Thursday, November 22, 2007

On potential support

Discussion about the latest Angus Reid poll on Canada's national opposition parties (warnings: PDF for those with slow connections; online poll for those who don't believe in such things) has focused mostly on the leadership numbers involved. But while Layton's lead over Dion is mostly a confirmation of old news, the poll does contain one intriguing new development, as the NDP's potential support is now in a dead heat with the Libs':
The poll also asked Canadians which opposition parties they would consider voting for in the next federal ballot. A third of respondents (33%) are willing to back the NDP candidate in their riding, including 95 per cent of those who voted for the New Democrats in the January 2006 election...

34 per cent of respondents say they would be willing to vote for the Liberal candidate in their riding...70 per cent of Quebecers - and 58 per cent of male respondents - would not vote for a Liberal candidate. The Grits are also only holding onto 78 per cent of those who voted for the Paul Martin-led Liberals in 2006.
For the record, the poll provided a "not sure" option where the NDP posted a 16% total and the Libs 14% - leaving the parties equal as well in the "definitely would not consider" category. Meanwhile, the Greens' "consider supporting" number is at 21%, well back of the other two parties.

So what do those numbers mean? Simply put, there's now empirical evidence to refute the Libs' usual claim that only they can stop the Cons. With the NDP now matching the Libs dollar for dollar, member for member and potential voter for potential voter, there's absolutely no reason for opposition voters to believe that the Libs' historical advantage actually translates into any greater prospect of defeating Harper. And that should free up opposition voters to choose the party which is most in line with their values.

Of course, the above analysis is based on the national numbers. And the story varies somewhat by region: the NDP has more potential support in British Columbia, Quebec (!) and Atlantic Canada, while the Libs show higher upside in Ontario and the Prairies.

Which in turn may help the NDP's prospects even more. It seems likely that Ontario's numbers (like ) are based at least in part on a lack of public attention to the change in the Libs' default position. But the more word gets out that the NDP is making major inroads into formerly-safe Lib territory in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, the more likely Ontario voters are to realize it can serve as a more effective voice for them as well.

Naturally, the Libs will be doing all they can both to slow down the NDP's momentum, and to reverse their own slide. But for now, the Libs' sole advantage seems to be historical - and it may not be long before it's left in the past for good.

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