04/19/2013 10:00 EDT | Updated 04/19/2013 10:20 EDT

Poll Suggests Justin Trudeau's Liberals Might Take Immigrant Vote Away From Conservatives


Justin Trudeau’s arrival at the helm of the Liberal party might wash away all the work Conservatives have assiduously undertaken to secure the vote of new Canadians, a recent poll suggests.

The survey was conducted by EKOS Research for iPolitics just prior to Trudeau’s leadership victory, but his effect on the party’s numbers was already being felt long before his win was made official. If anything, based on a snap Forum poll conducted the day after he became leader, the poll might under-state Liberal support in immigrant communities.

Nevertheless, the poll gives Liberals 35 per cent support among Canadians born outside the country, compared to 29 per cent for the Conservatives and 22 per cent for the New Democrats. By comparison, a poll conducted in February by EKOS gave the Conservatives a slight edge over the Liberals among immigrants, with Grits scoring under 30 per cent support.

The Tories made serious inroads among immigrant communities in the last federal election, an essential part of their strategy to win new seats in the GTA. Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism has held on to the job for so long (since 2008) in large part due to his success in reaching out to these communities. Crafting an electoral coalition between new Canadians in the suburbs and rural Canadians born here, two groups the party considers to have much in common in terms of social and economic values, was key in their three last election wins, and particularly the majority victory of 2011.

If the Liberals are able to break that coalition apart, the Conservatives will have a hard time being re-elected. While rural Canadians will likely stay with the Conservative Party, the suburbs could swing over to the Liberals. Bringing together a coalition of suburban and urban voters — along with Quebecers if Trudeau is successful in wooing enough of them over from the New Democrats — is just as much of a winning strategy as the one that put Stephen Harper into power.

Though the Liberals have traditionally had strong support among immigrant communities, these numbers may turn out to be only temporary. In fact, there is only so much that can be derived from this poll. The sample of immigrant Canadians is not tiny (some 600) and the Liberals can be said to have a statistically significant lead among them, but the margin of error is large enough that the lead is potentially very narrow.

Support among immigrants in future polls will be something to keep an eye on. Whether this advantage holds in the coming weeks and months will determine if the Liberals have a serious shot of bringing a large proportion of these voters back into the tent by 2015.

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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