[Ottawa – January 26, 2016] In a new poll, we find the new government enjoying a remarkable and almost unprecedented level of support from the Canadian public. This is even more impressive when we consider the backdrop of continued gloom about the economy with less than one in five feeling the economy is growing. It is clear that the public are extending some patience to the new government in this ocean of goodwill. We will also show that amidst this otherwise unremittingly dark economic outlook, there is a significant spike in medium term optimism. The public will see the true test of the wager voters placed on the Liberals’ approach to the economy will be measured somewhere down the road and not in the midst of the current economic malaise. Just how long this window remains open is an important question.
The government enjoys support across virtually all regions and demographic groups. There appears to be considerable dissatisfaction among the residual Conservative base who are very unhappy with the direction of the government; this is also true in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The new government now shows a remarkable turnaround on the erstwhile Conservative ownership of older voters. Liberal support now rises progressively with age.
Confidence in the direction of the federal government has almost doubled and it doesn’t appear to be coming down. In fact, the current score of 68 (when adjusted to exclude those who skipped the question) is a record high in the nearly twenty years we have been tracking this indicator. This isn’t a honeymoon; it’s a nuclear love-in. Not all, however, feel the love. In a striking tale of depth of division the dwindled Conservative base has virtually no confidence in the federal direction (six per cent). Pointedly, the newly swollen Liberal supporters are near universally happy with 99 per cent confidence.
These numbers will almost certainly decline and the most obvious threat to the government is the fragile and stagnant economy.
Economic outlook bleak despite renewed confidence in government
The vast majority of Canadians think the economy is in recession – or worse. This bleak rating is reinforced with other indicators which show little sense of recent progress nor much optimism that things will get better any time soon. There are, however, some interesting shifts in how the public are seeing the medium-term prospects for their economic conditions. While short-term outlook is dominated by stagnation and pessimism, the medium-term sees a break in the gloom with a significant spike up in the incidence of those who see the thing better off five years from now.
This provides an important insight. The public are not particularly hopeful that the new government will be able to turn the economy around immediately. The new government has opted for a decidedly different approach. We expect this to be judged in the longer, but not indefinite, term by the public. It is also notable that we have evidence that the government’s strong confidence measures are related to other value issues such as our reputation on the world stage, stronger, post-Paris commitment to climate change, resonance on making progress on indigenous affairs, and general broader approval of a more open and collegial approach to governance. We will be sharing this evidence in the near future.
The outlook on job security also worsened recently and we see a long term slide in skill confidence, This slide reflects a worsening of satisfaction with Canadian workplaces which is both a reflection and driver of the stagnation we see today (Frank Graves has a new book coming out this year with Graham Lowe which will explore changing workplaces in considerable depth).
So we see a government enjoying heady heights of approval, notwithstanding clear awareness that the economy is performing very poorly. It is clear that the public have their eyes on the medium-term outcomes, not the immediate future. The government’s agenda is arguably the most ambitious policy agenda ever. It now confronts the stark reality of a cooling economy and dwindled fiscal revenues. These will provide stern challenges for the government in the coming months, but the public seem to be taking a patient approach for the time being.
Short- and medium-term outlook
Labour market outlook
The article draws on data collected through two separate surveys. Both studies were conducted using EKOS’ unique, hybrid online/telephone research panel, Probit. Our panel offers exhaustive coverage of the Canadian population (i.e., Internet, phone, cell phone), random recruitment (in other words, participants are recruited randomly, they do not opt themselves into our panel), and equal probability sampling. All respondents to our panel are recruited by telephone using random digit dialling and are confirmed by live interviewers. Unlike opt-in online panels, Probit supports margin of error estimates. We believe this to be the only probability-based online panel in Canada.
The field dates for the first survey are December 7-10, 2015. In total, a random sample of 1,956 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey (1,811 online, 145 by phone). The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The field dates for the second survey are January 11-18, 2016. In total, a random sample of 2,598 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey (2,312 online, 286 by phone). The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, region, and educational attainment to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.
Click here for the full report: Full Report (January 26, 2016)