It’s getting harder and harder to dismiss Justin Trudeau’s potential to dramatically change the political landscape in this country.
An interactive voice response poll conducted by Forum Research for the Toronto Star interviewed over 1,000 Ontarians last week. The survey found the Conservatives lead in the province, with 37 per cent to 29 per cent for the Liberals and 24 per cent for the New Democrats.
That is broadly in line with what other recent polls have reported, though the NDP's number is perhaps three or four points lower than usual. The Tories lead in most parts of the province, while the Liberals hold the edge in Toronto.
But when Trudeau’s name is added to the mix, the Liberals jump nine points to 38 per cent in Ontario. The Conservatives drop two points to 35 per cent and the New Democrats five points to just 19 per cent. Trudeau gives the Liberals the lead in southwestern and northern Ontario, in addition to Toronto. The race becomes much closer in eastern Ontario, while the Conservatives retain the lead in the 905 area code (the Greater Toronto Area and the Hamilton-Niagara region).
Trudeau pulls support from both Tories and New Democrats, with one-in-ten Conservative voters and almost one quarter of NDP supporters switching sides.
It is not just Forum’s polling that gives impressive scores to the Trudeau Liberals. A recent survey by EKOS Research for iPolitics found Trudeau had an approval rating of 35 per cent to 24 per cent disapproval in Ontario, compared to a 27-27 split for Thomas Mulcair and a 48 per cent disapproval rating for Stephen Harper (31 per cent of Ontarians approved of the prime minister’s performance).
Nationally, EKOS has found Trudeau’s approval rating has increased from 26 to 33 per cent since September, but his disapproval rating has also increased. Nevertheless, his net score of +9 (approval minus disapproval rating) remains unchanged, though it is far superior to the net scores for Mulcair and Harper.
It is possible Trudeau’s appeal is weakening in Ontario. Forum has been regularly polling on this hypothetical question and has shown consistent results in the province up to now. Between November and early February, the Trudeau-led Liberals registered between 42 and 45 per cent in Ontario, compared to 31 to 35 per cent for the Tories and 19 to 24 per cent for the NDP. That means Trudeau’s 38 per cent in the most recent poll actually represents a decrease in support. However, it is possible that, as Forum was polling about provincial voting intentions at the same time, the less popular Ontario Liberals dragged Trudeau’s support down a few notches.
The poll might be hypothetical, but the numbers are very real. The New Democrats never experienced this kind of national boost from Mulcair before their leadership convention, though the party did get a bump in Quebec after his victory. The NDP has, for the most part, held on to those gains.
Choosing Mulcair as the NDP’s leader turned things around for the New Democrats in Quebec, making it more likely the NDP will retain its gains there. Will the pre-convention numbers for Trudeau in Ontario have the same staying power?
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.