Canadians are warming up to the New Democrats now that Thomas Mulcair has taken over the reins, with the party neck-and-neck with the Conservatives and way ahead in Quebec in a new poll.
The survey from Forum Research was conducted March 26-27 and polled 1,638 Canadians, capturing public opinion after the March 24 leadership convention and during Mulcair’s first two days as opposition leader in the House of Commons.
The New Democrats are tied with the Conservatives for the lead at 35 per cent support. Though a pre-convention poll suggested that the two parties were tied at 30 per cent, this Forum survey indicates that the NDP has pulled even with the Conservatives not because of Tory losses, but because of NDP gains.
Indeed, the Conservatives have barely moved since Forum was last in the field on March 2. The Tories have slipped only two points, compared to the seven point gain for the New Democrats.
It is the Liberals who have suffered, dropping six points to only 19 per cent support, the same share of the vote the party took in the 2011 election. Thomas Mulcair wants to expand the party’s base toward the centre, and he appears to be doing just that.
The New Democrats are up throughout the country, but the most important gain is in Quebec. For weeks, polls have shown the NDP and Bloc Québécois vying for top spot in the province with roughly 30 per cent support each. As Quebec is home to 58 of the NDP’s 102 MPs, a drop of such importance from their election result of 43 per cent spelled disaster for the party.
But with Thomas Mulcair as leader, the New Democrats are back to 40 per cent support in the province, well ahead of the Bloc. However, the Bloc has held steady, even increasing support to 28 per cent from 23 per cent in early March. Again, the Liberals have taken a step backwards, dropping back to 15 per cent support. They were at 26 per cent in Quebec in Forum’s last survey.
This is not particularly surprising. Though the Bloc had gained in the polls during Nycole Turmel’s interim leadership of the NDP, the Liberals had made the most impressive rebound, almost doubling their 2011 election result in the province. But now that the NDP has a well-known Quebecer and former provincial Liberal as leader, it would appear federalist voters who flocked to the Liberals during Turmel’s tenure have returned to the NDP.
But the good news does not stop there. This poll also puts the NDP ahead in British Columbia and the Prairies, two important growth regions for the party come 2015, and in second place in Ontario.
However, this is only the first poll since Thomas Mulcair has become NDP leader. Other surveys will be needed to confirm that the NDP has indeed moved into a close race with the Conservatives. A honeymoon for the new leader is also to be expected, and how voters will feel about the NDP in the coming months and years could change drastically. But in his first week on the job, Thomas Mulcair is off to a good start.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls, and electoral projections.
PHOTOS: THOMAS MULCAIR