Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh has the backing of a slim plurality of Canadians in the NDP leadership race, but veteran MP Charlie Angus remains the top choice of party members who will ultimately pick the winner, a new public opinion poll suggests.
However, most Canadians aren’t keeping track of the leadership vote, with only a quarter following the race, and only four per cent are doing so “very closely,” according to the Campaign Research survey.
In the poll of 1,770 Canadians, conducted between Sept. 8-11, 58 per cent said they don’t know who would make the best NDP leader, with another 15 per cent saying neither of the four candidates were appropriate.
Mr. Singh was the top choice of respondents with an explicit preference at only 11 per cent, followed by Mr. Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ont.) and Quebec MP Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques, Que.), who were tied at six per cent apiece.
NDP MP Niki Ashton (Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Man.), the sole candidate from the last leadership race to try again in 2017, was a whisker back at five per cent.
Mr. Singh’s lead expanded slightly among those saying they will vote NDP in the next election, with the Brampton politician garnering 17 per cent of support, compared to eight per cent for both Mr. Angus and Mr. Caron, and seven per cent for Ms. Ashton.
But among the tiny sample of 54 people that self-identified as NDP members, Mr. Angus led Mr. Singh by a 25-18 per cent margin, with Ms. Ashton just behind at 16 per cent, and Mr. Caron in last at 13 per cent.
The poll has a margin of error of 2.3 per cent, or 19 times out of 20. However, the margin of error increases when the sample size is reduced.
For the small NDP member sample, the margin error totals around 13 per cent, according to a handful of online calculators.
“It’s interesting to see that divergence in opinion between the Canadian general public and NDP members,” Eli Yufest, CEO of Campaign Research, told The Hill Times, noting that the race has failed to garner much interest outside of NDP circles.
The poll numbers, he said, could suggest Mr. Singh still has work to do in convincing the NDP base to support him in the leadership race, even though the Canadian public seems to be drawn to the young fashionable politician, who recently appeared on the cover of GQ magazine and is known for donning three-piece suits.
“There’s no doubt Jagmeet Singh is among the most interesting political figures of any party,” Mr. Yufest explained.
“That uniqueness resonates among the populace in general … [but] the establishment within the NDP don’t seem to be warming up to him.”
Only NDP members are eligible to vote in the leadership election, with online voting in the first round of the race beginning Monday and running until Oct. 1, when the results will be revealed. If no one wins a majority, the candidate with the fewest number of votes will be dropped, with a second round of online voting starting anew on Oct. 2, and closing six days later.
The process will repeat itself until a candidate wins a majority, meaning the race will conclude by Oct. 15 at the latest.
The race has been next to impossible to handicap, with Mr. Singh outpacing his rivals in media attention and fundraising, attracting $353,944 in donations between April 1 and June 30, 2017, despite only officially declaring his candidacy in mid-May.
But that seemingly hasn’t been enough to create significant separation, with most polls showing a close neck-to-neck race, flush with a high number of undecided voters. A Mainstreet Research poll of NDP members released earlier this month had Mr. Singh in the lead at 27.3 per cent, two points ahead of Mr. Angus, with 25 per cent of respondents undecided.
Ms. Ashton and Mr. Angus, who finished second in fundraising in the second quarter of 2017 with $123,574, boast considerable popularity with the party base, while Mr. Caron, a former economist first elected in 2011, continues to score high-profile endorsements, mostly recently winning the backing of Hamilton-Mountain MP Scott Duvall and former NDP leader Alexa McDonough.
However, Mr. Singh was able to score a major endorsement of his own on Wednesday, when popular NDP MP Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.) threw his support behind the Ontario MPP.
In terms of the national political picture, a Campaign Research poll released on Monday showed the NDP sitting at 16 per cent, and 18 per cent in the province of Quebec, which fuelled the party’s massive breakthrough in the 2011 election.
The numbers fall in-line with other pollsters, with the Nanos Research weekly tracking poll for Sept. 15 putting the party at 15.5 per cent nationally, while a survey by Abacus Data earlier in the month had the NDP at 17 per cent.
But despite the poor polling, the NDP has been able to triple its membership to 124,000 in the run-up to the leadership vote, numbers similar to the last race in 2012, when the party was serving as the official opposition. The surge could be largely attributable to Mr. Singh, whose campaign claims to have signed up 47,000 new members, more than his three other rivals combined.
Campaign Research last polled on the NDP leadership in June, when Mr. Singh was also the most popular choice for Canadians at just seven per cent, though at the time former NDP House leader Peter Julian (New Westminster-Burnaby, B.C.) was still vying for the leadership. Mr. Julian recently endorsed Mr. Singh, citing his ability to attract new members to the party.
In the earlier poll, Mr. Singh only had six per cent of support compared to eight per cent for Mr. Angus among NDP supporters, suggesting the Ontario MPP has been able to expand his popularity with the party faithful over the summer.
However, Mr. Angus also had the lead among party members in the June poll, topping Mr. Singh 19-16 per cent.
The Hill Times
Editor’s Note: The headline of this story has been changed to better reflect the substance of the text. The main photo cutline has also been edited, while a projected margin of error for the NDP members sample has been added.