Liberals take the lead in Ontario, true three-way race nationally

After around a month of campaign, the latest polls show Canadians voters more divided than ever.  The race is especially tighter since the Liberals appear on the rise and have now taken the lead in Ontario. The most recent polls from Abacus, Ekos and Leger all have Justin Trudeau leading in Canada's most populous province.

At the same time, the continued (and slightly increased) good numbers of the NDP in Quebec keeps this party ahead as far as the total seat count is concerned. Although the trend looks good for the Liberals, especially if they can keep increasing in Ontario.

Below you have the graph with the polls of this campaign. Remember that we slightly adjust the raw numbers from the polls since we distribute undecided slightly differently from pollsters,a  technique that has proven quite successful in Quebec and Alberta. As you can observe, the national voting intentions have been pretty stable over the last month.

Using the most recent polls, we get the following projections. You have in order the voting intentions, the seat projections with the confidence intervals (at 95% confidence level) as well as the chances of winning. Both the intervals and the probabilities come from the use of 5000 simulations accounting for the uncertainty of the polls as well as the electoral system.

The detailed projections are available below.

Changes from last week may look small but this is what happens with an average of 5+ polls. Plus, outside of Ontario, we must admit things are relatively quiet. However, the NDP is increasingly dependent on Quebec and the danger is real if the Liberals start taking a decent lead in Ontario.

What might be the most surprising is the fact the Conservatives are still in this race. After all, the vast majority of voters express a desire for change and they are dissatisfied with the current government and Prime Minister. Nevertheless, the current 30% of people voting CPC are really the core voters. They are very committed in their choice. They like the Prime Minister and find he's doing a good job. They also don't believe he's guilty of any wrong doing with the Duffy/Senate scandal for instance. In other words: these voters are unlikely to go anywhere. At the same time, the potential for growth is very limited for the Tories. Their vote ceiling (as shown by Ekos for instance) is definitely much lower than for the other two main parties. All that to say that the road to another Harper victory is incredibly narrow. But this road exists and it really wouldn't shocking to see a Conservative victory if the election were tomorrow.

The one thing that has no uncertainty at this point? No party could reach a majority! Not even in an ideal scenario.

So we have a three way race nationally, but how many seats are really in play? I'm talking of riding where the projected winner is given less than 75% chances of winning (yes, the threshold is arbitrary). Out of 335 ridings (don't have probabilities for the three territories), only 49 ridings are in this situation. On the other hand, as many as 94 electoral districts currently have no uncertainty with the winner projected to take the riding 100% of the time (and the model hasn't made a mistake yet in these situations).

As you can see, this election will be decided in a relatively small number of ridings. This isn't unusual with our electoral system. Also, 111 are three-way races in the sense that the main three parties all have a non-zero chance of winning. This is almost one third of the riding. But by non-zero, we really mean just that. It means some candidate can have a chance as low as 0.1%. So possible but very unlikely.

If we look at the various issues, including the economy, we also see that voters are essentially divided in three (the Tories do seem to have a small edge over the NDP for the economy but nothing major). The recent news that Canada is in recession could change that (unlikely though as the term has been used before for a while now). If no issue becomes the deciding factor, this race could well remain as close as it is currently. Although you'd think that at some point some swing voters between Liberals and NDP will choose a side and go with it in order to get rid of Stephen Harper. If Trudeau has achieved anything since the beginning of this campaign, it's to have convinced some voters that he might be the best choice for that. Had he failed early on, I suspect the NDP would currently be sitting close to a majority.