The House

Battleground Watch: Ontario and conflicting polls

There are 121 seats at play in Ontario, and pollsters churned out fresh new numbers this week — all with a different take. So what's the full story? The CBC's polls analyst Éric Grenier joins us to cut through the note.
The Agawa Canyon north of Sault Ste. Marie, one of several Northern Ontario ridings shaping up to be an interesting battle in this federal election. (supplied)

Quebec isn't the only battleground that could dramatically impact the outcome of the election. There are 121 seats at play in Ontario, and pollsters churned out fresh new numbers this week — all with a different take. So what's the full story?

The CBC's polls analyst Éric Grenier joins The House for a Battleground Watch look at Ontario, Part 2. 

Why is southwestern Ontario shaping up to be the home of some of the tightest electoral battles in the country?

EG: It's a region where all the parties would like to make some gains, particularly the NDP. They're targeting ridings in that area — Kitchener, London, Windsor, Sarnia. For the NDP, that is an opportunity. They're looking to make gains in the southwest and to consolidate gains they made in the last election in the GTA.

What about Northern Ontario?

EG: It is a bit of a three way race. A number of ridings are looking very close, like Sault Ste. Marie, Kenora and Thunder Bay. It's one of those areas where you are seeing blue-orange switchers as Conservative supporters are changing to NDP.

Eastern Ontario and the National Capital Region?

EG: Here we're looking at a region that is really just between the Conservatives and the Liberals. The New Democrats only hold Ottawa Centre, which is where Parliament Hill is, and they don't have too much opportunities to make gains outside of there. 

But there are a lot of ridings in Ottawa that are actually quite interesting. Orleans, where Andrew Leslie is running against Royal Galipeau for the Conservatives, is one. Ottawa West Nepean which is John Baird's old riding, and Nepean, which is a new riding. These are all ridings that voted for the Conservatives in 2011 and would be high on the list for pick-ups by the Liberals.

What should we make of conflicting polls, or polls showing results that seem to come out of nowhere?

EG: They could potentially be capturing the first sign of something that's happening. When you see that kind of number, it's really not a "wow, how did we get here", it's a "where are we going from here, are we going to see these numbers in future polls?"

So if we don't see them, then maybe it was an outlier factor there. But if it's a new trend, other polls will show it. You probably just need to wait and see. When you have these kinds of numbers, you don't need a lot of movement within the margin of error to get some very odd results.

Listen to Éric Grenier's full interview with Chris Hall in the player above. 

Haven't got enough numbers? Éric Grenier joins The House over the campaign for a deep dive into the polls and the data surrounding various battleground ridings across Canada.

Follow parties' gains and losses here with the CBC's Poll Tracker.


Joining Éric on this week's episode of the CBC Election Pollcast podcast is Phil Authier of the Montreal Gazette, discussing the recent controversy surrounding a poll commissioned by the NDP in Justin Trudeau's riding of Papineau. You can download the podcasts here.