Monday, June 01, 2009

Attack Ad Impacts

The Angus Reid poll details the possible impacts of the attack ads. The Toronto Star headline reads "Tory Attack Ads Backfiring, Poll Finds". In the spirit of fairness, I should point out a few things that go beyond the soundbite presentation. The Angus Reid poll does show that Harper fars worse, relative to Ignatieff with those that have seen the ads, and with those that have seen the ads and the Liberals You Tube response. However, and this is an important factor that seems to be ignored by the pollster and the piece, Harper's numbers are equally abysmal with those that haven't seen the ad or the Liberal response. Angus Reid breaks voters into these three categories, but Harper's numbers are virtually identical across the board. One could argue, that those who haven't seen the ads or the Liberal response still think less of Harper because of what they've read, but I think this fact shows a wider sentiment, namely that people just don't care much for Harper these days, regardless of these attacks. Harper's numbers:
Seen the ad:

Opinion of Harper improved 10%
Stayed the same 35%
Worsened 50%

Seen the ad and the Liberal You Tube:

Opinion of Harper improved 9%
Stayed the same 35%
Worsened 52%

Haven't seen the ads or the Liberal You Tube:

Opinion of Harper improved 7%
Stayed the same 42%
Worsened 49%

I'm prepared to accept that the horrible media response to these ads has impacted the last category, but it's also relevant that Harper suffers equally, no matter the subset. To conclude the ads are the reason for Harper's horrible score isn't quite conclusive. As a matter of fact, previous AR polls asking this question have continually shown Harper with considerable negative momentum, regardless of attack ads, so this makes the final group all the more curious.

When it comes to Ignatieff, the conclusion is the attack ads have had slight impact. This is true in terms of voting intention, as well as relative scores to Harper. One small caveat, and I don't want to overstate this, because I agree with the minimal impact thesis, this AR poll is the first to show Ignatieff with negative momentum since he became leader. Previous AR polls continually showed Ignatieff bucking the trend amongst the party leaders, the more Canadians saw, the more they liked, he the only one with positive momentum. In this poll, Ignatieff scores a -7 momentum score, paltry compared to Harper's -41, Layton's -20, but a first time negative number nonetheless.

What AR does show, Ignatieff's numbers are completely stagnant with those that haven't seen the ads, those that have, but have also seen the Liberal response. But, with those that have seen just the ads, Ignatieff does see some erosion:
Seen the ads:

Opinion of Ignatieff improved 24%
Stayed the same 26%
Worsened 42%

Seen the ads, Liberal response:

Opinion of Ignatieff improved 29%
Stayed the same 35%
Worsened 31%

Haven't seen the ads or the You Tube:

Opinion of Ignatieff improved 28%
Stayed the same 38%
Worsened 28%

The subset that have seen both the ad and the response is irrelevant, because it isn't representative of average Canadians. Only 30000 people have viewed the You Tube ad, this poll presented it to them, so the general population really falls into two categories, seen or haven't seen. When you factor in the millions of Canadians who have seen these ads, then the first category, wherein Ignatieff takes a slight hit is worth taking seriously. However, I'm not trying to elevate marginal impact, merely taking issue with a few superficial conclusions.

AR also asks a whole range of questions about the party leaders, and it's here that we find Harper takes a real risk. Harper is seen as more arrogant, decidedly more secretive, uncaring, dishonest and out of touch. Ignatieff is seen as more intelligent, open and strong, as well as scoring quite low on the measures that haunt Harper.

If you wanted to wrap this entire poll into a couple ofsentences, I would suggest the following. Stephen Harper has serious problems with the electorate, his image is cementing in a negative way. Ignatieff had best keep on eye on the attacks, but he still looks a winner beside Harper.


Anonymous said...

Good post.

My one observation was to look at each adjective and before looking at the responses, decide objectively if the adjective is positive or negative.

Unless I missed something, Ignatieff was ahead of Harper on every single positive attribute association, and behind him on every single negative attribute association.

Warms the heart to realize folks see Harper in such "less than glowing" terms.

It took nearly 5 years before US voters even began to recognize the truly dismal man they elected to President when it came to "W".

I'm glad to see Canadians peg "H" pretty precisely now.

Let's just hope it's enough to show him the door next election.

Anonymous said...

I watched CPAC in the middle of the night. Yeah, my life is exciting :-). They were asking people on the street in TO about the attack ads. The majority disapproved of them.


Steve V said...

"Unless I missed something, Ignatieff was ahead of Harper on every single positive attribute association, and behind him on every single negative attribute association."

That would be correct :)

sjw said...

I also saw a piece on CPAC where they were gauging reaction to the ads in Ottawa's Byward Market. Sentiment was much the same as the reaction in the Toronto segment: Thumbs down.

Ward of the State said...

CBC's content factory ran hilarious parodies of the conservative attack ads last week. I tried to find them online, but no luck.

The best one went something like this:"Michael Ignatieff, back in the country after 23 years. Why is he back? He has rabies. He's not in it for Canada. He's just here to give us rabies."

burlivespipe said...

Perhaps the next CON attack ad (or first CON positive ad) will be "Harper: he's leaving!"
Which may be real trouble... Take Flaherty and Harper out of the mix and I wonder what perception the public would have of this bungling, conspiring clutch of yahoos.