New Forum poll puts the Conservative ahead, really?

Alright, I guess I can,t avoid talking about the most recent Forum poll. If you weren't on the internet yesterday (or were too busy following the results of the German election), the latest numbers from Forum have the CPC in first place with 39%. The Liberals are second with 35%, then come the NDP at 15%, the Green at 4% and the Bloc at 5% (22% in Quebec).

If you've been following Canadian polls, you know that this poll is different. I mean, just a couple of weeks ago I had an article showing that Justin Trudeau would be overwhelmingly favourite to win an election held tomorrow. So, did something happen or is this poll just an outlier? Let's take a look and use this poll to discuss the possible scenarios for the Tories.

First thing first though: for some reasons Forum still get laughed at. I had people yesterday on twitter simply saying "who cares, it's Forum?". I don't get that. It's like this firm had one crazy bad poll in the by-election of Brandon-Souris and some people never forgot. Forum's track record since 2012 for provincial and federal elections is fairly good (they were even the best for a while). Just recently in BC and NS, they did very well (in BC though, their final numbers were good but they did one at least one weird poll during the campaign). All that to say that I don't see Forum as the gold standard for Canadian polling firms, but I also don't have any reason to dismiss their numbers right away. Quite frankly, I think it's stupid to do that.

Ok, so how different is this new poll? It kinda depends what we are comparing it to. Compared to previous Forum polls, the Tories are up 4 points while the Grits are down by 7. Big variations but Forum has had the Conservatives higher than most other firms for a while now. Not sure why but it's definitely there. Can we find reasons as to why the Liberals would be down by 7 in one month? The obvious candidate is the proposed tax reform that is generating a lot of noise (I'm sure you have a couple of independent workers friends on facebook who expressed their discontent with the reform). 7 points only for that? I don't know. But the nice thing doing my job is that I don't have to justify the numbers, so let's just accept the notion that Trudeau has had less positive press recently and it might have affected his number.

Compared to the other pollsters? The CPC is 9 points above the most recent Nanos (which is super slow to adjust because it's a rolling average over four weeks!) and 7 above the latest Mainstreet. it's also 8 points more than according to Abacus. For the LPC, the situation is similar but inverse obviously. So it certainly looks like this Forum poll is an outlier, at least compared to the poll average.

What if we look at the provincial numbers? In Ontario, Forum has the CPC at 42% and the Liberals at 37%. Compared to Mainstreet and its 44-36, it's not that different once we account for the large margins of error and could indicate a tight race in this province. Compared to Abacus (28-51 respectively) and it's obviously very different. But Abacus' Ontario numbers actually look more outliers than Forum's. Campaign research was showing a situation very similar to Mainstreet. So, all in all, Forum has numbers in Ontario that are different from the average but nothing we couldn't expect with small sample sizes.

In Quebec, The Liberals's lead over the CPC has been +22 at Abacus, +27 at Mainstreet, +28 at Nanos and +33 at Campaign! For Forum? It's +14 only!

You get a similar situation in most provinces. Some of the differences could be due to the small sample sizes (in fact, I'd argue that the other pollsters are too similar to each other, especially in Ontario) but it gets harder to explain once you realize this is the case in every province. Random variation could cause the CPC to be higher in Ontario (compared to other polls) but you'd expect the CPC to be lower in others.

At the end of the day, it's clear this poll is different and if the election was tomorrow, I wouldn't bet money on Andrew Scheer winning the most seats. Forum seems to be the only firm using IVR to collect the data, this could explain why they seem to often be different from the other pollsters. But as I've said, Forum has been right enough time that they earned the benefit of the doubt. Personally, I think this Forum poll has weird numbers because it's a combination of a decrease in popularity for Trudeau (confirmed by the decrease in the rolling average of Nanos) and some random variations due to sampling (i.e: Forum got the one sample with higher CPC numbers - plus the possible "house effect" of this firm). I guess the truth is most likely that the Liberals are ahead but maybe not by 9 points as other polls have shown.

If we only use these numbers (something not very smart but interesting for the sake of an article), we get the following projections:

Voting intentions; Seat projections with confidence intervals; Chances of winning most seats

I won't analyze province by province. I'd rather use this poll to discuss the path to victory that Scheer has. Ever since he won the leadership contest, his numbers haven't been very good and a fair share of Canadians still don't know him. At the same time, he has kept the base together (the 30% of voters they had in 2015), included in Ontario. The main problem for this party is the incredible lead the Liberals have in Quebec. This is especially problematic as there is no obvious contender who could go and take votes away from Trudeau in the french-speaking province. Andrew Scheer was able to gather the rural voters to defeat Bernier but that won't be enough in a general election. Harper worked super hard in Quebec but saw how difficult it was to get over 20%. The NDP? It depends partially on the leader they'll choose. But none of the candidates appear likely to be able to do better than Mulcair. If anything, staying at the score of 2015 would already be great. The Bloc? We have seen this party bouncing back in the past but I don't see any reason to believe the Bloc will suddenly return to its score above 30% like before (separatist parties in Quebec aren't doing great right now even though the PQ seems to improve in the last month at least). This poll shows, however, that a combination of small increases of the Bloc, NDP and the CPC in Quebec could be enough to cost many seats to the Liberals. They'd still win the most seats but keeping them around 40 MPs makes the task of beating them a lot more feasible.

Scheer has a narrow path to a plurality (most likely a minority). He needs to retake the lead in Ontario (something possible as the Tory vote didn't collapse there in 2015). He could be helped there by the NDP if they were to choose Singh as leader for instance. His charisma and profile could split the left vote, especially in the GTA. Scheer also needs Trudeau to come down in Quebec. He simply can't beat the current PM if Trudeau keeps two regions (the Atlantic and Quebec) with total domination. Scheer can compensate for the Atlantic with Alberta. As for Quebec, we discussed it above.

This leaves BC. Forum has them at 40% over there. Given the recent provincial elections, I can't see the Tories really be that high. The BC Liberals, whose electors are mostly a mix of CPC and LPC at the federal level, got around 40% in May. There as well, Scheer's best shot might be for the NDP to elect a leader capable of splitting the vote.

What I'm trying to say here is that the CPC does have a narrow path to victory in 2019. I'm not in the camp of those who believe Trudeau can't lose even though I'm obviously aware that he's favourite. This poll gave us pretty much the perfect scenario for Andrew Scheer and the Tories. And in this perfect scenario, the CPC would only win 155 seats and have a 29% chance of a majority. Not ideal. On the other hand, take this Forum poll, average it with the numbers of my previous article and you get a race with the Liberals at 178 seats and the CPC at 122. Chances of winning for Trudeau would then "only" be 89% (67% for a majority).

So right now, the scenarios for the Conservatives range from 69% chance of winning the most seats (the best case scenario given by Forum) to 0.1% chances if we exclude this poll. If we average the polls, the chances are roughly at 10%, a number that seems sensible to me. So don't take this single poll are the definite illustration that Trudeau is falling. Take this poll as what a best case scenario would look like for Scheer. And while the numbers look good, it still means that even in the best case scenario, the chances are "only" of 69%. Of course, we are still 2 years away from the next election and the NDP still hasn't elected  anew leader.

Sondage Mainstreet de Septembre: une course à 3

Le sondage du mois d'août de Mainstreet montrait un PQ qui avait rebondi un petit peu. Le sondage de ce mois-ci, publié ce matin, semble confirmer cette tendance. Le sondage a été fait entre les 12 et 14 septembre via des appels téléphoniques non-automatisés. La taille d'échantillon est de 1501.

En même temps, remarquons que le Léger de la fin août (que je n'avais pas couvert car je déménageais, juste pour préciser avant de me faire accuser de ne parler que de certains sondages) montrait le PQ 3e et assez loin derrière la CAQ. Après, vous pouvez vous convaincre que vous aimez une firme plus que l'autre. Perso, je ne fais que publier et analyser les sondages disponibles.

Aussi, le sondage Mainstreet a été fait juste après la convention du Parti Québécois ce qui siginfie que ce parti avait bénéficié d'une couverture médiatique importante. Gardons ainsi cela en tête.

Quoiqu'il en soit, en se basant sur les chiffres du dernier Mainstreet, nous avons une course à 3. Pas dans le sens d'une course avec les trois partis ayant 33% de chances de gagner mais dans le sens que nous avons 3 partis qui, si l'élection était demain, auraient des chances réelles de remporter le plus de sièges. Une petite erreur des sondages et Legault ou Lisée pourraient se retrouver PM.

Les projections sont les suivantes:

Intentions de votes; Projections de sièges avec intervalles de confiance; Chances de remporter le plus de sièges

Tout d'abord, je tiens à adresser le phénomème un peu bizarre d'avoir le PQ avec moins de sièges mais davantage de chances de gagner. Ce n'est pas une erreur ou typo. L'explication est en fait assez simple: le PQ a un potentiel plus élevé que la CAQ. Mais si ces deux partis devaient réellement obtenir 26% des voix, la Coalition pourrait remporter davantage de sièges. C'est particulièrement le cas en raison de l'efficacité du vote CAQ dans les Laurentides (le modèle a cette efficacité en raison des résultats de 2014 mais il n'est pas assuré que ce soit une bonne hypothèse pour 2018). Si l'on tient compte de toute l'incertitude possible (sondages et distribution du vote), le PQ a davantage de chances de remporter le plus de sièges que la CAQ. Il reste que si ce sondage a raison, la course entre ces deux partis serait très serrée. Une autre illustration: le PQ remporterait 10 courses par moins de 5 points alors que la CAQ en gagnerait 14. Ainsi, encore une fois, la CAQ pourrait avoir un vote plus efficace et battre le PQ pour la 2e place, mais ce dernier a un potentiel de croissance réel s'il peut grimper de quelques points (ou que les sondages le sous-estiment de quelques points). En conclusion: un peu bizarre et contre-intuitif à première vue, mais pas une erreur ou une impossibilité.

Regardons les deux distributions de sièges ci-dessous:

On voit bien l'avantage du PLQ qui a aussi une variance plus faible tandis que les distributions du PQ et de la CAQ se chevauchent beaucoup. J'ai mis QS dans un autre graphique, ci-dessous, car sa distribution est juste trop différente. Elle reste cependant impressionnante. Qui aurait pensé qu'à 1 an de la prochaine élection, QS aurait un tel potentiel?

Voici les possibles scénarios avec de tels chiffres. Comme vous pouvez le voir, les chances d'une majorité sont très minces.

Le Québec est un champ de bataille un peu partout, avec vraiment seulement l'Ouest de l'île dominée outrageusement par le PLQ, comme à l'habitude. Le PQ peut cependant compter sur 10 comtés en Abitibi et Lac-Saint-Jean, ce qui compense un peu.

Montréal Est est une lutte à trois entre le PLQ, PQ et surtout QS (qui est en tête dans cette région avec 42% des voix et 7 sièges). La Rive-Nord est une chaude lutte PQ vs CAQ tandis que la Rive-Sud est une lutte à trois. La région de Québec oppose essentiellement le PLQ à la CAQ avec un avantage pour cette dernière.

La Gaspésie reste dominée par le Parti Québécois mais QS son 2e meilleur résultat avec 20%. Si ce parti veut grandir en région, la Gaspésie est probablement une candidate potentielle.

Au final le PLQ resterait favori si l'élection avait lieu demain en raison d'un grand nombres de comtés assurés. Certains me diront que le PQ est donné premier chez les francophones dans ce sondage. C'est vrai. Mais l'avance n'est pas suffisante pour compenser l'avantage des Libéraux avec au moins 15 comtés assurés. Aussi, chez les franco, nous avons les 4 partis dans un espace de 10 points (entre 19% et 29%). Cela veut dire que le Québec franco est super divisé alors que le Québec non-franco est tout acquis au PLQ. Cela signifie aussi que faire des projections pourrait s'avérer difficile avec plusieurs luttes à 3 (un peu ce qui était arrivé au Québec lors de l'élection fédérale de 2015).

Une autre façon de voir la situation est de se dire que le PQ et la CAQ se divise le vote anti-gouvernment et permettraient ainsi à Couillard de possiblement conserver sa job. Remarquez qu'il serait fort intéressant de voir si le PQ et la CAQ (ainsi que QS) seraient tentés de suivre l'exemple de la CB avec une pseudo-coalition pour renverser le gouvernement. On est loin de cette situation mais je me permets de me questionner quant à savoir si Couillard resterait vraiment PM dans le cas d'une si faible minorité.

Il y a 24 comtés où le gagnant y est projeté avec des chances de 100% (et le modèle ne s'est jamais trompé dans ces situations). Parmi ces comtés, le PLQ en a 15! Alors que le PQ n'en a que 4, la CAQ 3 et QS 2. Si vous ne me croyez pas quand je vous dis que le PLQ a un avantage certain, je ne sais plus quoi dire pour vous convaincre. Cela étant dit, la tendance est à la baisse pour le PLQ au cours des derniers mois.

Une petite remarque sur Prévost où Paul St-Pierre Plamondon a annoncé son intention de s'y présenter. Il s'agit d'un comté prenable pour lui et le PQ mais les projections actuelles donnent un petit l'avantage à la CAQ. Cela signifie que le nouveau venu au PQ (enfin, pas si nouveau que ça maintenant) devra batailler pour se faire élire. Remarquez qu'il s'agît d'un nouveau comté qui sera créé l'année prochaine.

Mainstreet continue d'avoir Québec Solidaire exceptionnellement élevé. Après une petite baisse en août, le parti de Manon Massée et GND remonte proche de la barre des 20% (une barre symbolique à défaut d'avoir une significance en termes de sièges pour ce parti. Correction: en fait la barre des 20% est importante pour être reconnu comme groupe parlementaire). Si vous regardez les projections détaillées, vous pouvez voir qu'il y a 18 circonscriptions où les chances de QS sont au-dessus des 1%. Ce que cela veut dire c'est que ce parti n'est plus concentré uniquement à Montréal. Il ne réussit probablement pas à remporter des sièges ailleurs, mais cela ne veut pas dire qu'il n'a pas un rôle à y jouer.

Au final, nous n'avons pas ici des changements majeurs mais comparé à la tendance des 6 premiers mois de 2017, le PQ a remonté et nous avons une course bien plus serrée entre les trois principaux partis.

Aussi, dans Louis-Hébert, le PLQ y est donné largement favori mais le modèle fait sa projections comme s'il s'agissait d'une électon générale.  Je reviendrai sur la partielle du 2 octobre d'ici peu. Avec tous les rebondissements pour le choix des candidats, il se peut que cette partielle soit plus intéressante que prévue.

Les projections détaillées sont ci-dessous:

2 years later, Justin Trudeau heavily favourite for re-election

I just finished the first version of the 2019 model and we have two new polls, one from Abacus and one, today, from Mainstreet Research to try it.

Also, you can find the first version of the simulator - where you can enter your own numbers - here.

Both polls show essentially the same situation: the Liberals of Justin Trudeau are clearly ahead of the Conservatives of Andrew Scheer while the NDP is a distant third, below the 20% mark. The Liberals are actually higher than in 2015 in many provinces. This is especially the case in Quebec where the party could possibly sweep the province.

Using these two polls, the model would have the following projections:

Voting intentions; Seat projections with confidence interval; Chances of winning the most seats

The probabilities are obtained using thousands of simulations where the model accounted for the uncertainty due to polls as well as the distribution of the votes. Moreover, there is a correlation across provinces (meaning that if polls underestimate the Liberals in Ontario, they'd likely underestimate it in BC as well). This correlation is really the only reason the CPC's chances are higher than 0%. See this as a scenario where the two polls would have heavily underestimated the Tories everywhere and this party would have a very efficient vote. Not impossible given the accuracy of polls, but definitely unlikely.

If the election was tomorrow, you wouldn't need a complex model to predict a Liberal victory as well as a majority. Of course, the election isn't tomorrow but in 2 years. The CPC barely experienced a post-leadership bump after the surprising victory of Scheer. With that said, the one thing going for the Tories is the fact their base appears intact. By remaining above the 30% (and around 35% in Ontario as well as close to the 20% mark in Quebec), this party is at least in a situation to be competitive. As a matter of fact, the CPC isn't doing badly, it's just that the Liberals are dominating too much for an election to be competitive at the moment.

In the eventuality that the NDP leadership would conclude in the election of a leader who could go and steal votes from the Liberals, the Conservatives could start dreaming of a win. Or at least forcing Trudeau to a minority. At this point, I think preventing another Liberal majority could already be a good outcome for the Canadian right.

The main problem for Scheer is that his path to forming the government is narrow. He needs the NDP to split the progressive vote with the Liberals. He would also need to himself propose policies and alternatives that could attract the middle class and grab some voters who went Liberals in 2015. The Khadr story was good for the base and the fundraising efforts, but had not impact on the families in the suburbs. The Mainstreet poll shows that taxes could be one area where Scheer and the Tories could have the edge (although the poll also shows how isolated or different conservative voters are compared to the rest). Abacus is showing that among centrist voters, the Liberals currently have an edge of 43-29. If Scheer wants to become Pime Minister, he'll need to improve there (and again, expect a bigger split of the left with the NDP).

Polls also show many Canadians still don't know what to think of Scheer (there are more people unsure than people who approve of him). That is never optimal but the BC NDP is currently in power and had a mostly unknown leader just a couple of months ago (note: yes, they technically lost the election but they made huge gains in the Lower Mainland thanks to a focused campaign).

As it stands, beating Trudeau won't be possible as long as the Liberals are dominating Quebec so outrageously. With the NDP back in the 10s and the Bloc still below 20%, the LPC could win north of 60 seats in la Belle Province. Coupled with the Atlantic, this is simply too big of an edge to be beaten, no matter what would happen in Ontario or BC. On the other hand, being ahead in Quebec is never a safe thing, just ask Thomas Mulcair.

Also worth pointing out, the economic growth is currently really strong (and the population is indeed feeling it, as shown in the Abacus poll), another factor going for Trudeau. But there as well, it could change by 2019.

I'll post the simulator very soon. Remember that this is very much a version 1.0 of the model. There is no regional coefficient, no adjustment for incumbency or anything like that. It'll come later. In the meantime, you'll find here below the detailed projections. I'm sure there must be some errors here and there and will be grateful if you let me know if you find one.

Detailed projections