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Crunching Numbers

Hudak's Toronto stumble weighs down Tories after two weeks Add to ...

After the second week of Ontario’s election campaign, the race between the Progressive Conservatives and the governing Liberals is still very close. But without the support of Toronto’s voters, Tim Hudak has little hope of becoming the province’s next premier.

A weighted aggregation of the latest polls indicates the Progressive Conservatives are still in the lead with 36.5 per cent support in the province, a drop of almost two points since last week’s projection. The Liberals are up almost a point and trail with 33.6 per cent, while the New Democrats are up 1.8 points to 23.9 per cent. The Greens have slipped to 4.8 per cent support.

This after a topsy-turvy week in polling. Two telephone polls from Nanos Research and Ipsos-Reid pegged the gap between the Liberals and the Tories at one to three points, with Dalton McGuinty on top. Later in the week, two online polls from Abacus Data and Angus-Reid suggested a gap of four to nine points in favour of Mr. Hudak. But in three of the polls the gap between the Liberals and the Tories was statistically insignificant, demonstrating just how tight the race remains.

With these levels of support, ThreeHundredEight.com’s seat projection model shows 50 seats for the Liberals, 36 for the Progressive Conservatives, and 21 for the New Democrats. As 54 seats are needed to form a majority government, the Liberals could need to look to the NDP for support at Queen’s Park.

Since last week’s projection, this is a gain of six seats for the Liberals and two for the New Democrats. The Tories have dropped eight seats – almost all of them in and around Toronto.

A weighted average of four polls taken between Sept. 7 and 15 indicates the Liberals lead with about 39 per cent support in Toronto, compared to 30 per cent for the New Democrats and 26 per cent for the Tories. That is virtually unchanged from where the polls stood at the beginning of the campaign.

The biggest mover, however, might be the NDP. In the 2007 election, the Liberals took 45 per cent of the vote in Toronto, with the Tories taking 24 per cent and the NDP 22 per cent. A gain of eight points for the New Democrats, mostly at the expense of the Liberals, puts about half-a-dozen T.O. seats in Andrea Horwath’s sights.

But while the Liberals are ceding ground to the NDP in Toronto, the city is also a source of trouble for the Tory Leader.

In a Forum Research poll from June, when the PCs were leading by a wide margin in Ontario as a whole, Mr. Hudak’s party stood at 33 per cent in Toronto, ahead of the Liberals (31 per cent) and the New Democrats (25 per cent). In a space of three months, the Tories have lost about one-quarter of their support in the province’s largest city.

In July, the Tories were projected to win 20 seats in Toronto and the GTA. They now stand to win six.

Vote inefficiency is still a problem for the Tories, as they are projected to win half of their seats with 50 per cent of the vote or more. The Liberals, however, are on pace to win almost all of their ridings with less than 50 per cent of the vote.

With the Liberals squeaking by in a lot of close races, they are already near the upper limit of their likely seat range. The Liberals barely straddle majority territory with a probable range of between 31 and 58 seats. The Tories, trailing in many close races, are still capable of forming Ontario’s next government. Their range stands at between 30 and 55 seats, one more than is needed for a majority. The New Democrats, meanwhile, stand to win between 18 and 22 seats.

This points to the most probable outcome being a Liberal minority with the Tories as the Official Opposition. But with the numbers where they currently stand, slim majorities led by either Dalton McGuinty or Tim Hudak are within the realm of possibility.

After two weeks, the Liberal Leader’s fortunes have improved. The alternative that Mr. Hudak represents is not looking nearly as shiny and new as it did at the beginning of the summer, when the Tories were expected to crush the Liberals and perhaps even push them to third place. But neither leader’s position is safe and, if the federal election is any guide, the rise of the New Democrats – which has apparently come at the expense of both parties – might not be over yet. The campaign, even after two weeks, is only really just beginning.

ThreeHundredEight.com’ s projection model aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date, and record of polling firm accuracy. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all 107 ridings in the province, based on shifts in support from the 2007 election and including the application of factors unique to each riding, such as the effects of incumbency.

These projections are a reflection of the likely result of an election if an election were held at the end of last week. They are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level.

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