Thursday, June 25, 2009

Momentum No More

The latest EKOS poll comfirms something of a setback for the Liberals and Ignatieff, as the Conservative now lead for the first time in months. Ignatieff's disapproval rating continues to rise, although he still holds an advantage over a very unpopular Prime Minister:
Conservatives: 34.8 per cent.
Liberals: 32.6 per cent.
NDP: 14.3 per cent.
Green: 9.3 per cent.
BQ: 9 per cent.

For the most part, the shift in national support seems to be a Ontario consideration. Again on the volatility front, what was a 10% Liberal lead last week has evaporated with the two parties now tied. EKOS, unlike yesterday's Angus Reid poll, doesn't show any NDP rebound at the Liberal expense, their numbers still well down from the last election. EKOS shows the more familiar dynamic of support jockeying between the two principles, the NDP mostly on the sidelines:
Libs 38.2
Cons 38.2
NDP 14%
Greens 9.6%

Graves mentions a "temporary" circumstance, as Liberals are hurt in the short term, resulting from the strategic misplay. I would tend to agree, but these Ontario numbers show us once again that nobody can take anything for granted, the support SOFT, SOFT, SOFT. When you see wild fluctuations week to week, month to month, it speaks to a large subset that will be up for grabs up until election day.

EKOS actually gives the Conservatives a relatively decent percentage of 18.4%. The Liberals and Bloc virtually unchanged, while the NDP drops further to 7.8%.

From the Liberal perspective, we've clearly reached a sort of plateau phase, wherein the status quo needs a reconsideration. A slightly worrying storyline, with Parliament on break, people less engaged, the lasting impression this summer may well be the events of the past couple weeks. For this reason, apart from theoretical government missteps, it will be hard for the Liberals to re-seize any momentum. In other words, we're probably stuck here until the fall.

I'd also be somewhat concerned about Ignatieff's rising disapproval numbers, for the first time the leader is being challenged. EKOS gave Ignatieff a 50% approval, 28% disapproval just two months ago. Now we see a 32% approval, 37% disapproval. Part of that is a natural dynamic that happens to all new leaders. However, part of that is a reflection of recent events, as well as being attacked from all partisan sides. Whatever, further evidence that it's time to get aggressive in defining Ignatieff and the party.


Dr.Dawg said...

Well, Ignatieff is more and more being seen as an empty suit. He stands for nothing, and blows with the wind. Canadians want principles, values and consistency. They aren't getting them from Iggy.

DL said...

That's not true. Ignatieff does have principles. He bravely supported the invasion of Iraq!

Dr.Dawg said...

And then he didn't!

sjw said...

Should have had an election.

A BCer in Toronto said...

The funny thing is that people are using minor swings in the national numbers to support their own, often contradictory hypotheses. He's down because he threatened to force an election! He's down because he didn't force an election! It's amusing, really.

You're right, the numbers are soft, and I'd attribute the weakness to a) a week of nasty media coverage, and b) Ignatieff still largely being a blank slate. Drawing that slate in this summer, before others do, will be the challenge for the LPC.

All that can be legitimately derives from these numbers is that it's anyone's election still (well, except the NDP's) but to have a chance, the Liberals need to define Iggy and define themselves, to give people something tangible to get behind.

Steve V said...

"All that can be legitimately derives from these numbers is that it's anyone's election still (well, except the NDP's) but to have a chance, the Liberals need to define Iggy and define themselves, to give people something tangible to get behind."

Agreed Jeff.

LMA said...

Ignatieff gets quite passionate when he talks about Canada's potential, nation building projects, etc. How about some large rallies over the summer and a little Obama style hope and inspiration?

Dr.Dawg said...

the Liberals need to define Iggy and define themselves

What a giveaway! That and the "blank slate" comment reinforce everything I've been saying about the man. He's a tabula rasa, waiting to be inscribed with the positions and principles that will win the Liberals a victory. He stands for nothing at the present time.

A BCer in Toronto said...

No, Dawg, that just won't hunt. Iggy is about a lot, we just haven't communicated it well. We haven't defined a narrative to the public. Hence, leaving the door open to those who wish to distort.

Dr.Dawg said...

Gosh, that's an interesting way to put it. Iggy can't do for himself what us mere mortals can--it takes the Liberal Party machine to communicate who he is, and (tellingly) define his narrative.

How can one distort what isn't there? Just give us your construct "Ignatieff" when you've finished assembling it and we can have some fun with it.

Steve V said...


It's hard to say anything conclusive at this point. Up until now, Ignatieff hasn't had to do much, and I don't really blame his handlers. There is some logic in holding back the substance- it's been done before so I don't think it's particularly noteworthy as it relates to him. Fact is, many things have being going the Liberals way up until this point. If we are seeing a bump in the road, I actually take it as a welcome sign, because it will motivate the inner circle to put flesh on the bone, get beyond the platitudes and generalities. You could say that's wishful thinking, but it's a pretty self evident fact- Ignatieff doesn't lack substance or the capacity to formulate detailed opinions. I see this all as a process, we are now in the post honeymoon phase that all leaders eventually pass through. Let's see what comes of it.

Dame said...

We need a platform now.

Dr.Dawg said...

And someone to stand on it.

Sorry, that was a cheap shot. But Steve, I think you're missing what seems to me, at least, to be an obvious point. What leader needs to remain an utter cipher after months in the position, hoping that Harper will collapse under his own rancid weight? That's not leadership, it's avoidance.

What you and the others are saying here is that you are still building the construct, and will trundle it out at an appropriate time. I admire the refreshing candour over here, but I must say it confirms my worst suspicions about your Party and how it operates.


Steve V said...

It starts with the thesis "government's defeat themselves". We can debate the merit in this instance, but that rationale isn't without precedent.

Anonymous said...

It may be simple, but I still suspect my instinct on this is about right.

I think this decline is nothing more than disappointment that Ignatieff didn't pull the plug. All the momentum these past few months was based on the fact that, beyond their notable base, the electorate has never really warmed to Harper and his government.

They didn't warm to Dion either, but in Ignatieff voters began to see a leader they could imagine as a replacement.

Unfortunately, the big build-up was rather flat last week, not helped by Iggy's "No, I'm not quite issuing an ultimatum it just sounded like that" delivery.

I don't know how an election would have played out - I'm still not sure an election would have even occurred push come to shove. But we'll never know now.

The performance last week more than anything else - including weeks of attack ads - disappointed voters hoping to see a change. And the polls this week reflect that dip, as do the increase in negatives.

The good news is people still don't like Harper - and I consider that extremely good news. But unfortunately the downside is the momentum is broken for now.

Personally, I don't think the set-back is permanent. But Ignatieff and the Liberals really need to start figuring out how they play this because the build-up and step-back meme is going to get very old very fast. It will play to an "opportunistic" angle, even if it isn't a valid one.

For now, I think Ignatieff is positioned fairly well for the autumn, especially if some move on EI is approved in early autumn. But beyond that, they need to commit to bringing down this government next time they send "signals" again.

Gayle said...

I think some of you are over-estimating the public's attention to what is going on in Ottawa.

Ignatieff had a bad week. I said it then and will say it now - he never should have given conditions. He should have said yes or no, and this probably all would have blown over.

People paid attention because no one wanted a summer election - and no one wanted a summer election because the media did not want a summer election. If I had to give up my summer holidays to follow Harper around on some airplane I would not want an election either.

That said, I agree that Ignatieff has to start showing some broad policy differences between the LPC and the CPC. I do not agree that he should present a platform.

I like this:

"Ignatieff gets quite passionate when he talks about Canada's potential, nation building projects, etc."

Be passionate about something - please.

Steve V said...

Don't equate noting something with over reacting. I still think, as Joseph mentioned, we're in good shape. That said, the worse thing you can do is just stand pat if you see potential problems developing. All I know, every successful politician has shown an ability to stay ahead of things that could fester. I just think we're entering a new phase, which is a natural progression. You start off with wind in your sails, then you suffer the inevitable setback, the media starts to turn- that's when you need to react and reassert.

Gayle said...

I do not think you are over-reacting. If fact I think you are spot on.

I just do not think that many people were paying attention to the political situation in this country until last week, which was a bad weel for Ignatieff.

I also do not think these poll numbers are about Ignatieff not defining himself. There is a time and a place for that - and the best time is when people are paying attention - like next fall....hopefully.

Demosthenes said...

Steve, Iggy can't define himself unless he takes a stand on something. And he can't take a stand on something if there isn't someone, somewhere, that he's willing to tick off to do it.

And, no, taking a brave stance of "GEEZ GOTTA AVOID THAT THIRD RAIL" on C-15 didn't count. Iraq and the "enhanced interrogation" thing did, but I wouldn't trumpet those if I were him.

He needs to have some policies, some philosophies, and some positions...not necessarily in that order. I realize that may horrify that segment of the Liberal party that thinks that its greatest (if not only) strength is that it stands for nothing at all...but clearly that isn't working.

Steve V said...

"And he can't take a stand on something if there isn't someone, somewhere, that he's willing to tick off to do it."

Agree. You don't want to turn in Paul Martin, wherein you pander to every demographic and end up looking like a marshmellow.


I guess my only concern now, we're probably in a holding pattern support wise. I would predict statistical ties, possibly a slight Con rebound over the summer- unless of course we see some flubs or really bad economic indicators. That means, we will head into the fall with the Liberals unsure on a non-confidence.

I agree on people not paying attention, and I don't think a bad week translates to anything earth shattering. I just think we might want to be more aggressive in our approach, rather than letting events dictate.

bogged down said...

Iggy is new at the politics game. He may turn out to be a great policy nut but he still need time to shape his national identity. the problem is the conservatives are so ruthless they'll shape it for him.

Steve V said...

"Iggy is new at the politics game."

I think that's an asset which should exploit.

daniel said...

Perhaps Ignatieff's rising negatives are evidence that the Conservatives have already had some success at shaping his image for him.

Say what you will about how negative campaigning "doesn't work" (a notion that is utter BS - if an attack strategy moves a net of even 1% of voters in the "right" direction, it's done its job). Like many of you, I don't think Canadians have suddenly blunted liberal momentum based on the past week alone. However, I do feel that Ignatieff's recent performance, coupled with the partisan onslaught he's been facing from all sides, are starting to push his numbers down.

The media narrative as of late (well, until very recently) has been proven to be something of a fantasy: the story of Ignatieff, the caped crusader, swooping in to save the Liberal Party and bravely topple the villainous Harper, has evaporated - now replaced by Ignatieff, the politician, making whatever ideological contortions are necessary in order to avoid an election, uttering the tired platitudes that opposition leaders in minority parliaments who are unprepared for an election tend to utter (that is to say, "talking the talk" without "walking the walk"). The man many once hailed as a 21st-century answer to Trudeau is beginning to behave like a 2009 echo of Dion.

Governments may self-destruct, but the Liberals needs to realize that the same thing can (and recently, did) happen to an opposition party. The Libs have addressed their charisma problem - but if that's as far as it goes, then expect Harper to pull in his 36% of the vote in the next election and remain in power.

Steve V said...


The Bloc is going after Ignatieff HARD. Part of his national approval numbers were a disporportionate approval in Quebec. Maybe more than the attack ads by the Cons, the Bloc campaign might be having some effect, or maybe in totality it's starting to drive his negatives up. Having said that, any leader who is riding high is subject to these sort of attacks, a function of popularity which isn't a bad thing.