09/02/2014 11:06 EDT | Updated 09/03/2014 12:59 EDT

Most Canadians Not Buying That Trudeau's 'In Over His Head,' Poll Suggests


It could end up being the central question of the next federal election — is Justin Trudeau in over his head? While Conservatives would have Canadians believe that's the case, a new poll suggests few voters are buying the argument.

According to a survey from Abacus Data, only 24 per cent of voters believe Trudeau is "in over his head," as Tory attack ads proclaim, while 26 per cent say he is not. Twenty-eight per cent of voters say the Liberal leader may be over his head but could learn on the job, while another 23 per cent aren't sure and need to see more of him.

The numbers suggest that, at least so far, the key Tory attack on Trudeau's competency to run the country isn't working. Less than 18 per cent of voters under the age of 45 buy the argument and just 33 per cent of voters over 60 agree with the "in over his head" line. Even in the Conservative heartland of Alberta, just 31 per cent say Trudeau is in over his head while 19 per cent disagree and 30 per cent think he can learn on the job.

Among those who voted for Stephen Harper's party in 2011, 47 per cent say Trudeau isn't ready to be prime minister, while 13 per cent reject that argument and 23 per cent think he can learn on the job. But among those who voted for the NDP in the last election, 29 per cent reject the notion Trudeau's not up to the job, while 37 per cent think he can learn on the job.

When it comes to "swing voters" who typically choose between Tories and Liberals, just 24 per cent think Trudeau's not ready. And, in what may be troubling news for NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, only three per cent of voters who will choose between New Democrats and Grits buy the argument the Liberal leader is over his head.

The poll of 1,614 respondents was conducted online between August 15 and 18 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent.

The survey results come on the heels of another poll from Abacus showing that Trudeau is ranked more favourably than Harper on a number of key metrics — including judgment.

Both surveys have led Abacus' Bruce Anderson and David Coletto to conclude that Canadians appear to be willing to give Trudeau the "benefit of the doubt" despite some gaffes since he took over as Liberal leader in 2013.

"The question for Conservative strategists is whether to persist in trying to make the ballot question Mr. Trudeau's competency or abandon it in favour of something else," the pair writes in the poll summary. "Thus far the evidence suggests it has not worked."

Harper Conservatives captured a majority government in 2011, in part, by convincing many voters that then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who spent decades outside of Canada working in academia and journalism, was "just visiting" and not "in it for you." But with Liberals leading in most polls since Trudeau assumed the leadership and evidence now suggesting Tory attacks on Trudeau are backfiring, Liberal MPs are the ones musing about the possibility of a majority government in 2015.

"I don't think there is an opportunity to even fail," Liberal MP Yvonne Jones told The Huffington Post Canada last month.


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