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This article was published 20/10/2014 (2524 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Can Justin Trudeau and his Liberals form the next federal government?
Polls suggest the federal Liberals have been picking up steam since the arrival of Trudeau. But can the Liberals defeat the Conservatives, hold off the NDP and form the next government of Canada? Our recent evidence from two online post-provincial-election surveys administered to Quebecers in the fall of 2012 and more recently in the spring of 2014 indicates in Quebec, the Liberals and Trudeau have their work cut out for them.
To start, our findings suggest Trudeau is actually less popular among Quebecers now than he was before he became leader of the Liberal party. Specifically, between the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2014, only one year after taking over as leader of the federal Liberals, Trudeau's average popularity plummeted by half to only 23 points on a scale ranging from 0 (meaning "really dislike") to 100 (meaning "really like").
During this same time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's rating in Quebec increased from 27 to 40 points but the popularity of Trudeau's major competition in Quebec, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, declined significantly from 58 to 29.
So Trudeau is not the only leader who has some work to do to improve his likeability in Quebec. But our evidence suggests he has more heavy lifting to do when it comes to wooing important voter bases such as francophones and non-federalists. And this won't be easy, particularly given perceptions in Quebec of his last name and who his father was.
Then again, things could be even worse without the last name Trudeau. When we asked Quebecers why they think the federal Liberals have been so successful in the polls, 53 per cent said it is "most likely" due to Trudeau's last name, and 45 per cent claimed it is "most likely" because of his "looks and perceived charm." Even more striking still is what many Quebecers did not say: namely that the party's success is "most likely" due to Trudeau's competence, policy proposals and actions, ideas, trustworthiness, vision for the country or his competitors.
These findings are remarkably consistent across different demographic groups, whether French or English, young or old, men or women and they suggest Quebecers have yet to form any substantive bond with the young Trudeau, something he will most likely require as the next federal election approaches and the debate picks up.
In terms of the Liberal party's voter appeal, our evidence is somewhat more positive, but victory on election day is far from guaranteed. Unlike the NDP, the BQ or the Green party, the Liberals have not suffered a significant decline in popularity over the last two years, at least not in Quebec. Nevertheless, as far as party ratings are concerned, the NDP remains the most liked federal party with the Liberals coming in at a close second. Furthermore, the NDP, despite its wounded leader, have a much more generalizable base of voter support than the Liberals. This said, some of the evidence suggests, when compared to the last federal election in 2011, the Liberals are starting to make some inroads, attracting greater voter support from francophones, non-francophones, nationalists, federalists, as well as from all age groups and sexes.
In addition, further comparison of today's voting intentions with voting in 2011 indicates the Liberal party is currently the best-positioned to retain the largest share of its voting base from 2011 relative to the Conservatives. Moreover, the Liberals are currently the most likely to benefit from voters who may defect from the other parties.
Still, the next federal election is a long way away, and a lot can change. For now, it would seem the NDP would benefit most in Quebec from BQ defections. We all remember what happened during the last federal election in Quebec when a small ripple of support for the NDP quickly turned into "the orange wave."
Waning evaluations of the party's new leader may indicate Quebecers are tiring of waiting for Trudeau to provide them with more substantive details about how he plans to govern. And while it is true governing takes some thought, persuading voters to convert their intentions into actual votes will require more than just good looks, charm and a famous last name.
Mebs Kanji is an associate professor in political science at Concordia University in Montreal. Kerry Tannahill is a PhD student in the department.