With under a week to go until voting day, the election Stephen Harper derides as an "unnecessary" appears set to produce a seismic shift.
Mr. Harper is on track to return to the Commons as prime minister of a minority Conservative government - but instead of squaring off against Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, he could be facing Jack Layton's New Democrats on the Official Opposition bench.
The latest Nanos Research polling numbers show the NDP firmly in second place with the Conservatives 10 points ahead - 37.8 per cent support for the Tories compared to 27.8 per cent for the NDP. The Liberals, meanwhile, are in uncharted waters, sliding downward night after night to 22.9 per cent support nationally.
Pollster Nik Nanos points to the record turnout at the advance polls as an indication voters are now lusting for change.
"Canadians are getting off the political couch and going down the street to their local polling stations to try to shape the future in a little different way," he says, noting this suggests a good turnout at the polls on May 2.
With that in mind, Mr. Nanos joined us to take reader questions on the election so far and what lies ahead for Mr. Harper, Mr. Layton and Mr. Ignatieff.
Below is a transcript of that conversation:
Ann Hui: Hi everyone. I'm an editor with globeandmail.com and I'll be moderating today's discussion. Joining us soon will be pollster Nik Nanos, who will take reader questions on the latest Nanos Research polling numbers.
In the meantime, feel free to leave your questions for Nik.
Nik Nanos (The Pollster): Just checking in.
Ann Hui: Let's jump right into a question. Probably the most surprising aspect of this election so far has been the success of the NDP, at least according to polling numbers. The latest Nanos Research show the NDP firmly in second place with 27.8 support. The Liberals, meanwhile, are lagging behind with only 22.9 per cent support nationally.
I think what everybody is trying to figure out is, what does the 'NDP surge' mean for the Tories? Is this good or bad news for the Tories?
Nik Nanos (The Pollster): First, the main NDP surge has been in the province of Quebec and it significantly puffs up the national NDP numbers. In QC the NDP pickup and BQ drop could help the Tories hold onto seats. In BC the NDP pickup (which is not as dramatic as this point) could help the NDP pick up seats in the Interior for example. We will need to monitor the scope of the increase regionally over the next few days.
Ann Hui: Here's a reader question to follow up on that:
[Comment From Joe PalookaJoe Palooka: ]/b> Mr Nanos, can the Tories still eke out a majority government at around 39% support and a surging NDP? As far as I understand it, the increased NDP support may not translate into many more seats (eg, it is said that the party's support in Quebec is a mile wide and an inch deep). Thank you.
Nik Nanos (The Pollster): That's the $300M question (FYI - cost of election). I believe the Tories are looking for a smash and grab majority of seats where they target seats to get numerically above 50 + 1% of the seats in the house with a similar national vote level. This is achievable the but vote splits in this election could put a monkey wrench in that.
[Comment From Fraser M.Fraser M.: ]Some commentators have characterized the recent NDP surge as a "flirtation" with the NDP rather than strong support. Could you tell us how support levels look for people who are "absolutely" or "very likely" to vote?
Nik Nanos (The Pollster): First, believe it or not there is usually a relationship between answering a survey and voting - it is a measure of a certain level of democratic engagement. The surge is mostly in the province of QC and in my opinion is similar to the Mario Dumont ADQ phenonomenon where he surged and did very well in one election. Factoring the scope of the increase in support for the NDP and the drop of the BQ I would say that this is a very real phenomenon in QC.