New Ipsos poll raises question: is there a mercy rule in politics?

Liberals have a 12-point lead in new Ipsos / Global News survey

If the Liberals needed another reason to call an election sooner rather than later, a new poll from Ipsos for Global News gave them 12.

A 12-point lead over the Conservatives, that is.

It’s the kind of survey that might as well be the starting pistol for the 2021 federal election campaign.

There haven’t been many polls that have given the Liberals a lead of 12 points or more. In fact, since the 2019 election only two pollsters have awarded the Liberals this kind of lead: Nanos Research and the Innovative Research Group. But now you can add Ipsos to the list.

The 38% mark for the Liberals is not nearly as good as the 26% mark for the Conservatives is bad. That would be an all-time low for the Conservatives, below even Stephen Harper’s first foray in the 2004 election campaign.

Going back to the party’s predecessors, the Canadian Alliance, Reform and Progressive Conservatives always combined for more than 26% in the elections held from 1988 to 2000. Not even Arthur Meighen in 1921, R.B. Bennett in 1935 or John Bracken in 1945 ever fell that low.

Get 15% off forever

The last election to be won by 12 points or more — if we exclude the 1993, 1997 and 2000 campaigns when the right was divided — was in 1984, when Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives won the largest electoral victory in Canadian history (but by a margin of 22 points, so we are aren’t quite in that territory).

This Ipsos poll is a little over a week old, despite being published today, meaning it overlaps with the Abacus Data poll published last week. That survey gave the Liberals a 10-point lead over the struggling Conservatives.

Put those two together and something like this comes to mind:

But, people shouldn’t get carried away with these polls and start awarding the Liberals 200 seats.

First off, Ipsos has been showing some strong numbers for the Liberals for awhile now. They had the Liberals ahead by nine points in May and 11 points in April, so this 12-point lead is not significantly different from that.

The Abacus poll also had the Liberals trailing the Bloc Québécois by six points in Quebec and the New Democrats by seven points in British Columbia, which would severely limit the Liberals’ ability to gain seats in these two key provinces (and they could even lose some). The 13-point lead in Ontario was election-winning, sure, but the low numbers for the Conservatives in Alberta (39%) and the Prairies (33%) makes one wonder if those numbers are artificially low.

And Léger, in the field at the same time as both Abacus and Ipsos, only gave the Liberals a four-point lead nationwide and an edge of just five points in Ontario.

So, Liberal readers, don’t bulk-buy the ticker tape just yet.

But the Ipsos poll does corroborate some of Abacus’s findings and there’s plenty for the Conservatives to be worried about.

Is the Conservative base crumbling?

In Alberta, Ipsos put the Conservatives at just 38% — almost identical to where Abacus had them. Those are absolutely disastrous numbers, and if replicated at election time would probably see both the Liberals (29%) and the NDP (21%) winning a ton of seats in Edmonton and Calgary.

You can’t blame the Maverick or People’s parties for the Conservative woes in their own backyard — combined, Ipsos awarded these parties just 3% support in Alberta. (You might want to point fingers at Premier Jason Kenney instead.)

More electorally-decisive for the Liberals is that Ipsos puts them 15 points ahead of the Conservatives in Ontario and awards them 40% support in Quebec, enough for a six-point lead over the Bloc. Then add the Liberals’ 10-point lead (over the NDP, the Conservatives were in third) in British Columbia, and the Liberals are looking at a potentially bigger win than in 2015.

The hits just keep coming for Erin O’Toole. Ipsos puts him in a tie with the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh for best prime minister at 23%, behind Justin Trudeau’s 42%.

The Conservatives are behind by seven points among men and 11 points among Canadians over the age of 55 — people who are otherwise supposed to be known as Conservative voters.

In short, this is a disastrous poll for the Conservative Party and one that will do nothing to dampen the Liberals’ appetite for an early election.

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Are things really this dire for the Conservatives? I have trouble believing their base is falling out from under them as much as this poll, or last week’s seat-cluster poll by the Innovative Research Group, suggests.

But every party hits previously unthinkable lows at some point — just ask the 2011 federal Liberals or the 2018 Ontario Liberals. The Conservatives can only hope this is a fluke.