Liberals lead quarterly poll report as Andrew Scheer looks to boost Conservatives

As parliamentarians prepare for the summer break and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer settles into his new job, polls suggest the Liberals were still leading their rivals in the last quarter, halting a steep decline in support suffered earlier this year.

Justin Trudeau's Liberals halt decline in latest quarterly poll report

Andrew Scheer's Conservatives trail Justin Trudeau's Liberals in the polls. (The Canadian Press)

As parliamentarians prepare for the summer break and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer settles into his new job, polls suggest the Liberals retained a comfortable lead over their rivals in the last quarter, halting a steep decline in support suffered earlier this year.

In polls conducted between March 1 and May 31, the Liberals averaged 40.7 per cent support among decided voters, a slight increase over where the party stood in the previous quarter. 

That should come as a relief to Justin Trudeau, whose party dropped 6.8 points in popular support during the winter.

(Red: Liberals, Blue: Conservatives, Orange: NDP, Green: Greens, Teal: Bloc Québécois) (Natale Holdway)

The Liberals declined for the third consecutive quarter in British Columbia, the Prairies and Atlantic Canada, but are still polling above their 2015 federal election result largely due to the gains the party has held in Quebec.

The Conservatives trailed with 30.3 per cent support as the leadership race was coming to an end, a drop of 1.5 points from the previous quarter. The party balanced gains in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada with losses in Alberta, Ontario — and B.C., where the Conservatives are still polling significantly below 2015 levels.

The New Democrats, in the midst of a leadership race of their own and who have gained 4.3 points over the last two quarters, were up to 17.6 per cent, their best quarterly result since the last election. 

The party was boosted by gains in B.C., Ontario and Quebec, though the NDP is still below its 2015 election result in that province.

The Greens and Bloc Québécois averaged 5.3 and 4.8 per cent support, respectively.

Scheer's early impact

While it is too early to know what Scheer's short-term impact on the Conservatives' polling numbers will be, a few surveys have provided some hints.

Scheer, a Saskatchewan MP who beat a crowded field to take the leadership in May, was previously the House Speaker. The 38-year-old narrowly defeated Quebec MP Maxime Bernier in the contest to replace former prime minister Stephen Harper

A Mainstreet/Postmedia poll gave the Conservatives a two-point bump with Scheer as leader. A Forum Research poll showed the Conservatives down one point compared to where they stood in April.

Neither of these shifts was statistically significant.

Nanos Research, which conducts a four-week rolling poll, published new numbers on Tuesday with half of the sample dating from after Scheer's leadership win. It put the Conservatives at 30.5 per cent, up from the 28.6 per cent Nanos pegged the party at just before Scheer took over.

But the sample still contains pre-Scheer data. More polls will be needed before Scheer's impact — if any — can be adequately judged. 

Polls by Mainstreet and the Angus Reid Institute (ARI), however, suggest Scheer has work to do to become better known. Fully 63 per cent of respondents in Mainstreet's poll were not familiar with Scheer or were not sure of their opinion of him, while ARI put the number of Canadians who have either not heard of Scheer or who were only familiar with his name at 75 per cent.

Liberals drop in Quebec, Atlantic

Since the last quarter, the Liberals suffered their steepest declines in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals led with 42.4 per cent support in Quebec, down 2.3 points from the last quarter but still up almost seven points from the last election.

The NDP, at 19.2 per cent, was still six points below its election performance (the NDP-to-Liberal swing in Quebec remains the largest anywhere in the country) but has gained 4.9 points over the last two quarters.

At 19.7 per cent, the Bloc is polling narrowly above its 2015 election result. The party gained 1.5 points since the last quarter, suggesting new leader Martine Ouellet might have had only a small positive impact on the party's fortunes.

The Liberals dropped 7.5 points over three consecutive quarters in Atlantic Canada, falling to 54.7 per cent. The Conservatives, who picked up 5.5 points over that time, were up to 24 per cent.

Conservatives down in West

The Conservatives were down over three points in both B.C. and Alberta in the last quarter — drops that a new Western Canadian leader may help to reverse.

The Conservatives were down to 24.4 per cent in B.C., putting them still well below their 2015 election result in the province.

The Liberals dropped for the third consecutive quarter in B.C. to 37.8 per cent (down 8.4 points over that time).

The New Democrats, at 25.8 per cent, gained 7.4 points over the last two quarters, perhaps buoyed by the provincial NDP's recent success in B.C.

The Conservatives were down 3.3 points in Alberta to 56.7 per cent. The Liberals were over 30 points back at 26.3 per cent.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Conservatives gained for the third consecutive quarter to hit 43 per cent, followed by the Liberals at 32.6 per cent. The party has dropped 9.9 points over the last three quarters in the two provinces.

NDP gains in Ontario

The Liberals led in Ontario with 43.9 per cent, followed by the Conservatives at 34.2 per cent. Compared to the previous quarter, the margin between the two parties widened by over four points.

But while the Liberals and Conservatives have been wobbling back-and-forth in the province, the New Democrats have made gains in three consecutive quarters, up 4.5 points over that period to hit 16.4 per cent — nearly matching their 2015 election result in Ontario.

Altogether, the numbers suggest that the Liberals would have been able to secure another majority government in an election held in the last three months. In all likelihood, it would have been an expanded majority primarily thanks to inroads in Quebec at the expense of the NDP.

But the Conservatives would have held their own, roughly matching their 2015 result. If former interim leader Rona Ambrose was hoping to "do no harm" before she handed the party off to her successor, she was successful. Any new Conservative gains — or losses — from here on out will be Scheer's alone.

These quarterly poll averages are based on the results of 14 national and regional public opinion polls conducted between March 1 and May 31 2017 by eight different pollsters, interviewing just under 23,000 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.