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November 29, 2005
Liberals Lose Ground In Power Base

The Globe and Mail report on new polling that they have conducted at the cusp of the no-confidence motion. While the polling sample is much smaller than the previous Robbins survey and not media independent -- an important point in Canada -- the polling reports on geographical breakdowns. This shows a major shift in one of the strongholds of Liberal politics and reveals a surprising weakness in the coming election:

Paul Martin's Liberals enter an election campaign six percentage points ahead of the Conservatives, but losing ground in Ontario and facing an increased desire for a change of government, a new poll shows.

Canadians, especially Ontarians, are less likely than they were six months ago to see Conservative Leader Stephen Harper as a scary figure with a "hidden agenda," according to a Strategic Counsel survey conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV. But the Ontarians have not embraced Mr. Harper's party, rating the Liberals as better at managing most issues.

"For whatever vulnerabilities the Liberals have had, the Conservatives have not been able to establish themselves as a government-in-waiting," said pollster Allan Gregg, chairman of the Strategic Counsel.

The poll, conducted between Thursday and Sunday, found that 35 per cent of Canadians would vote Liberal if an election were held today, compared with 29 per cent for the Conservatives and 17 per cent for the NDP. The survey of 1,500 Canadians has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. ...

But in seat-rich Ontario, the Conservatives, who trailed the Liberals by 13 percentage points three weeks ago, are now only five points behind. The Liberals have 40-per-cent support in the province, the Tories 35 per cent and the NDP 20 per cent. The view that Mr. Harper has a "hidden agenda" an oft-repeated Liberal allegation has declined in Ontario by 10 percentage points since May.

The Robbins poll used a sample size twelve times greater than the SC poll, and it showed that nationally the Liberals had dropped into a dead heat with the Tories; in fact, the Tories "led" by a tenth of a point in the Robbins survey. Head to head, Harper beat Martin by more than a two-to-one margin in the more extensive poll.

The media will not likely highlight those results any time soon. However, the loss of strength in Ontario demonstrates that the Robbins survey may be far more accurate in showing the political momentum in Canada at the moment. If the Liberals only have a five-point advantage in the new SC poll in Ontario, they aren't terribly likely to have a six-point national advantage at all.

In other words, take close looks at the polling data offered by the Canadian media over the next few weeks, especially in Ontario. As those numbers narrow, the national election should shift even further to the Conservatives. If the Tories run a dead heat in their power base, it would equate to Democrats only narrowly beating Republicans in California and New England. It's a leading indicator that they will have lost most everywhere else.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 29, 2005 6:50 AM

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» "What's in a name?" from Bread and Circuses
I wonder if the U.S. conservatives who are getting excited about this actually know anything about Canadian politics. The political landscape in Commonwealth countries tends to be quite different from America's, even if some of the labels are the sam... [Read More]

Tracked on November 29, 2005 2:02 PM

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