Thomas Mulcair may be fighting it out with Justin Trudeau for votes in Quebec, but people there already have an opinion of the NDP leader that is far more positive than any other provincial or federal politician in the province.
A new poll released over the weekend by Léger for Le Devoir included the polling firm's bi-annual ranking of Quebec's provincial politicians. But for the first time, the survey asked Quebecers about federal politicians as well.
Mulcair placed at the top of the list with 60 per cent of respondents saying they have a good opinion of him. He was the only personality at both levels of government to top 50 per cent. Only 10 per cent of Quebecers said they had a poor opinion of the NDP leader. Another 14 per cent were unsure and 16 per cent did not know who he was.
That puts Mulcair well ahead of Trudeau, who placed second in the rankings with 44 per cent saying they have a good opinion of him. Almost one-third, or 32 per cent, said they had a poor opinion, while 16 per cent were unsure and just eight per cent said they did not know who he was.
Those are terrific numbers for Mulcair, but they do not necessarily translate into votes. New Democrats have been in a closer fight for second with the Bloc Québécois than they have been in the race for top spot against Liberals.
And the two most popular provincial leaders in the province — Françoise David of Québec Solidaire and François Legault of the Coalition Avenir Québec — trail the provincial Liberals and Parti Québécois by a considerable margin in voting intentions.
Nevertheless, it does suggest Mulcair has much more room for growth and that Quebecers might consider switching their vote back to New Democrats if the Liberals falter or Trudeau's charm begins to wane.
The poll also suggests, however, that the two other party leaders with seats in the province are less likely to reap any benefits from a potential drop of Liberal support in the polls.
With 67 per cent saying they have a negative opinion of him, Stephen Harper is the most disliked politician in the province, at both levels of government. Just 18 per cent said they had a good opinion of him, a number that looks suspiciously like the Conservatives' new ceiling in Quebec.
The Bloc Québécois' Daniel Paillé also polled very low in this survey, with just 15 per cent saying they have a positive view of him. However, only 17 per cent said they had a bad opinion of him. That is because fully 48 per cent of Quebecers said they do not know who Paillé is and another 20 per cent were not sure of their opinion — horrendous statistics for a party leader who has been in place for two years.
More Quebecers knew Marc Garneau, Stéphane Dion, Maria Mourani, Maxime Bernier, Christian Paradis, and Elizabeth May — whose Green Party took just two per cent of the vote in Quebec in 2011 — than the BQ leader.
It would seem that Mulcair will not have to look over his shoulder much when push comes to shove in a real election campaign. But can he turn that sympathy into votes in order to surpass the Trudeau Liberals?
Many leaders have been personally popular but unsuccessful at the ballot box. Jack Layton was one of them — until he wasn't anymore.
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.
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