Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Change" In The Air?

I'm on record, arguing that this "majority" argument from the Conservatives, in the name of stability, is a very risky affair for them. A new NANOS survey tends to support this thesis. Rather than an appetite for more Harper rule, and a strengthened one at that, it appears an element of "change" is in the air:

Harper Re-election Question: [Rotate] Some people think that Stephen Harper has done a good enough job to deserve re-election. Others think that he has had his chance and it is time for a change. Which of these two opinions best reflects your personal view?

Time for a change 58.5%
Deserves re-election 31.9%
Unsure 9.5%

Interestingly, Harper doesn't even attain a plurality in the "Prairies", ever region of the country would prefer "change". The numbers are most pronounced where the Liberals need it, Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario, strong support in British Columbia. I don't sense a "kick the bums out" sentiment with the electorate, at least not by historic standards. However, the Harper government doesn't enjoy widespread support, they are clearly vulnerable- there is a latent unease that can be exploited. The question doesn't even ask the "majority" angle, which makes the new Conservatives strategy floated even more suspect.

Nanos also finds Canadians warming to the idea of minority governments, another signal that Harper might be misfiring on his stronger mandate argument:
Impression of a Minority Government Question: Is your overall impression of a minority government situation positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative or negative?

Positive 18.5%
Somewhat positive 35.4%
Somewhat negative 21.4%
Negative 15.9%
Unsure 8.8%

Given all the frustration with frequent elections, beyond that unending speculation, I admit some surprise that the negative impressions aren't higher. These weak numbers might be a statement on the alternative, and that doesn't bode well for the Conservatives. This sentiment also leaves room for the Liberals to argue that the minority option doesn't translate into a coalition arrangement, all that is required is some sense of co-operation without formal arrangements. Taken further, if we do head to the polls, and a desire emerges for co-operation, Liberals can make the argument that Harper has proven himself to be an obstacle in that regard- he "doesn't play well with others" can resonate.

Harper benefits from a divided opposition, but there should be some concern that almost 2 to 1 Canadians prefer "change" over Harper. There is an emerging pre-election narrative developing, and this poll speaks to the growing conversation about the nature of our government. While the economy is sure to be center stage, this whole debate about majorities, minorities, who can bring stability, who has the capacity to reach out and provide good government, this issue could be the 1A consideration. The preamble with the media suggests this will all be on the table, and from the Liberal perspective I would welcome it on balance, primarily because there is no striking downside. Unless the Liberals flop badly during the campaign, the notion of majority will evaporate, and if a "change" sentiment develops around the idea of stability, obviously we stand to gain and have the potential to siphon off other support. Harper vs Ignatieff on these questions, I love our chances and would actually be proactive to putting the discussion on the front burner.


Anonymous said...

Those are really damning numbers for Tories and I hope that Harper spends the whole campaign running a fear-based campaign against an opposition coalition - that way it will give any potential coalition government even MORE legitimacy because Canadians will have elected an opposition majority in the face of a Tory attempt to whip up hysteria against it.

I'll be very curious to see how Count Chocula responds to any questions about post-election permutations. Probably the best thing is to say nothing. If he is too categorical in either ruling out or ruling in a coalition - he is asking for trouble.

Steve V said...

I might take your insight more seriously if you left out the grade two Ignatieff reference. Or, maybe if it was actually clever...

Tomm said...


Interesting post and thoughtful analysis.

I agree that there is a Liberal narrative here and one that Ignatieff could personally champion.

There are two obvious unknowns, the strength of the issue with the voters, and whether the CPC will lob the ball back with talk of a C majority vs. coalition/cooperation majority. But if it has voter resonance and the CPC are willing to engage on this issue for their own purposes, there is certainly the chance Ignatieff could lead the wave.

There is one obvious concern, if successful, and that is a decreased voter share for the CPC doesn't do anything but spread the vote around due to regional strengths of different "coalition" parties.

If there is an election, I will watch for this.

Anonymous said...

It tracks the Best-PM numbers in other polls. Goes to show why Harper is screaming about no-election-now every chance he gets.

The Pariries could be a MoE thing, sample size is rather small. Still, it's intriguing. I guess all the job losses and collapse in agricultural commodity prices are having an impact.

Anonymous said...

Until Nanos releases his polling techniques he will be considered a fraud.

Last election he was 18 points off on the Ontario numbers.

Nanos is a liberal.

Plain and Simple.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12: 10 - it had been confirmed a while back that Nanos is conservative leaning by Kady O'Malley.

Your stupidity is to be pitied.

Steve V said...

Dumb and you can't add. Umm, he had the Liberal vote identical the last two night poll released, Cons off by 5%. Harper's base, STUPID and IGNORANT.

ottlib said...

Anon 12:10

Go to the Nanos website and you will be able to find his polling techniques.

Don't blame Mr. Nanos for your laziness and stupidity.

As for being a Liberal, Nick Nanos was the in-house pollster for the Sun Group of newspapers for years. That is one media organization that would not hire a Liberal to do their polling.

I really cannot say anything about his political leanings and I really do not care. I find he is the one pollster in the country that actually still has some ethics. I have seen him crank his estimates before but most of the time he lets the estimates do the talking instead of using them to "prove" a preconceived narrative.

As for the desire for change I am wondering if the media will take hold of it with as much gusto as they took hold of the polls saying the same thing about Paul Martin. During his tenure every poll asked that question and the media talked about nothing else.

It would only be fair they did the same thing in this instance but I am not holding my breath.

RuralSandi said...

I read Jeffrey Simpson and Jane Taber today and looks to me like CTV is putting the pressure on. Taber wasn't a surprise, because all she does is talk drivel, but Simpson - the old where's Iggy nonsense?

Steve V said...


That Liberal hack really called Martin's defeat in 2006, didn't he? They boggle the mind.

bigcitylib said...

Whats with Don Martin's "Ipsos says Tories at 40% column"?

Anonymous said...

This could be an online poll. Don't think Canwest can afford the regular ones.