Friday, May 3, 2013

Forum & Insights West BC Polls: Collapsing NDP Lead?

Two polls came out yesterday for British Columbia's provincial election, both from reputable companies that somewhat disagree with each other, though really they're overall agreeing with a new set trend for the campaign: a BC Liberal mini-surge.

Lets start with Forum:

Forum Research (BC Provincial - April 30, 2013 - +/- 3%)
New Democratic: 39% - 43 seats
BC Liberal Party: 35% - 39 seats
BC Conservative: 9% - 1 seat
Green Party: 12%
Independents: 2 seats (Huntington and Hadland)

This is Forum's first release for the campaign, and in fact their first release for BC provincial politics since August 2012. Thus, there's nothing to really compare it to except other recent polls that have come out, such as the recent Abacus and Angus Reid polls. Clearly, those ones don't agree with this super-close race that Forum is showing, but we'll get into why this poll shouldn't be written off in a second.

The regionals reflect the broader numbers, with close races everywhere - yes, even on Vancouver Island. The NDP lead there with 39% to the Liberal's 33%, with the Greens coming up in a healthy third at 19%. This is probably the highest I've seen the Liberals go on Vancouver Island in ages, and it allows them to scoop up all five of the ridings they currently hold - before, they're lucky to win even one.

In the Lower Mainland, the NDP barely lead with 42% to the Liberal's 36%, a very close fight indeed though it still gives the NDP a wide edge in seats, 28 to 17 for the Liberals. The Conservative seat comes from the Fraser Valley region, specifically Chilliwack.

Finally, the Interior/North region shows a Liberal lead of 37% to the NDP's 29%, the Conservative's 14% and the Green's 16%. With these kinds of numbers, which are much worse for the NDP even compared to the 2009 result, the Liberals dominate the region's seats. Unfortunately for the smaller parties, their numbers aren't high enough to win any seats either.

Moving on to InsightsWest:

InsightsWest (BC Provincial - April 29-May 2, 2013 - +/- 3.4%)
New Democratic: 41% (-4%) - 56 seats (-7 seats)
BC Liberal Party: 33% (+5%) - 26 seats (+9 seats)
BC Conservative: 11% (+1%) - 1 seat (=)
Green Party: 14% (-1%) - 0 seats (-2 seats)
Independents: 2 seats (Huntington and Hadland)

InsightsWest is showing a larger lead for the NDP than Forum is, though compared to their release in late March there has been obvious movement towards the BC Liberals, seemingly at the expense of the NDP. One key similarity between the Forum poll and this one is that both were in the field after the April 29th debate, and both are seemingly showing closer races then the previously mentioned Abacus and Angus Reid polls, which were in the field before the 29th. Hm, I sense a trend.

Anyways, the regionals for InsightsWest are actually somewhat similar to Forum's. In the Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley region, InsightsWest puts the NDP at 41% to the Liberal's 35%, almost exactly similar to Forum's numbers. Not as close are the numbers on Vancouver Island, where the NDP lead with 43% to 28% Liberal and 20% Green - yet you can almost say they are fairly close, given that the Liberals are clearly up in this region as well, just not to the extent they are in Forum's release.

The big difference between these two polls comes in the "Rest of BC," or the Interior/North in Forum's terms. In InsightsWest's release, the NDP lead with 40% to the Liberal's 33%, with the Conservatives rounding up third at 14%.

So we have two polls here that, while showing different leads, are amazingly similar. In fact, they're also within each other's margin of error with their topline numbers, and even with the other two releases from Abacus and Angus Reid. There is no way you can discount the Forum release just because the race is closer than what others are showing - its all within reasonable expectations of random sampling errors and so on.

What does it all point to? Clearly there is movement towards the BC Liberals among voters, and I dare say that a lot of these seemingly new supporters are centre-to-right leaning undecideds that previously kept away from what they saw as a disintegrating government. What spurred this on could be a multitude of things: the harping on Dix's proposed tax increases, the collapse of BC Conservative's credibility as a viable alternative, or even Clark's debate performance which overall went pretty well.

No matter what the reason, it reminds me of another election. Think back to Alberta's 2012 election, where the governing PCs were seemingly doomed, and a Wildrose majority all but assured. In the final weeks we saw some slight movement towards the PCs that clearly culminated in a tidal wave on election day that kept that dynasty in power. That coalition that saved Redford's bacon was mostly left-to-centre voters who wanted to stop a Wildrose majority from coming to power, they just stayed away from the PCs for most of the campaign. Could we possibly see a similar situation in BC? Could Clark pull off an amazing upset in the final ten days of this campaign, a la Redford?

I probably would've said an emphatic "no" awhile back, but Alberta and the 2011 federal election taught me not to be so sure in my predictions of how the electorate will swing, especially those tricky undecideds. I'm not saying Clark will pull off an upset, and even my updated projection still shows Dix in majority territory even at the low range of seats - but they could do it, and they're certainly on the right trajectory to do so.

Its going to be an interesting week, folks. Very interesting indeed.

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