Thursday, December 10, 2015

Premier approval ratings: cracks in the Wall?

The Angus Reid Institute has published its quarterly review of premiers' approval ratings from coast-to-coast (excluding the territories and Prince Edward Island). The numbers show some significant shifts in opinion since Angus Reid's summer poll, and diverging fortunes for the two premiers headed for an election in April.

But while Brad Wall still topped the list, some (small) cracks are beginning to show in his dominance in Saskatchewan.

Wall's approval rating stood at 60 per cent in the poll, with 35 per cent disapproval. That puts him as the only premier with a majority approval rating, but it is his lowest approval rating recorded by the Angus Reid Institute since these quarterly polls began at the end of 2012.

The Saskatchewan premier was the only one with a strong net rating, but two other premiers also had positive scores. Stephen McNeil of Nova Scotia had the approval of 46 per cent and the disapproval of 43 per cent, while Rachel Notley in Alberta had an approval rating of 45 per cent and a disapproval rating of 44 per cent.

(Paul Davis was included in this poll, as he lost the Newfoundland and Labrador election on November 30.)

Brian Gallant of New Brunswick was the only other premier with a generally even rating, scoring 34 per cent approval and 39 disapproval. His 'not sure' rating of 27 per cent was, by far, the largest.

Four premiers put up some very poor numbers. The best of them was Philippe Couillard of Quebec, with an approval rating of 35 per cent and a disapproval rating of 57 per cent. He was followed by British Columbia's Christy Clark (34 per cent approval, 60 per cent disapproval) and Ontario's Kathleen Wynne (30 per cent approval, 60 per cent disapproval). For Wynne, that was her lowest rating since becoming premier in early 2013.

At the bottom of the list — again — was Manitoba's Greg Selinger, with an approval rating of 22 per cent and a disapproval rating of 65 per cent.

Wall and Selinger, book-ending the table, are also the two premiers headed to an election in the spring. However, in terms of who has positive momentum and who has negative momentum, the roles are reversed.

Since the last quarter, Selinger's net approval rating has increased by three points, from a woeful -46 to a still woeful -43. But since this time last year, in the final quarter of 2014, Selinger's net approval rating has actually improved by 13 points. That is the greatest improvement recorded by any premier in the last year. Admittedly, though, it was from a very low base.

Wall, on the other hand, has seen his net approval rating drop by seven points since the last quarter, and 14 points since last year. Only Wynne had a worse year-on-year drop in support, with her net rating dropping by 20 points to -30.

McNeil and Gallant, perhaps buoyed by the federal Liberals' strong performance in Atlantic Canada, saw their net approval ratings increase by eight and 30 points, respectively. Clark was also up three points since the last quarter.

Notley, however, has seen her net approval rating slide by 13 points over the last three months. That has decreased her net rating from a respectable +14 to a break-even +1. Couillard's rating has also dropped by 13 points over the last three quarters, though he was in a worse position a year ago.

If approval ratings can act as a proxy for potential electoral performances, a few of these premiers are in a very safe position: Wall, McNeil, and Notley. Couillard could prevail in a divided political landscape in Quebec. Clark and Gallant would be in much more trouble, while Wynne and Selinger would be defeated.

Luckily for most of these premiers, they do not have to face the electorate for quite awhile — the provincial elections on the schedule for 2017 are in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, and Clark has shown her resilience before. Wall is a virtual lock for the April election in Saskatchewan, but Selinger looks like he will be in tough.

Of course, four months is an eternity in politics, so neither Wall nor Brian Pallister, leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives, can take anything for granted. But these will be hard numbers to mess up, in Wall's case, or, for Selinger, overcome.


  1. Gotta agree with the Wynne disapproval !!

    1. But even with that, once people look at far right wing Brown, and what the far right wing in Ontario expect of him, Wynne will still win. And even after that the PC's still won't get it. That was proven when choosing Brown after Hudak. ABC's in Ontario now make up over 20% of the electorate, and the PC's are DOA already in 2018 with Brown. And the PC's still have no clue what that means.

    2. The current situation is really a result of the changes brought into the Ontario PC party by one person, Mike Harris.

      Harris we had several very satisfactory Con govt's. After Harris we have had virtually no satisfactory Con govt. Harris predates but is a version of the Harper Reform Govt with all it's insanities.

      all this the only hope for the Cons in this country is a split within the Federal party to a PC party and a Reform party. Unless that happens the chance of another Con govt has distinctly lowered

    3. @11matt11,

      I'm not so sure, Brown is taking a very measured approach leading up to the next election, making it more about optics than policy. At least part of the electorial success of McGinty/Wynne is that the OPC keep shooting themselves in the foot. There is still lots of time until June 2018, but he's setting the stage to seem like a reasonable government-in-waiting.

    4. Peter:

      The only insanity is your contention the CPC split! Are you feeling O.K.? Have you learned nothing over the last 25 years? Fortunately Tories have. Change will certainly occur within the CPC but, it will remain united. conservatives well understand the dangers, trials and tribulations of a split opposition and party, it makes no strategic sense for the party to split and it makes even less sense for the good governance of Canada and Canadians. Frankly such attitudes only demonstrate the weakness of the Liberal party and the knowledge among Liberals that celebrity has trumped substance: What you are really saying is the Liberal party will have a very difficult time being re-elected unless they face a divided opposition.

  2. And Couillard may be actually doing the best job ??

    1. There are two tiers, and two exceptions:

      The first exception is Wall with his great +25 rating.

      The first tier is doing fine with its mostly neutral rating: McNeil at +3, Notley at +1 and Gallant at -5.

      The second tier is doing poorly with very negative showings: Couillard at -22, Clark at -26 and Wynne at -30.

      And the second exception is Selinger with his abysmal -43.

      So Couillard is not even in the first tier of approval rating, I find it hard to support that he's doing the best... Considering how he is currently doing his dirty work before handing out gifts come next election, maybe he's not in such a bad position. But it's still hardly doing the best.

    2. With all do respect Christy Clark is not "doing poorly". 60 per cent may disapprove of Clark but that is not the same as voting for the NDP, conversely 34% approve of Clark and will vote for the B.C. Liberals.

      Couillard is in a similar spot with a divided opposition. When 40% of the popular vote gets you a majority government an approval rate of 30% is well on the way to re-election.

    3. I disagree. I approve of Trudeau's job at the moment, but I haven't voted for him and wouldn't vote for him if an election was held today. Same thing with Montréal mayor Denis Coderre; I don't think he's doing a bad job, but I haven't voted for him and wouldn't either now. Approval is not a direct translation to votes. It might be correlated, but it's still not equal. And if all is required to do a good job is get elected and not actually do a job most approve of, then no wonder people are cynical about politics, because I thought their job was to represent the population's whishes, and not theirs and their few followers' interests.

    4. In the case of the BC Liberals 34% is the low range of their spectrum, the last poll I am aware of (Insights West, Nov. 14, 2015) pegged the BC Liberals at 34% compared with 39% for the BC NDP.

  3. All in all, it's just a another brick in the Wall..

  4. Eric I think there are two important provincial elections coming in the early spring. Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I hear polls are out already. Are you going to do something on these elections ??


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