The 2021 federal election is likely going to be decided by turnout and strategic voting, Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says as his firm’s latest poll results show the leading two parties in a dead heat.
But about one-fifth of those surveyed in the online poll conducted in collaboration with The Canadian Press said if the race was tight between the two front-runners, it could likely convince them to switch their vote to the Liberals. About one in 10 said they might switch to the Conservatives.
Almost one in three voters who said they plan to vote NDP also said a close race could convince them to vote Liberal instead, and a similar number of people who plan to vote for the People’s Party of Canada said they might switch to the Conservatives.
Bourque said the race is so tight in part because no one party or leader is generating energy or excitement.
“There is a little bit of a blah feeling, a little bit, right now,” he said.
The Conservatives had some momentum in the middle of the campaign, and a similar poll taken two weeks ago showed them with 34 per cent, the Liberals at 30 per cent and the NDP at 24 per cent.
The polls cannot be given a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.
The latest poll was taken between Sept. 10 and Sept. 13, the four days following the two nationally televised leaders’ debates, where the biggest punch came not from any of the leaders but from a moderator’s question about what she called Quebec’s “discriminatory” secularism law.
In Quebec, the Liberals are holding steady with support of 34 per cent of decided voters polled by Leger, compared with 30 per cent for the Bloc Quebecois, 19 per cent for the Conservatives and 10 per cent for the NDP.
Bourque said following the debates, the Bloc Quebecois regained some traction but the Conservatives, who won 10 seats in Quebec two years ago, are falling below where they want to be to increase their seat count there.
“If the Tories are below 20 per cent in Quebec, they cannot mathematically gain new seats,” said Bourque.
In Ontario, where the critical 905 region that includes Toronto’s populous suburbs will help determine the final outcome, the Liberals hold a very slight lead over the Conservatives, at 36 and 34 per cent respectively. In British Columbia, the Conservatives enjoy a slight lead over the Liberals, with the NDP only a few points back.
Bourque said the poll numbers for the NDP in B.C. would likely allow them to hold their seats there but in Ontario, where they’re at 22 per cent in the Leger poll, things could start to get dicey.
“At 22, the potential for not making gains in Ontario and maybe losing some is very close,” said Bourque. “So I think that’s the one they need to watch right now.”
The poll suggests the momentum the Conservatives had in the early weeks of this campaign has sputtered, and the Liberals are starting to mount a slow comeback.
The biggest drag on the Liberals, according to Leger, is Justin Trudeau himself. One-third of those polled said his leadership was making them hesitant about voting Liberal, while a similar number said his ethics are giving them pause.
For Erin O’Toole, more than one in five voters polled cited social issues like abortion as the main reason they’re hesitant to vote Conservative, with almost as many also naming his policies on climate change and vaccines as a deciding factor.
Gun control was named by about one in six people as a reason they’re hesitant to vote Conservative, but in a world where strategic voting matters, O’Toole’s evolving position on gun control may make it harder to lure voters back from the People’s Party of Canada. More than half of decided PPC voters said gun control policy was making them hesitant about voting Conservative.
Bourque said in addition to strategic voting, turnout could be a factor. He said most often low turnout favours the incumbent, because when voters really want change, turnout tends to go up.
Two-thirds of voters either plan to or already have voted by mail or at an advanced poll.
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