Angus Reid's last poll had shown Ignatieff actually one point ahead of Harper on the "best PM" score, a result which was quite surprising. A sitting PM should always lead, and historically always does, because, well, he/she IS the PM, leader of the opposition generally doesn't enjoy the same consideration. In this poll, we see Harper taking a slight lead on this measure:
A Toronto Star/Angus Reid survey shows 27 per cent of Canadians think Harper is the best choice for prime minister, with 24 per cent preferring Ignatieff.
Last month, the two leaders were in a virtual tie, with Ignatieff slightly ahead at 28 per cent compared with Harper at 27 per cent nationally.
New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton was the choice of 12 per cent of respondents, up two percentage points from last month.
Interesting to note, Harper's stuck at 27%, the difference a very slight erosion for Ignatieff, but nothing that raises any alarms from here. In fact, if note for the past exceptional result, I would categorize these numbers as quite bad for Harper and encouraging for Ignatieff. You don't need to best Harper, just lurk in the same ballpark, a score of 27% is hardly indicative of Harper popularity.
On the critical question of the economy, Harper now enjoys a 14% lead, up from 9%, but this larger gap is a result of a lower score for Ignatieff, Harper remains at the same level. Still, the gap is a relatively good one for Harper, although other outfits have it closer.
On the horserace numbers, some statistical noise:
The Conservatives are at 39 per cent support nationally, compared with 30 per cent for the Liberals, 17 per cent for the NDP, 9 per cent for the Bloc and 5 per cent for the Greens.
Liberals virtually unchanged (down 1), Conservatives up 2%, ditto for the NDP. Green support seems to be waning, across the board. As the pollster points out, the Conservative lead isn't as strong as the national numbers suggest:
"(The Tories) might be at 39 per cent (nationally) and that might suggest that they're on the verge of forming a majority government. However, when we look at the findings from the specific areas, it's not as easy as it seems," said Mario Canseco, vice-president of the polling company Angus Reid Strategies.
In fact, the Liberals are up in Ontario, to 40%(plus 4%), while the Conservatives are unchanged at 42%. I floated a theory the other day, that with the debate narrowing around the economy, and Ontario being ground zero, there is a danger that the NDP could get squeezed, the issue not necessarily their strong suit, particulary in this region. Some support for that view, because this is the first poll that shows the two principles at the 40% threshold in Ontario, while the NDP slumps to a mere 12% (down 3), 6% drop since the election. The Greens are also down.
The Liberals are up in British Columbia (the MOE is high), which is another positive. A slight downtick in Quebec, but given some other findings, I'll chalk it up to statistical noise at this point. It would seem, that the slight Conservative rise is primarily a function of more support in the prairie provinces. If you actually do the regional breakdowns, this particular AR poll is a mixed bag, rather than the perception of a widening gap, it's pretty much an electoral wash.
As an aside, I conducted my own poll this morning. Two voting age adults were sampled, and 100% agreed with the statement "Harper is a weiner". Results accurate 19 times out of 20.