Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Read The Fine Print

If you read the synopsis of the new Strategic Counsel poll, you would have to conclude it's nothing but roses for the Conservatives, order the champagne. However, if you actually read the numbers, the conclusions look more like spin than reality. First the "expert opinion":
"Don't let the neck-and-neck party standings fool you. After a year and a half in office, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has built up some impressive political capital.

Or, after a year and a half Harper is below his election totals, which resulted in a fragile minority. Or, for the first time since the convention bump, the Liberals are polling at 33%. Don't let voter intention fool you? Hello, where you mark the X is the bottomline, isn't it?

On the right track:
"Nearly six out of 10 Canadians think the country is on the right track."

What the article fails to mention, the 57% right track number is down 4% nationally since last year, 6% in Ontario, 9% in the West. Hardly a trend to suggest Conservative momentum.

Breaking out in Quebec:
Conservatives continue to have the potential to make more gains in Quebec outside Montreal. At this point, the Federal Conservatives are now the federalist party of choice outside Montreal.

A clear example of painting a picture, by playing with the variables. Liberal support is actually up in Montreal since the election, Conservative support down to a concerning 14%. Outside of Montreal, the Liberals are up 3% since the election, Conservatives DOWN 3%.

Some internals might suggest hope, but the simple reality there has been no translation into actual support. In Quebec, the Liberals scored 21% in the election, they now score 24%, while the Cons have dropped to 21% from the 25% in 2006. The poll concludes that the Cons are now the second-choice outside Montreal. In reality, the Cons were the second choice in the election, but that gap has eroded since then- 17% gap with the Liberals in 2006, now down to 11%.

The best part of the poll, the conclusion that Harper is getting traction with Canadians. You may be surprised to learn that the internals show Harper with a higher negative impression, than positive:


positive 27%
neutral 40%
negative 32%


positive 25%
neutral 43%
negative 31


positive 24%
neutral 40%
negative 33%


positive 33%
neutral 40%
negative 24%

Harper's negatives are higher than his positives, which is the best indicator of the leader's support. Harper's negatives are higher everywhere, except the west, with the caveat that the Conservative's support is down significantly in B.C. since the election (-6%). How Strategic Counsel concludes that Harper is making inroads, or the inference that the horserace numbers don't tell the whole story, is absolutely beyond me. If you look at the poll itself, I see very little to crow about for the Conservatives. I wonder if Strategic Counsel is currently bidding for another government polling contract?


Scotian said...

I just read the G&M article you linked with the discussion with Donolo, and I have to say you make a very good case in your post. I don't see this "impressive political capitol" he talks about Harper having built up. If that were so wouldn't his negatives be less and his party numbers better than the tie they have been holding in with the Liberals? Especially after a year and a half spending like drunken sailors with the clearly political motivation of increasing votes and seats for the next election? As you also pointed out the CPC is below their election numbers, and one factor that seems to be ignored is the pattern of sitting governments to score/poll higher between election cycles then actually in them. I know many think it is a Liberal only trend, but how much of that belief is built on the fact that for 13 years the Libs were the government? I don't know for sure that the CPC will be hit with this but it is certainly something that should not be overlooked, especially by so called experts in the field.

You are very wise to have focused on the fine print here Steve V, but then you have shown yourself more than capable of looking past the obvious/surface many times before, it is one of the reasons I like reading and commenting at your blog. Harper is not in as good a position as the article claims, but alas I don't think he is as weak as I would prefer either. This fall is looking to be a very interesting period to watch for we political junkies.

Steve V said...


I think the poll's authors needed a theme and that lead them to pick and choose to paint a picture. If you looked at the poll itself, with no commentary, I don't see how any objective person could reach the same conclusion the SC braintrust did.

Anonymous said...

In the past 2 days there have been 2 pieces in the G&M that solidified their position for me as the official organ of the Harper party.

There was an editorial yesterday essentially praising the Cons for thumbing their nose at Parl't and The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

Now today the completely fabricated spin of this survey.

It will become worse.

Anonymous said...

The number of "unsure" consistently high in the polls - that tells me Harper isn't exactly hitting a home run with Canadians.

Also shows some are waiting to see.

Steve V said...


The funny part, the Con bloggers still have the audacity to talk about the left-wing media, often citing the G and M.

In_The_Centre said...

Steve V

On the flip side, there is plenty for the Conservatives to be happy about as well especially given the terrible month they had in the lead up to the end of parliament.

What the polls indicate is that Harper's problems are centered on perception (like dion), and NOT policy or ideology.

Just like my fellow Liberals like to say that Canadians really don’t know Dion yet, which justifies his low leadership ratings, the Conservatives can say that the large amount of neutral ratings that Harper received means that he has a 50/50 chance of turning them positive. Truthfully, this result doesn’t surprise me.

If I ask most non-politically active people about what they think of Harper, they shrug their shoulders and say “the country seems fine, so he must be doing ok.”

The surprise here is that even though Harper comes off as partisan, controlling etc.....Canadians still feel neutral about him.

My thinking is Harper can only get better at improving his image as he is given more time (again, same with Dion). Im curious to see if we see a different style of leadership come September

I would also tend to think that the analysis of the poll numbers was guided by a strong sense of surprise with this indicator (which didn’t surprise me, as I can safely say that I would consider voting for the CPC even though I have traditionally gone with the LPC):

-“The poll also suggests that Conservative support is less fluid than that of the Liberals. Fifty-five per cent of those who declared themselves Liberal said they would consider switching parties – far more than the 35 per cent of Conservatives who say they could be persuaded to do so.

And most of those Liberals who say they might vote for another party list the Conservatives, not the NDP, as their second choice. That's a reversal from the period before the 2006 election.”

So all in all, nothing greatly positive for either of the two main political parties, but Harper is not finished and as unpopular as most Liblog posters would make you think. Harper and Dion are clones in the sense of the problems they face with the Canadian public. This tends to drive active Liberals nuts when I say that.

In_The_Centre said...

There was an editorial yesterday essentially praising the Cons for thumbing their nose at Parl't and The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

Sorry Dana, but at least 1/3rd of the Liberal Party agrees with the need to throw out Kyoto (mind you,this does not mean that we dont support tough environmental action ie. punitive carbon taxes and 20% reduction of 1990 emissions by 2020)

Steve V said...

"My thinking is Harper can only get better at improving his image as he is given more time (again, same with Dion)."

Apples and oranges. Dion is actually "new", whereas Harper has fought two elections. People aren't warming up to Harper, because frankly there is nothing to warm up too. There is no magic bullet for Harper to re-invent himself, people actually have had plenty of opportunity to form an opinion- in this case indifference. Dion has problems, but it is fair to say Canadians still don't "know" him. Dion still has upside, Harper is Harper.

Anonymous said...

In the centre - so you too are advocating that duly passed Acts of Parl't can be ignored by the government of the moment then?

Because they're "not popular" with some of the members of a political party.

I'll assume it's your education that's lacking and not your integrity.

Anonymous said...

Here's the part of the survey that stands out for me:

"University Graduates Have Issues with the Conservative
Style of Leadership, While Those with Less Education Hold
More Favourable Views"

Voters with a high school education or less (which has been a key target segment
of the government) hold some favourable views of the Harper government. By contrast, university graduates tend to be more critical of this government.
􀂋 In a nutshell, voters with high school or less are more likely to think that the PM cares about them and is somebody they like. Plus, they see the PM as decisive, a
team player, and a visionary. Moreover, they have a great deal of trust in Harper doing the right thing for the country and feel that Harper is a friend to their
province. The Government is also believed to be delivering on its election promises. In addition, this group senses that the Tory government is getting serious about global warming. Finally, they are more likely to be supportive of the government’s approach to Afghanistan.

Still, many less-educated voters report that the government has not accomplished a lot since taking office. Similar to other groups, these voters see Harper’s leadership as controlling and partisan, but not negative. They see the government as being too close to Bush.

By contrast, university graduates are more critical of the PM’s leadership style:
they report that the PM is controlling, partisan, too aligned with George Bush, not a team player, not visionary, doesn’t care about people like themselves, and too right wing. They are also not sure what the government has accomplished and they are not convinced that it is serious about dealing with global warming.