In the EKOS poll released this morning, it appears that the Conservatives have lost ground, falling to 31.7 percent approval with the Liberals settling at 26.2 percent. The poll was taken between may 26th and June 1st and 2827 Canadians were questioned about their political preferences with undecided voters making up 14.5% of the total. What is key to note is that the poll has an error of margin of 1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
EKOS pollster Frank Graves told the Globe and Mail that he had no explanation for the Tory slip; he surmised that it may have something to do with the release of the Oliphant Commission report that found that Mr. Mulroney had conducted himself inappropriately. The "tough on everyone that does anything wrong" Conservatives may look bad to the electorate because of their affiliation, however distant, with the former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister.
Perhaps, but I think an easier explanation is found in the error of margin of the poll. While we are seeing a slip in the numbers for the CPC from 33.9% last week and 34.4% the week before, the decrease is just outside the statistical margin of error of 1.9 percentage points. For the past 5 months, approval for the Conservatives has been locked between 31% and 35% down from a peak just over 40% back in October 2009. A move down from 40% is very significant as the CPC was within reach of majority government territory. A move down from 33.9% to 31.7% is not; the Conservatives are well within minority government territory and as long as they stay between 31% and 35%, meaningful change at the next general election is unlikely.
Until we see some marked move in the polling numbers, I'd suggest that the small weekly changes are just background noise. When I see the Conservatives polling steadily between 35% and 40%, then I'll get concerned. Until that time, I think I'll sleep well. I do have one question though. How long do Canadians have to wait until the Liberal and Conservative Parties both realize that their chances of winning an election and forming a majority government with their current leaders is somewhere between slim and nil?
I'm not sure if it's just me, but these weekly polls are like watching snails crawl across pavement; the moves are nearly imperceptible. I liked it better when the suspense about who was ahead built over the weeks between polls far better.