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Conservatives still 'comfortably' in majority territory: Nanos seat projections

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Support for the Conservatives has trended sharply up since the summer and if an election took place today, they’d win at least 166 seats compared to the Liberals' 53 -- with tight races in 76 seats that are too close to call right now -- according to latest monthly seat projections by Nanos Research.

The projections, intended to show how popular support for a party would translate into seats in the House of Commons, have the NDP at 20 seats, the Greens at 1 and the Bloc Quebecois at 22.

"If the election were held today, (the Conservatives) would win," said Nanos Research chair Nik Nanos on the latest episode of CTV News Trend Line.

While Nanos has declared 166 seats for the Conservatives, he said when you also factor the seats which they're leading, "they're comfortably in majority territory." In the current House of Commons makeup, a party needs to capture 170 of the 338 seats to form a majority government.

"The key takeaway here," said Nanos, "is that trend line where you can see the blue trend going up, (and) the red trend line going down."

CHANGES FROM 2021 ELECTION

The news becomes bleaker for the Liberals when you look at the seat projection changes from the 2021 federal election (see columns in the chart above).

Nanos's seat projection changes show the Liberals would be down 64 seats compared to the 2021 election, while the Conservatives would be up 61.

"Most of that (is) in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, where basically it's a Liberal decline and a Conservative pickup," said Nanos, adding that "there are still 76 seats that are too close to call in the Nanos seat projections, so maybe there's a little bit of wiggle room. But the trajectory is pretty clear at this particular point in time and the swings that have taken place, especially in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, are very clear."

REGIONAL BREAKDOWNS

Nanos highlighted specific ridings in each region where the more dramatic changes have occurred since the 2021 election. The comparison maps below show Nanos's modelling estimates in December on the left, and results from the 2021 federal election on the right.

British Columbia

In British Columbia, "what we're seeing, at least in Vancouver and Greater Vancouver, is that the Conservatives are poised to pick up a number of ridings," said Nanos. "The NDP are holding on and still leading in a number (of ridings). But … there's only one riding in the Surrey area that we projected the Liberals will hold onto." That one riding is Surrey-Newton, which the Liberals won handily in 2021 with 54 per cent of the vote.

Prairies

Nanos said there hasn't been much movement in the latest seat projections for the Prairie region, which remains a Conservative stronghold. But he highlighted one currently Liberal riding of Edmonton Centre -- one of only two red seats in Alberta surrounded by a sea of blue – that is being threatened.

The Conservatives are also giving New Democrats a run in the NDP seat of Edmonton Griesbach. The above mentioned ridings are coloured grey in the projections map as they're still too close to call at this time.

Ontario

In Ontario, the last federal election saw the Liberals do "extremely well," especially in the Greater Toronto Area, said Nanos. But that advantage is being eaten away, with Conservatives making inroads in ridings located in 905-area cities like Oakville, Mississauga and Vaughan.

It's not just a Conservative threat that Liberals need to worry about. Nanos said the "spots of black and orange" visible in downtown Toronto on the projection map represent ridings that the NDP could pick up at the Liberals' expense.

"If the GTA ends up unraveling, this is just where the Liberals are today, who knows where they'll be when the election happens?" said Nanos. "If there is an election held today, when we look at these seat projections, especially in Ontario, it would be ugly for the Liberals."

Quebec

While there isn't much change in Quebec with the island of Montreal holding strong for the Liberals and the Conservatives holding on to what they won in 2021, Nanos pointed to an interesting race happening in the Quebec City region that's not good news for the Bloc Quebecois.

While the Liberals are projected to hold on to the ridings of Quebec and Louis-Hebert, the Conservatives are threatening the Bloc (represented in light blue in the 2021 map) in two ridings -- Beauport-Côte-de-Beaupré-Île d'Orléans-Charlevoix and Beauport-Limoilou. The Bloc won the latter riding by just 2 percentage points over the Conservatives in the last election.

"So this might be this might be fertile territory for Pierre Poilievre," said Nanos, "not to pick up a boatload of seats in Quebec; but perhaps knock off one or two and add them to the vote tally, which helps move them into majority territory."

Atlantic

The Atlantic Region, where the Liberals did "fairly decently" in 2021, also shows a blue trend emerging, said Nanos. In New Brunswick, you can see the riding of Fredericton has moved into the blue column while Saint John-Rothesay (the little black dot at the bottom end of the province) is too close to call right now.

More dramatically, the swaths of red in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are now either being declared for or challenged by the Conservatives.

"So think of Atlantic Canada and Ontario as two of the key regions, including British Columbia, where Conservatives are picking up seats at the expense of the Liberals and are challenging the Liberals in a lot of these ridings," said Nanos.

BALLOT AND LEADERSHIP TREND LINES

In the final episode for 2023, Nanos and Trend Line host Michael Stittle also looked at how the federal parties performed in ballot support and the personal brands of their leaders, comparing the latest December numbers with the 2021 election.

The Liberals' current numbers are down seven per cent compared with 2021, while the Conservatives are up six.

"So this is what we're talking about, the new dynamic where Conservatives support is going up and Liberal support is going down," said Nanos. The NDP and Greens are up a few points, while the Bloc and the People's Party of Canada ticked down by three per cent each.

"The key takeaway here ... is the dynamic that's happened where people are drifting away from the Liberals, and a noticeable proportion of those people that are moving away from the Liberals are looking at the Conservatives as an alternative," said Nanos.

This trend becomes more apparent when looking at the "preferred prime minister" number that reflect Canadians' views of the party leaders. Nanos said a "dramatic shift" has happened on this front, "especially when we think about where the brand equity and strength of Justin Trudeau was back in 2021."

Trudeau is down a full 10 percentage points compared to when he secured his third general election victory in 2021, albeit not the majority win he was hoping for. Poilievre, meanwhile, compared to Erin O'Toole who led the Conservatives in the last election, is doing five points better than his predecessor.

"Right now you can see Pierre Poilievre having about a 12 point advantage over Justin Trudeau. But basically people (are) souring on Trudeau a lot more than they did back in 2021."

Watch the full episode of Trend Line in our video player at the top of this article. You can also listen in our audio player below, or wherever you get your podcasts. The next episode comes out Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2024.

METHODOLOGY

Nanos Research has developed a spatial forecaster that visualizes political sentiment modelling every month, which includes the integration of Nanos political sentiment modelling, federal election data and interactive maps. The Nanos Time Map Model accurately predicted the outcome in 290 out of 338 federal ridings in the 2021 Federal Election which is an 86% accuracy. Counting ridings which were projected as too close to call (within 2% [A] and between 2-7% [B]) as correct, the accuracy of the Nanos model increases to 93%.

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