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[Ottawa – January 13, 2011] – There may be enough good news for the Conservatives in this poll to take the steel out of the Opposition’s spine when it comes to a spring election. On the surface, it’s a very good poll for Stephen Harper. The seven-point lead is on the cusp of comfortable, still well short of majority territory and below the last election result, but at the upper levels of their tracking over the past year.

Perhaps it has been the absence of the usual sound and fury of Parliament, or maybe the newfound muscularity of the loonie, but Canadians have a significantly more favourable view of the country and their directional approval of the federal government has been on the rise for a few polls now. So this leads to a much more comfortable situation for the Prime Minister than we saw as little as a couple of months ago when the Conservatives were statistically tied with the Liberals. It is also a dramatically better situation than they found themselves in the hornet’s nest of a prorogation-angered electorate at this time last year (when the two parties were in a dead heat).

Yet all is not wine and roses for the government. Despite a good upward tick on all of the key performance indicators, there is evidence that the Conservative Party is having difficulty connecting with voters outside of their core base (particularly older voters, males, and the West). The rest of the political spectrum is having difficulty finding a comfortable fit. While the Bloc is doing well in Quebec, the NDP is on the skids a bit and the Liberals are stuck in the area of the last election. It is also notable that Ontario remains in a statistical tie and that suggests nothing is truly settled at this point.

There are several other indicators which suggest there are some interesting dilemmas facing the electorate and politicians. First of all, while no one ever says they actually want an election, there is growth in the incidence of those who say there should be an election soon and most think it should occur this year, This sentiment is much stronger outside of Conservative supporters who are quite content to play out the full term of this Parliament.

When we ask Canadians to tell us what they think the results of an election would be, and to contrast that with what they actually think would be best, we see some contrasts. First of all, it is clear that the public qua forecaster believe that a qualitatively similar government would emerge from any ensuing election. The cumulative evidence suggests that is probably a pretty safe guess at this time. On the other hand, when asked what would be the best outcome of an election, we find the public evenly divided across some form of Liberal versus some form of Conservative government. On the surface, it appears there is growing appetite for a majority government but, on closer inspection, it is clear that this desire is only really strong among Conservatives and, frankly, there aren’t enough of them to make that strong wish come true (at this stage).

There are two more very revealing indicators in the survey which suggest things may not be settled at all. First, we once again asked about the relative attractiveness of a Liberal-NDP coalition versus a Stephen Harper Conservative government. The results point to something very close to a dead heat. While some Liberals would be thrown into the arms of the Conservatives, it is really unclear what would emerge if this was the ultimate choice.

This sense of uncertainty is reinforced by the final finding of the poll. When asked what would be the most important factor in final decision making, it wasn’t the leader nor the local candidate which emerged as the key factor; it was the oft neglected platform which was by far the most important cited factor. This suggests that there a number of crucial factors which could turn the result from what appears to be in the cards right now.

All in all, this is a good poll for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, but with enough ambiguity and latent threat to explain why Conservative supporters are clearly leaning to playing out the mandate rather than risk the adventure of another election right now.

Click here for the full report: full_report_january_13


  • orval

    It is unlikely that a Liberal-NDP combination will exceed total number of CPC seats, so question should have been: which do you support, a Conservative government, or a smaller in numbers Liberal-NDP government dependent upon Bloc Quebecois support for survival? I predict the numbers favouring the coalition would go down significantly.

    Interesting internals: In Metro Toronto it is Liberals 39.2% versus Conservatives 34.8% (+/- 5.4%). If correct the CPC is competitive in Toronto.

    Vancouver is 41.9% Conservative versus 24.0% Liberal (+/-10.6%). Liberals could be in trouble in two metropolitan areas where they have traditionally had support.

  • hollinm

    Your poll on the coalition is misleading. The fact that you neglected to include the Bloc would suggest you knew what those results would be and it would not be good for the coalition argument. The fact remains for the Lib/NDP coalition to work it would require the support of the Bloc. At 27% there is no way the Libs are going to win more seats than the Conservatives. without a majority coalition government nothing would change other than we would have the lefties in government. However, the same games would ensue and now that Harper has control of the Senate nothing much would be accomplished.