With one in two Canadians having an unfavourable opinion of Stephen Harper, the New Democrats and Conservatives are now tied in the latest national poll. But the leaderless Liberals have suffered the most, dropping to their lowest level of support since immediately after the May 2011 election debacle.
A new survey released by Abacus Data, conducted between September 14-18 and interviewing 1,208 online panelists, found the Tories and the NDP tied at 35 per cent support. The Liberals slipped three points since Abacus’ last survey from mid-August to only 17 per cent.
The Bloc Québécois and the Greens had seven and six per cent, respectively, in the nationwide poll.
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For the New Democrats and the Conservatives, these numbers are generally where the parties have been since the spring. But this is a particularly low number for the Liberals, though perhaps it is unsurprising considering their minimal visibility over the summer. However, other recent surveys gave the Liberals higher numbers, suggesting their support is softer than that of the other two parties.
The Liberals had their best result in Ontario, where the party was pegged at 23 per cent support. The province is the electoral lynchpin for the Conservatives and they led with 41 per cent to 30 per cent for the New Democrats in the seat-rich battleground. Those numbers have hardly budged over the last month.
The Conservatives also held a wide lead in Alberta, though with the NDP at 29 per cent the race is far closer than is usually the case. For their part, the New Democrats held a statistically significant lead in Atlantic Canada with 47 per cent to 28 per cent for the Tories.
The New Democrats also held the edge in British Columbia (39 to 34 per cent), the Prairies (43 to 40 per cent) and Quebec, where the NDP had 39 per cent to 30 per cent for the Bloc Québécois. Again, these are generally the sort of numbers that we have seen for months.
Thomas Mulcair does have the potential to increase his party’s support even more, at least according to his own favourability ratings. He had the best result of the three main leaders, including Liberal interim leader Bob Rae, with 36 per cent of Canadians saying they have a favourable opinion of him. That compares to 35 per cent for Harper and 27 per cent for Rae.
But whereas Harper is only marginally behind on favourability, his unfavourability is considerably higher: 50 per cent, to only 22 per cent for Mulcair. With only 13 per cent saying they have a neutral opinion of the Prime Minister and two per cent unsure, Harper’s numbers are going to be difficult to move. Mulcair, on the other hand, has 12 per cent of Canadians who are unsure of what they think of him and 31 per cent who have a neutral opinion.
If the Liberals choose Justin Trudeau as their next leader, there is the potential that things could change dramatically for them. Trudeau has a favourability rating of 39 per cent, with only 23 per cent holding an unfavourable opinion. But the verdict is still out on Marc Garneau, one of the probable chief rivals to Trudeau for the leadership: while he has a 26 to 15 per cent favourable/unfavourable score, 59 per cent of Canadians are either unsure or have a neutral opinion of the former astronaut.
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.