Darrell Bricker of Ipsos recently noted that leadership indicators are independent variables that can cause a shift in the dependent variable, better known as party support.
He highlighted Martin's slide in these indicators in December: "Vote is a trailing indicator, not a leading indicator. The fundamentals started going downhill some time ago, vote is only now catching up."
If leadership indicators give us a window into the future, then it could be that the Liberal attack ads are having an effect. Harper now trails Martin by 6 points in the overall leadership numbers. Particularly striking is that Martin leads Harper by 7% with regards to the issue of competence. Harper has also dropped a full 9% on his vision for Canada.
It should give the Conservatives pause that despite leading in the polls, Harper still can't best the battered, scandal ridden Martin. These results also lend credence to the notion that people are not voting Conservative, but anti-Liberal.
People remain apprehensive about the Conservatives and I would suggest these feeling will magnify as we draw closer to the reality of Harper as PM. We need to see a seismic shift in the polls, which may not be realistic, but we could easily have enough erosion to blunt any talk of majority.
It is debatable whether or not the attack ads have been effective. I have always believed that, regardless of ads, Canadians would likely rethink their support as we draw close to the vote. No one disputes the fact that support is particularly soft this election and with that volatility is to be expected. If leadership indicators are generally ahead of the voter curve, we may be at a stage where things begin to change. We still have an eternity to go.