Justin Trudeau's Liberals widening lead on Conservatives, polls suggest

A string of recent national polls conducted in September suggest Justin Trudeau's Liberals are seeing their lead widen against stagnating support for the Conservatives. Polls analyst Eric Grenier takes a closer look.

September polls indicate Justin Trudeau's party strengthening lead while Tories stagnant

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives reached a new low in an EKOS poll released this week that indicates his support at just under 25 per cent. Polls also suggest Tom Mulcair's NDP is also struggling as the comeback of Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party continues. (Canadian Press)

A string of national polls released this week suggests the Conservatives are falling further behind the Liberals as Justin Trudeau's party pulls away.

The first came from an unexpected source. Angus Reid Global has stood apart from other Canadian polling firms since the beginning of the year in suggesting that the race has been a close one between the Liberals and Conservatives. It was the only polling firm to give the Conservatives the edge in any poll this year.

But a survey released by the firm on Monday showed the Liberals picking up six points since Angus Reid's previous survey of early June, moving into the lead with 36 per cent to 30 per cent for the Conservatives. The New Democrats dropped five points to 22 per cent.

On Wednesday, Abacus Data reported its latest findings. It put the Liberals in the lead with 38 per cent support, up three points since Abacus's last poll from mid-August. The Conservatives were up one point to 30 per cent, while the NDP was also up a single point to 23 per cent. This continued a positive trend for the Liberals dating from the end of June and early July, while both the Conservatives and New Democrats have been wobbling back and forth since then.

A survey by EKOS Research for iPolitics that was also published Wednesday shows little change from the company's July poll. The Liberals slipped less than half a point to 38.3 per cent from 38.7 per cent, while the Conservatives were down 0.7 points to 24.9 per cent, and the NDP was up one point to 24.4 per cent.

These were insignificant shifts, but the margin between the two leading parties had increased to 13.4 points. By comparison, the gap stood at 7.3 points in an EKOS poll from April-May, before the Conservatives began to slip and the Liberals moved ahead.

New low for Conservatives?

Though the surveys from Angus Reid and Abacus Data were in general agreement, the poll by EKOS is at odds concerning the standings of the Conservatives. Granted, the polls were done at slightly different times (see methodological statements below). But posting the Conservatives at below 25 per cent, as EKOS has done, marks a new low for the party.

In fact, no poll has pegged the Tories this low since 2005, before Stephen Harper became prime minister.

This is not necessarily a sign the Conservatives are hitting the skids.

EKOS has been registering Conservative support to be lower than other firms for some time. The party was at just 25.6 per cent in EKOS's July poll, so the new number represents a marginal decrease rather than a reason for the Tories to panic.

This is in line with the broad strokes of what all polls are currently suggesting: That the Conservatives are stagnant as the Liberals' position improves. In the end, trends like these are more important than the precise numbers — at least until the testing ground of the next election rolls around.

The Conservatives may not actually be plumbing the depths of their support, but with the gap between them and the Liberals widening, that is a thin silver lining.

The poll by Abacus Data was conducted between Sept. 12 and 14, with 1,075 online panelists interviewed. As the poll was conducted online, a margin of error does not apply. Respondents were asked, "If a federal election was held tomorrow, which one of the following parties would you vote for in your constituency?"

The poll by Angus Reid Global was conducted between Sept. 17 and 19, with 1,502 online panelists interviewed. As the poll was conducted online, a margin of error does not apply. Respondents were asked, "If a federal election were held tomorrow, which one of the following parties would you be most likely to support in your constituency?"

The poll by EKOS Research for iPolitics was conducted between Sept. 21 and 25, with 1,401 Canadians interviewed via the firm's online panel and 148 via telephone. As EKOS recruited its panel randomly, it claims a margin of error for the poll of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked, "If a federal election were held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?"


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.