Tory base rallying around Harper: poll - Macleans.ca

Tory base rallying around Harper: poll

But the PM’s naked appeal to Conservatives appears to be stoking opposition toward the party

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You don’t need a majority of votes to win a majority in Parliament.

Stephen Harper has a lot riding on this truism as he enters the final leg of the federal election campaign: the Conservative dream of an uninterrupted mandate hangs on the belief that a 39-percent base of rock-solid support can translate into a Commons majority, if augmented by wins in a dozen or so swing ridings.

But the latest results of a survey done for Maclean’s and 680 News underline the problems with this theory, as harder-edged policies aimed to please the Tory base appear to be stoking opposition toward the Prime Minister and his party across the country. So too are damaging stories about G8 and G20 spending, leaving the Conservatives mired in minority territory once again, with just 12 days of campaigning to go.

“There has been good ammunition to mobilize the other side,” says Greg Lyle, managing director Innovative Research Group, which runs the Canada 20/20 panel. But with the Tories stuck in a rut and the Liberals gaining little ground, he adds, “this election is starting to feel a little bit like the movie Groundhog Day—we wake up every morning to the same scenario.”

Like other recent polls, the Canada 20/20 panel has the Conservatives at 39 per cent support nationwide, while the Liberals stand at 28, the NDP at 17 and the Greens at six. Among Quebec respondents, the survey has the Bloc Québécois running first, with 37 per cent, while the Tories and Liberals sit deadlocked at 21 per cent.

Last week’s revelations on G8 spending suggest a particular trouble spot for the Tories. Fully 51 per cent of respondents said the leaked draft report from Auditor-General Sheila Fraser’s office made them less likely to cast a ballot for the Conservatives, while 43 per cent said it wouldn’t affect their vote, reflecting the portion of voters who have made up their mind to vote Tory.

Nearly six out of 10, meanwhile, said they disapproved of how the government had managed the purchase of F-35 fighter jets (29 per cent approved), and nearly 42 per cent said what they’d heard about Harper and the Conservatives overall in the last few days made them less likely to vote for him. If the Prime Minister won any new fans in last week’s televised debate, it would seem that his government’s record and his party’s policies drove just as many away.

Much has been made in recent days of growing support for the NDP in Quebec, and its potentially negative impact on the Liberal fortunes. But there was scant evidence of this bump in the Canada 20/20 results: just 16 per cent of Quebec respondents said they’d vote New Democrat if the election were held today, while growing concern about the prospect a Parti Québécois victory in the next Quebec provincial election may be playing in favour of the Liberals. When asked which party is best suited to deal with a PQ government in Quebec, 30 per cent in the rest of Canada named the Grits, while only eight per cent suggested the NDP.

The Liberals would do well to raise this issue as the campaign winds down, says Lyle, by way of protecting seats that might be threatened by New Democrats. “All of a sudden, we’re talking unity and the NDP is nowhere on unity,” says Lyle. “There is still a (Liberal) brand under all this, and it’s a strong brand.”

The survey results were drawn from a weighted sample of randomly selected respondents who are part of Innovative’s nation-wide online panel. Responses were gathered from April 13 (after the televised debate), until April 17. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.25 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. To join Innovative Research Group’s Canada 20/20 panel, visit www.canada2020.com.