Trudeau's Liberals led in 2014, but what does 2015 hold?

As the federal parties get ready for an election year, polls analyst Eric Grenier looks at where they stand and how they got here.

A federal polling retrospective of 2014

Justin Trudeau's Liberals led in the polls throughout 2014, trailed by Stephen Harper's Conservatives and Tom Mulcair's New Democrats. Where will they stand when 2015 comes to a close? (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

As 2014 comes to a close, all eyes turn to the federal election scheduled for 2015.

The climactic year begins with the Liberals leading in the polls, the Conservatives in a close second, and the New Democrats trailing in third. Here's a look at how we got here with a retrospective of 2014 polling.

It was a good year for Justin Trudeau's Liberals, as the party maintained its lead in national voting intentions. But there were moments when it looked like the Conservatives were on track to dislodge the Liberals from top spot.

Liberals (red), Conservatives (dark blue), New Democrats (orange), Bloc Québécois (light blue), Greens (green) (ThreeHundredEight.com)

That was certainly the case when the House of Commons began its summer break. The Liberals had begun the year with a comfortable six- to eight-point lead, but by June the margin between the two parties had decreased to just two points. The Trudeau honeymoon was at risk of coming to an end.

But the Liberals' polling numbers ballooned over the summer, as the party surged to the highest level of support it would enjoy all year, at 38 to 39 per cent. The Conservatives, however, were keeping their heads above water at 30 per cent, and as parliamentarians returned to work in the fall, the margin closed once again.

As it stands at year end, the Liberals still lead in the polls, but their advantage over the Conservatives is modest at about 35 to 32 per cent.

The New Democrats have trended downwards throughout the year, having started 2014 in a strong third position with 24 to 25 per cent support. But as Liberal support jumped in the summer, the NDP dropped to the low-20s and, this past month, has been even flirting with the high-teens. While the party is still polling quite well by historical standards, it is a far cry from the 31 per cent the NDP captured in 2011.

The biggest problem for the NDP has been Ontario, where the party has been averaging 20 per cent or less since July.

That might be good news for Trudeau. The Liberals led in the province throughout the year, experiencing the same uptick during the summer that they experienced nationwide. But the race has been very close for much of 2014, with the gap standing at two to three points for much of the first half of the year. As the fall sitting recommenced, the large margin that the polls recorded over the summer decreased again, and the battleground province looks to be one that will be hotly contested in 2015.

Another important battleground will be Quebec, where the Liberals and New Democrats are vying for the lead. The Liberals captured it for most of 2014, but the New Democrats remain ahead among election-deciding francophones, an edge that could serve them well in the seat count.

The Bloc Québécois began the year with some hope of being able to repeat its 2011 vote share performance and potentially win a few more seats due to vote splitting. But when Mario Beaulieu took over the party in June, the Bloc's support plummeted. Not since before Beaulieu's arrival has the party averaged more than 20 per cent support in any month. And with the Conservatives experiencing a modest uptick as 2014 comes to a close, the Bloc may be dropping into fourth.

Western movement

The Conservatives also continue to poll well in Alberta, managing between 50 and 60 per cent support for most of 2014. But noteworthy is the performance of the Liberals in the polls, with between 20 and 30 per cent. Recall that the party took just nine per cent of the vote in the province in 2011, so with a three-fold increase the party may be in contention for a handful of seats.

Another region where the Liberals have done unexpectedly well in 2014 has been in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. While the Conservatives remain comfortably ahead in the region, with over 40 per cent support for the first half of the year as well as in December, the Liberals have managed between 30 and 35 per cent. The New Democrats, who have hopes for a breakthrough in Saskatchewan, have taken a plunge over the last few months.

Support has proven somewhat more robust for the NDP in British Columbia, the only real three-way race in the country. The lead swapped hands throughout the year, with the parties being within a few points of each other on several occasions. The Liberals have wobbled anywhere between 27 and 37 per cent support, while the New Democrats have put up between 23 and 30 per cent. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have been very steady in the province with about 30 per cent support. Depending on how the vote breaks down regionally, B.C. could have a lot of interesting races in 2015.

One party to keep an eye on in the province is the Green Party, which has polled at roughly 10 per cent for most of 2014. That would mean an improvement over 2011, and bode well for leader Elizabeth May's re-election chances.

Re-election will be more difficult for Conservative and NDP MPs in Atlantic Canada, however, as the Liberals dominated the region in 2014. The party has averaged majority support throughout much of the year. The Conservatives and NDP have vied for the distant second spot, with about 20 per cent apiece.

The 2015 federal election campaign will undoubtedly move the dial again, and none of the parties will start that campaign at zero. The polls in 2014 show where the parties will start off in the new year, but the big question is: where will they finish?

The monthly polling averages are determined by averaging all polls conducted within a given month and weighing them by sample size. The methodologies, survey dates, and sample sizes of the polls included in these averages vary and have not been individually verified by the CBC.

About the Author

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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