Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's not easy being green

Liberal leader Stéphane Dion is having a rough week. The man who won the Liberal leadership a few months ago with much excitement and supporting decked out in green, has "enjoyed" the following headlines over the past week:

Dion missed the boat on Kyoto targets
The Windsor Star - Wed, Feb 21, 2007

Outfoxing Dion on his own green turf
National Post - Wed, Feb 21, 2007

What is Dion's (environmental) plan?
The Kitchener-Waterloo Record - Mon, Feb 19, 2007

Dion paints himself into green corner
Edmonton Journal - Sun, Feb 18, 2007

Dion could be crushed under the Kyoto battle horse
The Guelph Mercury - Fri, Feb 16, 2007

In the meantime, on other issues and in genral the headlines have been just as bad:

Dion third choice for PM: poll
National Post - Wed, Feb 21, 2007

Dion has Stockwell Day syndrome
National Post - Wed, Feb 21, 2007

Dion faces internal criticism
Montreal Gazette - Tue, Feb 20, 2007

Party needs more image, less Dion: Axworthy
National Post - Tue, Feb 20, 2007

Dion firm as mutiny brews on terror act
National Post - Sat, Feb 17, 2007

Ouch. This bit is the worst "Dion third choice for PM: poll". Correct me if I am wrong but this is the first time I would suspect since the 1980s that a Liberal leader's personal numbers were in third place. In those days NDP legend Ed Broadbent often finished first for choice of PM but I think that Mulroney may have been third. This could be the first time ever that a Liberal leader has placed third.

I don't put a lot of stock in polls are this point in a political cycle. There is a new opposition leader who the public does not know well and, as we've seen in elections like 1974, 1984, 1998, 1993, 2004 and 2006 when the writ is out the lead can change back and forth several times over.

However, the "Dion third choice for PM: poll" line is based on an Ipsos-Reid poll released yesterday and conducted from last Thursday to Sunday. Unlike a simple voting intentions poll, I think this poll contains some relevant data. It is about people's deep down feelings towards the leaders. Poll followers will remember that Harper's postive idea centric offensive during the first weeks of the 2006 election campaign (in December 2005) caused his personal numbers to build steadily before his party's numbers followed suit. People may not have made up their minds how to vote, but they are starting to make up their minds on their leaders and that will have a strong influence on their votes come election day.

The poll had some damning numbers. Dion did not win in any category.

Who will get things done:
Harper 48%
Dion 24%
Layton 23%
Ouch.

Who has what it takes to lead Canada:
Harper 46%
Dion 26%
Layton 25%
Ouch.

Who has a vision of Canada that you support:
Harper 40%
Layton 29%
Dion 27%
OUCH!

Who can you trust:
Harper 39%
Layton 31%
Dion 25%
OUCH!

Who knows when to compromise for the greater good:
Harper 38%
Layton 33%
Dion 25%
OUCH!

Who has values close to yours:
Harper 37%
Layton 32%
Dion 24%
OUCH!

Who is open to other ideas:
Layton 36%
Harper 32%
Dion 26%
OUCH!

Who is sincere in dealing with global warming:
Layton 39%
Harper 28%
Dion 27%
OUCH!

These are all of the "positive measures" they polled. Calgary Grit is quite right to point out that Dion's numbers should be low and that being low is normal for an opposition leader.

However it is very disconcerting to see this poll not only show Dion low, but viturally tied and in some cases way behind the leader of the NDP - who most would agree is hapless - in a lot of areas. Even in the overall "preference for PM" poll. This is not something that cannot be overcome, but this is a strong warning sign that needs to be addressed soon.

11 comments:

scott said...

Poll followers will remember that Harper's postive idea centric offensive during the first weeks of the 2006 election campaign (in December 2005) caused his personal numbers to build steadily before his party's numbers followed suit.


Very true, NBPolitico. But that was then and this is now. Yes, Martin had great leadership numbers going into the '06 campaign which you could say bare a frightening similarity to the numbers Harper enjoyed this week over his main opponents. But again, that was then and this is now.

The political landscape has changed considerably in 14 months.

So what is different now as opposed to '05-06?

Firstly, Harper has no serious scandal pending which could possibly unravel his campaign like Dithers did with Gomery/Adscam. And for those who think he [Harper] will be punished for reversing his stance on not taxing Income trusts, you will be sadly disappointed. Though it is a damaging issue, the constituency affected is too modest to make a difference like adscam did.

Secondly, and most importantly, Harper's caucus is united behind his quest to gain a governing majority. That definitely couldn't be said for Martin going into the campaign. In 2006, there were some liberals [Chretienites], I won't name names, who made it their duty to bring down Martin's campaign. (i.e. all the platform leeks and the alleged mole)

Thirdly, in 2006, Martin was running against a merged entity in the New Consevative party who had just come off a strong policy conference under a very articulate leader in Harper. As you may remember, in '04, they [CPC] had no time to have a policy conference as Martin called a snap election.

And finally, the Conservatives are riding high on a wave of donations from Ontario and Quebec due to their support for Isreal. Many who once supported the big red machine and their MPs are no longer doing so.

All these factors combined with low poll numbers for Dion must be of great concern for all Liberals across the country.

nbpolitico said...

Scott, I think you were missing my point.

I indeed think this is bad news for the Liberals. The point I was making in the text you quoted was that Dion needs to build his personal numbers, as Harper did, before he can build his party numbers and he is not doing that.

If I might quote myself further, Calgary Grit is quite right to point out that Dion's numbers should be low and that being low is normal for an opposition leader.

However it is very disconcerting to see this poll not only show Dion low, but viturally tied and in some cases way behind the leader of the NDP - who most would agree is hapless - in a lot of areas. Even in the overall "preference for PM" poll. This is not something that cannot be overcome, but this is a strong warning sign that needs to be addressed soon.

nuna d. above said...

Well we might ask Lynn Macleod, Camille Theriault, Kim Campbell and others what poll numbers mean.What I think is happening with these numbers is that the old PC ridings held by Liberals are going back to Harper next time around.
Liberal survival depends on crushing the NDP and the BQ and winning their seats.Dion is not the man to do that.

scott said...

There is no question that you and Dan Arnold make excellent points. However, if this was actually clearly based on raw data, then there would be no need to argue strategies based on increasing Dion's personal numbers.

And further to my point, Harper has changed the political climate/lanscape to his advantage, in that, he has managed to divide the Liberal party [and the opposition] on every contentious issue while sticking maticulously to his brief list of campaign promises. Which is why he has been able to focus on politics rather than be engulfed in time consuming policy debates caused by too many campaign promises.

And you could aloso argue that having a five point plan allowed him to go over the top of a government split down the centre in '06. So in retrospect, the strategy served it's purpose in both getting them there and keeping them there.

Anonymous said...

Just ask yourself this question....who owns ALL of those publications above?

Spinks said...

Becoming Liberal leader in the past has been a golden ticket to becoming Prime Minister of Canada. Who was the last Liberal leader who didn't become PM? I think it was some guy about 100 years ago.

I said it at the time and I'll say it again, Dion was an odd, odd choice for the Liberals although arguably there were slim pickings all around. If he surrounds himself with a really strong team and some issue goes off the rails for the Conservatives then maybe but if an election is held this year, there's very little compelling reason to vote Dion in, in my mind anyway. The polls seem to agree although they can change on a whim pretty easily.

I just don't see an election this year unless the Conservatuves themselves pull the plug. Why would the opposition call an election that their bets chance is winning a minority government?

Anonymous said...

Harper has revealed his true and malicious colours through his slander against Liberal MP Navdeep Bains. This is going to turn off voters who thought there was some hope that Harper would be a moderate -- it's clearly not the case.

nbpolitico said...

scott - I am confused. I am not making the same point as Dan Arnold (Calgary Grit). He is arguing that these polls are similar to the Martin/Harper numbers before the last election so there is not much to worry about.

I am arguing that this is bad, bad news for the Liberals. I agree with your analysis that Harper has done a very good (political) job in dividing the Liberals and staying on message with the possible exception of the Environment but even in that area he has successfully convinced Canadians that even if you don't like the Tory environmental plan, it is no matter because the Grits suck on the environment too.

It is politically ingenius and these numbers say to me not only with Dion give Harper his ticket to re-election, he may also save the NDP from self destruction.

That is unless things start to change soon.

Anonymous said...

With all of the negative adds, Dion's poor english and press about infighting, Dion has not yet had the chance to demonstrate how strong of a leader he really is to the Canadian public. He will prove it over the coming months. As for the Conservatives, the have been in power for over a year, handed out millions for pet projects in communities across Canada, and they are STILL no higher in the polls then they were this time last year. This is an Alberta-Conservative government and those old-PC ridings in Ontario and East will have to look elsewhere for a party that reflects their priorities.

Brian Cormier said...

So much negative publicity over one poll! It's one poll. The rest have been showing relatively good numbers for the Liberals. I wouldn't flush Dion just yet. Poll numbers change all the time. They were writing Harper's political obituary last two weeks ago. Last week it was Dion. Next week it will be Harper again. I wouldn't read too much into this. By the way, NB Politico, I've added a link to your blog from mine. FYI.

richard said...

"Firstly, Harper has no serious scandal pending which could possibly unravel his campaign like Dithers did with Gomery/Adscam."

How do you know that? Given the "quality" of his cabinet, there is plenty of potential for scandal.

The CPC is not rising in the polls, despite the positive spin being put on the leadership poll. What does that say?

If the predictions of a spring offensive by the Taliban in Afghanistan are correct, and Canadian troops suffer heavy casualities, then the CPC numbers (and Harper's) will likely go south. If (as appears likely) the U.S. heads into a recession later this year, and oil prices drop, then employment falls in Canada. I'd say if Harper is going to pull the trigger, he best do it know. Otherwise, he'll be back in AB licking his wounds sooner than he thinks (the CPC is not the united party some think it is).