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If You Can’t Even Get a Dead Cat Bounce Out of This, Your Nine Lives May Be Up


[Ottawa – May 2, 2014] The period of the past few weeks has been an unusually auspicious one for Stephen Harper and his government. The more or less regular cacophony of critical commentary which has characterised the past year of his regime’s dealings with media, opposition, and critics was temporary displaced by a series of surprising events.

First, the untimely and tragic death of Jim Flaherty and the suspension of typical parliamentary invective was replaced with a dignified, non-partisan celebration of his life and achievements including a sombre and rare state funeral. This was followed by the unexpected RCMP announcement that the Nigel Wright investigation had been put aside for lack of evidence.

Shortly after the exoneration of Mr. Wright, an unexpected Elections Canada announcement that the vote suppression scandal, which had bedevilled the Conservative Party, was being put aside with no charges or further actions merited. And as if this cavalcade of politically beneficial surprises wasn’t enough, the venerable New York Times announced that Canada’s allegedly reeling middle class were, in fact, world beaters of economic achievement despite the claims of opposition leaders and the shrinking middle class themselves.

It doesn’t get much better than this for a tired incumbent lingering at levels dramatically short of their stunning majority victory of 2011. Only an announcement that climate change had been revealed as a cruel hoax by the Royal Society or Putin announcing a withdrawal from Ukraine in fear of Stephen Harper’s stern admonitions to do so, could have further brightened this constellation of politically serendipitous surprises.

It may have been unsurprising to find that this series of propitious events was recognized by a grateful public in two polls showing a newfound Conservative lead breaking up a near stranglehold on the lead the rejuvenated Liberal Party had exerted for over a year.

But wait – the Conservative Party may want to hold the champagne and perhaps forestall any thoughts of prematurely pulling the plug on Parliament in search of another surprising majority. For what it’s worth, our most recent poll does not find what the two methodologically different polls found. We see no new Conservative vault to a lead. In fact, we don’t see much of anything in our carefully constructed probability sample of nearly 4,000 Canadians. While different firms may disagree on this point, we feel much more comfortable with these methods than those that do not come from probability samples and that can not speak for those Canadians who can not or will not complete surveys online.

If we squint hard enough, there may be some marginal evidence of improvement for Mr. Harper, but maybe not. The much more obvious and important finding is the continued and stable lead of the Liberals despite this surprising series of politically beneficial bonuses for the current government. In fact, the bigger question may be if this improbable and beneficial providence can’t lift Mr. Harper out of his sub-30 freeze with voters – can anything?

Ontario race tightening, Trudeau making headway with youth

Regionally, the Ontario race – the key to 2015 – appears to have tightened, although the Liberals still lead there. Conservative support seems inefficiently concentrated in the Prairies, as wide margins of victory do not translate into extra seats. The NDP, meanwhile, is doing very well in Quebec.

Justin Trudeau now seems to be registering with younger voters, a group with which he had been unable to make any headway until recently. It should be noted, however, that youth support is a double-edged sword – while the ability to connect with young people will be crucial in establishing a new, youthful brand, young people consistently don’t vote in anywhere near the same numbers that their parents and grandparents do. It is also interesting that there is no distinct age profile for Liberal supporters. In contrast to the Conservative Party (who draw their support largely from older Canada) or the Greens (who rely disproportionately on Canada’s younger generations), the Liberals perform equally well across all age groups.

Liberals offer theoretical home to more than half of Canadians

While the NDP has fallen to a distant third place in recent months, there is some good news in what is otherwise a rather bleak poll for them. Although they are not in particularly good shape in terms of first choice, nearly half of Liberal supporters would consider the NDP as their second choice. These results suggest that should Mr. Trudeau falter, the NDP could very well pick up the promiscuous progressive vote that will support for any plausible form of non-Conservative government. Nevertheless, when we combine Canadians’ first and second choices, the Liberals provide a theoretical home to just over half of Canadians.

Mulcair least objectionable choice

Finally, we asked Canadians whether they approve or disapprove of Canada’s three major party leaders. Mr. Harper’s approval rating remains mired at below 30 points and, while he remains a veritable superstar within his own party, he is highly unpopular everywhere else. Mr. Mulcair, meanwhile, comes in as the least objectionable choice; while he is tied with Mr. Trudeau in terms of approval, he has, by far, the lowest disapproval rating. Mr. Trudeau, on the other hand, produces more polarized responses – he enjoys the approval of nearly two-fifths of Canadians, although a similar proportion – 35 per cent – reject his leadership approach.

In any case, as Mr. Harper has proven over the last few years, it is not one’s disapproval that matters – rather, it is approval. Indeed, Mr. Harper enjoyed the approval of barely one-third of Canadians when he won a majority mandate. It is not the fervour of one’s opponents – but rather the enthusiasm and commitment of one’s own supporters – that determines success.

Click here for the full report: Full Report (May 2, 2014)

1 comment to If You Can’t Even Get a Dead Cat Bounce Out of This, Your Nine Lives May Be Up

  • Budly

    That finding that the NDP has a high “second choice” rate is interesting. In 2012, the Liberal party made a policy resolution that, if elected, they would put in place preferential voting where voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than voting for a single candidate. If the Liberals get elected, and if they hold to their own policy, then presumably there would be a greater NDP presence in Parliament over time. That might help NDP supporters feel better about having to “vote strategically” (i.e., vote for Liberal Party candidates to block Conservative Party candidates) in 2015.