11/27/2012 09:21 EST | Updated 01/27/2013 05:12 EST

Liberal Leadership Poll Finds Trudeau Dominant Among Challengers


A new poll confirms what has been clear for months: Justin Trudeau remains the odds-on favourite, and the choice of Canadians, for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. But after last week's attention for comments he made in a two-year-old interview, could Trudeau have peaked too early?

The poll by Harris-Decima for The Canadian Press found 42 per cent of Canadians would be certain or likely to vote for the Liberals with Trudeau as leader, a gain of six points since Harris-Decima last asked this question in September, and up nine points since their first poll of June.

Before getting carried away with visions of a Liberal majority government, note that only 15 per cent of Canadians said they would be certain to vote for Trudeau.

Nevertheless, the poll puts him well ahead of his rivals. Marc Garneau, expected to launch his leadership bid this week, would get the certain or likely vote of 20 per cent of Canadians. That is up a statistically insignificant two points since September. Only three per cent, though, would be certain to vote for the Garneau Liberals. That means a lot of wavering potential supporters.

Martha Hall Findlay, who launched her bid earlier this month, would receive the certain or likely vote of 15 per cent of Canadians, up five points since September. Deborah Coyne, Martin Cauchon and Joyce Murray got only 12 per cent on this question. Coyne is already officially in the race, while Murray is expected to take the plunge soon. Cauchon is still weighing his options.

Other candidates, like David Merner, David Bertschi and Jonathan Mousley would get the certain or likely support of 11 or 10 per cent of Canadians.

By this measure, only Trudeau would improve upon May 2011's result of 19 per cent. Garneau keeps the party at about that level of support, while the other candidates could potentially cost the party. Of course, if Garneau or Hall Findlay win, Canadians will get the opportunity to know them better.

But Trudeau does not appear to be the polarizing figure that some have suggested. Only 15 per cent of Canadians said they would be certain not to vote for the Liberals with him at the helm, compared to 24 per cent for Garneau and between 27 and 30 per cent for the other candidates. That gives Trudeau a much larger pool in which to fish, assuming his Alberta comments have not permanently set him back.

If they have not, which seems likely, the potential to reach deep into the pockets of the other parties is there. Of that 42 per cent who said they would be certain or likely to vote for him, less than half are current Liberal supporters. Based on the poll's results, Trudeau could capture two or more points from the Greens (representing anywhere from one-third to one-half of their current support), five or more from the Conservatives (putting them out of contention for a majority government at the very least) and 10 or more points from the New Democrats (dropping them back to pre-2011 levels). That should be of great concern to every party in the House.

The usual caveats still apply: it is very early going and we can probably expect Trudeau to make a few more gaffes or for other older ones to be dug up. Nevertheless, the numbers do not lie about what could happen if the mud does not stick and Trudeau wins the race.

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.

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