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Nanos Q&A: Will Guergis fallout hurt Tories?

Helena Guergis tries to hold back her emotions while speaking to reporters at her campaign office in Collingwood, Ont.

Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

On Friday at noon ET, Nik Nanos of Nanos Research joined The Globe and Mail online to take reader questions. Follow the questions and answers below:

[Comment From SEM]/b> Why aren't any of the recent stories on the G8/G20 spending, Guergis, or the Guelph ballot box impacting the Conservatives' numbers in a bigger way?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]For the Guergis and Guelph stuff - they are too new. For stories to move the numbers a number of things have to take place, including the opposition parties effectively taking advantage of those opportunities. The Auditor-General's report is a case in point, beyond a few minutes in the English leaders' debate, it was not discussed - so it was a break for Harper and a missed opportunity for the opposition.

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Jennifer MacMillan, Globe and Mail Nik, when do you expect the impact of the news about Guergis and Guelph might show up in future polls?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> Because we do a three-day rolling sample, the full impact, if any, would not be known until three days later - so for us, we would monitor the weekend.

Jennifer MacMillan, Globe and Mail Do you think the statements by Helena Guergis, and how Harper and the other leaders have responded, will register with voters outside of Guergis' riding?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]This is a tricky issue for Harper on a number of levels - first, because it could be used to represent a particular leadership style, second because there is the issue of fairness of treatment and finally because Helena Guergis was a female cabinet minister. For the Tories to have any sort of chance for a majority they need to be competitive among women (who are currently more undecided than men) - so he has to be careful in how he manages this.

Jennifer MacMillan, Globe and Mail Nik, we're getting several questions about the youth vote. A lot of people are wondering:

a) Will youth turn out in bigger numbers for this election than they have in the past?

b) Is it possible that youth aren't being accurately represented in polls because they predominantly use cell phones instead of landlines?

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[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]To engage youth a number of things have to happen. First, there needs to be relevance - for our federal leaders to talk about issues young Canadians are concerned about. Maybe it's talk about our democracy... The second thing needed is authenticity - more youthful thinking from our leaders.

On the polling front, I believe it is accurate. Here is a great link on the subject of youth and polling and cells - we follow this technical approach. If you are a propeller head - you'll love this as a first dip into the topic:

[Comment From MikeB]/b> Do you think the debates had the effect of shoring up Conservative support without necessarily raising it?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> Based on the first two nights of post-debate polling, Conservative support has remained steady, even though the Nanos Leadership Index showed that Canadians believed that Harper had a very strong showing. Basically a recognition of a good job but not a growth in support. I expect the Conservative supporters to be more firm based on his performance.

[Comment From queerthoughts]/b> How does the NDP look in Quebec and how might that translate into seats for them, and how will the LPC/CPC do with more NDP votes in Quebec?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> Jack Layton's leadership numbers are very strong in Quebec, and the NDP are in a three-way statistical tie with the other federalist parties. Looking at the numbers from last night they are at 18.1 per cent - this compares to the last election where they hit 12.2 per cent in Quebec. Positive news for the NDP but they need a concentration of support to win more seats - or a blow-up from the other party leaders in Quebec.

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[Comment From Alex]/b> Why is polling not done to project the outcome of ridings won by a party?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> That is more seat projections. To [measure]them effectively in my honest opinion, you need a much larger sample with clusters of ridings. For me, I like to stick to my knitting and focus on getting the percentage support correct. However, the national percentages may in this election belie the actual seat outcome - because of vote splitting specifically in BC, Ontario and perhaps Montreal.

[Comment From nafio]Nik, do you think that there is any evidence to indicate that Conservative support could increase leading up to election day? Or does it seem to be stagnant, regardless of events, announcements, etc.

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> Anything is possible but the Conservative support this election has been reasonably consistent. I think for many Canadians they have formed opinions of Harper because he is a known commodity. The numbers if they moved would not be "for Harper" or "for the Conservatives" but more likely for a majority to end the minority environment. Think of it in terms of Canadians being fed up with minority parliaments as opposed to a Conservative wave. Of course, if Harper made a significant mistake, it would swing against him.

[Comment From Southie]/b> The Green Party seems well down in the polls compared to last election. Have Canadians looked at Elizabeth May and said, "Nope, not for me?"

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> I think May has been squeezed out on the policy front. In the last election Stephane Dion and his Green Shift championed the environment, the NDP was more focussed on the environment and that situation elevated May and the Greens. In this election there has been a greater focus on healthcare and jobs - so the environment has been squeezed as an issue, with a collateral negative impact on the Greens. If she manages to win her seat - that would be a big breakthrough, even if the Green popular support went down.

[Comment From JIG]With the rising support for Jack Layton and the NDP, do you expect to see the Liberals to switch focus and start hammering away at the NDP?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]Yep. The other thing the Liberals have to do is motivate their core.

[Comment From Mike]How do think the Liberals can motivate their core?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> It might sound simplistic but ... for any party to motivate its core it needs to act in a manner that people expect. The Liberals need to act like Liberals. The Tories are acting like Conservatives and the NDP like New Democrats. People have a vision of the Liberals as a strong national federalist party that is compassionate but fiscally responsible.

[Comment From jbean]/b> It looks like advertising by all parties is increasingly focused on attack ads. Do you see these having a significant impact on the polls?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> For the attack ads to work they need to be:

1. Effective.

2. Validated by the target or a third party. For example, in 2006 the Tory ADSCAM ads ran for weeks with no impact until the RCMP launched a criminal investigation.

[Comment From Ian in NS]/b> Nik, just how much polling do the political parties do themselves? Are they relying on your numbers (and those of other polling firms?) on a national basis or are they polling nationally themselves? Alternatively, how much do they rely on riding-by-riding polls?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]In my experience, the major parties do polling and then would use the numbers from independent pollsters like Nanos to validate or check the trends. Riding surveys are usually done by local riding campaigns except if the riding is a high priority - in that case I believe the national folks can be involved. That's my understanding.

[Comment From Eli Katz]/b> I don't see reports on undecided voters. What are the numbers? Are they evenly distributed throughout the country? Who are the undecideds, generally? Are they strategic voters, low-information voters, new voters? What role are they going to play in this election?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]Here you go: - check the row under the MoE.

The number of undecided has been steadily declining from a high of about 22 per cent in the beginning of the campaign to about 15 per cent now. As a note, if you see undecided starting to dramatically rise, that is a leading indicator of future movement because when people change their mind, they shift to the undecided column and then move to a new political home.

[Comment From Desmond Hume]What are the sleeper issues of this campaign? There seem to be so many talking points (coalitions are evil; democracy was betrayed; economy going well; jets are expensive; students ejected from rally, etc) but nothing really substantive. What issue could end up breaking through the noise?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> It's funny, I thought the Auditor-General's report could have been the issue to turn things because it was an example of a third party validating a narrative of the opposition. But the debates came and went and knocked the A-G report off the radar. I believe that a narrative related to the style of the governing could have traction but Harper has done a very good job during the campaign at managing things and issues that it might not be as much of a vulnerability.

Jennifer MacMillan, Globe and Mail We're running short on time, so we'll be wrapping up. But something to end on: Do you think the information revealed by Helena Guergis from the RCMP and her freedom of information request has potential to do what the A-G report couldn't?

[Comment From Nik Nanos (The Pollster)]/b> I think it could move the numbers because of the personal narrative - she's a young woman, her husband has done some ... things, she is a mother and this relates to fairness of treatment. It also feeds a particular narrative of the perceived leadership style of Harper.

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<iframe src="" scrolling="no" height="650px" width="460px" frameBorder ="0" allowTransparency="true" ><a href="" >Pollster Nik Nanos takes your questions</a></iframe>

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