federal election.

The party has taken a hit in the polls in every region of the country, boosting both the Conservatives and New Democrats as a result. But despite the governing party's worsening fortunes, the Liberals still have as much support today as they did when they secured a majority government in October 2015.

The Liberals have averaged 40.5 per cent support in national polls conducted over the last three months, a drop of 6.8 points compared to the previous quarter. Though that is still above their electoral result of 39.5 per cent, it is a significant shift from the party's steady polling at 46 to 47 per cent throughout 2016.

This is, by a wide margin, the greatest shift recorded in national voting intentions since Liberal support surged in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 election. This shift has all but erased those "honeymoon" gains.

The negative trend coincided with a number of issues that may have sapped Liberal strength, including the government's pipeline decisions, its broken electoral reform promise, the prime minister's cash-for-access controversies and his stay on the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas.

(Note that past quarterly averages have been revised due to the inclusion of polling data from Nanos Research that had not been available at the time.)

The Conservatives have picked up 3.5 points in the past quarter, boosting the party to 31.8 per cent — nearly identical to the Tories' electoral performance. This is another important shift, as the Conservatives had previously been stagnating under 30 per cent after losing power.

The New Democrats were also up, gaining 2.3 points to hit 15.6 per cent support. That is still down almost four points from their election showing in 2015, support the party has been unable to claw back from the Liberals.

In fact, the NDP's weakness would give the Liberals the potential to win more seats than they did in 2015 if an election were held today, due to gains in Quebec that would make up for losses in Ontario. The Liberals would likely win around 200 seats if an election had been held over the last three months, with about 110 seats going to the Conservatives and just 20 to the NDP.

Green support, at 5.4 per cent, was largely unchanged from the previous quarter.

Liberal woes in B.C., Ontario

The Liberals saw their support in British Columbia drop 7.6 points in the last quarter, the largest quarter-to-quarter decrease any party has seen in any region since the election. The Liberals are still ahead in the province, however, averaging 38.3 per cent, followed by the Conservatives at 27.5 per cent and the New Democrats at 21.5 per cent.

Both parties picked up about three points from the last quarter, but are still below their results from 2015.

In Ontario, the Conservatives picked up 6.2 points and averaged 37.6 per cent in the province, 2.5 points higher than their last election result. The Liberals dropped 7.2 points — their second largest decrease in the country — though still lead with 42.9 per cent.

The margin between the Liberals and Conservatives stands at just over five points. It was almost 19 points in the last quarter.

Conservatives lead in Alberta, Prairies

The Conservatives have picked up support over three consecutive quarters in Alberta, where they lead with 60 per cent. The Liberals, down five points to 25.6 per cent, are still polling higher than their election result in the province.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Conservatives displaced the Liberals to take over the lead at 41 per cent. The Liberals dropped nearly seven points to 33.8 per cent, while the NDP was up 3.1 points to 17.8 per cent. Along with a 3.1 point gain in B.C., this was the NDP's biggest regional jump this quarter.

Wide Liberal advantage in Quebec, Atlantic

The Liberals won all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada in the last election and still hold a wide lead in the region, averaging 57.7 per cent to the Conservatives' 22.7 per cent, and 13.4 per cent for the NDP. The Liberals' slide of 3.2 points was their smallest in the country.

The Liberals had a more significant drop in support in Quebec, slipping six points. This decrease reversed four consecutive quarters of gains in the province, largely at the expense of the NDP.

But at 44.7 per cent, the Liberals are still polling significantly above their election haul of 35.7 per cent. This makes Quebec the province in which the Liberals are out-performing their election results by the widest margin — insulating themselves against losses in other parts of the country.

The Bloc Québécois, at 18.2 per cent, narrowly beat out the New Democrats for second spot in Quebec. The NDP was still well below its election performance in the province at just 17.1 per cent. Though that was a gain of 2.8 points over the previous quarter, their 8.3-point under-performance of the last election is the worst of any party in any region in the country.

Of course, the New Democrats are without a leader, as are the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc and Tories will settle their leadership races in April and May, respectively. The NDP will choose its new chief in October.

Of the three, the polls suggest it is the next leader of the NDP that will have the most ground to make up — assuming, of course, the slumping Liberals don't do it for them.

These quarterly poll averages are based on the results of 12 national and regional public opinion polls conducted between Dec. 2016 and Feb. 2017 by seven different pollsters, interviewing just under 16,000 Canadian adults using a variety of methodologies, including online panels, interactive voice response and telephone interviews.


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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