Saturday, September 15, 2007

A few weekend Ontario polls

It's the weekend but the Ontario election campaign seems to be starting to heat-up.

Watching television on Friday I was teated to a barrage of political advertising. A few positive ads from the Liberals with Dalton McGuinty talking issues, and a raft of Conservative ads (actually, the same ad again and again I think) with the sound of breaking glass detailing Liberal broken promises, and blaming McGuinty for every crime committed in the past four years. And the kidnapping of the Lindbergh Baby too possibly.

So, I still don't know what John Tory stands for, besides Liberals bad, free booze in casinos, and creationism if necessary, but not necessarily creationism. Really though, while I think the Cons are crossing the line somewhat on the crime front in this ad, their radio ads and their earned media, this tv ad isn't bad. The breaking glass sound serves to draw attention to the TV while cooking dinner, much like the horn honk in the federal Con ads last election.

I wonder though, while the Tory Conservatives continue their campaign to drive down McGuinty's favourables and the Liberal numbers, which is certainly something they have to do, at what point do they start working to define Tory, and what he's all about. Right now, they seem to be positioning him as simply “Not Dalton.” While they keep trying to give people reasons not to vote Liberal, at some point are they going to try to give people reasons to vote Conservative?


Anyway, a couple of polls hit my inbox this weekend I thought I'd pass along, take from them what you will.

Religious schools

The first is from our friends at SES, who surveyed 501 respondents in Ontario via telephone between August 24th and August 26th on Tory's proposal to bring faith-based schools into the public system. It should be noted Tory's creationism gaffe occurred Sept. 5, and thus wouldn't have been a factor in these numbers.

The survey found Ontarians divided on the proposal with 50 per cent opposed/somewhat opposed and 43 per cent in support/somewhat support. SES noted the intensity of those opposed was greater than the intensity of those supportive, which I'd conjecture means those opposed are more likely to base their vote on the issue. After the creationism gaffe, not good news for Tory.

Here's the exact question they asked, and the results:

Question: As you may know the Ontario PC Party has proposed bringing faith based schools into the public school system. Faith based schools which choose to participate in this program would receive direct funding from the provincial government on the condition they incorporate the Ontario Common Curriculum, participate in Ontario's standardized testing program and ensure teachers maintain proper credentials. Do you support, somewhat support somewhat oppose or oppose bringing faith based schools into the public system?

Support/Oppose (N=501, MOE ± 4.4%, 19 times out of 20)

Support 28%
Somewhat support 15%
Somewhat oppose 10%
Oppose 40%

Unsure 8%

Issues and the horse race

The second poll is from Ipsos Reid and looks at both the ballot box issues and the horse race numbers, including regional breakdowns. The poll surveyed 800 Ontarioins by telephone between Sept. 4 and Sept. 13, which means any impact of the creationism gaffe should be visible here.


Let's look at the ballot box issues first, the issue respondents said is or could motivate their vote:
...four in ten (43%) identify education/faith-based school funding of the top three issues (for nearly one quarter (23%) of Ontarians it’s the number one motivator), followed by healthcare (41%) as one of the top three campaign issues for them, with Taxes (19%) and the environment (18%) in a dead heat for the third issue (all issues identified were unaided, open-ended responses, allowing up to three with the primary identified separately)

That the top issue is religious education is interesting, particularly when considered with SES's point about the intensity of those opposed to this issue being greater. Tory has made this an issue, if he hadn't it wouldn't be on the radar screen, and yet the issue seems to be working against him. One has to question his strategic decision here to go big on faith based education, creationism gaffe or not.

The number two issue, but only narrowly back from top spot, is health care. This is an issue the Liberals feel well positioned on with the progress they've made in recent years, and it's one McGuinty and Co. have been campaigning on, as well as strongly on education this past week.

The fact taxes are so far back at 19 per cent has to be troubling for Tory. If he'd spent more time on taxes and less on religious schools it would be higher, and I'd have to wager the Liberals are more vulnerable on taxes than they are on religious schools/education. A change in emphasis might be in order for the Cons to raise the importance of this issue higher. They've been hitting hard on criminal justice this week but it's only at seven per cent and another of their issues, integrity/trust, is at just six per cent.

Horse race

On to the horse race numbers. Ipsos characterizes the numbers as stagnant, which would seem to indicate the creationism incident didn't hurt (or help) Tory's numbers. Indeed, the numbers among decided voters stayed pretty much the same from the last Ipsos poll:

Liberals: 40 per cent (-1)
Conservatives: 37 per cent (+1)
NDP: 16 per cent (-1)
Greens: 6 per cent (-)
Undecideds: 6 per cent or 9 per cent (they say both in different places)

In chart form:

Looking regionally it's very tight as well, although there have been some shifts. In the GTA it's Liberals 40 (-2), Cons 38 (+2), NDP 15 (-1) but within the 416 proper there was some interesting movement. The Libs still lead with 39 per cent but that's down 5 over the week, while the Cons gained 6 to move to 33 per cent. The NDP dropped 2, to 21 per cent. In the 905 its Cons 42, Libs 40 and NDP 10.

Moving outside the GTA the Libs have a slim lead. It's Libs 40, Cons 36 and NDP 17, little changed from last week.

Seat projections

Finally, though perhaps most interestingly, Ipsos has also done seat projections based on an aggregate of recent polls. Not to besmirch the good folks at Ipsos, but I find these exercises to be a bit of voodoo science, so take it with a grain of salt.

They're projecting however a slim Liberal majority (54 seats needed). Here's how:

Liberals: 56 seats (42 solid, 14 leaning)
Conservatives: 39 seats (28 solid, 11 leaning)
NDP: 12 seats (9 solid and three leaning)

Open this pdf and they break down their projections riding by riding but again, as I said, huge grain of salt, and even Ipsos says expect big changes here by E-Day.

I found this note from Ipsos interesting:
A majority (51%) of Ontarians believe that it is ‘time for another provincial political party to take over’, however four in ten (40%) believe that ‘McGuinty has done a good job and deserves to be re-elected’—instructive given that a mirrored 40% of the vote would likely yield, as noted above, a slim re-elected Liberal majority government.
If I were an MMP supporter (I'm undecided at the moment) I'd seize on those numbers.


Speaking of MMP, odd that SES and Ipsos both didn't mention the referendum. BigCityLib has an Angus Reid poll (pdf) that does. While Scott points-out it's an online poll (which are frought with issues) the results aren't good for MMP supporters:
The poll also asked Ontarians to voice their views on the referendum on electoral reform, which will take place on the same day as the legislative ballot. A third of respondents (33%) would keep the existing first-past-the-post electoral system, while 26 per cent would switch to the alternative mixed-member-proportional system. Three per cent of respondents would not participate on this plebiscite, and 38 per cent remain undecided.

Since the pro-side needs to get to 60 per cent or the status quo remains, as BCL points out if there numbers are accurate that's a long hill to climb.

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