PLATFORMS CITED AS MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN ULTIMATE VOTE DECISION
[Ottawa – January 27, 2011] – The frozen political landscape appears almost totally inert. The Conservatives enjoy a mildly comfortable 7.5 point lead, but everything looks more or less as it did two weeks ago. These results are somewhat better for the Conservatives than in the late fall, but the outcome of an apparently looming election is very much in doubt. The public as forecasters say they lean to a Conservative result of the minority variety.
Of some interest given the pre-campaign positioning of the parties are questions on national and federal approval levels. Somewhat ironically, as the Liberals are asking voters to assess whether they are better or worse off, Canadians are showing a moderate recovery of confidence in both national and federal government direction. It is also interesting to note that most voters want an election this year but that the group agitating for an immediate electoral showdown has shrunk slightly while the sabre rattling has increased.
The other striking feature of the poll is that it is Conservative voters who are by far the most leery of an election. This is actually an interesting position because these same supporters are predicting a CPC majority. Their conviction level on that must be fairly soft; they may feel better to continue to govern when the real prospects are something similar to the current Parliament with a risk of something less Conservative friendly. This is speculative but would be a pretty rational risk management perspective.
What is clearer is something that isn’t a major part of the election talk. While leadership and candidates clearly matter (the former more so for Conservatives and the latter more so for Bloc supporters), it is the ideas or platforms which Canadians say will be the most important factor in their eventual voting decisions. We see some ingredients of platforms (on F-35’s, corporate taxes, and crime policies), but these are quite sketchy at this stage. Liberal and NDP voters are most likely to be swayed by the platform, but the platform is overall the most decisive factor. So in the absence of knowing the factor Canadians rate as most influential in voting, it’s really much too early to judge what an election might produce.
Clearly the entrenched nature of these numbers would suggest that the result of an election would produce something like the current Parliament. But it really makes little sense to speculate at this stage as the key ingredient of voter decision making isn’t on the table. Moreover, there is a lot of churn going on outside of the secure Conservative base. Many women voters are moving around and Ontario remains quite tight.
Perhaps the ultimate demographic factor will be age and generation. The Conservatives are increasing their hegemony with the older voter (almost half of seniors are voting Conservative now). On the other hand, the cohorts trailing the seniors and the baby boomers are clearly not as attracted to the Conservatives. It doesn’t appear that the older vote is poised to move so for opposition parties to do better, and for the Liberals to have a chance to win, they must develop a stronger connection with the available Gen X, GenY, and millennial cohorts. Similarly, if the Conservatives could strengthen their support with these groups, this could well provide them with necessary margin for a majority government. In any case, with these numbers, it is unlikely that the Liberals will be able to prevent another Conservative government.
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