When Canadians were asked to describe two political ads produced by the Conservatives and New Democrats, the words "deceiving" and "unfair" were quite popular. "Respectful"? Not so much.
An Angus-Reid survey of 1,000 Canadians found mixed opinions on two attack ads recently produced by the two parties.
The Conservative ad, focusing on the NDP's "risky theories" and "dangerous economic experiments," was seen far less favourably than the one released by the New Democrats. At 41 per cent, "deceiving" was the word chosen most often by survey takers, though 39 per cent also called the ad "informative."
Overall, however, response was generally negative. Of the 10 terms chosen by Angus-Reid as options for describing the ads, ones with negative connotations (deceiving, untrue, offensive, unfair and useless) averaged 32 per cent, compared to an average of 19 per cent for positive terms (informative, true, fair, honest and respectful). Indeed, only six per cent of respondents considered the Tory ad respectful.
However, a significant proportion of the population (44 per cent) believed "the NDP means risky economic theories".
But the top response for the NDP ad attacking the Tories' economic record and policies, was "informative," followed by "true." But 35 per cent did consider it deceiving, and only seven per cent said it was respectful.
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The terms with a positive connotation averaged 29 per cent on the NDP ad, compared to an average of 25 per cent for the negative terms. And 46 per cent of Canadians believe the Conservatives have "created the worst deficit in Canadian history," an assertion in the NDP's ad.
Nevertheless, much of this is driven by political support. Fully 73 per cent of people who voted Conservative in 2011 believe that the NDP means "risky economic theories," while 72 per cent of New Democratic voters believe the Conservatives are responsible for a historic deficit.
And in terms of the negative and positive descriptors, the Conservative ad was seen much more favourably by Conservative voters: the positive terms averaged 30 per cent while the negative ones averaged 21 per cent. Negative terms averaged 44 per cent among NDP voters, though, with only 11 per cent assigning positive terms to the ad.
The same goes for the NDP ad, which averaged 43 per cent negative connotations among Conservative voters but 41 per cent positive among NDP supporters.
But the response of Liberal voters might be more significant. The party sits between the two others on the political spectrum and both the Tories and the NDP want to attract more Liberal supporters to their tents. The poll suggests Liberal voters are aligned much more strongly against Stephen Harper than they are against Thomas Mulcair.
The Conservative ad against the NDP was assigned negative terms by Liberal voters in the same proportion as NDP supporters, with negative words averaging 44 per cent to 11 per cent for positive terms. The NDP ad, meanwhile, averaged 38 per cent for positive terms and only 14 per cent for negative terms. And while 63 per cent of Liberals believe the Tories are responsible for the largest deficit in Canadian history, only 39 per cent believe the NDP means "risky economic theories."
Response to the ads appears to have split along party lines and they were not seen particularly favourably. One cannot help but wonder how an ad that scores highly on respectfulness could perform. Lamentably, we will probably never know.
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.
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