Canadians are three times more bullish about their own economy than Americans and seven times more than residents of the United Kingdom. This is one reason Stephen Harper is better positioned than either Barack Obama or David Cameron.
A new poll on the economy by Angus-Reid surveying 1,000 Americans, 1,502 Canadians, and 2,006 Britons at the end of September found 63 per cent of Canadians rate economic conditions in this country as good or very good, compared to 32 per cent who consider them bad or very bad. That contrasts sharply to opinion in the two other countries: only 20 per cent of Americans think their economic conditions are good or very good and only nine per cent of Britons think the same. Fully 87 per cent of people in the United Kingdom think their economic conditions are bad or very bad.
This speaks to the different circumstances each leader finds himself. Obama is facing a tough re-election challenge from Mitt Romney in an election cycle dominated by the country’s economic conditions. In fact, Romney closed the gap with Obama as a result of his strong performance in the first presidential debate — one that was centred on the economy. Whereas in Canada much criticism of the Conservative government is on non-economic issues, in the United States voters are asking themselves which of the two candidates will be best able to pull their country out of its economic malaise.
While the United States will vote on November 6, Prime Minister Cameron will likely not face the electorate until 2015. He presides over a rickety coalition government between his Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, a small centrist party that survives in large part due to its own unpopularity. According to the latest polls, the Labour opposition holds a 10-point lead over the Tories and the Liberal Democrats have shed half of the support they had in the 2010 election.
Compared to his counterparts in the United States and Great Britain, the Harper is quite fortunate. Obama has had to deal with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and could be less than a month away from losing the Senate or even the presidency. Cameron has had to form a coalition in order to govern with a majority and is facing a referendum on Scottish independence.
Harper, meanwhile, is not even halfway through his majority mandate and holds a narrow lead in the polls over the opposition New Democrats. Undoubtedly, if Canadians had the same pessimistic attitude towards the Canadian economy and their own personal finances as Americans and Britons (the poll shows a majority of Canadians think their own personal finances are good, compared to a majority of those in the U.S. and U.K. who think they are bad) the Conservative government would be on the ropes as well.
And that is what the Harper Tories will be grappling with over the next few years. If the economy takes a turn for the worse, or at the very least is perceived to, the Conservatives will likely find themselves booted from office. But if Canadians are as positive about the economy in 2015 as they are now, Harper will be difficult to beat.
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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