10/18/2011 04:00 EDT | Updated 12/17/2011 05:12 EST

U.S. Presidential Race: Barack Obama Could Always Come North If Things Don't Work Out In 2012, Poll Suggests


OTTAWA - If things don't work out in next year's U.S. elections, Barack Obama could always come north.

Fifty-one per cent of Canadians surveyed in a poll by The Canadian Press Harris-Decima said they thought Obama is doing at least a good job.

Another 30 per cent rated his performance as fair, while 10 per cent said he's doing poorly.

Support is down 10 points from a year ago, when 61 per cent of Canadians surveyed said Obama was doing at least a good job.

But it's better than he's doing at home, where Gallup's daily presidential tracking poll has Obama's job approval at 40 per cent of Americans against 52 per cent who disapproved of his performance.

Harris-Decima interviewed just over 1,000 Canadians Oct. 6-9, and the numbers are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

The Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper garnered just under 40 per cent of the vote in winning a majority government last May 2. Polls suggest the Tories have lost some of that support.

Obama won the presidency in 2008 on a campaign of hope and optimism. He has since been besieged by crippling economic woes and problems mustering congressional support for some of his key initiatives.

The Democrat has lost some lustre in the eyes of a disillusioned American electorate but not so much in Canada, where he has had a built-in advantage among the populace.

"Right out of the gate, there was something about the president that Canadians could really be attracted to on a more widespread basis than Americans were," noted Harris-Decima's Doug Anderson.

"It was really an appeal that was across our own partisan lines ... and that's still the case. There's something about the message that he's delivering or what he represents."

Anderson acknowledged Canadians are more politically left-of-centre than Americans to begin with.

"That's sort of an historic truism. Even if values may be shifting a little bit towards the right in Canada over the last decade or two, they're not what they are in the States. So the metre has to be recalibrated for Canada when you're looking at anybody."

Obama succeeded Republican George W. Bush, whose popularity in Canada was well below that of his predecessors. Anderson says Canadians put a lot of hope in Obama, just like many Americans.

Residents of Atlantic Canada and Quebec were most likely to say Obama is still doing well, while Western Canadians were least likely to agree. Regional breakdowns have higher margins of error.

One in 10 of those surveyed nationally said their opinion of Obama is getting better over time, while 63 per cent said their opinion remains unchanged.

Nineteen per cent said their opinion of the president is getting worse, up from 12 per cent a year ago.

Most said the president has done a good job keeping his campaign promises — 56 per cent, versus 21 who said he isn't. That support has declined from 65 per cent last year and 70 per cent two years ago.

Residents of Quebec and those over the age of 50 were most likely to say Obama is doing a good job of keeping his campaign promises.