10 September 2015

Three months later … #nlpoli

In June,  SRBP used the CRA poll from the second quarter of 2015 as the basis for a bit of “what if” thinking.

Consider that the Liberals have dropped seven points in six months.  The New Democrats are up seven in three months.  Extend that trend forward to September.  Then you’d have the Liberals down from 35 to 31.

The New Democrats, meanwhile, would move from 16 to 23. It isn’t unusual at all to see shift in votes during an election a lot larger than the one needed to close the eight point gap you’d have at that point between the NDP and the Liberals.

Guess what happened.

First thing you have to do is toss aside any of the media coverage of the CRA Q3 poll results.  They used the figures with the CRA distortion built into them.  As you will see, they got it wrong.

Second,  you have to take out the CRA distortion.  That is you have to look at all the results for party choice not just the ones CRA gives you engineered to show just the decideds.  There is no valid reason for CRA’s distortion but they keep doing it.  Well, this quarter you have a really good example of how that distortion is misleading.

CRA Q3-15

Liberals are down four, from 35 to 31.  Before the June poll, SRBP put the likely Liberal number at 35 down from 39 and that’s precisely what CRA showed then, too.

The Conservatives went down two points and the New Democrats stayed the same.  That dotted green line in the chart shows the total of undecideds, no opinion, and will not vote.

The CRA news release and the media coverage that followed it – here’s CBC as a good example - claimed the Tories stayed the same and that the NDP climbed three points. Don Mills even chimed in on this to suggest that the jump in NDP numbers were the result of national trends.  If he has more than just guessing to back that up, by all means Don should bring it.  His polling doesn’t support any such conclusion.

To understand what is happening in these numbers, bear in mind that these poll results are affected by party behaviour.  These numbers match precisely what the parties have done to influence them.

Out of sight.  Out of mind.

The Liberals have been pretty much non-existent in the mainstream media. They’ve been quietly going door to door and travelling around but they haven’t been supporting that with the sustained advertising, website work, and all the other things you’d expect to see during a campaign. 

Things have been pretty much steady-state, except for the whirlwind of nominations.  That’s only appealed to a small segment of the population at a time.  People are waiting for more and so far they haven;t been getting it.  Largely out of site and therefore largely out of mind, the support for the party has been slipping steadily since the winter.

In the last quarter, the Liberals bled support to the undecideds.  That’s really important.

The NDP Delusion

If Earle McCurdy was all that and a bag of chips – hello CBC peeps – or if the party was buoyed up by “national trends” – try again, Don Mills – then the NDP should have gone up by a whole bunch.  Even if they had gone up by half the jump from the previous quarter,  you could make something out of it. 

But Earle has flat-lined in the mid-teens. 

There’s no sign that Tommy Mulcair, Ryan Cleary, and Jack Harris have done a tap to help Earle’s numbers.  Earle hasn’t even helped Earle out.  For the most part, Earle has been screaming against public-private partnerships.  The only people alive who care about that are union organizers and the NDP already owns those votes. Or should we say the union organizers own the NDP.

When he wasn’t talking about P3s, Earle was talking about slashing spending and raising taxes.  Followed immediately by Earle sucking back his endorsement of austerity.

And when he wasn’t doing that he was launching a defence of government-owned “parks” that aren’t really parks at all.  In the process, his people showed up at a site without the permission of the guy who has been leasing the site.  That fact made them look incompetent.  Earle’s attitude – basically, frig the capitalist swine, it’s Crown land – showed a level of arrogance that only made the NDP look worse.

Another cock-up for the Cons

Meanwhile, the Conservatives had a very bad month.  More precisely they had a bad few days toward the end of the month what with the fiasco over the Conservative campaign ad and the use of a political endorsement by a serving police officer.  The same clip apparently turned up at the Tory leadership convention, but that would make it an even worse story for the Conservatives.

Anyway, they dropped two points and those two went to the undecideds, not the NDP.

The Conservatives have had a year to turn things around.

They squandered their time. And when they weren’t wasting opportunities they’ve been frigging things up.  You can tell a Conservative supporter these days:  they are the only ones talking about the need for a strong opposition.  What that means is that they are resigned to losing. They would like to be the official opposition but the seeming rise of the NDP has got them scared shitless that the Tories could be slaughtered in November.

Future Trends

While the Liberals are still on track to win a comfortable majority,  this downward trending in CRA should have them a little concerned.  The drop is mirrored in other poll results, incidentally. They need to hold those numbers up in order to ensure they get a good turnout at the polls and that they have the confidence of the electorate once the election is over.

By rights, the Liberals should be aiming to have a CRA number somewhere around 42 or 43%.  Even getting something in the high 30s at this point would be good, especially if the other parties stay  mired in the sub-20 world.  There’s still time to swing things back.

The problem for the other two parties is that the basic distribution of the party choices and the overall trends are not working for them.  The NDP could be in second place.  The problem is they spent the last four years doing nothing except worshipping the Cult of Lorraine.  Money and organization all suffered and as a result, they have only a marginal appeal across the province 

The NDP remain  - as they were in 2011 -  relatively solid in metro St. John’s with a shot at one other seat, in Labrador West.  They’ve already lost the lion’s share of the old Tory vote to the Liberals who are running ahead of them, according to other polling, on the northeast Avalon.  The Liberals picked up those votes in 2013 and haven’t lost any significant portion of them.

There is a small cache of likely voters who just went undecided.  The NDP could  pick them up but the CRA results suggest those folks aren’t too impressed with the NDP.  The best the Dippers could do is climb a couple of percentage points higher.  They still wouldn’t  break the 20% mark, province-wide.

Then there are the Conservatives. They squandered the year they had before the election.  They’ve squandered the past five years and now they are poised to reap the reward.  The Davis 15 campaign is a very bad idea that was worn out the last time they ran it in 2011. 

What the Conservatives need to pray for now is that the Liberals will try to poach some of their votes in metro St. John’s in order to win the seats there. The Liberals don’t seem to be thinking in that direction but time will tell what happens.

The alternative is the the NDP can pick up and challenge the Liberals in metro. In that scenario, the Tories will get squeezed between the two and the result is more likely to see them the loser than the winner in such a fight.  If the NDP can pick up seats in metro, that could be enough to give them opposition status.  They would gain what they haven’t worked for and therefore don’t deserve. 

There are three months to the election.  While a lot can change in three months,  the more recent experience suggests that the time for dramatic turns of circumstance has past.  The big picture is painted.  What we are left to pick out now are the minor details, of things like who will get to be the opposition.