Friday, January 4, 2013

Canadians expect Trudeau to win

Apparently, Canadians pay attention to the news and expect Justin Trudeau to win the federal Liberal leadership race in April. A new Ipsos-Reid poll suggests that more than two-thirds of Canadians think Trudeau will come out victorious, meaning that April's vote will either be a non-event or a huge upset. But the poll also hints at some doubts in Trudeau's ability to defeat the Conservatives.
The online poll conducted in mid-December found that 69% of Canadians expect Justin Trudeau to win the leadership race, giving him a 50-point edge over Marc Garneau. Just under one-in-five think he will prevail.

The other candidates on Ipsos-Reid's list - Martha Hall Findlay, Joyce Murray, and Deborah Coyne - hardly registered. Hall Findlay and Murray each had 5%, while Coyne had 2%.

From what I can tell, Ipsos-Reid did not give people the option of responding with "I don't know". One imagines that would have taken in a large proportion of respondents. But these numbers generally line-up with what we have seen in terms of who Canadians want to win the leadership race, which might have been a more interesting question to ask in this survey.

Over 70% of Canadians in every region except Alberta and Ontario think Trudeau will win, while Marc Garneau managed his best results in Alberta, where 27% think he will win. Is Garneau the Liberal candidate of the right? A recent poll by Forum Research of Ontarians found that provincial PC voters were split down the middle between Trudeau and Garneau, while Trudeau dominated among Liberal and NDP supporters. That Garneau also did best in Alberta in this poll seems to suggest that he is seen as standing to the right of Trudeau.

And while Canadians think Trudeau will win, they are slightly more bullish on Garneau's potential to defeat Stephen Harper. The margin is still wide between Trudeau and Garneau at 38 points, but it suggests that some people doubt that the Liberals will make the right choice.
62% of Canadians think Justin Trudeau has the best chance of defeating the Conservatives, while 24% think Garneau does.

That is not a huge difference from how Canadians think the race will play out -  a drop of seven points for Trudeau and an increase of five points for Garneau - but it is a result. Again, Garneau does best in Alberta, where 32% think he has the better chance of defeating Harper.

Still, a large majority of Canadians think Trudeau will win the race and is the best person to take on the Conservatives. But these numbers suggest he has a little work to do in convincing Canadians that he has what it takes to win a general election.

They already don't doubt that his party could win, though. Fully 56% of respondents agree that the Liberals will return to power under the next leader at some point. Only in Alberta and the Prairies do a majority doubt that the next Liberal leader will become Prime Minister one day. That is not a bad number, as it suggests that a large number of Canadians think the third-place Liberals will win an election within the next two or three cycles. But it probably would have been well over 75% in 2006 before the Liberals chose Stéphane Dion.

Canadians are somewhat less sure that the opposition parties will need to co-operate in order to oust the Conservatives. The country was split down the middle on whether the Liberals, NDP, and Greens should work together to avoid splitting the "anti-conservative vote": 51% for to 49% against. Passions don't run too high on this question, however. Only 14% strongly agreed that they should co-operate, while 17% strongly disagreed. 

Hopefully, Ipsos-Reid will weigh-in on these questions again as the leadership vote approaches. If Trudeau does very well over the next few months, his numbers are surely to rise. But will the numbers of respondents who think that the Liberals can return to power and do it on their own increase as well? And if he falters, will Canadians still think that Garneau or another candidate will be able to defeat the Conservatives without co-operating with the NDP?