Most Canadians prefer Trudeau over Trump on leadership style, poll suggests

Jonathan Rumley
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, scored lower than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in every category surveyed by Ipsos and received the most support in Alberta, where the economy has been hurt by low commodity prices. Photo from CP.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership style is preferred by more Canadians when compared to U.S. President Donald Trump, a new poll suggests.

Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs Canada, says Trudeau “crushed” Trump on issues related to style, but performed less spectacularly on issues of substance.

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“It’s not surprising at all, given that this is a poll of Canadians, to see the prime minister has beat Trump in every category.” Simpson said.

The biggest difference between Trudeau and Trump came on equal rights protection, where there’s a 68 per cent gap between the two leaders. In all but one category, Canadians surveyed chose neither before they opted for Trump.

“It’s just as interesting to look at those ‘neither’ numbers as it is those who picked one of the two leaders,” Simpson said. “In every case, more Canadians prefer Trudeau to Trump, but in many cases, they’re not necessarily thrilled with Trudeau, either.”

More than 18 months into his mandate, there are some clouds in the way of the prime minister’s “sunny ways.” The pollster says a majority of Canadians surveyed in past polls found the Liberal leader to be more style than substance, which is consistent with the latest findings.

“Where his scores are lower are those real important issues to Canadians.”

Trudeau’s message appears to be getting through mostly to women, millennials and Canadians living outside of the Prairies.

“The women really like the style of Trudeau,” Simpson acknowledged, before drawing comparisons to former prime minister Stephen Harper.

“It’s not that Harper was unpopular, it’s just that people grew tired of his style,” he added. “That style of Trudeau resonates more with women than it does with men and I think that’s why you see gender gaps there.”

The Liberal leader is also popular in high-income households, which seems like a demographic that would prefer to support his rivals, the Conservatives. This finding is part of the “great myth of Canada,” according to Simpson.

“Conventional wisdom is that the wealthier tend to vote Conservative and that’s actually not correct,” he explained. “The wealthier in Canada tend to vote Liberal. They tend to also be more educated and higher educated people typically vote for the Liberals. The Conservative sweet spot is that moderate income, moderate level of education.”

Baby boomers are among the least likely to favour the U.S. president over Trudeau, which is a stark contrast to what we’ve seen elsewhere. In the U.K., mostly older people voted for the Brexit movement, which had populist appeal. Trump supported Brexit, and many Brexiters backed him. So why don’t Canada’s boomers prefer Trump over Trudeau?

“I think the boomer experience in Canada is different from the experiences we’re seeing in Europe and elsewhere,” Simpson said, referring to the waning public purse. But for politicians, this generation is worth paying attention to for one critical reason: they vote.

The poll data suggests many Canadians feel Trump does well on issues where Trudeau does poorly, and vice versa. For example, Trudeau’s worst-performing category was creating jobs, which is where Trump received his second-highest results in the survey.

“The economy and jobs remains a critical issue for Canadians,” Simpson said, pointing to the two topics Trudeau performed worst on. The closest category between the two leaders was job creation, with 37 per cent of respondents saying Trudeau is more effective than Trump. Meanwhile, 23 per cent chose Trump and 40 per cent said neither leader is more effective.

According to Simpson, these two political forces “are very opposite, and you can see that in the data.”

The poll results also show Trump’s leadership style is striking a cord with the male demographic.

“Men are significantly more likely than women to pick Trump on almost every metric,” the pollster revealed. “And that’s very consistent with how the vote fell in the United States.”

Those living in the Prairies are also more likely to have a soft spot for the real estate tycoon, especially in Alberta where Trump actually polled more favourably in some categories over his Canadian counterpart.

“It’s also a function of the economy in Alberta,” Simpson noted. “Trudeau came in when there was a recession going on. In the early part of 2016, economic confidence in Canada, particularly Alberta, was at its lowest level in 20 years. Who was the prime minister? Trudeau. Is it because of Trudeau? Absolutely not. It was because of the fall in commodity prices, of course,” the pollster said.

“But if you’re an Albertan and you’re looking around and things aren’t looking good for you, you’ve got to point the finger somewhere. And the easiest place to point the finger is at the prime minister.”

The survey was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Yahoo Canada News featuring a sample of 2,000 Canadians interviewed from March 27 to April 2.

The precision of online polls is measured using a credibility interval.  In this case, the results are accurate to within +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had all Canadian adults been polled. Credibility intervals are wider among subsets of the population.