Historic shift to NDP confirmed in new poll.
NDP POISED TO FORM OFFICIAL OPPOSITION, DISPLACING GRITS.
BY WIDE MARGIN, LAYTON TOPS ALL LEADERS IN POPULAR-APPROVAL RATING.
YOUTH VOTE, FAVOURING NDP, MAY DETERMINE BALANCE OF POWER.
The astonishing NDP surge reported here yesterday is for real, not a one-poll wonder, but instead has been confirmed by an Angus Reid poll reported today.
The poll confirms that the NDP could win enough seats May 2 to form an NDP-led government without Bloc support. That negates Harper's scare message of the past several weeks about a non-Tory governing coalition that includes the separatist BQ.
The Angus Reid survey has the Tories clinging to a lead nationally, with 35% popular support. But he NDP is not far behind, with a record 30% public approval. That's above the 29% that experts say the NDP needs to replace the Liberals as the official opposition.
The national public-approval numbers have the Liberals third, at 22%, followed by the Bloc, at 7%, and the Green Party, at 5%.
And that would mark firsts for both the NDP and the LIberals: The first time the federal NDP is poised to form the Official Opposition in Parliament. And the first time the Grits failed to place second when they didn't place first. Even in the Grits' worst drubbings since Confederation, they always have placed second when they failed to win an election.
While some polls in the campaign have put the Tories as high as the low 40s in public approval, the latest poll, by Angus Reid, puts the Tories back at 35%, far from majority-government territory. Indeed, most polls in the campaign have shown no growth for the Tories, finding Harper's party in the 33-37% range.
The NDP, by contrast, has been the only party to show significant growth in the campaign. In today's Angus Reid poll, the NDP has gained a remarkable 11% during a campaign that had them at 19% when the election was first called.
How the leaders rank on public-approval (national):
1. Layton, 49%; Harper, 36%; May, 25%; Ignatieff, 13%; Duceppe, 13%.
And on who'd be the best PM:
1. Harper, 31%; Layton, 27%; Ignatieff, 11; Duceppe, 3%; May, 2%.
The above figures suggest this is a race between Harper and Layton. Period.
From this morning's Star report on the latest poll:
'What's interesting about this shift is not only is the NDP gaining in popularity but that their vote seems to be solidifying'", says Jaideep Mukerji, vice-president of Angus Reid Public Opinion. He said that Layton seems to be benefitting from "discontent" among voters with the political class, especially in Quebec where the NDP is now out-polling the Bloc.
In Quebec, the NDP leads with 38%, followed by the Bloc Quebecois (29%), Liberals (16%) and Tories (14%). In the vote-rich battleground Ontario, however, the NDP, at 27%, still trails both the Tories (37%) and Liberals (30%).
Indeed, the NDP appears to be surging, big-time (Quebec) or somewhat in every region except Ontario.
It's the Tories' strength in Ontario alone that win it a majority or minority government, just as Jean Chretien was able to win three consecutive majorities with scant Liberal support outside Ontario.
The NDP's Ontario problem has everything to do with the legacy of Bob Rae's 1990-95 government, which is recalled with fondness by approximately 17 Ontarians, most of whom were fortunate to be out of the province during those years. (Okay, I exaggerate, but only a bit.)
Never mind that Ontario, though no fault of Rae, endured the deepest and longest recession in Ontario history since the Great Depression during those years. That Ontarians are writing off one of their federal options because of a dismal record of a provincial NDP cousin booted from office a long 16 years ago. That the NDP has long governed successfully in B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchwan (home of Tommy Douglas, "the greatest Canadian), and recently broke through in Atlantic Canada, with a relatively new NDP government in Halifax.
Layton has at least three advantages in the dying days of the campaign.
1. The Ekos poll yesterday find the NDP by a wide margin is the second-choice of Canadians planning a vote for other parties. Which gives it far more room to grow - a remarkable fact given how far the NDP has already come - than the other parties.
2. The #1 priority of Canadians now is health care, a switch from the economy, Harper's high card, earlier in the campaign. Even Ontarians have more trust in the NDP on healthcare than the Liberals of Chretien-Martin wait-time crises, and especially the Harper Tories, rightly or wrongly perceived widely as not having a fundamental commitment to Medicare.
3. By long tradition, Ontarians vote for the party they believe can hold the country together. In the past, that's almost invariably been the Grits. Today the Grits are the third-ranked party in Quebec popular support, trailing both the NDP and the BQ. And the Tories in Quebec are "just watching," at a mere 14%
It would seem, then, that Layton's task in the waning days of the campaign is to become more forcefully the candidate of health care and national unity.
It's either that or watch Dipper hopes of big overall seat gains dashed May 2 in Ontario.
The NDP has plenty of liabilities. There's Ontario. There's the NDP's over-reliance on a youth vote (the 18-34 demographic) that notoriously fails to show up on Election Day. There's the Tories' unsurpassed ground game, or GOTV (get out the vote). This once was a great NDP strength, and remains better than other parties. But with the steady decline of union membership, plus the CAW's advocacy of "strategic voting," the NDP has ceded its unequalled GOTV prowess to the Tories.
With Quebec separatism at low ebb, Layton's ability to appeal to patriotic federalist Ontarians on this issue is diminished. It's for Layton to point out that Quebec's governing Liberals, deeply unpopular, will soon be replaced again by the Parti Quebecois, whose leader, Pauliene Marois, is hyper-intent on holding yet a third referendum on sovereignty. The Quebec-born-and-raised Layton, whose social-democratic instincts most perfectly align with those of Canada's most social-democratic province, is the PM you would most want during that upcoming trauma. But outside Quebec, the separatist threat appears no threat at all for now.
Finally, the NDP characteristically fades in the stretch, after a mid-term bump in support - a factor the pollsters and commisariat ceaselessly mention. Yet in this campaign, the NDP surge has not come at mid-campaign, but late in the campaign. For sports fans like me, the team with the lousy regular-season record that nonetheless is heading into the playoffs with winning momentum is the one to bet on. And the NDP does even have a lousy regular-season record. As far back as a poll last summer, Layton was revealed as by far the most personally popular of the party leaders.
A side-note: You might wonder why yesterday's Ekos poll, forecasting a transformation in Canadian politics of historic proportions, wasn't splashed across newspaper front pages in huge type or lead the national TV newscasts. That's because media outlets favour the polls conducted by polling organizations with which they've formed a pre-election partnership. That would be Angus Reid jointly for my paper and La Presse, and Nanos Research for the Globe and Mail. Which, obviously, says nothing about the veracity and import of anyone's numbers. Screaming headlines and lead-off pronoucements by Peter Mansbridge and Lloyd Robertson do move public opinion, in this case discouraging "strategic voting" if the NDP is perceived to have a chance at replacing Harper (which it does) and appealing to the "bandwagon" instinct among voters who like to mark their ballot for a winner. (The CBC and CTV have their own polling-organization partnerships as well.)