Harper in lead despite slumping economy, approval rating: poll

Harper in lead despite slumping economy, approval rating: poll

Despite a drop in support, with public outcry over the government’s controversial anti-terror legislation and a lagging national economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks set to return to 24 Sussex after Canadians head to the ballot box later this year, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by EKOS research between March 25 and March 31, suggests there are some paradoxes at play. The public isn’t giving the country or the government high marks on direction and the prime minister has the worst approval rating of all the federal leaders.

Yet, the public still intends to vote for Harper. This, according to EKOS, could come down to what’s perceived as “clear, consistent and values-based” messaging over the past few months on the part of the prime minister.

When asked about federal vote intention, 32 per cent of respondents said they’d cast a ballot for the Conservatives. About 28 per cent are planning to vote Liberal, 23 per cent NDP with the Greens bringing up the rear at nearly 10 per cent.

Of note, 52 per cent of respondents see the country going in the wrong direction and 57 per cent said the same thing about the federal government.

“The dominant media issues of terror and security are no longer tracking in the government’s favour and the Prime Minister has the worst approval rating of all leaders,” noted an EKOS report on the research organization’s findings.

“We are therefore left with a bit of a head scratcher as to how the cumulative weight of a poor economy, lousy directional and approval ratings, and regime fatigue (which almost always augur very poorly for the prospects of incumbent success) do not seem to point to this fate for Mr. Harper.”

The report suggests the reason Conservatives maintain a slight lead over the other parties comes down to the party’s hold on the senior vote that’s so important for electoral success. Harper’s ability to convince that group and others that the prime minister is the only leader who can answer the most important national questions — around terror and security, for example — convincingly has produced an advantage. A modest, but significant, rise in fortunes in Quebec doesn’t hurt either.

The EKOS survey results fall in line with recent polls about Bill C-51, the government’s anti-terror legislation. The bill, among many things, expands the powers of Canada’s spy agencies and allows for information sharing among federal institutions.

A Forum poll released mid-March showed a significant swing in opinion about the bill, with 50 per cent of Canadians against as they came to have a better idea of what the bill entails. This was a real shift from results from an Angus Reid poll, released in February, that noted 82 per cent of adults supported the bill.

The EKOS poll puts 22 per cent of respondents in strong support of the legislation, 27 per cent somewhat in support of the bill, 21 per cent somewhat opposed and 29 per cent strongly opposed to Bill C-51.

The EKOS study was conducted via telephone using what’s called High Definition Interactive Voice Response technology between March 25 and 31, 2015, with 3,901 Canadians over the age of 18 responding to the poll. The margin of error with the sample, according to EKOS, is plus or minus 1.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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