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Liberals and Conservatives tied in nationwide poll, Grits still strong in Central Canada, but losing younger voters

By Peter Mazereeuw      

The survey taken in early February puts each party at 34 per cent public support.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals have lost their edge over the Conservative Party of interim Leader Rona Ambrose, a new poll indicates, though the governing party is holding strong in Central Canada.
The Hill Times photographs by Jake Wright

The federal Liberal and Conservative parties would each win the votes of one-third of Canadians if an election were held now, according to a poll taken at the beginning of February.

A year and four months after taking power, the Liberals have lost about one-third of the voters who supported them in the October 2015 election, according to the poll conducted by Campaign Research, the Toronto polling firm at which Nick Kouvalis, Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s former campaign manager, serves as a principal. Richard Ciano, another firm principal, is a supporter and volunteer for Ms. Leitch’s campaign.

Another poll released Feb. 7 by Nanos Research gave the Liberals a five-and-a-half point lead over the Conservatives, who registered a 12-month high at 32.5 per cent support. The Nanos poll was based on a four-week rolling average of responses, while the Campaign Research poll surveyed voters between Feb. 3 and Feb. 6. It asked respondents which party they were most likely to vote for if a federal election were held tomorrow, or if they hadn’t made up their mind, which party they were leaning toward.

The virtual tie between the two biggest parties in Parliament likely has more to do with poor Liberal performance than strong Conservative performance, said Campaign Research CEO Eli Yufest.

Mr. Yufest pointed to negative attention the Liberals garnered in recent weeks over Mr. Trudeau’s vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island, a broken promise to change Canada’s electoral system, political fundraisers with wealthy businesspeople, and comments about phasing out Canada’s oilsands as likely contributors to the Liberal decline.

“There’s no doubt that they’re battling some strong headwinds,” said Mr. Yufest.

The NDP took 16 per cent support overall, with the Greens and Bloc Québécois tied at six per cent each.

Liberals holding strong in Central Canada; losing young voters

The Campaign Research poll shows the Liberals have lost any edge they may have had among young voters; those under the age of 35 were one percentage point more likely to say they would vote Conservative if an election were held now (34 versus 33 per cent support). The Liberals had a three percentage point edge in support from Canadians aged 35 to 44 and among those 65 and over (34 versus 31 per cent, and 38 versus 35 per cent, respectively), while other age categories were either even or one point stronger for the Conservatives.

The Liberals held an edge among female respondents, 36 per cent of whom indicated they would support the Liberal Party right now, versus 33 per cent for the Conservatives and 17 per cent for the NDP. In contrast, more men supported the Conservatives, at 35 per cent, than the Liberals, at 32 per cent, or any other party.

The Liberals had healthy leads among respondents from Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and Ontario, while the Conservatives had large leads among respondents from the Prairies, British Columbia, and Alberta.

Liberal defectors evenly split

Sixty-eight per cent of those who said they voted Liberal in the 2015 election indicated they would do so again if another election were held now, according to the poll. About 12 per cent of them said they would now vote Conservative, and 11 per cent NDP.

The Conservatives have managed to hold onto 86 per cent of those who voted for them in the last election, but the NDP was even worse off than the Liberals, with only 65 per cent of respondents indicating they would still vote NDP. The New Democrats bled the most support to the Liberals, at 15 per cent. Green voters were even less likely to still vote Green, with only 47 per cent indicating support for the party now, and 17 per cent suggesting support for the Liberals. The Bloc held 80 per cent of its prior support.

The Campaign Research poll also included some conflicting results about how Canadians view Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. More Canadians (46 per cent) disapprove of the job Mr. Trudeau is doing as prime minister than approve (39 per cent), while the opposite is true for interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose—36 per cent approve, 29 per cent disapprove, 35 per cent don’t know—and interim NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, at 41 per cent approval versus 33 per cent disapproval, while 27 percent don’t know.

However, Mr. Trudeau trounced his rivals when voters were asked who would make the best prime minister of Canada, winning 31 per cent support versus 14 for Ms. Ambrose, and 11 for Mr. Mulcair. Twenty-two per cent indicated none of the current party leaders would make the best prime minister.

Mr. Yufest said he attributed that contrast to the fact that many Canadians know Ms. Ambrose and Mr. Mulcair are interim leaders, and unlikely to be prime minister anytime soon.

The automated telephone poll sampled 1,457 Canadian voters, was weighted to be representative of Canada’s population, and has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20, according to Campaign Research. Subsets such as gender, age, and region, have higher margins of error.

peter@hilltimes.com

@PJMazereeuw

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