By Mark Levesque, BA Student, Simon Fraser University
National vote intentions for the Liberals and NDP have continued to shift throughout April, continuing the volatility exhibited in the past couple months. Despite this volatility, however, support for the governing Conservative Party of Canada has remained stable during this period, with the Conservatives rising 0.1 percentage points to 33.2% nationally. The Conservatives are still the primary choice for a plurality of Canadians, although following their 2 percentage point fall during April, the party remains around 6 percentage points below their election day result. Their lead is also now within the margin of error of the second place party. More on that below.
The most dramatic movement, as indicated by the figure for May, has been in the Opposition benches. National support for the Official Opposition, the New Democratic Party, has fallen 7.2 percentage points from 27.5% to 20.3%. This is a substantial drop for the NDP, situating the party nearly 13 percentage points behind the governing Conservatives, and 10.3 percentage points behind their 2011 election result. Also, this period has witnessed the first time since the 2011 election in which polling data indicates that support for the NDP has dropped below that of the Liberal Party of Canada. Support for the Liberals has risen a considerable 6.8 percentage points, building on their rise of 2.4 percentage points documented in the last update, placing Liberal support at 32.1% nationally. These figures place the Liberals 1.1 percentage points behind the Conservatives, and almost 12 percentage points ahead of the NDP. This is a remarkable increase in support for the Liberal party, placing them second in national voting intentions for the first time since the 2011 election, 13.2 percentage points ahead of their third place result, and within the margin of error from the leading Conservatives. Despite the volatility in the Opposition benches, however, support for the Bloc Quebecois remains stable, rising 0.5 percentage points to 6.8%.
The data indicates substantial volatility in support for the NDP and Liberal parties, and while there are a multitude of factors that could have influenced this shift in national voting intentions, there is one major factor to which the majority of this movement could plausibly be accredited. On April 14 the Liberal Party’s leadership race concluded, with Justin Trudeau, a Quebec MP and son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, winning a landslide first ballot victory. Mr. Trudeau’s victory coincides well with the recent rise of the Liberal support since his victory (which might even help explain some of the prior upward movement, as his victory appeared to be a foregone conclusion to many), with several commentators dubbing this phenomenon Trudeaumania 2.0 in reference to a period of substantial personal popularity for his father in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Inferring from the rise of Liberal support, the stability of the Conservatives and the BQ and the decline of the NDP, it appears that the rise in Liberal support has come at the expense of NDP support. However, it remains to be seen whether or not the Liberals can maintain this level of support. Support for the NDP also reached its highest point since election day following their own leadership race in which they elected Thomas Mulcair as party leader, only to have subsided in the months to follow. It will be interesting to see how support for the Liberals trends from this point. The Conservatives have already released ads critical of Mr. Trudeau, and if it is true that a large portion of the Liberal rise has come at the expense of the NDP, we can expect the NDP to start taking aim at the Liberal Party as well, in an effort to maintain the breakthroughs the party made in May 2011.