Federal Politics: Conservatives and Liberals Tied; NDP down

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According to a new national survey conducted before Senator Mike Duffy’s speech in the Senate by public opinion firm Abacus Data, the federal Liberal Party, and Conservative Party are tied nationally at 32% each among committed voters while the NDP is in third with the support of 23% of committed voters.  The Green Party is at 7% while the Bloc Quebecois is at 5%.

Since our previous survey in September, the Liberal Party is up 3-points, the Conservative Party is up to two while the NDP is down four points among committed voters.  This is the lowest we have had the NDP since the 2011 Federal Election.

Among all eligible voters (the full sample), 26% said they vote for the Liberal Party (up three since September) while 25% would vote Conservative (up two points) and 18% would vote NDP (down three points).

Twenty-one percent of respondents said they were undecided, down one point since September.


Subgroup Analysis (Committed Voters)

In British Columbia, the poll found a close three-way race between the Liberals, NDP, and Conservatives (BC NDP 31%, LPC 30%, CPC 27%) while in Alberta, the Conservative Party has over a 30-point lead over the second place Liberal Party (AB: CPC 57%, LPC 24%, NDP 12%).

In Ontario, the Conservative Party has a small six-point lead over the Liberals (38% vs. 32%) , while the NDP is well back in third at 22%.

In Quebec, the Liberal Party now leads the NDP by eight with 34% of committed voters saying they would vote Liberal compared with 26% for the NDP.  The BQ is at 19% while the Conservative Party is at 15%.

In Atlantic Canada, despite a small sample size, the Liberal Party has a large lead over the Conservative Party and the NDP.

Demographically, the Liberals lead by eight points among those with a university degree, while the Tories do best among those aged 60 and over (42% would vote Conservative).

Female voters are almost evenly split three ways between the Liberals (31%), the Conservatives (30%), and the NDP (27%), while male respondents were equally as likely to vote Liberal or Conservative (34% respectively) than the NDP (19%).

Respondents were also asked to place themselves in one of five social classes.  The vote intention results by self-identified social class are displayed in the table below:

When we consider that 92% of committed voters consider themselves to be in the middle class (ranging from lower middle to upper middle) it’s no wonder that all the federal party leaders talk a lot about and to these voters.

But none of the parties have a large advantage among the different types of “middle class” voters.  Among those who consider themselves “lower middle class” the Liberals, Tories, and NDP are tied with each getting the support of about three in ten committed lower middle class voters.  Among the 50% who place themselves squarely in the middle class category, the Liberals and Tories are tied with about one in three supporting either party with another 21% supporting the NDP.  Among those who see themselves as upper middle class, the results are similar with the Liberals and Tories tied at 35% with the NDP well back at 17%.

When we compare vote intention across household income we see somewhat different results than with the self-identified class question.

The Liberal Party leads or is tied for the lead with every income group except for those who live in households that make between $75,000 to $100,000.  The NDP does best interestingly among those who live in households that make less than $35,000 per year and those in the $75,000 to $100,000 income group.  The Tories perform best with respondents whose household income is $50,000 or more earning the support of at least 34% of respondents in those groups.

The results indicate two things: (1) that most Canadians self-identify as middle class and (2) neither party has an advantage among these voters but that appealing to these voters and connecting with them could mean significant political benefit.

Best Prime Minister

Along with vote intention, we also asked respondents which party leader they believed would make the best Prime Minister.  Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper were statistically tied with 26% of respondents choosing Trudeau and 24% choosing Harper.  NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was a distant third with 12% picking him as the individual who would make the best Prime Minister.


Interestingly, among those who voted NDP in 2011, 34% picked Trudeau as best Prime Minister compared with 24% who picked Tom Mulcair.  Another 32% of 2011 NDP voters were unsure which leader would make the best Prime Minister.

Among those who voted Conservative in 2011, 62% believed Stephen Harper would make the best Prime Minister followed by 15% who picked Justin Trudeau and 2% who picked Tom Mulcair.

Among respondents who voted Liberal in 2011, 56% picked Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as best Prime Minister followed by Tom Mulcair at 7% and Stephen Harper at 6%.  Twenty-seven percent of 2011 Liberal Party voters were unsure which leader would make the best Prime Minister.

Federal Party Leader Impressions

When asked for their overall impressions of the three main party leaders, the only real change was with Tom Mulcair.  The percentage of respondents with a positive impression of Tom Mulcair dropped by eight points since June 2013 from 34% to 26%, the last time we reported on these numbers.

Justin Trudeau remains the most popular leader in Canada with 39% of respondents saying they have a favourable impression of the Liberal Leader (down one point since June).  Trudeau’s unfavourable numbers are also down slightly to 24%, from 26% in June.


Prime Minister Harper’s numbers have not moved much at all since June.  Twenty nine percent of Canadians have a positive impression of him while 46% have an unfavourable impression.  Only 22% of Canadians say they have a neutral impression of the Prime Minister.

Bottom Line

This poll was conducted after the federal government’s Speech from the Throne but before Senator Mike Duffy’s speech defending himself in the Senate.  Therefore, it cannot capture any impact of Senator Duffy’s allegations and the political fallout of the Senate expense scandal.

That being said though, the results can be used as a benchmark of federal party support right before the drama that took place in the Senate over the past few days.

Support for the federal Conservative Party and Liberal Party is up slightly in our survey while NDP support is down.

Trudeau remains the most popular leader in the country and is tied with Stephen Harper on who would make the best Prime Minister while NDP Leader Tom Mulcair continues his struggle to gain traction with Canadians outside of Quebec.

These results are particularly troublesome for the NDP.  It’s the lowest NDP support in our polls since the May 2011 election.  The party is a distant third in vote rich Ontario, is now second to the Liberal Party in Quebec.  The NDP remains competitive in British Columbia but has to contend with a revived Liberal Party in Canada’s westernmost province.

In Quebec, Mulcair is viewed positively by 45% of eligible voters.  But outside of his home province, his favourable rating barely gets above 20% in important battlegrounds like Ontario (20%), BC (22%) and in Atlantic Canada (18%).  Most Canadians in these provinces or regions have a largely neutral impression or don’t know much about the NDP leader.


The survey was conducted online with 1,459 respondents in English and French using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative panel of Canadians.  The survey was completed from October 18 to 22, 2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 1,459 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.6%, 19 times out of 20. 

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

These questions were posed as part of the Abacus Data monthly Omnibus survey. 

For more information about the poll’s methodology or the results, please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or at 613-232-2806.


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

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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