Monday, September 14, 2009

Taking A Hit

Nanos provides some pretty sobering numbers for Ignatieff. A moment in time, I get the "reaction" effect, but those gaps are something I wouldn't gloss over:
The most trustworthy leader

National (n=1,002)

Stephen Harper: 31%
Michael Ignatieff: 14%
Jack Layton: 14%
Gilles Duceppe: 8%
Elizabeth May: 8%
None of them/Undecided: 25%
The most competent leader

National (n=1,002)

Stephen Harper: 36%
Michael Ignatieff: 20%
Jack Layton: 11%
Gilles Duceppe: 7%
Elizabeth May: 2%
None of them/Undecided: 24%
The leader with the best vision for Canada’s future

National (n=1,002)

Stephen Harper: 32%
Michael Ignatieff: 20%
Jack Layton: 15%
Gilles Duceppe: 4%
Elizabeth May: 4%
None of them/Undecided: 25%
Leadership Index Score

Stephen Harper: 99
Michael Ignatieff: 54
Jack Layton: 40
Gilles Duceppe: 19
Elizabeth May: 14

In an election campaign, leadership numbers are key. I subscribe to the notion that the opposition leader must be within striking distance or on par with a sitting PM for his party to win an election. Without that dynamic, the task is almost herculian. This is clearly a snapshot, I would expect some narrowing when everybody calms down, but that doesn't diminish that these are BAD gaps, those are "lose election by a good margin" gaps.

Harper is doubling Ignatieff on some measure, which is something we haven't seen prior. The Liberals are taking the full brunt of this election backlash, Canadians clearly aren't pleased with Ignatieff's stance. Whether that is fleeting remains to be seen, but it is serious, and people should take heed.

What does this say about the dueling ads? I'm not sure if you can sift through the election anger to get a read, but at the same time there's no evidence of "warmth" developing, the opposite in fact.

I take findings like this to heart, in the sense that you should treat them seriously, understand why Ignatieff is tanking, Harper looking formidable. In that way, rather than reacting comfortably, you address in a forceful way. These numbers blow. Discuss.


In the pdf, he last asked the same questions in April, so it's a large gap in between. The numbers are slightly less informative when you use those as a backdrop, a few points difference, but that's hardly the point in the grand scheme.


Möbius said...

I normally don't subscribe to the "early-election-backlash" theories, since I've only seen it come true for David Peterson.

I think it may be coming true again. Have we ever had elections this close together before?

Unknown said...

pretty scary when Harper is considered trustworthy...worse when he has a vision for Canada.
However, if the election is not imminent it gives Ignatieff time to put across his message.

Steve V said...

It's not the backlash that concerns me, that's natural, it's whether it sticks. I still think once a campaign starts and we get into the issues, it fades quickly. The only caveat to that, is this like a watershed moment for the public where this will be a central issue throughout. I'd concede, it's hard to say now, and my previous reliance on past examples might not apply. Tricky one for sure.

DL said...

You start hoping that Layton's pulls everyone's chestnuts out of the fire and helps avoid an election this fall.

Honestly, I firmly believe that contrary to a lot of the "conventional wisdom" out there - it is better for the opposition to have an election postponed to early 2010. I think that instead of the there being a winter of tons of good economic news, what's more likely to happen is that we get more evidence of a double dip recession and/or a jobless recovery. Better to defeat the Tories on their budget next year when they will be forced to either bring in another MASSIVE deficit or make some very unpopular cuts etc...

A Eliz. said...

What is the matter with people? Michael is not doing much better than Dion. Harper is none of these things, and should not be getting such high marks. I heard one nice thing..made me feel good....... People with more of an education, tend to vote Liberal.

Steve V said...

Nanos last asked the same batch of questions in April. I put the pdf in the update. It's slightly less devasting, using those as comparison. I would really be curious if he asked "best PM", because he last asked that a month ago, and Harper held a slim 4% lead- that's a number I would take to a campaign with full confidence.

Steve V said...


There is some similarity now, although a question of degree. The one difference, Layton isn't near as popular on these scores as he was with Dion, which is a factor election wise.

DL said...

I guess the disturbing thing from a Liberal perspective is that in the Spring Ignatieff was largely unknown so you could make the excuse that people simply didn't know him. Now he has had more time for people to get to know him - and it doesn't seem to be doing him much good. I have to say (and please believe me when I say that I'm trying to be objective) that Ignatieff's performance during question period today was pretty abysmal.

Steve V said...


So people got to know him over the summer? That's what your saying? No, I think people still don't know him, and we actually realize that fact- that's the whole thrust of these ads, to introduce the guy.

These numbers are concerning, but Ignatieff isn't cemented just yet, so there is room. If you ask a fair question, it says something. Is Michael Ignatieff a known quantity? I think most people would say no. The real danger though, can you get him "over" in a short campaign?

DL said...

so are you praying that there won't be a snap election?

Steve V said...

You might recall, before this Ignatieff declaration, I said the optimal scenario would be for Parliament to go for a few weeks, let us build up "a lather" before we moved. I'm still good with now, if that's the scenario, but that was always my "chess" choice. This stuff is more fuel for that initial logic.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's wise to take these impressions to heart.

You know I get accused of being a cheerleader these days as well ;), but here's my honest take.

Ignatieff was wrong to allow the meme that he was "gone all summer" to take hold. Even if it wasn't true, it was there. He should have come to Ottawa or Toronto and scheduled time to talk to reporters if that's what it took, but as it was the meme festered.

Now people who either read about - or caught wind - of those stories are wondering where the election talk all came from. I think its unsettling.

I still think the stance the Liberals took is absolutely the right one. And despite what DL says, I still think an election now would be just fine.

Continue to the course they've set now, and have Michael be the opposition leader. But no more disappearing acts - real or simply perceived. Remain an active presence before the media - and thus the people - building that competing vision of how Liberals would manage the business of governing Canada, with contract to Harper at every opportunity.

Fill in those blanks, even if an election gets pushed back.

Personally, I'd still like there to be an election now. But if the liberals aren't propping Harper up anymore, and the NDP decides to for a bit, that's fine to. It doesn't change what Ignatieff and the Libeals need to do to continue introducing Ignatieff to the public and to build a competing party vision.

Anonymous said...

Paragraph 6 - "contract" should have been "contrast"


Anonymous said...

The last thing I will add is this polling period commenced immediately in the aftermath of Ignatieff's announcement that the Liberals would no maintain confidence in the Harper government. So the poll does capture the full impact of those first few days after that announcement.

Granted the polling continued until the 11th so I agree completely with the note of caution. But it is also worth noting the likely impact of the immediate shock waves emanating from the rather surprising announcement.

The point being is this polling wasn't happening in a typical time frame. I would expect a bit of "the devil you know" feedback coming across in those first few days of polling.

The caution IS warranted - see my first novel ;). But I thought it was worth pointing out the dates of the polling period.

rockfish said...

There's a lot of water damage in these numbers from the CONs negative ads bleeding through, along with the blowback from all the 'there's going to be an election' fooforah.
Perceptions can change but when even the reportage/commentary from the 5th estate wrongly suggests that its Ignatieff thrusting us towards an election, it's hard to get a headwind in the sails.
I dare say tho i don't read these numbers as cryptically as most, however. Harper is good at shielding his heavy faults with a one- and two-button step when he stands, but the self-serving flab is still there. We need to keep harping on how making parliament work has been what we've done the past 4 years ... Besides an illegal election meant to catch Canadians off guard, there is no more reasons to have faith in this government.
But I still haven't seen a live Liberal ad yet, either. I don't watch as much TV as I use to but it seems every few days there's ol' negative again.

Unknown said...

Where was Ignatieff this summer? I think it was a lost opportunity, especially since Canada's economy was in the toilet and he could have been drumming that point home.
His handlers should be gone....its all about marketting and obviously, they are not doing their jobs.
As much as I like him, I am not sure he has what it takes to ignite the electorate. God, he is losing ground to a piece of shoe-leather!

Gayle said...

I do not think any of this matters. According to Bob Fife the NDP will support Harper at least up to next spring - so long as Harper is nice to Layton.

At that point no one is going to care about "who" caused the election. It gives Ignatieff time to get himself out there.

Gayle said...

Or maybe it just gives Canada time to get comfortable with him... :)

Unknown said...

hmmm...I just don't think he has it. I think he would have made a great foreign affairs minister, he has the knowledge...but I am not sure he has it for leader.
I hope you are correct Gayle...but I fear you are not.

Anonymous said...


I appreciate your concerns . . . truly.

But I think you may be taking this a bit too harshly.

The reality is most Canadians really aren't set in their opinions on Ignatieff. You act as if there has been some final verdict already rendered.

Just don't let your fears get the best of you. These are still early days for the public impressions of Ignatieff.

I think the work is underway now to move things in the right direction. Ignatieff finally looks like a true opposition leader.

I still tend to think the big early hit really came from not pulling the plug in June, when things were seemed to be moving in that direction.

If anything, I think the efforts now will pay off as things proceed - election or not this fall.

Unknown said...

maybe...but Michael has had a year to differentiate himself from Harper and demonstrate his abilities as a leader and our next PM. While I believe he would make a great PM....he does not have to win me over. We need to make inroads in Ontario and Quebec. Despite Harper's complete incompetence with the issues which have faced the people of Ontario, he is still seen as the better PM. Oh my...we have issues.
He was absent this summer, heard squat-all...big mistake. That is bad handling.
We have time, so get the right people and get out us your intellect and abilities. The recent ads go a long way, quiet, confident and us more. No rhetoric, just sound statements and strong policy.

penlan said...

rockfish said:

"There's a lot of water damage in these numbers from the CONs negative ads bleeding through..."

He's absolutely right. Those "Just Visiting" ads have really made an impact on the public psyche. I was talking with one of my brothers yesterday & he is a true blue Conservative. He's not a political junkie but he pays attention.

He told me he dislikes Harper & many of the other Cons (surprised me) but he dislikes Ignatieff even more. Why? He said "because he's (MI) an opportunist." He had considered possibly voting
Liberal in the next election, which would have been a first, but won't because of this perceived "opportunist" slant which has come straight from the incessant pushing of this meme by the Cons. So this IS impacting deeply. It should not be ignored by the Party & I truly think there needs to be some continual heavy-hitting back from the Libs on this.

Joseph said:

"Ignatieff was wrong to allow the meme that he was "gone all summer" to take hold. Even if it wasn't true, it was there. He should have come to Ottawa or Toronto and scheduled time to talk to reporters if that's what it took, but as it was the meme festered."

Agreed! I was shocked recently to discover Liberal Board members as well as many members of the Party in my riding had also bought this meme hook, line & sinker. So what is the average voter expected to think when our own supporters believe it too? This can't be allowed to continue. Ignatieff needs to be front & centre & out there in the medias face constantly.

Jerry Prager said...

Funny that poll because if you go to Nanos you also get a Tuesday September 15 poll that says "Harper Re-election Question: 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%"

ottlib said...

I would remind everybody that going into the 2006 election Mr. Martin had huge double digit leads on all of these questions. Mr. Harper had never even come close to Mr. Martin before that election.

At the time Mr. Harper was much better known than Mr. Ignatieff is now because Mr. Harper had gone through the 2004 election.

By the end of that election Mr. Harper was coming out on top on all of these questions.

Warren Kinsella, also points out that Kim Campbell had huge leads on these questions over Jean Chretien in 1993. We all know how that turned out.

The simple facts in politics is that in between elections the imcumbant almost always has the best polling numbers. That only changes if something big happens to upset the apple cart, such as a huge scandal.

This is particularly true when you drill down to the individuals of the sitting Prime Minister and the leader of the Official Opposition.

Nothing Mr. Ignatieff does before the next election will change that.

Steve V said...


I don't find that Martin analogy compelling in the least. When the Goodale thing broke, it reversed the election in a seismic way, rarely seen. The polls changed 11% overnight, it brought back every Lib ghost and Harper just stayed out of the way. As for Campbell, that one is goofy too, for obvious reasons.

I'm not in panic mode by any means, but nor would I take any comfort in those examples, because they bear no resemblance to TODAY.

I honestly think you can reverse all this in short order, it's obviously not "firm" by any means. Just a trend that needs to be understood.

DL said...

It is actually pretty standard that anytime you ask about leadership - the incumbent will always lead the challenger - simply because he is there and the challenger is still relatively unknown. I remember the 2003 Ontario election campaign where Ernie Eves had a big lead over Dalton McGuinty on who would make the "best Premier" - but then the Ontario Liberal won the election by a wide margin.

ottlib said...


Bottom line, the incumbant will almost always have the advantage outside of an election campaign. That is just the way it is and there is very little that can be done to change it.

Whether that changes during an election or not depends on the level of desire amongst the electorate for change.

That is what Liberals should be looking at not the leadership numbers.

Incidentally, the desire for change is keenly felt by the incumbant during campaigns which is why there always seems to be a triggering event that causes the polls to move. The incumbant needs to try almost anything to overcome it and usually makes mistake, often just minor ones but they still become that trigger.

Kim Campbell, it was the Chretien ads.

Ernie Eves, it was the kitten eater remark.

For Paul Martin it was the RCMP probe, which is external to the Liberals, but in all likelyhood something else probably would have happened to trigger it later in the campaign if the probe did not. After all the desire for change in 2006 was approaching 70%, the Liberals were desperate and desperate political parties make mistakes.

Steve V said...

I agree on the incumbent advantage. As I've always said, you just have to be within range heading into an election. These numbers are different, the gap is such that it is clearly problematic. Anyways, instinct says some of this is temporary, so I'm not in panic mode.

DL said...

I realize that international comparisons are always problematic, but look at Germany. In the last election Schroeder would beat Merkel on every single leadership indicator by a 3 to 1 margin - yet she managed to eek out a minority win, formed a "grand coalition" and now she leads the new SPD leader by a 3 to 1 margin on every leadership indicator.

penlan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Platty said...

I heard one nice thing..made me feel good....... People with more of an education, tend to vote Liberal.

Can you say Reeeaaaachhiingg for a branch in the roaring rapids?

Too funny....