Polls suggest a federal dead heat

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The results of a couple of large national polls by two of Canada’s most-reputable polling companies were released last week. The results may not be what you expected.

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Opinion

The results of a couple of large national polls by two of Canada’s most-reputable polling companies were released last week. The results may not be what you expected.

Last Thursday, Abacus Data revealed the results of its recent poll under this headline: “Liberals and Conservatives statistically tied as the opinion environment holds steady amid global and domestic shocks.”

Abacus spoke to 2,000 Canadians in early April and found the Liberals enjoy the support of 33 per cent of respondents, with the Conservatives at 31 per cent, the NDP at 18 per cent, the Bloc Quebecois at eight per cent, the People’s Party of Canada at five per cent and the Green Party at four per cent.

Within the poll’s 2.1 per cent margin of error, it confirms the two major parties are statistically tied.

The poll also found that voters’ perception of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to slide, with negative impressions outnumbering positive impressions by a 45 to 36 margin. Just 76 per cent of Liberals view him favorably.

Last Tuesday, the Leger polling company released the results of a poll of 1,538 Canadians conducted between April 8 and 10. In terms of percentage popularity, it found the Liberals have a 31-29 lead over the Conservatives, with the NDP at 21, the BQ at seven, the PPC at six and the Greens at four.

Two large polls of a total of almost 4,000 Canadians, conducted within days of each other, arrived at virtually identical results: the Liberals and Conservatives are tied nationally, with the NDP at its traditional level of support.

Given all the things that have happened over the past few months – including the Ukraine invasion, the Ottawa siege, the Liberal-NDP agreement, rising inflation levels, the sixth wave of COVID-19 and the removal of Erin O’Toole as Conservative Party leader – that’s a surprise.

Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it reflects the deep, apparently durable, political divides that exist in Canada right now. Indeed, the Liberals received 32.6 per cent of votes in last fall’s election, and that support really hasn’t changed. The same goes for the NDP, which received 17.8 per cent last fall, and is still stuck there.

The Conservatives have dropped a couple of points from the 34 per cent they received in the last election, but that is likely because the party is searching for a new leader.

On that issue, the Leger poll asked several questions about the CPC leadership contest. It found Pierre Poilievre and Jean Charest are statistically tied (18-16) among Canadians who had an opinion on the issue, but that Poilievre had a healthy 43-18 lead over Charest among Conservative supporters who had an opinion.

More importantly, the Leger poll found that if Poilievre is the CPC leader, the Liberals would lead by a 32-29 margin nationally. With Charest as Conservative leader, however, the Liberals would lead the Tories by a whopping 32-23 margin.

That’s a huge problem for the Charest leadership campaign, which argues he is the only potential CPC leader who can win the next election. Their campaign slogan is “Built to Win,” but the Leger poll suggests the opposite.

The reality, however, is that none of the candidates for the Conservative Party leadership – not even Poilievre – appears capable of leading their party to victory in the next federal election. Indeed, poll aggregator Canada338.com predicts the Liberals would be on the verge of forming a majority government under the current poll numbers.

Some will argue polls are just snapshots of public opinion and the Liberal-NDP agreement means the next election may not occur until 2025. A lot can change before then, to the Tories’ benefit.

That’s true, but how realistic is it to expect the current level of voter polarization to dissipate anytime soon? Beyond that, do we really expect the increasingly-unpopular Trudeau to lead the Liberals into the next election?

That’s the wild card in this discussion, and something Conservative leadership candidates and their supporters should be worried about.

If none of the CPC leadership candidates has a chance of winning an election against a Trudeau-led Liberal Party, how can they hope to defeat a Liberal Party led by somebody who is more popular than Trudeau, and has none of the political baggage?

deverynrossletters@gmail.com

Twitter: @deverynross

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