Saturday, April 11, 2009

On choice opportunities

Steve has already discussed the latest Nanos second-choice numbers from the Libs' perspective. But to the extent it's possible to draw conclusions from the relatively small numbers involved in the poll, let's note a few other interesting trends in the responses.

To start with, the Libs, Cons and Bloc all figure to have more to lose than to gain to the extent that voters in general consider switching to their second choice rather than staying where they're currently parked. The Libs have 223 of their own current voters listing a second choice, to 160 supporters of other parties listing the Libs as a second option; for the Cons, those numbers are 157 and 122; and the Bloc have 44 supporters who have a second choice in mind, to only 18 voters who would make the Bloc their second choice.

In contrast, the NDP and Greens each have a greater amount of second-choice potential than current first-choice support which might move elsewhere - by a 129-87 margin for the NDP, and a 121-49 margin for the Greens. Which is a fairly remarkable result in a poll where nearly 36% of respondents didn't list a second choice at all, and suggests that those parties have the greatest amount to gain from anything which might shake up existing party loyalties.

Of course, the flip side of the likelihood of switching support is the degree to which respondents have locked into one party. There, the Bloc (52%) and Cons (44%) benefit from having the supporters least likely to have another party choice in mind. But for the Bloc's results, it's particularly striking how the second-choice results line up out of those who do express a preference.

With the Cons having just abandoned their efforts at wooing soft sovereigntists and the Libs now trying to make a similar move, one would expect there to be at least some prospect of Bloc movement to one or the other. But Bloc supporters gave the two the lowest second-choice numbers of any party with a tie at 7.7% (ignoring for the moment the Bloc's own numbers which are distorted by the party's lack of a national presence).

Meanwhile, both the NDP and the Greens would seem to have ample room to make inroads among current Bloc supporters, with the NDP leading the way at 19%. And with so few current Bloc voters having any interest in either the Cons or the Libs, it would stand to reason that the solid second-choice numbers for the NDP might only be amplified if current "no second choice" voters find reason to start looking elsewhere - say, if Gilles Duceppe makes a long-anticipated departure which gets taken as a sign that the Bloc is on the decline.

Combined with the apparent fluidity between NDP/Lib/Green voters on the nominal left and the Libs' likely move to the right, that figures to open up plenty of opportunities for the NDP to build itself up by focusing its efforts on current Green and Bloc supporters in hopes of building up a 32% minority as a progressive alternative to both the Cons and Libs. And the more successful the NDP can be in tailoring a message to voters who understandably see little difference between the Cons and the Libs, the better its chances will be of peeling support off the Libs' left flank as well.

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