338 Canada: the position of the parties on the day of the debate

Philippe J. Fournier: The latest electoral project sees the parties stagnant. But the Conservatives may have peaked early in the campaign.

With only 11 days to go in this campaign, federal leaders will face off tonight in the (only) English debate. After two French debates that focused primarily on issues dear to Quebec and Quebecers, the rest of Canada will finally hear which leaders are (and are not) promising Canadians for the 44th Parliament.

A flurry of polls was published in recent days in part to set the stage for the Commission’s debates this week (see full list here). I wrote last Sunday that the Liberals seemed to have stopped the bleeding they had suffered in the first two weeks of the campaign, as support for both the Liberals and the Conservative Party (CCP) had stabilized. Since then, however, several surveys of Light, Abacus facts, Mainstreet Research and Nanos Research they seem to suggest a modest tightening between the main parties. Other firms like Ipsos and the Angus Reid Institute they have measured a narrow, but still significant, 3-point lead for the CPC.

Using this latest data, we present the update here 338 popular vote of Canada projections for September 9, 2021:

Conservatives hold first place in voting intentions with a median of 34 percent, a two-point margin over Liberals (and a margin lower than the model’s confidence intervals). Liberals rank second with 32 percent on average. The NDP, which had shown signs of growth earlier in the season, currently stands at 20 percent nationally.

While we must always be cautious not to overreact to small daily fluctuations, these numbers suggest that the Conservatives may have reached their limit early in the campaign. Before the disbandment, he had hypothesized that the CCP was stuck in a “high floor, low ceiling” scenario with Canadian voters. The rise of the CCP early in the campaign was testament to Erin O’Toole’s effectiveness in becoming more known to Canadian voters, and several polls early this campaign showed that O’Toole’s personal numbers rose days earlier (see this Abacus data survey from August 20). However, while some would suggest that the Conservatives may have “peaked too early” this season, it is plausible that they simply did, and that the 34-35 percent mark represents the new party ceiling. In this scenario, only a low turnout election could lift the CCP significantly above this mark (which is completely plausible, but almost impossible to predict with certainty).

In Ontario, Liberals (38 percent) and Conservatives (35 percent) remain stuck in a statistical tie, with a slight lead given to Liberals, while the NDP sits just below 20 percent on average. Note: PPC support has grown significantly since the injunction was removed in mid-August. The PPC is currently projected at 5 percent in the province, ahead of the Green Party.

In Quebec, the Liberals remain in first place, albeit with just a third of the votes on average. The Bloc Québécois ranks second with 27%. As for the Conservatives, their support in the province had shown clear signs of growth in the first half of the campaign, but it remains to be seen whether the French debates will have moved the needle in any direction. The CPC stands at 21 percent on average in Quebec:

Lately, we’ve seen a significant divergence in the British Columbia polls. The Liberals began the campaign first in BC, then slipped behind the NDP and the Conservatives in late August, and appeared to have regained some ground this week. As of this writing, we have a triple tie in voting intentions in the province with the CCP at 31 percent, the NDP at 30 percent, and the Liberals at 28 percent on average.

Here are the updated national seating projections from the 338Canada:

Liberals and Conservatives are also stuck in their seat projections, averaging 142 and 134 seats, respectively. However, readers should be very careful when interpreting these numbers, as this gap of only 8 seats between the party averages is well below the confidence intervals of approximately 40 seats (the colored bars LPC and CPC are overlap almost perfectly on the graph). If the elections were held tomorrow, it would be almost impossible to assign a favorite for sure.

In my experience covering politics, I have found that many leaders’ debates end in a tie or have little effect on voting intentions (and often only enthusiastic supporters claim to know with absolute certainty what effects, if any, a debate on momentum of a match). However, there are exceptions: as I mentioned before, the 2019 TVA debate completely changed the script in Quebec in favor of the Bloc Québécois.

Will the French debate last night move the needle in the next few days? Will this single English showdown convince the remaining undecided voters to cast their ballots one way or another? I will wait for the data before drawing conclusions. This is how scientific methods work: In the face of new evidence, one must adjust one’s analysis. We should have clearer directions early next week.

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Details of this projection are available in the 338 Canada Page. To find your home district, use this list of the 338 electoral districts, or use the regional links below:


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