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A tale of unpopular leaders: Trudeau and Poilievre both disliked by voters, except their own
Polling from the Angus Reid Institute shows no significant change in leaders' perception since Poilievre won CPC leadership
With the federal Liberals now trailing their CPC rivals in the 338Canada polling average by more than a handful of points (as had been the case for the past year), observers may begin to wonder whether the Prime Minister has become a liability to his party’s fortunes.
The data, however, is not so clear on that.
Last week, the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) released its latest round of federal polling. While the horserace numbers fell well within current brackets (38% CPC, 31% LPC, 18% NDP, see ARI’s report here), the approval and favourability numbers of federal leaders caught my eye.
Here are the results from the ARI report. The poll measures that Justin Trudeau has a 39% approval and 57% disapproval, for a net score of minus-18.
The Conservative leader enjoys generally similar numbers: 36% favourability, 52% unfavourability, and a net score of minus-17.
The only upside for Poilievre over Trudeau is his proportion of “very favourable” impressions, currently sitting at 16%, against Trudeau’s 7% “strongly approve” score. But overall, Poilievre and Trudeau are perceived generally equally across the country — on average, of course, as there are major regional disparities:
In Ontario, both leaders fare equally poorly: Trudeau holds a net score of minus-17, against minus-18 for Poilievre;
In Quebec, Trudeau gets his highest score with minus-2, against minus-38 for Poilievre, his worst tally in the country;
In British Columbia, Poilievre stands at respectable minus-6, while the Prime Minister gets a measly minus-25;
In Alberta, unsurprisigly, Trudeau gets his worse score outside of Saskatchewan with minus-33, while Poilievre enjoys a plus-13.
How have these numbers moved in the past calendar year, with Poilievre blowing the first candle of his leadership in September?
Here are the results from ARI’s identical questions shortly after Poilievre’s leadership victory:
Trudeau’s approval and disapproval numbers have not moved beyond the poll’s uncertainty.
Neither have Poilievre’s.
The only net movement is Jagmeet Singh’s numbers taking a modest dip. Favourable: from 47% to 43%; Unfavourable: from 46% to 48%.
Hence, despite a tumultuous winter and spring for the Liberals and the Conservatives’ constant campaigning against the Prime Minister on social media, ARI measures no significant change in the perception of the main federal leaders. No better, no worse.
For sake of comparison, here were the federal leaders’ numbers one year prior, in September 2021, near the end of the last campaign, back when Erin O’Toole was leading the Conservatives:
Notice how 1) O’Toole’s numbers in the final days of the 2021 campaign are almost identical to Poilievre’s today, and 2) Trudeau’s numbers then were even worse than today. Only 35% approved of the Prime Minister back then, against 62% who disapproved, a dismal net score of minus-27.
This poll above was fielded about 10 days before the Trudeau Liberals won the 2021 election — and even increased their seat count to 160, against 119 for O’Toole’s Conservatives.
So, has Trudeau become a liability for the Liberals? Hardly, according to Angus Reid’s polling, even if Trudeau clearly isn’t the asset he once was for the Liberals. In fact, according to ARI, Trudeau has even improved his own approval rating compared to September 2021.
Nevertheless, with close to 60% of voters who disapprove of the Prime Minister, there is little doubt the Liberals’ ceiling has lowered considerably over the years. Whether somebody else in the Red team could replace Trudeau and improve the party’s standing is a whole other question for a future column - and whose answer, for now at least, is “not really”.
(Point to someone among the current crew who can decisively win Ontario and hold off the Bloc in rural and suburban Quebec. I’ll wait.)
Meanwhile, Abacus Data’s trendline of positive/negative impressions of Justin Trudeau (from Abacus Data CEO David Coletto’s Twitter account) continue to show a slow and gradual decline since 2021.
In June 2021, Trudeau sat at an even score (39% positive impressions, 39% negative impressions) in Abacus’ polling. Two years later, Trudeau’s negative impressions have jumped to 52%, and his positive impressions have fallen to 39%. (Naturally, “Approval” and “Impressions” aren’t quite the same measure, but right now neither are good news for the Liberal leader.)
It is worth noting that polling from Abacus Data also shows impressions of Poilievre in the red, but by narrower margin than ARI. Abacus has Poilievre’s positive impressions at 30% (similar to Trudeau’s), and negative impressions at 38% (14 points better than the Prime Minister).
We will follow closely how (and if) the numbers move when fall comes around, as we know from recent history that summer polling can be wonky at times. Stay tuned.
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