Taking some time away from the Fête nationale, Qc125.com founder and poll analyst PJ Fournier was a good sport in answering our questions regarding the latest Quebec polls.
“Is the ground shifting under the PQ’s feet? Is a coalition a possibility? What region of Quebec could be decisive come next election?” PJ Fournier answers…
Last month, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) appeared to be on the rise in Quebec polls. Is this trend we’re seeing, dare I say it, ‘real’-?
Qc125: May’s Mainstreet Research polls surprised a lot of people, showing the CAQ, not only at an unusual 32% (one point above the Liberals, which may have been a small outlier) but in front of the PQ. A lot of my readers rightfully questioned the validity of those numbers, especially since Mainstreet is a new player in Québec (it began polling at the provincial level in Québec only this winter). But lo and behold, three days later a new Léger poll showed the CAQ up at 26% and the PQ in third place at 23%.
Could both these polls be unfortunate outliers for the PQ? Possibly, but three new polls this June (see below, where the squares are poll numbers and the thick pale lines are Qc125 projections) – one Mainstreet poll and two Léger’s – all put the PQ at a dismal 22%, with the Liberals hovering in the low 30s and the CAQ in the high 20s.
Obviously, those numbers could very well change between now and the election, but as of today, the picture is grim for the PQ as much as it is promising for the CAQ.
We’ve been talking about a rise in the CAQ’s numbers, should we also be talking about Québec solidaire?
Québec solidaire has definitely enjoyed a boost in the polls last March when former activist student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (GND) decided to join the party and run in Françoise David’s former riding of Gouin (he won his seat in a landslide with almost 70% of the vote in a by-election in late May).
From March onward, QS has been polling at 12-18%. Before March, QS was steady at 7-11%. So the GND effect is real, well outside the margin of error. However, the support for QS province-wide remains limited (although it did grow lately) and it would be a real shock to see a competitive race involving QS outside the Island of Montréal.
QS is slowly, but surely, trying to present itself as the left wing opposition to the Liberals in francophone Montréal: creeping up in ridings that used to be PQ strongholds. If you look at the latest Qc125 projection, you will see that the QS base is in and around the Plateau-Mont-Royal ridings (see projections for the eastern half of Montreal).
So should we be talking about QS? Québec solidaire’s base is in Montréal, so obviously QS will get its fair share of media attention. But until I see numbers that say otherwise, outside of the Island, QS remains a minor player – for now.
How unprecedented (or rather, precedented) are these numbers for the CAQ and QS?
We’ve seen the CAQ rise in the polls before, notably soon after its creation in 2012. But once the novelty had worn off, the CAQ went back to polling in the low 20s. And QS? I don’t remember them polling so well for a stretch this long.
We’ll see what the future holds for both these parties, but one thing is clear: they are gnawing away PQ’s support from the left and the right.
It should also said, the PQ has a national convention in the coming fall where it will vote on several points of its platform (PQ leader Jean-François Lisée will also face a confidence vote, which will be fascinating.) Should the PQ regain some momentum in the polls, it will be at the expense of both the CAQ and QS.
Following a similar line of thought: we saw a fragmented race in the 2015 federal election, the province looks set for one again at the provincial level… are we experiencing something new in Quebec politics?
The federal race may have been fragmented, but the outcome sure wasn’t!
We’ve had two minority governments in the past decade in Québec, one Liberal, one Péquiste, so I am not sure how new all this is. That being said, the previous minority government in Québec was in the 19th century, so I guess it’s new-ish.
In the past forty five years, almost everything in Québec politics touched the national question. Mario Dumont’s ADQ was the first to (almost) break out of that pattern when they became the official opposition in 2007. But again, it didn’t last. The CAQ had to position itself on the federalist-separatist axis and it chose ‘federalist’ in all but by name.
The apparent decline of the PQ is definitely what’s new – and we’re not even sure how real it is yet. If indeed the PQ gets wiped off the map next year (much like the Bloc was in 2011), those left of centre voters will have to go somewhere. Even though both the Liberals and the CAQ aren’t exactly far-right (like, say, the Wildrose Party), they have attracted most of their voters on the right side of the spectrum. Which party will decide to re-position itself as a more centrist option is a question that is up in the air…
In the event of a minority government, what coalitions seem most plausible in terms of seat projections and politics?
I may eventually be proven wrong on this, but I do not see a possible coalition going either way, with maybe the exception of a QS supported PQ minority government – and even that looks unlikely since QS rejected a strategic alliance with the PQ last May. The past two minority governments (PLQ 2007-08, PQ 2012-14) governed without a coalition.
No matter the combination of PLQ-CAQ or PQ-CAQ (and certainly not PLQ-PQ), I do not see a coalition coming. Each party would have, in its own view, too much to lose. Rightly or wrongly. But one thing is certain: Quebec politics is never boring.
What’s the first concern, as far as polling numbers are concerned, that ought to be on the premier’s mind? The CAQ? The PQ? A minority government?
The premier cannot be happy with the numbers in the Quebec City region. In the greater Québec City region, the Liberals won 11 of 16 seats in 2014. Right now, the Liberals are in danger of losing most of them – and maybe all of them.
For more insights, see my projections for Québec City’s ridings.
The CAQ is pulling ahead in Quebec City and without those seats, the Liberals have virtually no shot at a majority.
Imagine it’s October 1st 2018 – election night in Quebec – what ridings are you going to be keeping a close eye on?
My electoral models has around 35 to 40 ridings which I call “pivots” (French for ‘swing ridings’.) Most of those pivots are located either in the Montreal suburbs (the “450”) or in the Québec City region.
Without going through them one by one, here’s a quick breakdown: the seat rich ‘450‘ will be a battle between the CAQ and the PQ. The seats in the greater Québec City area will either go to the Liberals or the CAQ.
Basically, the results in the 450 will decide which party governs; the results in Québec City will determine whether it’s with a minority or a majority.
For more Quebec polling analysis, follow Philippe’s work at Qc125.com. Thanks again to Philippe for sharing his insights to the Ribbon.
P.J. Fournier is the founder of Qc125.com, a statistical electoral projection model specifically designed for Québec elections.
He works at Cégep de Saint-Laurent within the physics department where he teaches astrophysics. He grew up in Quebec City and lives in Montreal.