The voting intentions of Canadian women are equally divided between the governing Conservatives and the opposition Liberals but would result in the slimmest of Liberal minority governments, according to an analysis of federal polls conducted by EKOS and Ipsos-Reid over the last two months.
With both parties receiving 29 per cent national support, the Conservatives and Liberals are neck-and-neck in the affections of Canadian women. This contrasts sharply with the eight-point lead the Tories hold among Canadian men, with 36 per cent support to the Liberals' 28 per cent.
The New Democrats have the support of 18 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men, while the Green Party is at 12 per cent among women and 11 per cent among men.
In such a close race, Canadian women would send 110 Liberal MPs to Ottawa against 108 Conservatives. The New Democrats would win 37 seats while the Bloc Québécois, with the support of 40 per cent of women in Quebec, would win 53.
Outside of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, Canadian men and women have relatively similar voting intentions. But inside these three battleground provinces there is a stark difference of opinion, indicative of how important these provinces will be in the next election.
Among women, the New Democrats and Liberals lead the race in British Columbia, with 30 per cent and 28 per cent support, respectively. With only 24 per cent support, the Conservatives would elect 10 MPs in the province, compared to 12 for the Liberals and 14 for the NDP.
Among men, the Tories have a comfortable lead with 40 per cent support. The NDP is a distant second with 24 per cent while the Liberals are at 19 per cent. That would result in 23 seats for the Conservatives and only seven for the NDP and six for the Liberals.
Opinion is also divided in Ontario, where the Liberals lead among women with 38 per cent support. The Conservatives trail with 34 per cent, and would win 40 seats to the Liberals' 53. The New Democrats, with 15 per cent support, would win 13 seats.
But 40 per cent of men in Ontario would vote for the Conservatives, electing 54 Tory MPs. The Liberals, with 36 per cent support, would win 43 seats. The New Democrats would take only nine seats, squeezed out of the running with 12 per cent support.
In Quebec, men and women throw their support behind the Liberals and Bloc Québécois in similar proportions, but only 13 per cent of women, compared to 18 per cent of men in the province, support the Conservatives. The female/male split is 40 per cent to 38 per cent for the Bloc and 23 per cent to 25 per cent for the Liberals, who would win 16 seats in either case.
As opposed to the volatile House of Commons women voters would elect, men alone would send 141 Conservatives, 93 Liberals, 52 Bloc MPs, and 22 New Democrats to Ottawa, creating a situation not unlike the one that exists today.
The key to a Conservative majority appears to be an increase in support among women, especially since in the last general election 58 per cent of them voted, slightly more than the 55 per cent of men who cast their ballots. The Liberals, on the other hand, need to gain the allegiance of Canadians of both sexes, as Michael Ignatieff's party appears to attract men and women in almost equal proportions.
Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com