Saturday, July 18, 2009

Harper: Not Exactly A Juggernaut

The new Angus Reid poll shows a narrowing national race, more in line with other recent results. It also seems to suggest that Harper's gong show last week has hurt his standing with Canadians, continuing a negative trend which has gone on for months.

Nationally, we see a 33-30% spread in the Conservatives favor. Liberals unchanged, Conservatives down 3%. Pretty much the usual when it comes to the regionals.

Angus Reid asks a series of questions about the leaders. While Ignatieff no longer enjoys positive momentum, he still leads the pack, Harper continues to erode:
Momentum Scores: Ignatieff -13, Duceppe -15, Layton -17, Harper -28

Each time AR asks this question, the opinion of Harper deteriorates at a pretty significant clip. This latest installment probably reflects his recent performance at the G8, among other things.

AR found a pretty big swing on the economy question, a very good result for Ignatieff:
34% (-3) say Harper best suited to handle economy; 26% (+6) pick Ignatieff

A 17% gap becomes a 8% edge for Harper, a number which is manageable from the Liberal perspective. This might just be some rebound for Ignatieff, after the dive he took during the election standoff.

The rest of the questions on leadership show some pretty concrete and unflattering opinions on Harper. These beliefs further my view that Liberals are wise to use Harper as a contrast to present something positive to Canadians:
When assessing Harper, 49 per cent of respondents brand him as secretive, while at least two-in-five believe he is arrogant (45%), out of touch (41%), and intelligent (40%). More than a third of respondents think the current prime minister is boring (38%) and uncaring (34%).

The only measure that translates as a liability for Ignatieff, he scores the same as Harper on the arrogance number. However, Canadians see him as more intelligent, open, far less secretive and uncaring, he stacks up well against Harper. Part of this is the blank slate syndrome, but it also translates to opportunity.

On the best PM score, which has a obvious inherent advantage for Harper, given that he is the PM, it's a very tight affair:
Preferred Prime Minister: Harper 26%, Ignatieff 22%, Layton 13%

Not exactly a juggernaut.

The difference here is that Harper is a known quantity, it will be very hard for him to reverse negative impressions. Ignatieff has the benefit of "newness", which we can use to our advantage. I see a lot more opportunity for the Liberals within these numbers, than I do the Conservatives. This might explain why we are starting to here more and more whispers about the Conservatives refocusing AWAY from Harper. That to me is a clear signal of real trouble, once you begin to question the appeal of your leader- a paramount consideration in a campaign- you're clearly quite vulnerable.


Anonymous said...

Can someone make sense of the following statement from page 1 of the AR report?

The Grits are barely ahead of the Liberals in Ontario (38% to 36%) and remain the most popular federalist party in Quebec.

I thought Grits and Liberals were the same.

Steve V said...

It was supposed to say, barely ahead of the Conservatives in Ontario. For reference, the last AR poll gave the Cons the lead in Ontario.

Anonymous said...

If AR can be this careless in their wording, I wonder about the degree of care--and accuracy--of their findings.

Steve V said...

If you look at the last election, as well as all the provincial results since 2006, pretty much the best predictive record.

Anonymous said...

The more polls that come out, the more I think the reality is the parties have been about even for months. Most of the changes have really been around the margin after an initial and immediate rebound by the Liberals early in the year.

If that holds that means campaign execution, whenever it occurs, will be key. If the Liberals are using this time to build the policy and the campaign infrastructure they'll need to execute a good campaign, that can be a good thing. I have a hard time figuring what else the conservatives have except wedge issues, and the Liberals need to run a campaign on a higher appeal - "what kind of government do you want?" kinda stuff, with contrasts to Harper at EVERY opportunity.

Regarding the arrogance score, I think Ignatieff has the potential to overcome that - most of it is perception anyway which tends to change when he gets before people (or that's what I've noted).

Harper, not so much. Though I've always seen him as more petty than arrogant. Arrogant almost sounds positive. Petty goes clear to the bone ;).

Anonymous said...

I just saw your last post on statesmanship, so on my campaign thoughts I seem to have inadvertently - and unknowingly - tapped into the same thought.

(good idea Steve ;).

Steve V said...


On the arrogance question, I would assume Harper's score is more rigid than Ignatieff, so that doesn't worry me much.

I couldn't agree more on the key being campaign effectiveness. I don't see us heading into an election with anyone being particularly confident, so execution will be everything.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who read the poll and thought the Liberals are in real trouble out side of Ontario and Quebec. They have been polling 45% in Atlantic Canada and now have dropped to 23%. Iggy can't go into an election like that.

Anonymous said...

The poll also has the NDP up two points to 18%. How is that possible? I thought they were supposed to be in such deep trouble. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Anonymous said...

13 per cent for Layton on the preferred Prime Minister question. Time to bring on Libby Davies ;)

Anonymous said...

I have to say the one thing that really stands out to me in this poll as an outlier is Atlantic Canada.

I wouldn't claim to know the mind of someone in Atlantic Canada, but Harper has never polled particularly well there to my knowledge.

What gives with this sudden bump of popularity there? Is there something to it or is it just noise? And if so, those results alone - small an overall impact they might be - would change the face of this poll in interesting ways.

I know AR can be on the money at election time - on final result and all - but I always find them a bit suspect at other times. They always seem to be ones who throw out a Harper-friendly poll at the start of parliament or when a particularly sticky mess has cropped up, if not the result itself but in how they choose the angle on the topic they're polling at the time.

It just makes me always squint a bit when I see their polls.

sjw said...

" this poll as an outlier is Atlantic Canada."

A 35% showing for the NDP? That seems rather high. Really high actually. I would suspect that the Nova Scotian poll respondents, coming on the heels of electing their first NDP government, skewed those numbers at the expense of the Liberals. That won't hold. Jack Layton isn't anymore popular down here than Stephen Harper is.

Steve V said...

The Atlantic Canada small sample has a huge margin of error. Every once and a while a pollster gets a real dud there, this is clearly one of them. I don't take it seriously for a second, the Liberals have polled consistently well, pretty much since the last election. Nothing to see there.


The funny thing is, if you bothered to look, the NDP are down in Ontario in this poll, it's mostly just artificial inflation from the warped AC numbers. But anyways, another "juggernaut" for sure :)

People think it's just partisan spin, but they seem to forget I also expressed much worry about the NDP last election, after Outremont, say real potential for "toe holds". Now that I see real potential problems, especially where it matters most, it's simply Liberal speak. Unless something drastic happens, I see the NDP losing seats in the next election and I'd be willing to put my money where my Liberal mouth is :) Last election was a high water mark, you simply don't have the same fertile ground, not to mention the stale message. "Real" opposition sounds great, this and that about confidence votes, but really all voters see is a kneejerk, counterproductive, increasingly marginalized party, led by a guy who is on the decline. Oh, and you won't be outspending the Liberals next election, nor will it be max money

Demosthenes said...

The problem, Steve, is that Ignatieff should be out in front. He's still mostly undefined (and what definition is out there should be positive) and Harper should be wearing the economic malaise. He shouldn't be anywhere near as negative and vulnerable as he is.

Besides, the Tories tend to do better than their pre-election polling thanks to their superior GOTV and identification machine, much like the Republicans. If it's "even", they're placed to end up well ahead in any real foreseeable election.

Anonymous said...

According to this Angus Reid poll, the NDP is at 17% in Ontario. In the last election they had 18% - that's hardly what anyone would call a real decline. So all you Liberals can have tantrum after tantrum and pound your fists against a brick wall until they bleed - to no avail. The NDP will get at least 18% once again and if Ignatieff ever EVER wants to be PM - he will just have to accept the fact that the NDP will demand cabinet seats and major policy concessions. Period. Accept our terms or face political death.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how much I trust this poll. It has the Cons way ahead in Atlantic Canada... which makes no sense.

h/t Canada News Desk


Steve V said...


It's a bizarre result for sure.


I don't know if he really should be out front. An opposition leader doesn't best a sitting PM, it's the nature of the dynamic. What you want is to be close heading into a campaign. Don't forget, Harper was way behind Martin in 2006 prior to the election, his numbers well back.

Ideally, I'd like to see Ignatieff close on economic questions, then when the platform comes out he can give a credible alternative presentation. On the best PM score, where he is now is quite good actually. I'd also add, if you compare Ignatieff's numbers to his predecessor, they look absolutely outstanding.


More mindless blah, blah, blah. You're not paying attention.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why people are so fixated on what this poll says about Atlantic Canada. Its a national poll of 1,000. That means that about 80 people would be in Atlantic Canada. To tell you the truth, in ANY of the polls we see reported, the regional subsamples outside of Ontario and to a lesser exten Quebec are the only ones that are robust enough to be worth attention to. I tend to think that all these regional skews even out at the national level. For reason some of you are fixated on the NDP and Tories being way up in Atlantic. In the recent past, I've seen equally absurd findings like the Liberals being in a dead heat with Tories in Man/Sask. Doeas anyone believe that?

Rule number 1: thou shalt resist temptation to look at regional breakdowns and shall only look at the national numbers!

Steve V said...


Where the regionals, beyond Ont and Que, can be useful, is taking them in totality. Even with small sample sizes, if you see certain consistent dynamics, you tend to see it as accurate. For instance, every poll in the last year shows the Libs leading in AC, with the exception of a couple, this one being the most extreme. So, you turf the outlier, but you can read something into the sheer mass, margin of error aside.

RuralSandi said...

When has an opposition leader ever been out front?

Steve V said...


Anonymous said...

That's not quite true. Robert Stanfield was polling ahead of Pearson in 1967 and that was part of what Pearson quit. Mulroney was polling ahead of Trudeau in 1983/84 and that was part of what made Trudeau quit. Chretien was polling ahead of Mulroney in 1991/92/93 and that was part of what made Mulroney quit.

Steve V said...

Are you talking leaders or parties?? Can you provide some evidence of the leadership angle if you are.

Steve V said...

I know Mulroney's Cons were 28% behind the Liberals in the last poll before he quit.

Anonymous said...

There comes a point in time when a sitting PM gets so ridiculously unpopular that its not just that his party is behind - he is also personally behind the leader of the opposition on the question of "Best PM". For example, Bob Rae was way behind the Liberal and Tory leaders as "best Premier" for Ontario in 1995. Dosanjh was behind Campbell as Best premier of BC in 2001 before his party was annhilated. In the recent Nova Scotia election, Darrell Dexter had been leading Rodney MacDonald as Best Premier of NS for the past year or two.

All that being said, the leadership numbers are a bit of a lagging indicator. Dalton McGuinty was way behind Eves as best premier and still won in 2003. Joe Clark managed to beat Trudeau in 1979 despite being wayyyyy behind him on any measure of personal popularity. I believe that Tony Blair was ahead of John Major as Best PM in the lead up to the 1997 UK election and Kevin Rudd was way ahead of John Howard before winning the Australian election.

The only think I pay attention to is what people think of Harper. The Tories will lose if he becomes unpopular - what people think of the opposition parties are not that important.