Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Warms The Heart

After what we witnessed last week in Bali, it brings a wide grin to read the latest Decima poll:
A new poll suggests Stephen Harper's Conservatives have lost their big lead over the Liberals, plunging six percentage points in popular support in just one week.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey puts the Tories at 30-per-cent support, in a statistical tie with the Liberals, who are up four points to 32 per cent.

Support for the Tories dropped across all regions and demographic groups.

A statistical tie, but the first poll since Dion took the helm, that has the Liberals ahead. This poll is also the first one in a couple months to show the Liberals in the 30's again.

The article cites Mulroney, Chalk River and Bali as possible reasons for this dive in Conservative support. Other polls have shown the current government is largely removed from the Mulroney affair. On top of that, the last couple weeks have primarily focused on testimony, with the overwhelming majority having little to do with Harper. In my mind, I don't think this drop in support is a function of Mulroney. As it relates to Chalk River, clearly this issue is hurting the Conservatives, so it maybe part of the equation.

I see this result, primarily, as confirmation that the Baird performance in Bali is rightfully costing the Conservatives. The fact that much of the support moved to the Liberals is also good news for Dion as it relates to the environment file. People can dismiss this issue all they want, but the simple fact, it is consistently the number one concern of Canadians. Apart from just the environmental card, there is the added negativity with regard to Canada's reputation. Canadians take pride in our traditional role on the world stage, and I don't doubt some of this erosion is borne out of embarrassment.

The polls have been largely static for months, such a drop in short order is indicative of just how bad this government has performed. It's up for interpretation, but I read Decima as further proof of the Bali BOMB. Well deserved.

UPDATE

The poll internals:

In the latest poll, support for the NDP stood at 15 per cent nationally, while the Green party was at 12 per cent.

The news was especially bad for the Conservatives in vote-rich Ontario and Quebec, which are key to any hope of winning a majority government.

In Ontario, the Liberals scored 41 per cent support, widening their lead over the Tories who stood at 31 per cent.

In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois remained in the lead with 40 per cent, but the Liberals had moved up to second place with 23 per cent followed by the Tories at 17 per cent — an 11-point drop.

Tory popularity slid dramatically even in the party's traditional strongholds and among groups usually most supportive.

In Alberta, for instance, Tory support plummeted almost 20 points to 45 per cent. In British Columbia, support dropped 17 points to 31 per cent.

In Atlantic Canada, where the Conservatives had been leading for most of the year, the Liberals edged ahead with 36 per cent to the Tories' 33 per cent.

Among male voters, Tory support dropped to 32 per cent from 40 per cent. And among rural voters, the Tories sank eight points to 35 per cent.

A large caution on the Alberta, British Columbia and Atlantic numbers because the margin of error is quite large. We have seen these wild regional fluctuations from Decima before. However, the numbers for Ontario and Quebec have a low margin of error, which gives them more credibility. The lead in Ontario for the Liberals is good news, but what really sticks out is the Quebec numbers. The Liberals in second place, solidly in the 20's, while the Conservatives plummet into the teens- we haven't seen this dynamic for quite some time. I take these Quebec numbers as more evidence for my Bali argument, given the fact that Mulroney is much more popular in Quebec, I doubt this drop is due this scandal. Also, the Quebec government was quite outspoken in opposing the Conservatives in Bali, as well as implementing a tough vehicle emissions standards.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

It may have more to do with the Australian election where the new PM promptly signed the Kyoto accord with no hope of reaching the targets, but it was important to sign it none the same and it won him the election. People who dismiss Dion's support for Kyoto in principle because they say its impossible now anyways have been dealt a set back with that logic.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! I think it's finally hitting home just how incompetent these Cons are. Baird's an embarrassment. Clement/Lunn/Harper all dropped the ball on Chalk River. Where nuclear safety is concerned, voters are more likely to trust real nuclear scientists and not Homer J. Harper. Voters are seeing that this incompetence could have serious negative results.

Recent reports predicting we'll be in Afghanistan for a generation or more have a lot of Canadians worried, too.

The Australian election might have some effect. I'm not sure that made anyone quit supporting Harper, though. The anti-earthers are pretty intransigent.

JB

MarkCh said...

Bring on the election

Steve V said...

Decima poll from Dec 5:

"A new Harris-Decima poll done for the Canadian Press suggested the excessive coverage of Karlheinz Schreiber's allegations -- about this business dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney -- hasn't damaged the electoral prospects of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

The survey found the Conservatives still have 36 per cent support, compared to the Liberals at 28 per cent -- an eight-point lead that was unchanged from a survey done two weeks ago."

Two weeks ago, it hadn't affected the Tories, now all of a sudden this is the reason?

Dana said...

It's actually pretty funny that they're calling this a statistical dead heat.

The reality is that lots of polls over the past year or so have been in dead heat territory but they were always called Conservative leads. Often they weren't even called small leads, just generic leads.

Now that the Liberals have pulled ahead it's no longer called a lead but a dead heat.

Joseph said...

Personally, I think the Mulroney stuff has just seriously dented the "we're more trustworthy than the liberals" argument. You can only take the "we're not really the same conservative party" argument so far . . . it's not like Mulroney was a Liberal, and there is the fact that Harper apparently sat on the accusations for several months.

But I don't think that's the reason for the poll numbers declining. I think that has more to do with the Bali fiasco coupled with Harper's snitty attack during what is increasingly looking like conservatives dropping the ball all-around on Chalk River.

It just brought their flaws clearly into focus. They were doing much better when the lights we're all focused on Dion's and Liberal angst, and they could sell themselves as the functioning government by contrast.

And, totally unrelated but an interesting twist, I still think Harper was counting on a provincial conservative win in Ontario, which fell by the wayside. Because, if that had happened, he could have followed his mini-throne / budget with a grand "push for democracy" with the expansion of the Commons seats. And, instead of McGuinty pointing out how blatantly unfair it was to Ontario, Tory could have been singing the praises of the bill as a "good step forward" for his province. I just keet thinking that's where the game plan started going off track, though it isn't worthy of mention since it obviously didn't unfold that way.

At any rate, it's good to see this window of opportunity. Here is hoping the Liberals (and, in reality, the other opposition parties) can utilize it well.

WesternGrit said...

While Quebeckers have a fair opinion of Mulroney, I think this conservative scandal still has an impact. If you have a lot of faith in someone, then it turns out he was a liar and a thief (allegedly, although lots of witnesses to this), you do tend to be rattled by it - perhaps even feeling slighted. I mean, c'mon, you had people foaming at the mouth about Mr. Cretien who wasn't even involved in the whole Gomery witch-hunt (except as a witness), but now you have a Conservative PM who was caught potentially lying AND taking cash in plain envelopes - and admitting it.

The "guilt by association" principle almost certainly applies here. A Conservative is a conservative, is a conservative - especially when Harper himself paraded Mulroney around as his friend and Quebec saviour.

The chickens have come home to roost. This Conservative scandal goes right up to the former conservative PM himself - who incidentally has been viewed as a "pal" of the current Conservative PM (Harper). Obviously the testimony coming out is having SOME impact. It usually takes a few weeks to sink in.

There won't be an election anytime soon... Unless there are deeper, darker secrets lurking (potentially to do with MacKay)...

Anonymous said...

What's with Jack Layton - dumping candidates (transgender) and trying to pick "comedians" (apparently from This Hour has 22 Minutes.......strange.

Steve V said...

grit

I would argue the only reason Mulroney matters revolves around the idea of distraction. Prior to this scandal, Dion and the Liberals were getting hammered, it was a daily talking point. When the gaze moved to Mulroney, it took the Liberals off the page. This fact might explain why voters are moving back to the Liberal fold, more comfortable leaving Harper.

CuriosityCat said...

The Tories won the last election largely because they attacked the Liberals continuously on corruption.

The Tories are being hammered by the Mulroney-Schreiber-Harper saga, because the Conservative brand is now shown to be really corrupt, during their last stay in power.

And now Dion has called Harper's bullying bluff by saying he is prepared to bring the government down early next year.

Nothing like calling out a bully to restore some balance ...

Steve V said...

"The Tories are being hammered by the Mulroney-Schreiber-Harper saga, because the Conservative brand is now shown to be really corrupt, during their last stay in power."

CC, I disagree. If that were true, then all the other previous polls would have showed some erosion over Mulroney. What they did say, Canadians were sophisticated enough to seperate a 20 year old government from an extinct party, from the current government. These results, despite the fact that Harper was being pressured to hold an inquiry, flip flopping and talk of letters and meetings with Mulroney. In the last two weeks, the discussion has entirely shifted to the interaction between two men, with confirmation that Harper wasn't involved. There is less focus on the current government, and yet, all of sudden, the Cons tank. I don't follow that at all, especially when this is the same polling company that said Harper was fine on this issue. It is also noteworthy that the Cons fall off in the one province where Mulroney has some admiration. That leads me to other things, and it just so happens that the Bali fiasco blew up in the Cons face, not to mention the nuclear issue. It's a mix of many things, but if I'm looking for cause, I put Bali at the top.

Miles Lunn said...

Certainly these numbers are not good for the Tories, but I tend to look at polls over a long period of time than anyone individual one, which is a snapshot of the current moment.

The polls over the long-run do though suggest the Tories are never able to stay in majority territory for more than a week meaning a majority is very unlikely. Likewise the fact the Liberals are from time to time ahead in the polls shows a Liberal win is not impossible like some think, but at the same time the Liberals still have plenty of work to do.

In the case of Bali, the Tories were right about the fact any agreement should include developing countries, but wrong to say we will do nothing unless developing countries sign on. We should lead by example here. Besides if we did show leadership we would have a better chance at persuading developing countries to sign on than we do now. As for our international image, Harper has been an embarassment, but thankfully we are a small country so few notice. When I was in Europe last June, few were aware of the dramatic change in Canada's policies, in fact most assumed Canada was essentially the same as two years earlier. Still, it is only a matter of time before others notice, however it will take a little longer than if we were a larger country.

ottlib said...

I would not put too much stock into the impact of Mr. Baird's performance in Bali. It certainly did not help but I do not believe it is the biggest factor in the current change of political fortunes.

It is the little things like the Chalk River fiasco that has the greatest impact on voter support because they are easily understood.

The Chalk River reactor was shut down because of safety concerns. It stayed shut down for way longer than it should have resulting in a shortage of medical isotopes. The government overrode the regulator responsible for nuclear safety to restart the reactors.

Simple. Easy to understand.

Bali on the other hand is rather complicated although the national embarrassment caused by Mr. Baird is simple enough to have registered so that probably had some impact as well.

It is interesting that the Liberals seem to have benefited from the fall in Conservative fortunes. That is the first time that has happened in a while.

Steve V said...

ottlib

"I would not put too much stock into the impact of Mr. Baird's performance in Bali. It certainly did not help but I do not believe it is the biggest factor in the current change of political fortunes."

It's not the little things, its the big things, and by any statistical measure, this issue is the thing. The fact this government has spent so much time trying to neutralize the issue is a recognition of an Achilles heel. When you have the Quebec government in open defiance of Harper on the world stage, you don't think that resonates with Quebecers, you pay no price? Quebec defining itself from the federal government abroad plays well, and against Harper.

Its really not that complicated, certainly no more than isotopes. The themes are straight forward. People know that Bush is an environmental laggard. The optics of us working to waterdown, being chastised by foreign delegations, the United Nations, people understand what that means. I've always said that foreign policy is this government's weakness. With this issue you get the double negative of being on the wrongside of the number one issue, coupled with the confusion about our role in the world. It plays poorly, and you don't need intimate knowledge of the details to understand that. In a lot of ways, Bali served to flush out the Conservatives, contradictions were made clear. I think this issue has legs that will run right through the election, and its the Liberals best chance.

miles

Nice to see you around. One poll for sure, but a good one :)

liberazzi said...

Merry Christmas! Good to see the Greens doing well too.

I'll ask again, why is the media not focusing on Harper's inability to build his numbers? Harper has had two years to improve their numbers with a strong economy and no major scadals, Mulroney aside. You have to give it to the Cons, because it seems they are solidly behind their leader despite their inability to grow their numbers. I suppose they are still confident that they can pull it out when the chips are down. If I were a Con, I would start to question whether Harper can deliver them to the promised land. Although, Harper does not have much talent to work with either.

The reality is that this poll shows that it is still pretty much status quo. On the other hand, it shows that the Liberal brand is still pretty strong even in tough times. The Dippers should actually be the most worried since they seem to be bleeding to both the Libs and the Greens.

Anyways, a good news poll for once, but I think the Cons will get a bit of a bump back up with the break since they've hit their three spot already with Mulroney, Bali and then the isotopes problem. I think that is the most the Libs can hope for the time being.

Going back to the Bali debacle, I think it reinforced and or solidified Canadian's opinion regarding the Cons stance on climate change. I think it is going to be very difficult for the Cons now to try and neutralize this topic like they have tried in the past.

Tomm said...

I see there are several folks warming their hands over this early Christmas present.

The best of the season to you and yours!!

HoHoHo

Steve V said...

"I see there are several folks warming their hands over this early Christmas present."

You have to take it, where you can get it :)

Best to you too Tom!

Miles Lunn said...

I don't think the Conservatives can really neutralize the issue. They just have to hope that some other issue takes greater importance than climate change. I think with the number of errors they have made, any post-budget bounce they get will be weaker than previous ones and shorter, meaning Harper's coveted majority is just further out of reach. Likewise, the longer they are in power, the better our chances of winning are since they have more baggage.