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Gomery, Charest – these are relics from the past in Quebec, as it seems that the Liberal brand is alive and well in the province, according to a new poll.
The survey by Quebec-based pollster CROP found both the provincial and federal Liberals under their new leaders leading by a wide margin in the province, with some of the best numbers either party has posted in years.
CROP's online survey, published Thursday, was conducted for La Presse and surveyed 1,000 Quebecers between 12 and 17 June. As the poll was conducted via CROP's online panel, a margin of error does not apply.
Justin Trudeau's Liberals were given 42 per cent support among decided voters, compared to 32 per cent for Thomas Mulcair's New Democrats. That represented a gain of three points for each party compared to CROP's last poll in May, though the bump may be nothing more than a statistical anomaly. However, while the trend line for the NDP has wobbled back and forth over the last three months of CROP polling, the Liberals have been on a steady increase since Mr. Trudeau was named party leader.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have been steadily dropping. Though their decrease in support of one point per month in the last three surveys has been marginal, it is nevertheless consistent. Only 8 per cent of Quebecers said they support the governing party. The Bloc Québécois, at 15 per cent support, was down three points from last month and seems to be fading away.
However, though the NDP is trailing in the overall vote intentions, there are some positive numbers in this poll for Mr. Mulcair. Though the non-francophone population of the province seems to be returning en masse to the Liberals (they managed 63 per cent support among this demographic, to only 18 per cent for the NDP), francophones are still on the fence. The Liberals had the support of 36 per cent of French-speaking Quebecers, compared to 35 per cent for the New Democrats. As francophones make up the virtual totality of voters in most of the province's ridings, it keeps the NDP in the running for a lot of seats.
Indeed, it seems that the New Democrats would still be able to win the majority of seats in Quebec even with these numbers. If the results from CROP's poll were repeated at the ballot box, the NDP would likely win between 36 and 41 seats in the province, compared to around 32-33 for the Liberals. Though that is a stellar increase for the Liberals and a steep drop for the NDP (Mr. Trudeau's party currently has seven seats in Quebec, plus Denis Coderre's recently vacated riding, compared to 57 for the New Democrats), it is a counter-intuitive result. This is in large part due to the lack of a solid, uniform base of support for the Liberals in francophone Quebec. If the party runs up the numbers in Montreal, Laval, the Outaouais, and the Eastern Townships, where they do have a base of francophone support, it will not help them win seats in the Saguenay, central Quebec, and the Côte-Nord. And the New Democrats are better positioned to wrestle away those seats currently occupied by the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois than the Liberals are.
Another positive result in the survey for Mr. Mulcair is that he narrowly beat out Mr. Trudeau on the question of who would make the best Prime Minister: 31 per cent said Mr. Mulcair would, compared to 29 per cent for Mr. Trudeau. That is a reversal of fortunes of sorts, as Mr. Trudeau has led the NDP leader on this question in CROP's last two polls. Stephen Harper trailed in third at 10 per cent.
But the next general federal election in Quebec is more than two years away. The next provincial election is expected as early as the spring.
The Liberals are also doing very well at the provincial level under new leader Philippe Couillard. He led in this poll with 38 per cent, compared to only 25 per cent for the governing Parti Québécois, 22 per cent for François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec, and 11 per cent for Québec Solidaire. The numbers in CROP's polling have held steady since Mr. Couillard's leadership victory in March.
Most troubling for Premier Pauline Marois is that only 11 per cent selected her as the best person to fill her current job, compared to 26 per cent for Mr. Couillard, 17 per cent for Mr. Legault, and 9 per cent for Françoise David, co-spokesperson for QS. The PQ trailed the Liberals throughout the province, and held only a three-point edge over that party among francophones.
With these levels of support, the Liberals would easily win back a majority government of some 69 seats. The PQ would be returned to the opposition benches with 38 seats, while the CAQ would take 15 and Québec Solidaire three. Currently, the PQ has 54 seats to 50 for the Liberals, 18 for the CAQ, and two for QS.
There is a clear incentive for Mr. Couillard to engineer the government's defeat as soon as possible (only 28 per cent of Quebecers said they were satisfied with the government's performance, the lowest Ms. Marois has registered in CROP's polling). But there is little reason for the CAQ to help Mr. Couillard out. His party is down in the polls and is poised to lose seats. Mr. Legault may calculate that he can do more in a minority legislature than he would against a Couillard majority. But propping up an unpopular government may only lessen his chances of victory further down the road.
Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com .