Party Leadership: Layton soars, Ignatieff jumps, Harper sticks.

An election campaign provides voters with an opportunity to take a good look at the federal political party leaders.  With two weeks to go in the campaign, Ottawa-based polling firm Abacus Data asked Canadians how they felt about the leaders.

Overall, NDP Leader Jack Layton is by far the most favoured federal leader in Canada.  Fifty-eight percent of respondents (58%) said they had a favourable impression of Layton, a 20-percentage point increase from the start of the campaign.  Eighteen percent said they were indifferent while 22% said they had an unfavourable impression.

“Jack Layton is the darling of Canadian politics at the moment,” said Abacus Data CEO David Coletto.  “His favourability numbers far exceed the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and yet, his party’s numbers remain around the 20% mark.”

“Most remarkable for Layton is the strength of Layton’s numbers in Quebec – 69% of Quebec respondents said they had a favourable impression compared with only 7% who said they had an unfavourable impression.”

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s favourability has changed very little since the start of the campaign with over one third of respondents (36%) saying they had a favourable impression and 56% saying they had an unfavourable impression of the Prime Minister.

At the end of March, only 24% of Canadians we surveyed said they had a favourable impression of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.  Over three weeks into the campaign, Ignatieff’s favourability score is up 8 points but he still trails both Stephen Harper and Jack Layton.  Three in ten respondents (32%, +8) said they had a favourable impression of Michael Ignatieff while 51% said they had an unfavourable impression.

Regionally, Stephen Harper remains relatively unpopular in Quebec (24% favourability) and among women (30% favourability).  He is strongest ratings come from Conservative voters (90% favourability), Albertans (61% favourability) and men (41% favourability).

Jack Layton does best among supporters of the NDP (93% favourability), among younger Canadians (68% favourability) and among Quebecers (69% favourability).

Michael Ignatieff, while popular among his party supporters, he trails other party leaders with their own supporters (77% favourability).  He is most popular in Ontario (40% favourability) and among Canadians over 60 years of age (38% favourability).  Michael Ignatieff receives low favourability scores from immigrant Canadians (24% favourability).

“The party leader favourability ratings help to explain what we are seeing in the vote intention numbers,” said Coletto.  “Both the Liberal and Conservative parties are handicapped by the unpopularity of their leaders while the NDP cannot seem to take advantage of Layton’s popularity.

Download the report here.

Between April 11 and 15, 2011, Abacus Data Inc. conducted an online survey among 1,005 randomly selected Canadian adults from an online panel of over 75,000 Canadians. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is comparable to +/- 3.2%, 19 times out of 20.

Results of the survey were statistically weighted by gender, age, region, immigrant status, and education using census data from Statistics Canada and by past vote using Elections Canada results from the 2008 General Election. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.