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NDP Leader Jack Layton fields a question at a town-hall meeting while campaigning at the University of Toronto on April 26, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
NDP Leader Jack Layton fields a question at a town-hall meeting while campaigning at the University of Toronto on April 26, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Nanos Poll

Layton jumps well ahead of Ignatieff as voters get off 'the political couch' Add to ...

Jack Layton's NDP may simply switch places with Michael Ignatieff's Liberals in the House of Commons while the Stephen Harper's Conservatives hold on to their minority government, according to the latest Nanos Research poll.

Released Wednesday morning, the three-day rolling survey has the NDP firmly in second place with the Conservatives 10 points ahead - 37.8 per cent support for the Tories compared to 27.8 per cent for the NDP. The Liberals, meanwhile, are in uncharted waters, sliding downward night after night to 22.9 per cent support nationally.

Nik Nanos, The Globe and Mail/CTV pollster, points to the record turnout at the advance polls as an indication voters are now lusting for change.

"Canadians are getting off the political couch and going down the street to their local polling stations to try to shape the future in a little different way," he says, noting this suggests a good turnout at the polls on May 2.

"So what probably started off as a bit of a snoozer of an election turned out to be an election where the federal leaders engaged on health care. ... Jack Layton ran a relatively positive campaign and a good campaign and that was part of his differentiator."

The NDP's strength nationally is built on its unprecedented strength in Quebec, where the party has 36.5 per cent support compared to 24.2 per cent for the Bloc Québécois; the Liberals are 20.3 per cent and the Tories have 13.6 per cent support. The margin of error in the province is plus or minus 6.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

"The Layton charisma caught on in the province of Quebec and it is starting to slowly spill over outside of Quebec," says Mr. Nanos.

And Mr. Nanos attributes a phenomenon he calls "old leader-itis" to the Bloc's poor fortunes at present. He says the sovereigntist party's support plummeted after Leader Gilles Duceppe campaigned earlier this week with former Parti Québécois premier Jacques Parizeau.

Instead of bolstering his campaign it did the exact opposite.

"Parading out Jacques Parizeau was probably the equivalent of bringing out one of the Four Horsemen of the separatist Apocalypse. It was a bit of a signal that maybe this was the beginning of the end for the Bloc."

On Wednesday night, meanwhile, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is campaigning in Toronto with former prime minister Jean Chrétien.

"We'll see what that effect that has," Mr. Nanos says. "Bringing out past leaders might not necessarily be a way to bolster support. It might actually put a spotlight on a campaign to say, 'This campaign is not going well.'"

Indeed, the campaign is not going well for the Liberals - especially in Ontario, where they have been trending downwards for the fourth night in a row.

The Conservatives remain strong in the vote-rich province with 46.9 per cent support compared to 25.7 per cent for the Liberals, who had polled at 29.3 per cent only two days before. The NDP has 21 per cent support. The margin of error in Ontario is plus or minus 5.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

"We have seen a bit of an uptick for the NDP in Ontario but still not the same kind of orange pick-up that we have seen in Quebec in other parts of the country," Mr. Nanos says. But the NDP have surpassed the Liberals in the Prairies - although still far behind the Tories.

Mr. Nanos says Canadians will not likely know for a couple of days whether these numbers will remain solid. After that, he says, it will be too late to stop these trends.

The poll of 1,020 Canadians was conducted between April 23, 24 and 26. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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