Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

NDP leader Rachel Notley waves to supporters during a pre-election rally in Edmonton, Alberta on Sunday, May 3, 2015.

AMBER BRACKEN/The Globe and Mail

29.1 per cent

In an attention-grabbing poll from EKOS released this week, the federal NDP polled at 29.1 per cent, just behind the Conservatives at 30 and just ahead of the Liberals at 27. This puts the NDP within the margin of error (2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20) for the lead. It also represents the party's highest polling figure since an Ipsos Reid poll put it at 31 per cent in October, 2013. The NDP hasn't even polled at 29 per cent in two polls in a row since December, 2012, a time before Justin Trudeau took leadership of the Liberals.

The NDP position has improved largely in Ontario and Quebec compared with the EKOS poll taken the week prior. Through the rest of the country, it is difficult to be sure about much of a change anywhere else.

Story continues below advertisement

36 per cent

This good-news poll for the federal NDP followed another poll proclaiming even better fortunes for the Ontario NDP. A Forum Research survey released May 12 indicated that the New Democrats were now leading the province with 36 per cent of decided voters, with the Progressive Conservatives close behind at 33 per cent, and the governing Liberals far back at 24. This is a remarkable shift from a similar Forum survey released at the end of April. Since that poll, the NDP appears to have jumped a stunning 12 percentage points, with the PCs and Liberals down three and five points respectively. (The margin of error is three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

Some tried to cast this big shift in terms of the recent election of the Notley-led NDP in Alberta. While sometimes public opinion can be subject to a bit of a contagion effect in which political change in one area influences change in another, it's still too early to say.

Another interpretation of this shift blames Patrick Brown's ascension to the leadership of the Ontario PCs with the change. While politics is often an odd business, this interpretation is hard to justify. How would several days of Mr. Brown's leadership drive voters away from both the PCs and the Liberal government, and why would that support now coalesce around the third-place NDP? If there really is a movement in Ontario toward the provincial New Democrats, it's almost certainly for some other reason.

54 per cent

Beyond crediting Notley-mania with sweeping the country, another interpretation of this shift is the Liberal Party's recent support of the Conservatives' anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51. Some account for the federal change by blaming it on a Liberal strategic error.

While federal polling doesn't include any questions that would let us definitively figure out the effect of C-51, we might get a glimpse of what's happening by looking at leadership approval ratings, if the public's opinion of the legislation gets transferred to their assessment of leaders. However, the actual evidence doesn't support this notion at all. In terms of EKOS polling over the past month, both Stephen Harper's and Thomas Mulcair's leadership approval numbers have fallen, while Justin Trudeau's increased to 54 per cent, after dropping below 50 earlier in the year. If a shift in vote intention is actually happening because of C-51, it's having a puzzlingly opposite effect on leadership approval figures.

Story continues below advertisement

The data leave us with a few competing interpretations of what's going on in public opinion: Canadians are currently having a moment of increased NDP support federally and provincially in both Ontario and Alberta, federal Liberal support has shifted to the NDP because of the Liberals' support of Bill C-51 that nonetheless hasn't shown up in evaluations of party leadership, or – most frustratingly – the NDP has simply been on the lucky end of the margin of error in a couple of recent polls.

Paul Fairie is a political scientist at the University of Calgary, where he studies voter behaviour.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies