Thursday, January 15, 2009

Harper Losing His Edge

Comprehensive Strategic Council poll that shows Harper losing his edge on the economy. NANOS also had numbers out today that showed lukewarm support for Harper's competence on the economy. Ignatieff is statistically tied with Harper on "managing the economy", the first time the Conservative leader hasn't held a decided advantage over the Liberals:
The Strategic Counsel poll found the Liberals under Mr. Ignatieff closing the gap with the Tories on the issue of who is best to deal with the economy, with 38 per cent picking them as best managers, compared with 40 per cent for the Tories. The Tories held a 12-point edge in the area in a poll taken during the 2008 election.
You can't understate the implications of a leader of the opposition now running neck and neck with a sitting PM, on the crucial issue. That number represents the first signs of serious erosion for Harper, it should give the war room shivers.

On the horserace front, another poll showing Harper returning to earth, from the false coalition bounce. A 21% lead in December is now down to 7%:
The Tories still lead the Liberals in voter intention – 36 to 29...The poll saw no change for the NDP, at 18 per cent. In Quebec, the Liberals surged well ahead of the Tories, with 29 per cent, compared with 17 per cent. The Bloc continued to lead in Quebec with 36 per cent.

The numbers indicate the Tories have failed to hold on to the increase in popularity they gained after the announcement last year of a Liberal-NDP coalition supported by the Bloc. Within days of the coalition announcement, the Tories had a 21-percentage-point lead over the Liberals.

We see different gaps, depending on the poll, but all the trends are similar.

This poll also asked questions on an election and the coalition. For coalition backers, a ray of hope:
Of those surveyed, 49 per cent said they would prefer an election over a coalition government if the budget failed and the government was defeated. However, 44 per cent preferred a Liberal-NDP coalition government, with 66 per cent of Quebeckers liking the idea.

The closest breakdown we've seen, and the first one you can credibly claim any degree of public support. One caveat, voters would rather the Liberals vote for the budget, EVEN if they "don't like what they see":
The poll found 49 per cent said the Liberals should hold their noses and vote for the government even if they are not satisfied with the budget. Forty-three per cent, however, advised the Liberals to bring down the government if they don't like what they see.

A slight majority want Liberal support, no matter, rather than a vote against, but if there is a vote against we'd rather have an election than a coalition. That's the way it translates, so when you factor in the want for budget support, even with the not satisfactory label, then the want for an election, it's still quite a stretch to argue high support for the coaltion. That said, the coalition stench seems less pungent than it did in early days, others have shown a similar narrowing, so it's clearly somewhat positive.


Red Tory said...

Doesn't the fact that Ignatieff is tied with Harper on the question of "managing the economy" when he's done nothing and said little about it kind of speak to the utter silliness of this poll?

I suppose it says something but not really what's literally stated by the question and answer.

Gayle said...

It seems to me Iggy's results demonstrate the resiliance of the liberal brand in much the same way Harper relies on the misconception that conservatives are better at managing the economy.

If the CPC polling is showing simliar results, methinks Harper is not going to get much mileage out of the whole "CPC v. the Coalition" theme he apparently intends to use during the next election.

Steve V said...


It's more a statement on Harper than anything. The fact Ignatieff is tied, despite no record is bad news for the Conservatives. It says people are looking seriously at the alternative, and aren't satisfied with Harper.


The only reason the Cons will use that narrative, is because it's all they've got and they saw how their poll numbers surged with the "deal with the devil" rallying cry.

Anonymous said...

One comment by Donolo that I find utterly idiotic is when he says that the poll shows that the Liberals could potentially pick up support from the NDP because when NDP voters are asked if they would prefer an Ignatieff led government or a harper led government - they prefer the former by a 2-1 margin. Well GEE WLLICKERS WHAT a surprise!! Most NDP supporters prefer a government led by the leader of the party the NDP is currently in a coalition with over a government led by someone who is the devil incarnate. I wish i could make as much money as Donolo to make profound observations like that!

Steve V said...


I hear you, it's a bit of a loaded question for sure. The only relevant point, if we did have an election, with the narrow focus of who should lead the country through this economy, it might consolidate people behind the alternative to Harper. Managing the economy isn't exactly the NDP's best issue (just saying, and their braintrust recognizes the need for greater credibility on this file), so there is the potential to bleed some votes away, if presented with a stark choice, on a single issue.

Anonymous said...

I find that these polling questions about "how would you vote if such and such were the ONLY consideration" are pretty useless. This time last year people were trotting out polls about how people would hypothetically vote if the environment were the only issue.

There never is a single consideration when it comes to how people vote. Its always a combination of a variety of issues, leadership, candidates, twists and turns in the campaign etc... and what the "ballot question" end up being. Meanwhile, with the economic crisis at an all-time high and a shiny new Liberal leader - NDP support is as high as it was on Oct. 14.

Steve V said...


Given the current circumstance, the election is very likely to be a single issue consideration for the majority. In this poll for instance, dating back to 1987, the economy has never ranked anywhere near as high as present.

And, 16% in Ontario for the NDP is hardly a good sign.

Anonymous said...

The NDP took 18% in Ontario in the October election - so 16% is within the margin of error. My point is that if people are so singularly concerned about the economy and that is supposedly not an NDP strong suit - then why is NDP support holding up despite that AND no longer having as a weak a leader as Dion to run against?

Steve V said...

My point, in an election on the economy, Layton might get drowned out, especially if a "dump Harper" meme starts to take hold. All these polls say, that if a narrowing does occur, the Liberals are best suited to pick up soft support, which really isn't a revelation.

Anonymous said...

The Oct. election was largely on the economy and the NDP did quite well by having a ballot question about who will defend the interests of ordinary and vulnerable Canadians during an economic crisis.

Ignatieff's background is all in foreign policy so its not as if he is a natural on economic issues - and his haughty Thurston Howell III speaking style may not go over very well either.

It is all a moot point. I suspect that either the government falls at the end of the month and the coalition then governs for the next two years OR no election until next fall or later - in which case who knows that the political environment will be.

Scotian said...


The last election was NOT primarily on the economy, it was essentially two major themes, Harper is a leader who has a heart, and Dion sucks. That is what the last election was about, pure and simple. If it had been about the economy there would have been far more examination of the economic record of the CPC government, the choices that they made, and how they were going to deal with the clearly imploding international economy, and that was not a core issue (although it certainly should have been and that some tried to make it about yet failed alas) in the election for most Canadians.

We are clearly in a period where economic issues and concerns are going to be at the top of the list for many months to come at the absolute minimum, and any election that occurs within that period is going to have the economy as a core issue if not the election issue itself, and in that event I would have to agree with Steve V in his view that the NDP runs a serious risk of being squeezed by the Liberals under Ignatief (because Iggy is not seen as a bumbler unlike Dion, and there is no way the Harper team can replicate the destruction of Iggy that they did with Dion thanks to their own precarious situation with the public combined with the urgency surrounding the economic issues) in such an election. The NDP is not known for economic stewardship by the broader electorate, indeed is perceived as being less than trustworthy on that issue (however fair or unfair one might think that it is the reality), and the Liberals are the ones that cleaned up the mess left by the Mulroney Conservatives and have the record/image in the public mind as responsible stewards of the economy.

So in such a situation Layton's NDP is not well situated, and could be seriously impacted by a desire to dump Harper and place responsible economic managers back in charge, which currently with the destruction of the Conservative image as such only leaves the Liberals with such an image in the public's perception in our political context. To pretend otherwise shows deception, either to us or worse to yourself, because the ugly reality is what it is for the NDP, their strong card is in areas of social welfare and social justice issues, not economic ones, whereas the Liberals have the record that Chr├ętien and Martin created for them, which is likely to be what most Canadians will want to be seeing in any election held this year, especially if this mess turns out to be anywhere near as bad as many believe it will be.

We have had elections in the past where it was essentially single issue on the economy, and it is not unreasonable to believe that any election within the next year at the minimum will be one as well. Given that, given the perceptions of the Liberals and the NDP on the economy it is far from unreasonable to see Steve V's expectation/prediction from being a very probable outcome. Remember in politics perception is at least as important as reality, and the NDP did as well as it did in the last two elections more from Liberal weakness than from their own strength, and especially if there is a strong desire to get rid of Harper and his party it is almost inevitable that it will be the Liberals that profit most from it at the expense of the other parties, including the NDP, particularly in an election where economic concerns drive the election.

Steve V said...

Hey Scotian, thanks for the thoughts :)

It's important to remember, that in the last election, the Liberals were saddled with Dion, or more rightly the perception of Dion. I've actually argued, that with a historically weak Liberal Party, coupled with spending the maximum on the election, the NDP result isn't particularly impressive. A gain in seats, but below past achievement, and the popular vote was pretty much the same as the last election. The difference this time, and this poll supports it, the Liberals now have a credible alternative as leader, at the moment. That represents a serious challenge for the NDP, there will be no more polls where Layton scores better on the PM front than a Liberal leader, that window has closed. Couple that, with a focus on a NDP weak spot, and I see POSSIBLE problems.

Anonymous said...

But Ignatieff also represents a big swing to the right for the Liberals and if caves in and props up the Harper government - progressive voters will be disgusted and will drop him like a hot potato - especially in Quebec.

Steve V said...


Harper was poised to do QUITE WELL in Quebec, until he screwed up royally in the election. To assume "progressives" will run in droves if the budget passes, is wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

"progressive voters will be disgusted and will drop him like a hot potato - especially in Quebec."

They are parking their votes with the Bloc since the death of Meech Lake in 1990. Iggy is making gains in this area ever since he became leader. Moreover, the Grits have been stagnant at core support range with Dion at the helm. Which means that the Grits cannot do anything worse than now.