With the provincial election less than a week away, pollsters examining the British Columbia campaign are offering voters an inconsistent view of where the parties stand, in contrast with 2013 when firms widely – and wrongly – predicted an NDP victory.
This time, the results differ significantly between polling firms, with one saying the BC Liberals have the momentum, another arguing the BC NDP is comfortably ahead, and others striking a more cautious tone.
The NDP was heavily favoured to win the provincial election four years ago, when the party was led by Adrian Dix. Instead, Liberal Leader Christy Clark carried her party to its fourth consecutive majority government.
Kyle Braid, a senior vice-president at Ipsos, said his company's polling indicates the two parties are currently in a statistical tie.
"It's anyone's to win," he said.
"And if it's like the last election, where more than four in 10 registered voters don't vote, it's really going to be about which party does a better job of getting out their vote."
Mr. Braid said he does not have a prediction on how the race will play out and he "learned last election [to] try to avoid too many predictions."
A poll conducted by Ipsos the day before the 2013 vote had the NDP eight points ahead of the Liberals among decided voters. The Liberals ended up with 44 per cent of the vote – four-plus points ahead of the NDP – and 49 of 85 seats.
Mr. Braid said Ipsos conducted online polls four years ago, but this time around has added identical phone surveys.
"The main thing we're doing differently is the dual methodology," he said. "…We did online last time, others did phones, almost all of them were off. So there was something unique about the last election."
Mario Canseco, who four years ago was with Angus Reid Public Opinion, has said the 2013 polling did not capture a late shift among voters.
Mr. Canseco, now vice-president of public affairs with Insights West, said in an interview that his current firm looked at the horse race at the start of the campaign and will do so again at its close.
"It's better to focus on some of the issues in the middle of the campaign instead of just crunching out horse-race numbers every week," he said.
This week, Insights West released a survey that examined the issues of accountability, energy, and the environment, as well as sentiments toward party leaders. The survey, among other things, found 77 per cent of British Columbians want to ban donations from corporations to political parties, and 73 per cent would like to ban such donations from unions.
Mr. Canseco said Insights West will continue polling into Monday, the day before the vote, to ensure it has the most recent information.
He said the criticism of pollsters after the past B.C. election was warranted – though that campaign has drawn much more attention than instances in which his polling was correct.
"That's just the way things are. Nobody's asked me about the 22 elections I've done correctly since I got here. It's almost like being a goalie in hockey, nobody remembers the 22 stops, they remember the one that went by you," he said.
David Valentin, executive vice-president with Mainstreet Research, said the race does appear to be close. While the NDP could win the popular vote, he said it's difficult at the moment to see its path to a majority government.
Mr. Valentin said Mainstreet Research's poll after the latest debate found movement toward the Liberals.
"In our post-debate poll, we asked what the debate-watchers planned to do, that's usually a good indicator of what is to come," he said.
"And what we saw there is that even though these debate-watchers said [BC NDP Leader] John Horgan won the debate, and even though they told us that they found [BC Green Party Leader] Andrew Weaver the most favourable, they still told us by a slim margin that they intended to vote Liberal."
Forum Research this week released a poll that said the NDP has an eight-point lead over the Liberals, 37 per cent to 29 per cent.
Lorne Bozinoff, the firm's president, said that while the NDP is comfortably ahead, he is keeping an eye on the third-place Greens, whom the poll placed at 24 per cent.