The Montreal rematch? Denis Coderre leads Valérie Plante.

Philippe J. Fournier: At the campaign start line, a new Mainstreet Research poll suggests another face-off between the mayor and former mayor would be a clash of titans
Coderre makes his concession speech after losing the municipal election on Nov. 5, 2017 in Montreal (CP/Ryan Remiorz)
Outgoing Mayor Denis Coderre makes his concession speech after losing the municipal election Sunday, November 5, 2017 in Montreal. Outgoing Montreal mayor Denis Coderre will hold a news conference at city hall this morning, three days after his stunning defeat by Valerie Plante.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

In the summer of 2017, a Léger poll showed then-Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre leading his mostly unknown city hall rival by a comfortable 14-point margin. In fact, this same poll measured that no fewer than 40 per cent of Montreal voters admitted not even knowing who Valérie Plante was—the same woman who would then go on to win the mayoral race three months later and become Montreal’s first female mayor. Coderre ran one of the most dispirited and uninspired campaigns in recent memory, and Valérie Plante kept the momentum all the way to election day, when she won by a six-point margin.

Three and a half years have passed, during which Denis Coderre spent most of his time outside the media eye for long stretches. In recent months however, Coderre began a media tour of talk shows and interviews, and, this week, he is releasing his new book Retrouver Montreal in which he outlines his vision for the future of the city. He is expected to announce he will run again next fall in a rematch against Valérie Plante.

We present today a new poll from Mainstreet Research on the Montreal mayoral race. Obviously, because the election is still months away (scheduled for Nov. 7), one should not read these numbers below as a prediction of the outcome of the mayoral election, but rather as a snapshot of the political landscape at the race’s starting line. As we will see below, Montreal voters generally perceive both these candidates rather positively, so this campaign could potentially turn into a clash of titans.

Among all the poll’s respondents, Coderre takes the lead with 40 per cent of voting intentions, a 16-point advantage over current mayor Valérie Plante. Perhaps as a sign this will be a two-candidate race, the “other” option received only 11 per cent of support:

Nevertheless, we should stress that one quarter of respondents remain undecided, meaning these numbers could change dramatically in the coming months depending on how the candidates perform in their respective campaigns. Coderre’s lead here is notable, but it is also comparable to his lead back in the summer of 2017. And we know how it turned out.

Undecided respondents were then asked which candidate they were leaning towards. Here are the results of decided and leaning respondents:

Denis Coderre leads Valérie Plante by 17 points, 50 to 33 per cent. While this appears to be a solid lead for the former mayor, we must add one note of caution: Breaking down the results by age group, we notice that Coderre’s lead is due almost entirely to his strong support among young voters (aged 18 to 34 years old).

Indeed, in this specific subsample, Coderre receives the support of a stunning 67 per cent of respondents, against only 20 per cent for Valérie Plante.

Naturally, since subsamples are smaller in size, their margin of error is higher, so we must use caution with these numbers. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing that in the waning days of the 2017 campaign, a Léger poll had also shown Coderre ahead of Plante among younger voters, but only by a handful out points. Could this subsample results be a bit of an outlier? Perhaps.

Among voters age 35 and over, the two candidates stand in a statistical tie, with Coderre at 42 per cent and Plante at 40 per cent. And among older voters of 65+, Valérie Plante holds a slim lead over Coderre, 43 to 39 per cent.

Leading among young voters can be a double-edged sword, considering a higher proportion of young voters often do not show up at the voting booths compared to older voters (ask the federal NDP). This could be especially true in an election with lower general turnout, as municipal elections often are. In 2017, the Montreal municipal election’s turnout was only 42 per cent.

Nonetheless, the results of this poll are not all negative for Mayor Plante. Respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction with her job as mayor thus far, and a majority of respondents, 54 per cent, answered they were either very or somewhat satisfied, against 37 per cent who were dissatisfied.

Any politician of any stripe would only dream of holding a net satisfaction rating of +17 going into an election year.

As for Denis Coderre, numbers show he mostly succeeded in restoring his image after the disastrous 2017 campaign. A clear majority of the poll’s respondents, 61 per cent, say they hold a favourable view of the former mayor, against only 25 per cent of those holding a negative view. These are strong numbers for Coderre, especially considering he is set to face a popular incumbent in Valérie Plante:

As for the challenges that will face the next mayor, respondents ranked economic recovery (25 per cent), housing costs (22 per cent) and managing construction work on the city’s infrastructure (21 per cent) as their top three priorities. The expansion of mass transit came in 4th place with 16 per cent (but ranked first among Plante voters with 34 per cent).

Coderre is scheduled to be a guest this Sunday night on the popular talk show Tout le monde en parle on Radio-Canada. We should know by then whether the Plante-Codere Rematch is on for this fall. All signs point that it will be.

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This Mainstreet Research poll was conducted on March 20-23, 2021, and collected data from 2,313 potential voters living in the city of Montreal via IVR technology. This probabilisticpoll has a margin of error of ±2 per cent, 19 times out of 20 (95 per cent confidence interval). Naturally, the margin of error from demographic subsamples is higher. The poll was commissioned by 338Canada / Qc125. You will find the poll’s complete report here.