Why I think the NDP's surge is real

Today, we've got a new poll from Forum Research. With a sample size of more than 3000 (I'm starting to really like all these polls with large samples), they show... that the Tories only have a 3-points lead over the NDP nationally! Completely crazy but kind of consistent with the last polls from Ekos and Angus-Reid. So before talking projections, I would like to explain why I think the surge is real and why I don't believe that the NDP will suffer the same fate as the Lib-Dem did in the 2010 UK election. For those who don't know, the Lib-Dem got a big boost after the (first ever in this country) tv debate and was polled to be around 30% all campaign long. But then, on election day, they only increased their share of votes from 23 to 24% and actually lost 5 seats! So here are the reasons:

1. I believe in polls.

Obviously I wouldn't spend my time studying every single poll published if I thought polls were wrong! While I acknowledge the limits and problems of polls, I still trust them. In particular, when I see that every single poll shows the same thing, I will not start tweaking the vote intentions because the NDP voters might not show up to actually cast their ballots. So, I trust polls and we have enough of them to get a pretty accurate idea of the voting intentions.

2. The polls were NOT that wrong in the UK.

Check this pdf (I'll refer to it again later in this post) on page 6, you see that poll did indeed overestimate the Lib-Dem, but not by 10-points. But the Lib-Dem was not, in average, projected to gain 10-points, or 25 like this is currently the case in Quebec for the NDP. So yes, it is possible the NDP is currently being overestimated, but don't believe the NDP will end up at 19% on May 2nd or at 15% in Quebec.

3. The surge has come (so far) from Quebec.

Recent polls start showing a NDP surge outside of Quebec (in the Atlantic and in Ontario in particular) but it's nothing compared to the surge in Quebec. And because we know that Quebec can work by waves, I trust this surge more. Specifically, we've seen that more than once in this province. In 2006, Harper started the campaign at 5% and ended up at 25% with 11 MPs. The surge happened during the Christmas break. In 2007, the ADQ started with 4 MLAs and 15% in the polls. They were supposed to be doomed after this election. At the end? The ADQ rose all campaign long, up to 25% and actually got as much as 30% on Election Day! They got 39 MLAs and fell 5 seats short to be the government! So it is well possible to see the NDP climbing in the mid 30's.

4. The vote commitment of NDP supporters is softer but also has a lot of potential with the second choices.

Check the pdf and you'll see that the Lib-Dem voters were less commited with as much as 34% saying they might change their mind. In Canada, currently, the Tories have the highest level of commitment according to Angus-Reid. If the commitment is above 80% for the CPC' it's only around 70% for both the Liberals and NDP. But at the same time, we get that 80% of Bloc supporters are sure to vote for the Bloc. 3 weeks ago, you would also have got the same level of commitment from the Bloc. Yet, 3 weeks later, the Bloc has fallen from 35% to 25%... On top of that, second choices from Ekos show the NDP is the main second choice of every party's supporters, in particular the Bloc and Liberals (as much as 53%!). Therefore, among the 30% of un-sure Liberal voters, you could well have a lot of them switching to the NDP. On the other hand, the NDP's second choices are more diversified. Therefore, the NDP might lose votes to the Tories, Green and Liberals, while the Grits would switch mostly to the NDP. The net effect would be a pretty stable NDP.

5. The Lib-Dem didn't have the edge on any policy issues, the NDP does.

If you still look at the pdf document, you see that the Lib-Dem were high only because of their leader and his performance during the (first) debate. They weren't seen as having the best policies for any big issues. It is different here in Canada. First of all, I believe that the debat had a weirdest potential impact in the UK since it was the first time such a debate was broadcasted on tv. Secondly, Jack Layton is of course not seen as the best to handle the economy, but he has the edge for health care, as shown here. Also, if you look at the leadership index from Nanos for instance, you'll see that Layton has almost always outperformed Ignatieff. This wasn't the case for Nick Clegg and the Lib-Dem.

So all that to say that I don't think the NDP will suffer a big disapointment on May 2nd. Yes, they might and probably will be below some of the crazy scores we've seen in some polls, but they will not be at 19%.

Speaking of crazy numbers, if I was to use only the Forum poll, that would give me:

CPC: 130
LPC: 62
NDP: 107
Green: 1 (yes May would win)
Bloc: 8

Looks crazy doesn't it? Well, this is only one poll but as I've said before, the surge is still occuring (adding the Forum's numbers to the latest projections would give 70 seats to the Liberals and 69 to the NDP, +15 if we compare to the projections from april 26th! So one more day and the NDP will be projected to finish second). I could get very similar projections by using the last polls from Ekos, Angus-Reid and Forum, which would combine for a 10k sample size...