Saturday, September 05, 2015

THE critical numbers on October 19: 50%, 40% and 30% soft support

Switching time
Ignore the fluctuations in daily polls leading up to Canada’s October 19 election.

But keep your eyes firmly fixed on poll findings and anecdotal evidence regarding three numbers: 50%, 40%, and 30%.

Those are the percentages of soft support for the NDP, LPC and CPC, according to the latest poll:
So far, the Léger poll suggests support for the NDP remains relatively softer than that of its rivals. Nearly half (49 per cent) of NDP voters said they could still change their minds, which is more than Liberal voters (41 per cent).

On the other hand, only 29 per cent of Conservative voters said they could still change their minds.

Mr. Léger added that New Democrat supporters are the most likely, at 42 per cent, to say they will be “voting against another party” in this election, compared with 31 per cent for Liberal voters. He said this suggests that more NDP supporters are “strategic voters” who could shift to another party depending on the evolution of the election campaign.

The first thing to note is that each of the three parties has a huge chunk of  supporters who might switch their votes, with the Conservatives, not surprisingly, having the lowest – but still a substantial 3 in 10. This means a very fluid electorate right up to and on election day on October 19.

The second thing to note is that in such fluid conditions, one little thing, or two little things, can cause a drift from one party to another. There does not have to be a earthshaking event. Cumulative cuts cause gentle erosion.

The chaos in the Prime Minister’s Office revealed during the first part of the Duffy senate trial is an example of a little thing: one poll recorded that around 20% of Conservative supporters said these revelations were making them question voting for Harper again this time. That’s a pretty significant number, given the razor thin margins of victory of the Conservatives in many seats in the last election.

The third thing to note is that the inner insecurity is highest among Mulcair’s supporters. This means there is a bigger pool of NDP supporters who will be weighing their options the closer they get to October 19. Many will be asking themselves whether they should vote for the Liberal candidate in their riding, to ensure that the Conservative sitting MP does not win again through a divided opposition vote. There are a significant number of seats where even a relatively small number of NDP supporters deciding to switch to the Liberals will unseat a Tory MP. Because our polls do not show reliable riding details, we are more likely to spot such a switch movement through anecdotal evidence, mostly provided by the party organizations in each such riding.

The 4 in 10 Liberal supporters who are switchable will also create movement, away from the LPC, and most likely towards the NDP in ridings held by a Tory MP with an assailable winning margin.

So we can expect two countervailing swirls of voter movement, right up until voters draw their X on the ballot paper.  The bigger potential movement is from the NDP to the LPC.

The last thing to note is the guarantee of the end of the Harper government: the 3 in 10 Conservatives who might switch, or stay home. Given the small segment of the total electorate that the Harperites have targeted and spent 10 years courting, their room for mistakes is very, very small.  It does not take many switches from the small CPC base of supporters to devastate the sitting Tory MPs.

So look for signs of change in the next 6 weeks.

It is switching time!

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