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Can Justin Trudeau Succeed Where Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff Failed?

A year ago Monday, Justin Trudeau became the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Slightly more than 80 per cent of the 30,000 Liberals who cast a ballot selected the son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau to lead the Grits in the 21st century.

Much to their opponents' dismay, Trudeau and the Liberals seem to be enjoying an extended honeymoon period. Polls suggest the Conservative attack ads questioning his judgment and his plans to legalize pot aren’t working. But as we've seen in the past, polls aren’t always the best predictor of what can happen in an election.

Here's a look at how some other recent Liberal leaders fared a year after their leadership race and subsequent election.

(Photo credit: The Canadian Press)

Selected leader: Dec. 2, 2006 at a convention. He received 54.7 per cent of the vote on the fourth ballot.

Poll before his selection: of Canadians didn't believe the Liberals were ready to govern Canada in a Nov. 29, 2006 poll from Ipsos.

Poll soon after his leadership nod:

An Ipsos survey conducted just days after his leadership win found Dion’s Liberals had jumped seven points, surging ahead of the Conservatives with 38 per cent of support compared to 32 per cent for the Tories.

It was the first time since the Jan. 23, 2006 election that the Grits were leading, Ipsos said.

Poll a year later:

Support for Dion's Liberals had dropped to 29 per cent, according to a poll conducted by Ipsos between Nov. 20 and 22, 2007. The Conservatives were leading with 39 per cent, and the NDP were in third place with 15 per cent.

But a poll conducted less than two months later showed a comeback for Dion. An Ipsos poll in early January 2008 showed Dion’s Liberals had edged ahead of Harper’s Conservatives with 35 per cent of support compared to 33 per cent.

Election result:

The Liberals lost 18 seats in Oct. 2008 federal election. The party received 26.3 per cent of the vote, or 77 seats. The Conservatives won 37.7 per cent of the vote (143 seats) and the NDP had 18.2 per cent (37 seats).

In the Jan. 2006 election, the Liberals had won 30.2 per cent, the Conservatives 36.3 per cent and the NDP 17.5 per cent. Between the 2006 and 2008 elections, the Liberals lost 846,230 voters.

(Photo credit: The Canadian Press)

Selected leader: Officially endorsed as leader on May 2, 2009. He had been interim leader since Dec. 10, 2008 when other candidates bowed out of the race.

Poll before his selection:

Ipsos conducted a poll from Dec. 9-11, 2008, just as Ignatieff was declared interim leader. It suggested Ignatieff had made a slight impact, with the Liberals up slightly to 26 per cent of support.

But the Conservatives still dominated with 45 per cent of decided voters. The NDP had 12 per cent of support.

A March 2009 Ipsos poll showed improvement — the Liberals were up to 33 per cent of support, and the Tories had 37 per cent.

Poll around the time of his leadership nod:

Ignatieff’s Liberals were ahead of the Tories with 36 per cent compared to 33 per cent, according to an Ipsos poll conducted April 29 to 30, 2009.

Poll a year later:

An Ipsos survey from April 6-8, 2010, suggested Ignatieff’s honeymoon was over. The Conservative party had the support of 37 per cent of decided voters and the Liberals were down to 27 per cent. The NDP was at 15 per cent.

“It often seems as though the Leader of the Opposition is missing-in-action, and it is clear that he is having trouble resonating with voters, much like his predecessor Stéphane Dion,” Ipsos wrote.

Election result:

The May 2, 2011 election handed the Conservatives 39.6 per cent, the NDP 30.6 per cent and the Liberal party just 18.9 per cent of the vote.

The Liberals lost 43 seats, going from 77 seats to 34. It was the Grits' worst ever election result. (John Turner held that record previously, with 40 seats in 1984). Ignatieff also lost his own seat.

(Photo credit: The Canadian Press)

Selected leader: More than 80 per cent of the Liberals who cast a ballot voted for Trudeau. The results were announced on April 14, 2013.

Poll before his selection:

The Liberals were in third place with 24.6 per cent of support nationwide, according to a Nanos tracking poll from Sept. 4-9, 2012. The poll suggested the Conservatives were first with 32.4 per cent and the NDP second with 30.4 per cent.

Polls around the time he was selected:

The Liberals were slightly leading with 29.1 per cent, according to an Ekos poll conducted between April 3-10, 2013. It suggested the Conservatives were second with 28.8 per cent and the NDP was at 23.3 per cent.

An Ipsos poll conducted March 28 to April 3 suggested the Liberals under Trudeau would be “statistically tied” with Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, with 32 per cent of support compared to 31 per cent. The NDP had dropped to 27 per cent from an all time high of 38 per cent in June shortly after Thomas Mulcair’s leadership selection.

Poll a year later:

An Ekos poll from March 27 to April 3, 2014 suggests the Liberals are way ahead in terms of public support. The Liberals have 35.8 per cent of support, the Conservatives 26.7 per cent and the NDP 21. 8 per cent.

Ekos/iPolitics also provide a nifty graphic of what’s been going on during the last five and a half years.

HuffPost’s Eric Grenier says he believes the Ekos numbers mean the Liberals are in minority territory. His national polling average, available on his website threehundredeight.com, suggests the Liberals have a wide lead over the Conservatives and the NDP with 36 per cent support, compared to 27.7 per cent for the Tories and 22.9 per cent for the NDP.

- With files from Althia Raj and Ryan Maloney

What Is Justin Trudeau Doing?

The second poll dealing with the Liberals and leadership was an online survey of 1034 Canadian adults, conducted via the Ipsos I-Say Online Panel, Ipsos Reid's national online panel. The results of these polls are based on a sample where quota sampling and weighting are employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the actual Canadian population according to Census data. Quota samples with weighting from the Ipsos online panel provide results that are intended to approximate a probability sample. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls, however, an unweighted probability sample of this size, with a 100% response rate, would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had the entire adult population of Canada been polled.

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