A headline from the Journal de Montréal the other Saturday read “Du jamais-vu: 45% des électeurs peuvent encore changer d’idée”.1
So are things that different this time around? I checked in polls from the last ten years. While 45% is indeed a high mark, there have been more voters uncertain of how they will vote before:
First of all, the share of respondents who say that they might change their minds (red bars) is not the most meaningful measure. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to explain the difference between that answer (in red) and “I don’t know” (in yellow) given that the question being asked is “Have you made a definitive choice?” If 45% seems like a huge proportion, it is still less than when you add up the 24% who said “I don’t know” last May and the 25% who said “I might change my mind”.
The most meaningful measure is the share of voters who say they’ve made up their minds and their choice is definitive. As you can see from the blue bars increasing in height during a given year and then dropping after the election, that proportion always increases as the campaign gets closer and as it progresses.
The other time it happened…
Over the last ten years, in polls conducted by Léger, it previously happened only once that the share of people who had made up their minds dropped below 50%: in January 2012. At that point in time, however, the campaign was still months away. The Liberals had won a majority government in December 2008, so in January 2012, it still had a full year left to its term.
Furthermore, in January 2012, the students had started mobilizing, but their organizing remained under the radar of the mainstream media: the population of Quebec was yet to be polarized by the issue.
So that 45% of voters that could still change their minds is not unheard of, but in the last decade it’s never happened this close to an election.
You can access the spreadsheet from which the chart was generated on Google Spreadsheets.