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BEYOND THE HORSERACE – PART 4: Who do you like?

[Ottawa – January 13, 2012] Following a tough slog through democratic trust and alternative institutional arrangements for the future perhaps a more familiar review of approval ratings can serve as a light interlude before we conclude with Canadians’ predictions for election 2015 (yikes!) and their selected top preferences for national conversations.

Chart 4.1 is fairly self-explanatory. Let’s start with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Our most recognized leader produces the same polarized responses that we saw on the directional number for the federal government. With 34 per cent approval he slightly exceeds his party’s standing and he enjoys near universal approval amongst his supporters, who are all basking in the dawn of Canada’s new morning. For the rest of Canada, it is almost all disapproval (the just mourning segment of the country). The approval numbers closely mirror the demographics of party support we discussed earlier. What may be mildly disconcerting to the Prime Minister is the rise in disapproval over the past two years. The keyword, however, is “mild”, as this rise in disapproval has coincided with successfully achieving majority government and his third successive government, which I am sure, are far more gratifying than his disapproval numbers.

Nycole Turmel remains the least familiar leader with very high “don’t knows”. While benefiting from very little negative sentiment with 25 per cent disapproval, she has approval numbers lower than her party’s support. The jury is clearly still out on Ms. Turmel, but these numbers are much less auspicious than for her predecessor and this problem is reflected in the public’s view of her party’s future prospects. Obviously the NDP future is, like the Liberals, hugely clouded by the question of who will lead.

Bob Rae is showing some surprising strength for a caretaker presiding over a party with one foot in the grave according to Peter Newman. With 44 per cent approval, he eclipses the Prime Minister’s rating and with only 25 per cent disapproval he is seeing some receptivity from Canadians if he should decide to throw his hat in the ring again. One striking finding for those who caution about his Ontario record as his unshakable albatross: Bob Rae fares better in Ontario than in the rest of the country and he has a very regionally even distribution of approval. By contrast, Mr. Harper receives laurels in Alberta and raspberries in Quebec.

Some have suggested Ontario’s premier Dalton McGuinty could be the next Liberal saviour. Fresh from an unexpected and impressive victory in Ontario, his approval numbers would do little to extinguish that idea. His main problem is a relatively high disapproval rating, but as Mr. Harper has vividly demonstrated, levels of disapproval are not the problem.

In the interest of little more than pure mischief, we complicate Mark Carney’s already formidably challenging jobs by noting that he has the highest approval rating of all Canadians and ties the still (in Canada) revered President Barrack Obama. Unlike Obama, he has virtually no negatives and we doubt that his trajectory is downward as in the case of President Obama. Perhaps even more remarkably, Mark Carney’s blue ribbon rating with the public is equally strong among both Conservatives and Liberals – a rare point of agreement. Mark Carney may be the future Chuck Norris of Canadian politics; perhaps he can show up for the face off against Putin.

Finally, President Obama is probably ruefully wishing he was running in Canada where he retains his crown as the most approved of leader, albeit with a slight erosion from the urban sainthood Canadians conferred on him by in 2008.

Click here for Part 4 of this series: Part 4 – Who Do You Like? (January 13, 2012)

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