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B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark speaks at a rally during a campaign stop in Cranbrook, B.C. on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (JIMMY JEONG/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark speaks at a rally during a campaign stop in Cranbrook, B.C. on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (JIMMY JEONG/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. Liberals gain on NDP in polls, but they’re still the long shot Add to ...

Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberals have so far succeeded in narrowing the gap between themselves and the B.C. New Democrats in the first half of the province’s election campaign, but not yet nearly enough to put their re-election quite in reach.

All of the polls included in the latest forecast for ThreeHundredEight.com ( full methodology ) and The Globe and Mail were taken before Monday’s debate, so the effects of that contest have yet to be felt. But polls have given Mr. Dix the edge in Monday night’s event, suggesting that his lead is not in danger.

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Had an election been held on April 26 when polls were last in the field, the New Democrats would have likely taken 47 per cent of the vote, a drop of only one point since the forecast of April 17. The B.C. Liberals have increased their share of the vote from 30 per cent to 33 per cent, shrinking the margin to a still formidable 14 points.

The B.C. Greens have remained steady at 9 per cent support, while the B.C. Conservatives – who have had issues with some of their candidates and will only have names on the ballot in two-thirds of British Columbia’s 85 ridings – have fallen four points to only 8 per cent.

With these levels of support, the New Democrats would form a majority government and win between 48 and 66 seats. Ms. Clark’s party would win between 16 and 36 seats, while four independents and two Greens could be elected. The most likely estimate gives the NDP 56 seats and the Liberals 28, and forecasts one independent to be returned to the legislature. That is a swing of nine seats from the New Democrats to the Liberals since April 17.

While the trends are heading in a positive direction for Ms. Clark, the odds that she would be able to turn things around in the two weeks that remain before the vote is held is roughly 20 to 1. That is an improvement over the 50 to 1 odds she had two weeks ago.

The consistency that the polls had in the months running up to the campaign has only slackened a little, with the three surveys conducted between April 15 and 26 in only marginal disagreement. The support measured for the Conservatives and Greens is not in question, but numbers for the Liberals and NDP have varied by as much as six points. It is not enough to make much of a difference in the outcome of the election, however, only determining whether the New Democrats win a landslide or a comfortable majority.

If there is one region of the province that could cause problems for Mr. Dix, it would be the interior and northern parts of British Columbia. There, his party’s support has slid by only a point to 44 per cent but the Liberals have jumped by six points to 36 per cent, swinging seven seats over to their column since April 17.

The more interesting race may be on Vancouver Island. Though the New Democrats have a very wide lead (their support increased to 53 per cent) and are currently projected to sweep the island, the B.C. Greens have been putting up some very good numbers. They are projected to have 17 per cent support, only six points behind the Liberals, and are considered capable of winning one seat. The party has been given 22 per cent or more support in four of the last six polls on the island and have been placed ahead of the Liberals in three of them. Getting that vote out may be a challenge – and the polls could be overestimating Green support somewhat due to the party not running candidates in every riding – but they certainly have a chance to win their first seat in the legislature.

The first post-debate surveys should provide an indication of whether or not Ms. Clark has been able to turn the tide. But it will require a major swing in voting intentions, as she has only managed to decrease the margin between her party and Mr. Dix’s by four points in two weeks. If she manages the feat again before election day, she will still trail by 10 points and the New Democrats will still win a majority government. She might be making more of a race out of it, but Mr. Dix remains the overwhelming favourite to win.

All publicly available polls are weighted by sample size, date, and the polling firm’s accuracy record. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all 85 ridings in the province, based on the provincial shifts in support since the 2009 election and subsequent by-elections. The probability forecast is based on historical changes in support between polls and election results. The projection is subject to the margins of error of the polls included as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level.

Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com.

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