Charter Polling Misses Mark

For those hoping Quebecers would abandon Marois over her utterly repugnant charter, this is an encouraging headline:

Quebec Liberals jump to 7% lead over PQ as backlash grows over values charter

A recent boost in support for the Quebec Liberals means the party could secure a “hair thin” majority in the province if an election were called today, suggests a new public opinion poll.

The poll, conducted by Forum Research, found support for Liberals in the province has jumped to 42% — up more than 10 points since the 2012 election — in the wake of the proposed Quebec charter of values.

Support for the Parti Quebecois sits at 35%, according to the poll. Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) came in third place with 12% support.

“We know from our polling that the proposed Charter is very popular among PQ supporters,” Forum president Lorne Bozinoff said in a Saturday statement, “but it appears that the ire it has raised amongst everyone else has blunted its usefulness as an electoral tool.”

An encouraging headline indeed. Sadly, that headline is about as far from reality as Marois herself.

Let’s put aside the usual critiques of robo-polls, and Forum’s spotty track record in Quebec. The real questionable aspect of this poll is how it’s being reported.

Yes, there has been a noticeable shift since the last election, but there’s no indication whatsoever that this is because of a “backlash” to the Charter. Forum is tracking changes from a year ago, oblivious to the fact that the world, and Quebec, have changed since then. I mean, who knew what “twerking” was a year ago?

More relevantly, Marois has had to govern, she delivered a budget, there was a tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, and, most importantly, the Quebec Liberals replaced Jean Charest with Philippe Couillard. There’s nothing in the data to suggest this revirement is due to the Charter – especially considering every single poll since Couillard won the leadership has had the Liberals on top. CROP showed Couillard up by 13 points in April and 11 in August. Leger had Couillard up by 4 in March, 11 in June, and 4 in August. The fact that Forum now shows the gap at 7 doesn’t support Bozinoff’s narrative of public “ire” over the Charter.

Indeed, a much more thorough poll on Friday by Angus Reid showed Quebecers are generally supportive of the Charter, and most specific elements of it.

That’s not to say this support will translate to votes for Marois, or that it will last to Christmas (Christmas is still going ahead under the Charter, right?). This is going to be a heated debate. And with lightning rod policies, voters don’t always focus on the issue itself, but what proposing the policy says about a leader’s judgment. Think John Tory and separate schools.

But that’s all speculation. At this stage, despite what the headlines say, there’s nothing in the polls to suggest the Charter is dragging Marois down.

UPDATE: And now Forum is contending that Trudeau has received a boost from his opposition to the Charter, with Forum President Lorne Bozinoff claiming the Charter debate has “moved a lot of support from other parties into the Liberal column, both federally and provincially”. Indeed, the Trudeau Liberals now lead at 36% in the province.

Mercifully, unlike the provincial poll, Forum hasn’t tracked these results against the last election. Actually, they haven’t tracked them at all, and it’s no wonder why. A quick google search shows that their most recent poll had the Liberals at 38% in Quebec.

So, to recap, Trudeau has surged from 38% to 36% on this issue.

I recognize the need to create a fresh story and narrative out of every poll. That’s why relatively insignificant changes in August were spun as Trudeau “surging” on the marijuana issue. But is it asking too much for polling companies and the media who print these stories to take a quick glance at their own numbers to make sure they don’t contradict what is being printed?

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9 responses to “Charter Polling Misses Mark”

  1. Early reports are that Christmas, widely viewed as a Quebcois cultural celebration, will be going ahead while Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Kwanza will be cancelled.

  2. I’ve seen anecdotal reports of polls with a wide range of results over the past few days.

    Ultimately, the question is: does the Charter bring new votes to Marois which she did not capture in the last election? Does it drive votes to other Parties which they failed to capture before? I haven’t seen anything that suggests a lot of voter movement over the Charter.

    • Time will tell, though she certainly has the potential to win over some former CAQ/ADQ supporters.

      Marois larger objective is likely to make the election about this issue rather than about the economy, where she could lose votes.

      • As Don Macpherson points out in his column today, it doesn’t seem to be working out very well for the PQ so far:

        My own sense of it is that while some people continue to rant about how Muslims in Quebec are trying to impose Sharia law, etc., more people are recognizing this as a cynical attempt to divert attention from the PQ’s record and to exploit divisions within Quebec society.

        I also get the sense that it is causing a genuine crisis of faith for those separatists who are not virulently pur-et-dur. I think we may see a lot more support for QS in the next provincial election as a result.

    • I have a hard time seeing this working as a vote-draw, unless the economy, etc. becomes a non-factor. It’s far too removed from day-to-day concerns to function like that. If Quebec was having real, systemic issues surrounding religious accommodation, maybe, but that stuff hardly even merits being called a sideshow.

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