12/12/2012 08:50 EST | Updated 02/11/2013 05:12 EST

The Nanos Number: Canadians' financial confidence falling

Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC Power & Politics host Evan Solomon to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives.

This week: Why are Canadians feeling they're worse off compared to a year ago when it comes to their finances?

The House of Commons is wrapping up for the holiday season after a year of major battles, including two drawn-out fights over omnibus budget bills.

The messaging behind the bills was that they were needed to help the economy grow and create jobs, the same message the government has been driving home since before the last election. But it seems that many Canadians are not feeling as optimistic about their own personal finances as the government might like.

Nanos Research tracks this question every month and right now the data shows Canadians aren't as confident as they were a year and a half ago.

Thirty-seven per cent of Canadians say they are worse off now than they were a year ago in terms of their personal finances. That compares to 25 per cent of Canadians when the same question was posed in June 2011, just after the last federal election.

Twenty-one per cent of Canadians say they are better off now than a year ago. That's up slightly from the June 2011 results, when 18 per cent of Canadians felt they were better off compared to the previous year.

The numbers are based on national representative samples of 1,200 Canadians surveyed in June, 2011 and 1,000 Canadians in November, 2012.

Opposition advantage?

Nik Nanos told Evan Solomon on Power & Politics that these numbers are not just key economic indicators, but also key political indicators "because it shows whether governments might be hitting turbulence."

Just after the last election, Canadians were feeling pretty stable when it came to their finances. Those numbers are starting to change, Nanos said.

"This is a key number to watch because 2013 is probably not going to be that great in terms of the economy. If Canadians feel that they're worse off they're not going to be spending as much money," Nanos said.

There may be a chance that the official opposition will be able to capitalize on these numbers. If it can create a strategy to reach out to Canadians who are feeling the squeeze.

"Something like this is tailor-made for the New Democrats, who always talk about being focussed on working class or working families," Nanos said.

Bright to tight

Nanos points out that "in the intermediate term we're probably going to go from bright to tight on the economic front."

The Conservatives are focussed on cutting expenses and balancing the budget right now, but "if Canadians are worse off than they were before, slaying the deficit is not going to be enough to cash-in, in terms of the next federal election," Nanos said.

Nanos said something to watch for in the long-term is what pre-election goodies might come from the government, for example something in the form of tax-relief, to make Canadians feel a little better.

"But right now it's about slaying the deficit."

Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, Nik Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a Fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association and a Research Associate Professor with SUNY (Buffalo).