Stephen Harper maintains a large advantage as the preferred head of government in Canada, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies. 35 per cent of respondents think Harper would make the best prime minister, while 19 per cent choose Liberal leader Stéphane Dion.
The numbers show that, after four months on the job, the Liberal leader is losing the battle to earn the confidence of Canadians. Only 9% say their opinion of Dion has improved over the course of the past month, and 29% say their views have actually worsened.
The good news:
Mr. Harper, on the other hand, appears to be treading water with 21% expressing a more positive opinion of the Prime Minister, and 22% echoing negative views.
Do you approve or disapprove of Stephen Harper’s performance as prime minister?
The fact that Dion's numbers are still dropping, even when compared with the abysmal numbers in the previous poll is quite concerning. There is little doubt that Dion has a great deal of work to do in convincing Canadians that he is ready to the lead the country. However, Dion is the new actor, which allows for the argument that his condition can improve. Canadians don't really know Dion and that means there is still opportunity to reverse these trends.
Where Liberals can take great solace, Harper hasn't really benefited from the new leaders early troubles. Harper has a higher disapproval rating than approval, despite the fact most Canadians believe the country is headed in the right direction. Canadians opinion of Harper hasn't improved, which is curious, given Dion's apparent "weakness"- this suggests real hesitation.
It may be a stretch to spin these findings as opportunity for the Liberals, but I think that fair. There are many tools available to Liberal strategists to improve Dion's image, these people aren't inept, now they know the challenges. If you use historical context, Dion's predicament is nothing extraordinary. For arguments sake you can see scenarios where Dion turns it around.
With Harper, I'm not sure there is much more opportunity, unless of course he has another 15-20 billion to throw around. Stuck is the best word to describe Harper's situation, and his high negatives suggest potential erosion if Dion is effective. Harper should be benefiting from Dion's troubles, that is the expected result. The fact that Harper is largely stalled, seems to have a natural ceiling, is something we can exploit.