Breaking down the final poll numbers in Nova Scotia

Well, that’s it for us in terms of polling for the Nova Scotia.  Now it’s up to voters to decide which party will form government.

We release a few sets of numbers from our final three-day tracking poll conducted for Sun News Network.

As we have been doing all week, we released the results based on all eligible voters (n=600), among those who are committed or leaning towards supporting one party (n=407), and among committed likely voters (n=349).  I also weighted the data according to estimated voter turnout from Elections Canada in the last federal election in Nova Scotia.

Overall, the results are not that different across the three sets of numbers.  The Liberals have a comfortable lead while the NDP and the PC Party are in a close race for 2nd.


Regional Breakdown

Due to the small sample sizes of the rolling survey it is very difficult to get a confident measure of voting intentions in the different regions across Nova Scotia.  To get a better sense of how the vote might break out in four regions of the province I combined all our waves of research and weighted the data according to the census.

The graphic below reports the vote intention of committed and leaning eligible voters across four regions.  As you can see, the Liberals have the lead in all four regions of the province.  The election seems to be much closer in Halifax (Liberal vs. NDP) and in Cape Breton (Liberal vs. PC) with the Liberals running away with things in the rest of the province.


One of the things that polls have a difficult time picking up are differences in voter mobilization.  If one or two parties are significant better organized and can more effectively pull the vote the results could be different from the final polls.

Could there be a last minute swing?

I don’t expect a big last minute swing to any party away from the Liberals based on our research for a number of reasons:

  1. Liberal Leader McNeil is not a polarizing figure as Dix (B.C.), Smith (Alberta), and Marois (QC) were in those provincial elections.  He is liked by a majority of eligible voters and only 27% have a negative impression of him (and only 6% very negative).  Of those with a negative impression of him, 67% are voting for one of the other parties, 9% are voting Liberal, and remaining are either undecided or refused to report the party they have voted for.  There’s not much loss to the Liberals if all those current Liberal supporters who aren’t fond of McNeil jump ship.
  2. The Liberal Party leads on which party eligible voters trust to manage the economy.  The Liberals have led this measure throughout our tracking and there hasn’t been a significant shift at any point in the past week.
  3. The Liberal Party has an advantage on issues people feel are most important to the province.  After asking respondents what they believe is the single most issue facing the province, we ask which party they feel can best handle the issue.  Although the Liberal Party’s advantage is not huge, respondents are most likely to say the Liberals are best to handle the issue they care about.  In our final wave of research, the Liberals had a slight 2-point advantage over the NDP while among the 1,300 interviews we conducted all week, the gap was 6-points.

The only outstanding question remains whether those who voted NDP in 2009 ultimately decided to back the party they supported in the last election.

Looking at the full sample of 1,300 respondents, 43% of eligible voters who voted NDP in 2009 plan to vote NDP again.  Another 29% are planning to vote Liberal while 6% intend to vote PC.  The remaining 17% were undecided at the time they were surveyed.  Even if all those undecided former NDP supporters turn out and vote NDP, the Liberals would still lead by 7 points.

The likely outcome tomorrow is a majority government for the Liberal Party but depending on how the votes divide regionally, a minority government is still a possibility according to Eric Grenier at

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.  He’s an avid road cyclist.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248



Sean on Twitter David on LinkedIn David on Google Plus