338Canada: For the first time in Quebec, Legault takes a hit

Philippe J. Fournier: A new Mainstreet poll suggests the ‘pandemic honeymoon’ among CAQ and Quebec voters may have finally reached a breaking point

A new poll from Mainstreet Research suggests that the CAQ has dropped in voting intentions in Quebec since the holidays. While François Legault’s party still remains comfortably ahead, public opinion in Quebec appears to be turning, for the first time since the pandemic began.

According to Mainstreet, had an election been held this week in Quebec, the CAQ would have received 38 percent support, a 10-point drop from the previous Mainstreet Quebec poll last winter. Still, the CAQ has an 18-point lead over the Quebec Liberal Party, which is buoyed by a paltry 20 percent support in the province.

It is Québec Solidaire (QS) that appears to be benefiting from the erosion of CAQ support. The left-wing party trails the Liberals with 19 percent support departmentwide, a significant increase from its 2021 polling performance. Over the past year, QS has averaged 12-14 percent in Quebec surveys.

The Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ), led by Eric Duhaime, is the other party that seems to benefit from the current discontent with the CAQ. Supported by 13 percent of those polled, a significant increase over recent trends, Duhaime could certainly cloud the picture in the projections. This is particularly true in the Quebec City metropolitan area, where the PCQ ranks second (although still 15 points behind the CAQ). While we should always be wary of regional subsamples (they have a higher margin of error), the 2021 surveys also indicated that the PCQ was performing better in the Quebec City area than in the rest of the province. At the provincial level, support for the PCQ was measured between 5% and 11% in the polls of the second half of 2021, so it would be a significant increase if this trend is confirmed.

Finally, the Parti Québécois and Paul St-Pierre-Plamondon do not seem to benefit from the errors of the CAQ. In fact, Mainstreet measures stable support for the PQ with 10 percent voting intentions in the province. Throughout 2021, support for PQ has fluctuated between 9% and 13% in polls.

This poll highlights that the “pandemic honeymoon” among CAQ and Quebec voters may have reached a limit. The radical change of the CAQ government in festive gatherings due to the exponential growth of COVID-19 infections, followed by the announcement of strong measures to counter the spread of the virus (closure of restaurants, bars, concert halls, ban on gatherings in interiors, a curfew) appear to have had a significant impact on public opinion.

In the Montreal metropolitan area (Montreal Island and 450), the CAQ leads with 34 percent, a 10-point lead over the PLQ, while QS ranks third with 20 percent. In the Capitale-Nationale region, the CAQ continues to lead with 39 percent, while the PCQ gets 24 percent. Finally, in the Quebec regions, the CAQ still leads with 44 percent support, 25 points ahead of Québec Solidaire. Note, however, that the margin of error for the provincial survey is ±3 percent, but is higher for regional subsamples.

As expected, the CAQ’s fall in voting intentions is accompanied by a decrease in satisfaction with the François Legault government. When asked, “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of Prime Minister François Legault’s performance since 2018?” 57% approve, compared to 41% who disapprove. Sure, many prime ministers in Canada would only dream of such ratings, but, compared to polls from late 2021, these approval numbers indicate a steep drop for Legault of late.

When we break these results down by voting intentions, we see that François Legault still has almost unanimous support within his own party. Also, most PQ voters approve of the prime minister. Only about a third of QS and QLP voters approve of Legault’s performance, while a large majority of Conservative voters disapprove.

It is not an easy task to include such a survey in the seating projections. Why? When a survey shows numbers that are outside current ranges, two scenarios are possible: 1) the survey is a statistical outlier, or 2) the survey is a precursor to a new trend. However, if the survey really does measure a new trend, we won’t know until other companies take the pulse of Quebecers.

While this Mainstreet poll measures stable support for the QLP and PQ, it detects a significant decline in the CAQ in favor of Québec solidaire and the Conservatives. Is this a real trend that could continue? Or is it just a spontaneous reaction of the electorate after the recent confinement measures? We will only know in the next few weeks. For this reason, the updated seating projection cannot be based solely on this survey.

Weighting Mainstreet’s numbers on the 338Canada model, the CAQ gains an average of 93 seats. If this number seems excessively high, it is a direct result of the strong split in the non-CAQ vote (and our first-pass voting system). Although the CAQ still dominates the Francophone vote, it faces four parties, each of which gets between 10 and 20 percent. The result: With the Liberals and the PQ well below their respective 2018 levels, the CAQ makes significant seat gains at the expense of these two rivals, while the QS manages to hold most of its ground.

It’s important to note that this Mainstreet Research poll was in the field before Legault’s “unvaxx tax” announcement on Tuesday afternoon. Will this policy proposal, the details of which are unknown at this time, alleviate Quebecers’ dissatisfaction with the new lockdown measures? Will the resignation of Quebec’s director of public health, Dr. Horatio Arruda, have any impact on public opinion? We will know soon.

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Data for this Mainstreet Research survey was collected from January 6-8, 2022 from 1,105 Quebec voters age 18 and older. Margin of error for full sample results is ±3%, 19 times out of 20. Totals may not always add to 100% due to rounding. To view the survey report, visit this link. To view the complete list of Quebec polls, as well as seat projections, visit the 338 Canada page.


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