Nanos' latest poll on the parties under consideration by voters has received plenty of attention. But the discussion so far seems to miss the most plausible explanation for the poll results.
Compared to previous polling, the latest survey shows:
- little change in the actual support levels of Canada's federal parties; and
- a dramatic drop in the number of voters listing each of the national opposition parties as "under consideration".
Now, the first point means that - contrary to the initial analysis by Nik Nanos - we shouldn't interpret the poll as affecting the "shine" or first-choice popularity for the parties involved. Instead, the question is whether that perception is shared by a group of people beyond a party's core supporters.
And the second point does signal that public preferences are hardening. Voters who may have taken time to lock in a preference among the NDP, Libs and Greens are reaching some more firm conclusions, and thus dropping second and third choices from the list of parties "under consideration".
We'll of course find out whether that trend holds. But if it does, then a reduction in voter volatility may reduce both the risk and the upside for each opposition party over the next couple of years. And if we're going to see three parties with reasonably firm support levels in the 25%-36% range for the foreseeable future, then it's about time to start thinking about how two of them can work together after the 2014 election.