09/05/2014 07:05 EDT | Updated 09/05/2014 07:59 EDT

Trudeau Liberals Ahead On Issues Canadians Care About Most: Poll


His critics say Canadians are just attracted to his good looks and sunny disposition, but will abandon him when it comes time to choose the country's next government. Yet, a new poll shows that on the issues Canadians care about most, Justin Trudeau's Liberals are still the top choice.

The survey conducted August 15-18 and released this week by Abacus Data asked respondents to choose the three top issues facing Canada today.

Just more than half of Canadians, or 51 per cent, included health care in their list. This outpaced all other issues by a wide margin. Coming in second was job creation, at 34 per cent, followed by taxes at 32 per cent and debt/deficit at 29 per cent.

Another major issue of concern was accountability and trust (25 per cent). Middle class incomes, the environment, and retirement security were each chosen by 23 per cent of respondents.

Of those who said that health care was one of their top three issues, the Liberals placed first with 37 per cent support, ahead of the Conservatives at 27 per cent and the NDP at 25 per cent. On the issue of job creation — certainly a focus in the Conservatives' re-election strategy and a particularly important issue to Ontarians, according to the poll — the Liberals were also in front, with 36 per cent support to 32 per cent for the Tories and just 19 per cent for the NDP.

The Liberals also led by a wide margin among those who chose accountability and trust as being among their top three issues: 39 per cent to 25 per cent for the Conservatives and 24 per cent for the NDP. On middle class incomes (a particular issue of concern in Quebec), the environment, retirement security, education, and poverty, the Liberals were also ahead of their rivals. The biggest gap was among those who chose the environment (Quebecers and British Columbians were especially keen on this issue), with the Liberals at 44 per cent to 26 per cent for the NDP and 13 per cent for the Conservatives.

But the Conservatives did have their own issues of strength. For those who cited the debt and the deficit as a top issue, the Tories were up 10 points over the Liberals at 44 per cent. The Tories were also ahead on the issue of taxes (which scored big in Ontario), with 40 per cent to 32 per cent support for the Liberals, and enjoyed a very large edge on natural resource development. The Conservatives also led among those who considered crime a top-three issue.

Unfortunately for the New Democrats, there was not one issue in which they placed ahead of both the Liberals and Conservatives. Their best result came among those who were most concerned about poverty (31 per cent to 36 per cent for the Liberals) and, unexpectedly, crime (26 per cent, tied with the Liberals in second behind the Conservatives at 35 per cent). They also did well among those who selected education as a top issue.

The results point to strategies the parties could employ in the next election. The Liberals can do little about health care at the federal level, but can certainly emphasize accountability, job creation, and the middle class — all strong issues for them. The Conservatives will boast about slaying the deficit with a surplus budget next year, but can also do well by focusing on resource development, lower taxes, and justice issues. The NDP is in a tougher position, with low-priority issues like poverty and social justice at the top of their list. These are traditional issues of strength for the NDP in its old role as the "conscience of parliament," but not those of a government-in-waiting.

The poll also suggests what strategies have not been working. The Tories have been pounding Trudeau over his economic incompetence, yet he is ahead on job creation. And the New Democrats have tried to cast themselves as the party Canadians can trust to clean up Ottawa, but the Liberals are ahead on accountability. Both parties may have to re-tool if they hope to eat away at the Liberals' lead.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.


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