The summer, Senate, and the smoking have not seemed to move the dial on voting intentions in Canada, as two new polls show the Liberals under Justin Trudeau just where they were when the House of Commons closed its doors for the season.
An IVR poll by Forum Research for The National Post released yesterday pegged the Liberals at 38 per cent support, well ahead of Conservatives at 29 per cent and New Democrats at 22 per cent. Compared to Forum's last midsummer poll from the end of July, this represents a gain of three points for Liberals and a drop of two for the Tories. But compared to their last poll of the political season, at the end of June, Liberals have not budged while the Tories have dropped only a single point.
However, the statistically insignificant gain by the Liberals does actually contain some good news. In April and May, Forum had Trudeau's party at either 43 or 44 per cent support, and subsequently showed a steady decline over the following two months. This poll has arrested that decline, suggesting Liberals may be settling-in at the mid-30s, rather than suffering a sustained slide back from their dizzying heights in the first few weeks of Trudeau's leadership.
A poll by Nanos Research seems to confirm that Liberal numbers are solidifying. The polling firm was commissioned to do a poll by Bell Canada and Telus about the telecommunications industry this month, but its assessment of the voting intentions of Canadians showed virtually no change from their previous survey from mid-June. Nanos found the Liberals to have 35 per cent support, compared to 32 per cent for Conservatives and 23 per cent for New Democrats. Considering their respective margins of error, these two new poll results are consistent with one another.
One factor that may have influenced Forum's numbers, however, is that the firm did its flash poll the day after The Huffington Post Canada reported Trudeau's admission that he had smoked marijuana as recently as three years ago. It is difficult to know for certain whether this admission had any effect on the poll's results — the news probably did not become more widely known until after the weekend, when every pundit, editorial board, and politician (and their mothers) had said their piece about it — but the early signs point to little negative effect on Trudeau's support.
In fact, there was not a huge difference in the poll between the proportions of Canadians who said the admission would make them more or less likely to vote Liberal (the majority said it made no difference), and it only seemed to hurt Trudeau particularly among Conservatives. With the Tories at 29 per cent, there is little reason to expect Liberals had many more votes to get from that direction anyway.
It will probably be another few weeks before we can get a much clearer idea of how Canadians feel about the issue, though it seems so far unlikely to have any major effect on national voting intentions. The summer itself, despite the new revelations about Pamela Wallin and the delay of the return to work by MPs until October due to prorogation, seems to have also had little consequence. That may mean that a relatively comfortable lead for the Liberals over the Conservatives is the new status quo — something neither Stephen Harper nor Thomas Mulcair should be very pleased about.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.