Ottawa Sun: Love ’em or hate ’em

December 16, 2010

Federal Conservatives’ brand the strongest, but most divisive: Poll

By DAVID AKIN, QMI Agency

Those who love ’em, love ’em a lot.

But those who don’t like the federal Conservative Party really, really, really don’t like them.

A new poll out Thursday says that, among other things, the brand associated with the Conservative Party of Canada is a strong one.

It is the most polarizing in Canadian politics, a double-edged sword for Stephen Harper and his Conservative colleagues who, on the one hand, can count on a fiercely loyal army of supporters at election time but, on the other, have a steep challenge in finding enough new votes among the hostile “non-Conservatives” in Canada to form a majority government.

Those hostile non-Conservatives say the Conservative brand is most closely associated with the following statement: “Out of touch with ordinary people,” “Will promise anything to win votes,” “Too dominated by its leader” and “extreme.” But those Canadians who already call themselves Conservatives are pretty darn proud of a brand that, they say, is best identified with the following statements: “Understands the problems facing Canada,” “Has sensible policies” and “Has a good team of leaders.”

This new research is from an Ottawa-based market research firm called Abacus Data Inc. — a new kid on the polling block trying to establish a name in a crowded field with the likes of Leger Marketing, Decima/Harris, Ekos, Ipsos Reid and others.

Abacus CEO David Coletto, who just collected his doctorate in political science from the University of Calgary earlier this year, said he wanted to go beyond the ballot-question numbers to get a better sense of how Canadians perceived the federal political parties.

(His ballot-question result, published last week, is broadly similar to four other polls just out, though Abacus had the Liberals further back than most and nearly tied with the NDP: The Tories were at 35%, the Liberals at 24%, and the NDP at 20%.)

So Coletto’s firm asked 1,361 Canadians who they voted for in the last election and then, once he separated everyone according to their political stripes, gave each panellist a list of 16 statements and asked them to match up each statement with a particular political party.

The pollster says the survey, taken from Dec. 3 to 6, is accurate to within 2.7% 19 times out of 20.

Coletto says his firm’s research indicates that, love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no confusion about what the Conservative brand stands for — or the NDP, for that matter. Whether you support the NDP or not, its brand under Jack Layton has come to be associated with being concerned with those in need in Canada, Abacus said.

Abacus finds the Liberal brand to be the weakest of the federal brands largely, Coletto says, because of internal party turmoil over issues like support for the Afghanistan mission and the long-gun registry.

“Canadians outside of Ottawa see what is going on, and it is hurting the Liberal brand,” Coletto said.

The Bloc Quebecois, on the other hand, are riding at 40% in Quebec polls because its brand proposition is crystal-clear to both supporters and non-supporters, namely that it “defends the interests of people in my province.” Still, if the BQ’s opponents want to steal some of that party’s soft support, they’ll want to play on the negative brand image Abacus found among non-supporters that the Bloc is “extreme” and “out of touch with ordinary people.”

david.akin@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @davidakin


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