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By: Jane Taber
Originally posted on January 27, 2012

More bad news for the NDP: 40 per cent of Canadians haven’t heard of any of the eight candidates in the leadership race, according to a new online poll.

Even worse, 35 per cent of New Democrats could not recognize the candidates running to replace the late Jack Layton. The campaign to decide Canada’s next official opposition leader – basically the prime minister-in-waiting – is to be decided in less than two months, on March 24 in Toronto.

The new Abacus Data poll, released Friday afternoon, follows several national opinion polls this week that showed the NDP slumping. Although they remains in second place, the Liberals have momentum coming out of their policy convention two weeks ago.

There is some positive news in this online survey for several of the candidates, however.

Thomas Mulcair, the fiery Quebec MP and one of the front-runners, is the best known of the candidates both nationally and in the all-important province of Quebec, where he is known by 67 per cent of the respondents. Nationally, he is known by 36 per cent of Canadians.

His recognition in Quebec is important as the province was the key to the party’s success in the May campaign. More than half of the NDP caucus is from Quebec, which propelled the NDP into official opposition status.

“Biggest surprise is the strength of Thomas Mulcair in Quebec and the lack of awareness of the candidates among Canadians, especially among NDP supporters,” says pollster David Coletto. “The results also confirm Mr. Mulcair’s primary argument that he is best positioned to maintain the NDP gains in Quebec.”

Following Mr. Mulcair in Quebec are Brian Topp, a backroom strategist who grew up in Montreal. His name is recognized by 31 per cent of Quebec respondents; he has the same name recognition nationally.

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