04/26/2013 10:18 EDT

Justin Trudeau's Quebec Poll Numbers Suggest He Could Win Back Province From NDP


A new poll suggests Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are making inroads in the part of Canada that vaulted New Democrats to Official Opposition status: Quebec.

The survey, conducted by CROP for La Presse from April 17 to 22, found Liberals to have the support of 38 per cent of Quebecers and 32 per cent of francophones in the province. According to Youri Rivest of the Quebec-based polling firm, the Liberals have not boasted such scores since Trudeau’s father was in office.

The New Democrats were pushed to second as a result, with 30 per cent support. That is the first time CROP has pegged the NDP as runner-up since the firm was quickest to catch the NDP’s surge in Quebec during the 2011 federal election.

The Bloc Québécois followed in the poll with 18 per cent, while Conservatives mustered only 10 per cent support in the province.

That is an enormous change from CROP’s last poll taken in mid-March, before Trudeau had taken over the leadership. Liberals doubled their support from 19 per cent, while the NDP dropped nine points, the Conservatives five, and the Bloc two.

That Liberals could be in a close race for first with New Democrats among francophones (the NDP stands at 33 per cent), a demographic that had increasingly turned away from federal Grits after the sponsorship scandal, points to the remarkable opportunity Trudeau has to renew ties with French-speaking Quebecers.

But the New Democrats have not collapsed. The party was within a few points of the Liberals in the suburbs around the island of Montreal, and is still competitive in every part of the province (though the Liberals were ahead in each region). And while the Liberals held an eight-point advantage over the NDP in voting intentions, Trudeau was chosen as the best option for prime minister by 29 per cent — only two points more than what Thomas Mulcair managed on the question. But that two-point disadvantage is a dramatic change from the 29-point edge Mulcair had over interim leader Bob Rae in March.

Nevertheless, Mulcair does score better than Trudeau among Quebecers on a few important issues: he is seen as better able to face and solve major problems and as the superior administrator. Mulcair appeals to the head, then, whereas Trudeau appeals to the heart. Trudeau beat the NDP leader on honesty, trustworthiness, representing real change, understanding people’s needs, and being a uniter.

A survey by Harris-Decima (though admittedly with a smaller sample size in Quebec) shows a closer contest on a lot of these issues than CROP does, but it does suggest that Mulcair is more trusted among Quebecers on the economy. But nationwide, Trudeau leads on the question of who would make the best prime minister, with 33 per cent to 31 per cent for Stephen Harper and only 19 per cent for Mulcair.

The road to a Liberal renewal runs primarily through Ontario, but rebuilding bridges the party burned in Quebec would ensure Trudeau an electoral coalition that would be difficult for Conservatives to beat — and would tear the NDP’s apart.

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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