"There's no question that the first two years of consolidation after the orange wave of 2011 have now prepared us to look at Canadians and say that we're the government in waiting," a beaming Mulcair, flanked by NDP MPs, said last week as the House of Commons broke for the three-month summer recess.
"This was a pivotal session for the NDP as official Opposition."
The latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll suggests otherwise.
The telephone survey of just over 1,000 respondents placed Mulcair behind both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on a range of leadership attributes.
A majority of respondents, 56 per cent, reported having had a favourable impression of Trudeau; 39 per cent said the same of Harper and 37 per cent Mulcair.
The national poll was conducted June 13-16 at the end of the last full week the Commons was sitting.
Mulcair fared better on the flip side of the favourability ratings. Thirty-two per cent of respondents said they had an unfavourable impression of the NDP leader, which put him between Trudeau (29 per cent unfavourable) and Harper (54 per cent unfavourable).
Harris-Decima asked the same set of questions in April, and found that Mulcair's favourability rating actually fell five points and his negatives rose four points during those last frenetic weeks in the House, which featured his prosecutorial grilling of the prime minister on the Senate expense scandal.
Harper's favourability numbers barely budged between April and mid-June, scandal notwithstanding, and Trudeau's numbers also held firm.
The pollster also asked a series of questions about specific leadership attributes that provided some potentially counter-intuitive results, given the media narrative of a disastrous spring for the prime minister, a Mulcair renaissance and Trudeau somewhat adrift.
"Mr. Harper (31 per cent) and Mr. Trudeau (30 per cent) are neck and neck on the question of who would make the best prime minister," Harris-Decima said. "A further 15 per cent feel Mr. Mulcair would make the best prime minister."
Fully 40 per cent of respondents said they felt Harper was most capable on economic matters, followed by Trudeau at 21 per cent and Mulcair at 14 per cent.
Harper also prevailed on best judgment, 29 per cent, followed by Trudeau at 23 and Mulcair at 19.
Asked which leader "shares your values," 31 per cent chose Trudeau, 26 picked Harper and just 16 per cent chose Mulcair.
And when asked "who cares most about people like you," respondents chose Trudeau (31 per cent) ahead of Harper (21) and Mulcair (19).
Harper, after seven years in the job, easily led on the question of experience required to be prime minister with 47 per cent, while Trudeau and Mulcair were tied at 16 per cent each.
The survey carries a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
— With files from Joan Bryden
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