The latest rash of polling consistently shows support for the Harper Conservatives on the wane, a very strong NDP alternative. Some polls have the NDP in the lead, others like Abacus show a dead heat. These are heady days for the NDP, no question about it. But, underneath some of the polling, perhaps a cautionary tale, within that ample intellectual room for the "co-operation" argument.
There exists a disconnect between rising disapproval in all things Harper government and support numbers. For the purposes of trends, Abacus begins with a baseline of August 2011. Here we see a 10% erosion in "right direction" numbers for the country. We also see a very concerning 12% rise in disapproval of the Harper government (last August 43% approval/37% disapproval, now 34% approval, 49% disapproval). On the economy, we see a 9% drop in the federal government's handling. Harper's personal numbers see a 1% gap in approval/disapproval last August rise to 14% today, another troubling trend line.
Taken in totality, the numbers are very, very concerning for this government, no doubt about it. However, when we review the party support numbers, we see a more muted picture, which deserves attention. Last August, Abacus had it 38% for the Conservatives, 32% for the NDP and 19% for the Liberals. Today, we see 35% each for the Conservatives and NDP, 20% for the Liberals. In other words, despite abysmal trends for the government, Harper, the Conservatives have only dropped 3%, not even outside the polls margin of error. In addition, the NDP up 3%, Liberals static, fairly minor moves when juxtaposed against the government performance/Harper numbers. I think this an imperative point for those giddy with dreams of conquest, the questions are a bit more complicated moving forward.
The opposition are not fully maximizing the disquiet with this government. Approvals are now SO bad for the Conservatives that we see competition, outright leads, but this reality still hasn't captured the underlying unease, the full price isn't being paid. That the government can still remain tied nationally, despite abysmal numbers, further argument for proponents of co-operation, those that want some agreement that makes "opposition" succinct and efficient. Despite these worrying trends for Harper, we still have a situation where a slight rebound, "less bad" if you will, translates to another mandate, almost absurd on one level.
For those of us who wish the Conservatives no good fortune, these polls are clearly encouraging. However, beyond the headlines and pom poms, there still exists a structural disconnect within the polling that leaves some room for government optimism. To my mind, a shrewd alternative looks for ways to SNUFF out any escape routes.