Federal Politics: Tories and NDP tied at 35%

Federal Politics: Tories and NDP tied at 35%; Justin Trudeau viewed favourably by 50% of Canadians

According to a new national survey from Ottawa-based Abacus Data, the federal Conservative Party and NDP would tie if an election were held at the time of the survey.  Since the last Abacus Political Update in May 2012, public opinion has changed little when it comes to government performance, economic management, and the general direction of the country.

Nationally, the Conservative Party has the support of 35% of decided voters (down 2 since May), followed by the NDP at 35% (unchanged since May), and the Liberal Party at 20% (up 3 since May).  The BQ is at 5% and the Green Party is at 6% nationally.

Regionally, the Conservatives continue to do well in the Prairies (53%) and Alberta (61%).  In Ontario, the gap between the Tories and the NDP widened to six points with the Tories at 37%, the NDP at 31%, and the Liberals at 28%.  British Columbia continues to be one of the most contested regions of the country with the NDP and Tories deadlocked at 39% and 38% respectively.

In Quebec, the NDP continues to maintain a sizeable lead over the BQ with the NDP at 43%, the BQ at 22%, the Conservatives at 17% and the Liberals at 15%.

Along with vote intention, Abacus Data also tracks opinion about the general direction of the country, approval of the federal government, and the favourability of federal party leaders.

  • 39% of Canadians surveyed believed that things in Canada are heading in the right direction while 46% believed things are headed in the wrong track.  This is largely unchanged since May.
    • Quebecers and Atlantic Canadians were most likely to believe the country is headed on the wrong track.
  • The approval rating for the federal government continues its downward trend with 34% saying they approve of the job the federal government led by Stephen Harper is doing and 49% disapproving.  This is a 3-point drop since May and a 6-point drop since January.
  • Evaluations of the government’s performance in managing the Canadian economy have changed very little since May.  Overall, 37% of respondents approved compared with 39% who disapproved.
  • Thomas Mulcair is the only federal leader to have a net favourable impression with 31% saying they have a favourable impression of the NDP leader and 24% saying they have an unfavourable impression. However, his favourable numbers are down five points while his unfavourable are up three since last month.
  • Following his announcement that he would not seek the permanent leadership of the Liberal Party Bob Rae’s personal numbers have rebounded slightly with 26% saying they have a favourable impression (up 4) while 34% said they had an unfavourable impression (down 4)/
  • Prime Minister Harper’s personal numbers are unchanged from May.  Thirty-five percent of respondents said they had a favourable impression compared with 49% who said they have an unfavourable impression of the Conservative Party leader.


Possible Liberal Leadership Candidates

The survey also asked respondents to rate a number of potential candidates for the Liberal Party leadership in terms of favourability.

By far, Justin Trudeau was both the most known and most liked of all the individuals tested.  One in two respondents (50%) said they had a favourable impression of Justin Trudeau compared with 28% who had an unfavourable impression.  Trudeau was viewed favourably by 70% of Liberal Party supporters, 57% of those over 60 years of age, and 62% among NDP supporters.

Marc Garneau was known by over half of respondents with 33% of all respondents saying they had a favourable impression while 23% said they had an unfavourable impression.  Mr. Garneau’s was viewed favourably by 46% of Liberal Party supporters and his was viewed most favourably by Quebec respondents (39%).

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney was viewed favourably by 30% of respondents and unfavourably by 18%.  His strengths lie among men (39% favourable) and Ontario respondents (36% favourable).

Other candidates were relatively less known with all having net unfavourable impressions among those aware of them.  Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary, was strongest in Alberta (46% favourable) and among younger Canadians (22% favourable) while Gerard Kennedy was viewed most favourably by Ontario residents (25% favourable).  Dominic LeBlanc was most known in Atlantic Canada and viewed most favourably by Atlantic Canadians (37% favourable).

National Post columnist Andrew Coyne was viewed favourably by 15% of respondents and unfavourably by 21% nationally.

Ballot Question with Trudeau as Liberal Leader

When respondents were asked how they would vote if Justin Trudeau was Liberal Party leader, the results changed considerably from the ballot question asked earlier.

Nationally, 33% of decided voters would vote Conservative while 32% would vote Liberal.  The NDP would receive 24% of the vote while the BQ and Greens would receive 5% and 3% respectively.

In this hypothetical situation, the Liberals would lead among women (Liberal 37%, CPC 29%), in Ontario (Liberal 39%, CPC 34%), and would be competitive with the Conservatives in BC (Liberal 29%, CPC 39%).  Most striking is that among those aged 60 and over, the Liberals and the Conservatives would be tied with 36% of decided voters each.

Much of the hypothetical Liberal gains under a Trudeau leadership would come from NDP supporters.  The survey found that 28% of respondents who said they would vote NDP under current circumstances would switch and vote Liberal if Trudeau was Liberal leader.  Nine percent of Tory voters would switch while 10% of Liberal supporters would vote for another party if Trudeau were to become leader.


The Bottom Line

The June 2012 Abacus Political Update finds that Canada’s political landscape looks very similar to that found in May.  Despite the intense debate about the omnibus budget bill and a number of other challenges faced by the Conservative government, vote intentions have changed very little in the past 30 days.

The Conservatives and the NDP remain deadlocked.  The Conservatives remain strong in the prairies and in Ontario while the NDP maintains a large lead in Quebec.

The Harper Government continues to polarize the country with about one in two Canadians disapproving of the government’s performance and one third approving.  In fact, the percentage of Canadians who strongly disapprove of the government out numbers those who strongly approve by almost three to one.

But underlying the stability in the top-of-line numbers is a profoundly unstable electorate.

When the hypothetical scenario of a Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau is presented to respondents, about 16% of decided voters changed their vote intention to another party with the Liberals picking up the bulk of the switching voters.  This represents a substantially volatile electorate and indicates that until a new Liberal leader is elected, the outlook and starting point for the next federal election remains in flux.

Currently, Justin Trudeau is viewed favourably by one in two Canadians.  His personal popularity is significantly higher than any other federal leader and possible Liberal leadership candidate we tested.  Awareness of Mr. Trudeau is very high and he does very well with groups the Liberals have had a difficult time attracting support: seniors and Quebec residents.

The Member of Parliament for Papineau could be a game changer if he decides to run and wins the Liberal leadership.

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From June 20 to 23, 2012, Abacus Data Inc. conducted an online survey among 1,008 randomly selected Canadian adults from an online panel of over 150,000 Canadians.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability-based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.  The margin of error for a survey of 1,008 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

Results of the survey were statistically weighted by gender, age, region, language, and immigration status using census data from Statistics Canada and by past vote using Elections Canada results from the 2011 General Election. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

These questions were posed as part of the Abacus Data monthly omnibus survey.