By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto
In our year end public opinion poll, we asked people to let us know whether they approve or disapprove of several of the choices made by Canada’s political leaders over the last year.
The results provide good insight into how people evaluate the leaders. Here’s what we found:
• Stephen Harper has been firmly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the course of the year. This has proven politically popular, as 61% approve of his actions, compared to 18% who disapprove. Support for his stance cuts across party lines, including 58% of Liberal and NDP voters and 59% of BQ voters.
• Fewer are comfortable that the Prime Minister has not introduced a tax to reduce carbon emissions: 37% approve of this choice and 41% disapprove. In Alberta, more approve (41%) than disapprove (36%) but the narrow split, in a province where Conservatives poll above 50% signals pressure to act exists within that province too. Nationally, among Conservative voters, 25% disapprove of the PM’s resistance to a carbon tax.
• The Prime Minister has chosen not to meet with Ontario’s Premier, Kathleen Wynne. Only 17% approve of this choice, while 51% disapprove. In Ontario, 23% approve, and 57% disapprove. Among Conservative voters, more disapprove (37%) than approve (32%).
• Thomas Mulcair’s proposal for a national childcare program found broad approval (50%) and only 27% disapproval. The idea resonates particularly strongly among those under 45 and more so among women than men. It finds majority approval among supporters of the Liberal, NDP, Green and BQ parties, and broad disapproval among Conservative Party supporters.
• The NDP leader has voiced strong objections to both proposed pipeline projects to move oil to the west coast of BC (*in the case of the Trans Mountain project, he has said that he would not approve the project based on concerns about the existing review process). If voters interpret this as opposition to both projects, 31% would approve of this position while 42% disapprove. In BC, 35% approve and 44% disapprove. Disapproval is the norm in the rest of the country, except in Quebec, where 42% approve and 29% disapprove of the NDP position. Among NDP voters, 37% would disapprove of opposition to both pipelines.
• 45% approve of the way Justin Trudeau handled allegations against two of his caucus members, while 25% disapproved. Among women, 41% approved and 21% disapproved. The NDP has been harshly critical of Mr. Trudeau’s actions, but among NDP (2011) voters, 52% approved and 22% disapproved of how the Liberal leader handled this matter.
• Justin Trudeau also removed Liberal Senators from his caucus, a choice met with 51% approval and 18% disapproval. Majorities of Conservative and NDP voters approved of the Liberal leader’s action. Among Liberals 60% approved and 18% disapproved.
The pattern of these responses reveals a fair bit about how Canadians have been sizing up these three leaders. For the most part, voters are inclined to think Justin Trudeau’s choices in terms of handling issues is well intentioned and in the right direction.
Where the PM is concerned, a heavier focus on global issues has been politically useful for him. At the same time, his position on pricing or taxing carbon emissions may be becoming more of a political burden than advantage. Finally, his avoidance of a meeting with the Ontario Premier is a losing choice politically – voters likely see it as petty or partisan in nature.
For NDP leader Mulcair the numbers reveal a perpetual tension for his party. As a champion of national childcare, the NDP leader has a broad and supportive audience among Canadian voters. But his party’s pool of potential supporters narrows (from over 50% saying they would consider voting NDP) if he adopts positions on economic matters that can seem risky to many voters, such as opposing pipelines to enable more exports of Canadian energy.
Our survey was conducted online with 1,438 Canadians aged 18 and over from December 18 to 20, 2014. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading provider of online research samples.
The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.6%, 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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