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By David Coletto

If an election were held today, 35% would vote for the Conservative Party, 31% for the Liberal Party, 18% for the NDP, and 7% for the BQ. There have been little change since the end of November.

The Conservatives are ahead in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Conservatives and Liberals are statistically tied in Ontario. In Quebec, the Liberals lead the BQ by 7 points while the Liberals are well ahead in Atlantic Canada.

In Ontario (where we surveyed 1,000 respondents), the Liberals lead the Conservatives by four points in Toronto (40% to 36%) and 3-points in the region surrounding Toronto.

SATISFACTION WITH FEDERAL GOVERNMENT LARGELY UNCHANGED

Today, 34% approve, and 47% disapprove of the performance of the federal government, largely unchanged from the end of November. Since July 2022, the federal government’s approval rating has hovered in a band between 33% and 38%.

Regionally, the government’s approval rating is 34% in BC, 24% in Alberta, 21% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 37% in Ontario, 36% in Quebec, and 35% in Atlantic Canada.

TOP ISSUES: INFLATION, HEALTH & THE ECONOMY

The top three issues of concern continue to be the rising cost of living (72% selected it as their top 3), healthcare (51%), and the economy (44%). Housing affordability and accessibility is not far behind in fourth at 41%.

Since the end of November, there hasn’t been much change in the top issues with housing affordability rising 3-points and climate change and the environment dropping 3 points. Just about 1 in 4 Canadians rate climate change and the environment as a top issue.

For Liberal Party supporters, the top issues are inflation (66%), healthcare (53%), the economy (42%), and housing (41%). They are 21 points more likely to rate climate change as a top issue than Conservative supporters (35% vs. 14%).

Conservative Party supporters rank inflation (80%), the economy (59%), healthcare (54%), and housing (36%) as the top issues of concern. Conservative supporters are 7-points more likely than Liberals to rate crime as a top issue (19% vs. 12%), 14-points more likely to rate “a lack of freedom” as a top issue (16% vs. 2%) and 17-points more likely to rate the economy as a top issue (59% vs. 42%) than the Liberals.

When asked which party would do the best on the issues they selected, the Conservatives lead on the economy (by 28 points over the Liberals), lack of freedom in Canada (45 to 9), and crime and public safety (40 to 17).

The Liberals are ahead of the Conservatives among those who rate the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a top issue (34 to 22).

On the top issue of the rising cost of living, the Conservatives have a substantial advantage over the other parties. 31% picked the Conservatives followed by the NDP at 17% and the Liberals at 16%.

The three main parties are within a few points of each other on healthcare while the NDP is eight points ahead of the Conservatives on housing affordability.

DESIRE FOR CHANGE SIMILAR TO THE END OF THE 2021 ELECTION

Today, 51% of Canadians definitely want to see a change in government while another 10% would like to see change but say it’s not that important to them. In contrast, 38% would like to see the Liberals re-elected but only 14% say they definitely want the Liberals re-elected.

Compared to the end of the 2021 federal election campaign, the intense desire for change is unchanged while those wanting to definitely see the Liberals re-elected is down 5-points.

FEELINGS ABOUT THE PM ARE STABLE BUT STILL NEAR THE LOW POINT

Public feelings about Prime Minister Trudeau have stabilized but remain lower than at any point since 2015. The Prime Minister’s negatives stand at 49% – down from a peak of 51% – and up only a single point from last month.

JAGMEET SINGH’S APPROVAL RATING UP SLIGHTLY

For the last couple of years, Jagmeet Singh has been the most popular of the federal leaders, at one time his net rating was +21 (46% positive/25% negative). Since then, his positives have slid, and his negatives have risen. This latest result shows a slight improvement in his positives – up 2 points since the end of November.

PIERRE POILIEVRE: MANY STILL DON’T HAVE AN OPINION

Over the past two months, impressions of Pierre Poilievre have not changed much. His negatives are steady at 35% while his positives are down only slightly by 2 points to 29%

TRUDEAU vs. POILIEVRE

One of the things we are starting to track again is the preference for either Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Poilievre as Prime Minister. Today, 54% of Canadians would prefer Mr. Trudeau as Prime Minister while 46% would prefer Mr. Poilievre.

Regionally, Mr. Trudeau is the preferred choice of half or more in BC (54%), Ontario (53%), Quebec (66%), and Atlantic Canada (65%). Mr. Poilievre is the preferred choice by half or more in Alberta (61%), and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (62%).

Among current NDP supporters, Trudeau is preferred by a 4 to 1 margin (72% to 28%). Among BQ supporters, Trudeau is preferred 69% to 31% over Poilievre.

UPSHOT

According to David Coletto: “As the new year begins, political opinions in Canada look remarkably similar to what it was around the end of the year.  The Conservatives continue to sustain a lead over the Liberals nationally but the Liberals remain competitive or lead east of the Ontario/Manitoba border. The Prime Minister’s personal image remains as negative as it has been since the Liberal Party’s first election win in 2015 but he is still preferred to Pierre Poilievre by 8 points in a head-to-head hypothetical match-up.

Most troubling for the Liberals in these numbers are the issue performance questions. Among those who say inflation is a top issue, the Liberals are in third, well behind the Conservatives and slightly behind the NDP on which party people think would do the best on it. The Liberals also trail among those who rate the economy, healthcare or housing as a top issue. Perhaps most worrisome, is the Liberals only own a single issue – the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The challenge is that only 6% of Canadians rank it in their top 3 issues – lower than any other issue we test for.

Why does this matter? Issue ownership is a strong predictor of vote choice. Voters, especially uncommitted or swing voters, tend to vote for the party they think will do the best job on the issue they care most about. Right now, if a federal election focused on inflation or the cost of living, the Liberals would be in a tough position to be re-elected. The Liberals will need to shift these perceptions or hope the issues in focus shift

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METHODOLOGY

The survey was conducted with 2,099 Canadian adults from January 12 to 16, 2023. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically 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 +/- 2.2%, 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.

This survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc.

Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here:  https://canadianresearchinsightscouncil.ca/standards/

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