Liberals increase support since election, early polls suggest

The last quarter of polling has been good for the Liberals, as more Canadians support the party today than on election night. But if Canadians are warming to the Liberal government, which party are they turning away from?

Liberals have made gains throughout the country, largely at NDP's expense

Average of polls conducted and published between Dec. 1, 2015, and March 1, 2016. (François Leclerc/CBC)

The trappings of power apparently look good on the Liberals.

According to polls, the party has more support today than it did on election night, suggesting that some Canadians — particularly those who voted for the New Democrats a little over four months ago — have been newly won over by the Liberals' performance in the early days of their government. 

With the next election now almost four years away, polls say nothing about what the outcome of that vote will be. Instead, they act as a measure of what Canadians are thinking of their political leaders now.

Think of them as mid-term report cards or performance evaluations by Canadians.

The last quarter of polling, including all polls conducted and published over the last three months, has been positive for the Liberals. They have averaged 46.6 per cent support, a gain of 7.1 points over where they stood on election night.

The numbers have been consistent over that time, and looking at this larger number of polls provides for more robust regional sample sizes.

The Conservatives have averaged 29.1 per cent support over the last quarter, a drop of 2.8 points from the election. The New Democrats have slipped more dramatically, falling 5.1 points to 14.6 per cent.

The Greens have averaged 5.4 per cent support, up two points from the election.

The Liberal increases in support have come from one end of the country to the other, matching the high levels of satisfaction with the government's performance that polls have recorded so far. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has averaged an approval rating of 59.8 per cent over the last three months, far outpacing his rivals.

Trudeau's party led in British Columbia, Ontario and Atlantic Canada, where the party's support was its highest countrywide. The Liberals were narrowly ahead in the Prairies and trailed only in Alberta, where the party was still up five points.

But nowhere have the Liberals seen a sharper increase in support than in Quebec. The polls put the party at 48.3 per cent support in the province, a gain of 12.6 points since the election.

The increase in approval in Quebec has largely been driven by significant gains made by Trudeau among francophones. At the very end of the election campaign, the party's support among this group was rated at 28 per cent. Over the last three months, the Liberals have averaged 46 per cent support among francophones in polling by CROP.

Much of this new support has come at the expense of the New Democrats. Polling in the last quarter has also suggested that between 20 to 30 per cent of Canadians who voted for the NDP in October are now siding with the Liberals.

The Conservatives are not looking at such sunny numbers as they continue to find their way as the country's Official Opposition. Many Canadians are unfamiliar with the party's interim leader, Rona Ambrose, but her approval ratings suggest she is not the problem.

Canadians tended to disapprove of her predecessor, Stephen Harper, by a margin of about two to one. Though Ambrose's approval rating is not much better than Harper's was, at 29.2 per cent over the last three months, her disapproval rating is still just 32.2 per cent. An almost even split is a big improvement over Harper's ratings. 

Nevertheless, the Tories have experienced a slide in support in most parts of the country. Only in Atlantic Canada are more Canadians saying they would support the Conservatives than actually voted for them in October — and that increase was only 1.3 points, for 20.3 per cent in the region.

Conservative drops in support in Alberta, the Prairies and Quebec have been modest at less than three points.

But the Conservatives have lost favour more significantly in British Columbia and Ontario. The party was down 4.6 points in B.C. to 25.3 per cent and dropped 4.1 points in Ontario to 31 per cent support. These are notable losses, considering that the majority victory the party won in 2011 was largely built on strong performances in these two provinces.

The New Democrats have taken a significant hit in public opinion.

The NDP has suffered big losses in support in every part of the country. But just as the Liberals have seen the most growth in Quebec, the NDP has experienced its greatest loss there. The party is still in second place in the province, but a slide of 7.1 points has dropped it to just 18.3 per cent support.

Quebec, the province that almost single-handedly thrust the New Democrats to Official Opposition status in 2011, has not necessarily turned against the NDP. Leader Tom Mulcair's approval rating in Quebec has decreased only slightly. Instead, he is losing in the head-to-head match-up with Trudeau.

At the end of the election campaign, Mulcair was beating Trudeau on who Quebecers preferred to be prime minister by about 31 to 27 per cent. Over the last three months, however, Trudeau has topped Mulcair on that question by a margin of 47 to 16 per cent.

The Greens have seen an increase in their support throughout Canada. The party is doing best in British Columbia, where Elizabeth May was re-elected in October, sitting at 10.7 per cent support.

But it might be a stretch to say that the Greens have actually improved their standing among Canadians since the election. The party traditionally polls better than it performs on election day. Where the Greens stand in the polls in another three months will be the real test of whether Canadians' views of the party have improved.

The Bloc Québécois has averaged 14.6 per cent support in polls over the last three months, a drop of 4.8 points from the party's electoral result in October — which just happened to be the lowest in the Bloc's history.

Quarterly poll report: Federal party support

8 years ago
Duration 0:48
A look at how the five main federal parties and their leaders are faring four months after the election, according to the latest poll averages.

This article reviews trends in national public opinion surveys. Methodology, sample size and margin of error if one can be stated vary from survey to survey and have not been individually verified.


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.