Harper Government Approval Down to 31%

According to a new national survey conducted from January 14 to 18, 2014 by public opinion firm Abacus Data, the Harper government’s approval rating is down four points since October 2013 and fewer Canadians believe that Canada is headed in the right direction.

Direction of the Country

In our most recent survey, 38% of respondents believe that the country is headed in the right direction, down four points since October 2013.  In contrast, 33% believe the country is headed off on the wrong track, up seven points since October.

Albertans were most comfortable with the direction of the country (46%) and those living in Quebec were least likely to feel that way (32%).

A slight majority (56%) of those who voted Conservative in 2011 like the direction the country is heading in, while one in three 2011 Conservatives think things are on the wrong track.

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Federal Government Approval

While 38% think the country is heading in the right direction, somewhat fewer (31%) approve of the performance of the Harper Government.  About half said they disapproved (48%). This represents a four-point drop favourable evaluations for the Harper government since our last survey.

Alberta voters (45%) were most likely to approve (45%) of the Harper government’s performance while those in Quebec were most likely to disapprove (59%).  In Ontario, voters are divided with a plurality voicing disapproval (35% approve – 44% disapprove).

Conservative Party supporters were most likely to approve (63%), but among those who voted Conservative in 2011, 21% said they disapprove of the government’s performance.

Yesterday, we reported that 26% of those who voted Conservative in 2011 were planning to vote for another party.  Almost all of these “switchers” are part of this group who now disapprove of the Harper government’s performance.

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When we compare approval with the Harper government and current vote intentions we find that among committed voters who approve of the Harper government, 65% say they will vote Conservative while 20% support the Liberals, 9% support the NDP, and 5% support other parties.  These voters, who approve of the Harper government but are planning to vote for another party, are a prime target for the Conservatives.

Among those who disapprove of the Harper government, 43% would vote Liberal while 35% would vote NDP.  The Liberals and the NDP almost evenly split support among those who do not approve of the Conservative government.

Finally, among those who neither approve nor disapprove of the Harper government, the Liberals lead with 40% support with the NDP at 24% and the Conservatives at 20%.


Insights from
Bruce Anderson

Unemployment is below 8%, stock markets are at near record levels, the fiscal situation is improving, and about 3 out of 4 voters say they feel optimistic about Canada’s economic future.

In contrast, 38% like the direction the country is heading in, 31% approve of the Harper government’s performance, and 28% say they will vote Conservative.

These numbers reveal an enthusiasm gap the Conservatives must close in order to win in 2015.  A healthy economy is no guarantee of political reward for incumbents; if it were, the Conservatives should be polling in the 48% range now, given the improvements in the economy since the last election.

Similarly, people can feel that the country is going in the right direction, without feeling a need to stick with the same government.  In this poll, 10% of voters fall into that category, easily enough to swing an election.

The silver lining for the Conservatives is that lots of voters are in the middle right now, not happy but not angry.  There is time and therefore opportunity to make them feel better about the direction of the country, the performance of the government and the need to return the Conservatives to keep things on the right track.

The good news for the NDP is that their supporters are more frustrated with the way things are going in Canada, and most motivated to cause a change.

And for the Liberals, the good news in these numbers is that lots of voters seem to be yearning for something better and different, but not a radical departure.  They likely believe that what’s going right in Canada is happening in spite of, not because of, the Conservatives and therefore imagine less risk in replacing the incumbents.


Insights from
David Coletto

These results offer additional evidence of the difficult public opinion environment that the Harper government is trying to manage.  While Canadians are not overly pessimistic about the direction of the country, a large percentage are not sure whether things are heading in the right direction or the wrong direction.  This volatile and uncertain mood presents a big risk but also an opportunity to the Conservatives.

The risk is that an increasing number of Canadians, including many of those who voted Conservative in 2011, will not see Stephen Harper and his government as an effective manager of the country’s affair and despite what the government has been telling them, the Harper plan is not making things better for most people in the country.

On the other hand, the unsettled mood among many Canadians is also an opportunity to press the Conservative message that Justin Trudeau is not ready to be Prime Minister and Tom Mulcair’s policies are too risky for an unstable economic situation.  This positioning has worked effectively in past provincial elections in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.

Only three in ten Canadians approve of the job the federal government is doing.  More worrisome for the Harper Government is the fact that 20% of those who voted Conservative in 2011 disapprove of the government’s performance.

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Methodology

The survey was conducted online with 1,996 respondents in English and French using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative panel of Canadians.  The survey was completed from January 14 to 18, 2014.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 1,996 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. 

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

For more information about the poll’s methodology or the results, please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or at 613-232-2806.