Saturday, September 10, 2011

Harris Decima polls: NDP and Liberal cooperation – now and in 2010

The latest Harris Decima poll shows little appetite for a merger of the NDP and Liberal Party.

However, this poll only shows the views of supporters of these two parties with respect to a full merger of the two parties.  The total nationally is 24% in favour of a merger, with 38% of Liberals in favour of a merger and 26% of NDP. Only 18% of Tories support such a merger, and 25% of BQ supporters. In Quebec 23% of all voters support such a merger, and in Ontario 27%.

But what about a year ago?

It is interesting to compare the results of this latest September 2011 poll with the poll taken by Harris Decima in June 2010:

According to Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “It appears about half of all Canadians are receptive to the idea of some form of co-operation between the Liberal Party and the NDP. However, at this point in time, there is no consensus view on how that should work and those who want the two parties to work together prefer that it mean ‘co-operation’ rather than a ‘coalition’ or ‘merger.’”

When asked in the June 2010 poll to choose between 4 alternatives for the LPC and NDP (no cooperation at all; coalition after the next election; a merger before the next election; an electoral ceasefire in the next election), voters were split.

Only 3 in ten Canadians opposed some form of cooperation.

What's going on with the Tories?

Surprisingly, in June 2010 only half (50%) of Conservatives were opposed to any form of cooperation. I would have expected a much higher percentage of Tories to oppose any type of cooperation, given that cooperation between the NDP and LPC poses a huge threat to any future Tory government, whether minority or majority. This is because polls over the past 5 plus years have consistently shown that the Harper Tories have been unable to persuade more than about 33% to 35% of Canadians that they are the right party to govern Canada. Most Canadians vote for other parties. Perhaps it shows some lingering doubt amongst Tory voters about having the Harper Tories run the country, without a strong check and balance from the opposition parties?

Ranking alternatives - the lesson from June 2010:

The choices in June 2010 among the 4 alternatives provided to respondents were:

Sept 2011 - national
National: 2010
Liberals 2010
NDP 2010
Tory 2010
BQ 2010
Ontario 2010
Quebec 2010
No cooperation

Coalition after election

Merger before next election
Electoral ceasefire

Total in favour of cooperation


Note the percentages that favour an electoral ceasefire!

In June 2010 Liberals chose this option above all others (35% like it), as do Dippers (40% like it).

Unfortunately the latest Harris Decima poll does not throw light on which percentages of supporters would support one of the 4 alternatives offered them in the June 2010 poll. 

The increase in support for a full merger:

However, what is significant is that in the September 2011 poll, many more voters nationally supported a merger of the two parties than did in June 2010 – 24% for it now, and only 13% last year.

Lessons for the LPC and NDP leadership:

Given this increase in support for a total merger, it is reasonable to assume that many more LPC and NDP supporters would support some form of cooperation between the two parties – I believe voters today would fall into roughly the same groups as we found in  June 2010, with most preferring some sort of electoral ceasefire, and most wanting an ouster of the Harper Tories from government.

If my assumption is correct (and hopefully some enterprising polling company will ask the 4 alternatives question in their next poll), then this is a pretty clear message to the leaders of both these two parties about where a lot of discussion should be taking place between the two parties, starting soon.

With the Liberals having such a low number of MPs, the ground is clear for an electoral pact under which Liberals would not field candidates in ridings won by a Tory but the NDP gained more seats than the Liberals did, and vice versa.  Given the large number of seats where the margin of victory of the Tories was low, such an electoral pact, hammered out in the near future, could change the balance of power in the next election, leading to the ouster of the Harper Tories from government, and a progressive-left government of some kind taking over.

The June 2010 Harris Decima poll clearly showed that ordinary Canadians are far ahead of the leadership of the LPC and NDP in weighing up the best way to oust Harper from power, and are prepared for serious negotiations between the two parties to take place.

In fact, if you add up the percentages of Liberals who in June 2010 preferred some form of cooperation (3 out of the 4 choices they were given), we find a stunning 71% for this; and 77% of NDP supporters.

If those numbers aren't clear indications to the leadership elites of these two parties, then what would it take for such leaders to realize that a substantial majority of their supporters in both parties do NOT want business as usual?

And these numbers add credence to Pat Martin's insistence that cooperation be on the table during the NDP leadership campaign.


  1. I hear some federal Liberals wanting a merger with the NDP because the Liberals are weak right now. In Ontario, I don't hear provincial Liberals wanting a merger with the NDP.

  2. The more appropriate question leaders of the NDP and LPC have to ask themselves is this: If most of their supporters favour some form of cooperation, what must these leaders do to achieve this?


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