Assessment of the Trudeau Government at Year End

Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson


Across the country, 42% approve of the performance of the Trudeau government, and 39% disapprove. Approval is down 3 points since November while disapproval is up five points. Since March 2018, the government’s approval rating has hovered between 42% and 45% with disapproval ranging from 34% to 41%.

The national numbers conceal crucial regional differences. In Alberta, disapproval runs at 57%; in most other parts of the country, it is well below 50% including in BC, Ontario, and Quebec.

The government’s performance is viewed positively by 60% of those who identify on the left of the spectrum and 39% of those in the centre. Only one in four of those on the right side of spectrum approve of the Trudeau government’s performance.

In the 78 swing ridings that were won by margins of 5% or less in the last election, approval is 41%, disapproval is 40%. In those seats, in 2015, the Liberals won 37% of the vote followed by the Conservatives at 29% and the NDP at 23%.


We asked people to describe their feelings about the performance of the government on 12 separate topics. Here’s what the results revealed:

• In all cases, a majority of respondents judged the government’s performance as either good or acceptable.

• Poor and very poor ratings ranged from a low of 28% on gender issues to highs of 43%-49% on immigration, deficits, handling tax dollars and the TMX pipeline. It is worthwhile to bear in mind that roughly 60% of this sample did not vote Liberal in 2015.

• The strongest positives for Mr. Trudeau were for representing Canada internationally, gender issues, the personal values he brings to the job, climate change policy, his dealing with Donald Trump, and his handling of NAFTA.

• Ratings for the government’s handling of the TMX pipeline reflect an unusual alignment of anti-pipe and pro-pipe voters. Poor ratings are offered by 42% of those on the left, and 55% of those on the right.

In looking to see what has changed over time, we compared results with a similar battery asked in March of 2016.

We see that Mr. Trudeau’s ratings for handling the economy have not changed all that much. His negatives on handling the deficit have inched upwards and his positive ratings have shifted down by 9 points

On all of the other items tracked back to 2016, Mr. Trudeau’s negatives have risen by 17 to 19 points.


Examining some of the other linkages in our study reveals that disapproval of the Trudeau government is not only a function of policy evaluations but is linked to negative opinions towards the news media, gay people, people of colour, Muslims. Disapproval of the Trudeau government is higher among people who hold the following views:

• 10 points higher among those who say abortion should be against the law
• 14 points higher among those who say being gay is a choice that should be discouraged
• 17 points higher among those who think the news media is the enemy of the people of Canada
• 19 points higher among those who “fed up with all the emphasis on promoting women’s interests”.
• 24 points higher among those who think Canada would be better off if it was more white
• 25 points higher among those who say Canada would be better off if there were no Muslims here


According to Bruce Anderson: “Overall assessments of the Trudeau government have deteriorated from early measurements in the honeymoon months right after the election of 2015.

At the same time, in most parts of the country and on most issues, dissatisfaction levels are below 50% suggesting that a fair number of voters who didn’t vote for this government are not particularly unhappy with what they have seen.

The most challenging issues for the government are immigration, deficits, spending and it also appears that the TM pipeline issue is creating friction for the government on both the left and the right.

An interesting signal for Liberal election planners is that the government is well regarded among self-identified left of centre voters, but opinion is more mixed among the broad swath of voters who consider themselves centrists.

Finally, it is clear that some of whatever antipathy there is to Mr. Trudeau has something to do with deeper social tensions.

The Prime Minister is particularly disliked among those who would prefer a white Canada, with no Muslims, less emphasis on women’s interests, less acceptance of homosexuality. He is harshly viewed by those who would like a Canadian Trump and who see the media as the enemy of the people.

We will put out more data on these social divisions in the days to come, but it is worth noting that these views, while the minority, are held by more than a tiny fraction of the population: 27% say the media is the enemy of the people, 25% say Canada would be better off with no Muslims, 22% say Canada would be better off if it was more white, 19% say abortion should be against the law.”

According to David Coletto: The Trudeau government’s approval numbers have deteriorated in the final month of the year after seeing some improvement over the summer and into the fall months.

Negative assessments of the PM’s performance have increased most two high profile areas: climate change policy and the way the PM has represented Canada internationally.

We know from previous research that the Prime Minister’s trip to India had a seriously negative impact on his ratings in this area. While they have recovered somewhat, they are still far from what we found in March 2016.

But when it comes to climate change policy, his negative assessments have doubled.

Looking closer at who disapproves of the PM’s climate policy, surprisingly, it’s not just Conservative supporters. In fact, only 53% of current Conservative supporters feel the PM is doing a poor job on climate change and greenhouse gases. One in three NDP supporters and 46% of Green Party supporters also think he’s performing poorly on the file.

Looking at it another way, 68% of those who think the PM is doing poorly on climate change also think climate change is a crisis that demands action and among those group, 58% support either the Liberal, New Democratic, BQ, or Green parties.

As much as he’s received pushback by those who might want him to do less, or at least oppose the federal government’s carbon pricing policy, there are many who also feel he and the government have not done enough on the issue.

Going into 2019, the Trudeau government will need to find a way to keep its progressive and environmentalist coalition together while attracting those in the centre that are looking for a policy approach that is measured and reasonable on issues around climate, economic and fiscal management, and cost of living.”


Our survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from December 13 to 18, 2018. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.


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