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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable (Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)
Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable (Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

Ignatieff's numbers plummet as Tories unleash another attack ad Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff is digesting some bad news on the eve of what could be a federal election. A new online poll has the Tories 16 points ahead of the Liberals, whose leader is described as "arrogant and out-of-touch."

The Angus Reid/Vision Critical poll gives Stephen Harper and his Conservatives 39 per cent support compared to 23 per cent for the Liberals. The NDP is at 17 per cent, while the Bloc and the Green Party are tied with 9 per cent support.

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Pollster Jaideep Mukerji attributes the Liberal result to the effectiveness of a recent slate of Tory attack ads. This, as the Conservatives fired yet another salvo Thursday, tarring Mr. Ignatieff as " weak on border security and dangerously soft on crime."

While the horse-race numbers are not good for the Liberals, even more worrisome are Mr. Ignatieff's approval and momentum ratings. The poll finds that the Liberal Leader has the worst momentum of his colleagues - he is at -26 compared to -16 for Mr. Harper. Only NDP Leader Jack Layton is in positive territory with +2.

As for their approval ratings, the online poll shows that both Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton's ratings have increased in the first nine weeks of 2011. The Prime Minister's has gone up six points to 32 per cent since Vision Critical measured it in December, while Mr. Layton's has improved nine points to 34 per cent. Mr. Ignatieff's rating, meanwhile, did not see any improvement, staying put at 14 per cent.

Mr. Mukerji sees two forces at work, here. "On the one hand the opposition parties appear to really be digging in to the trust issue with the Tories and are trying to create a narrative that links various scandals and disputes that have been cropping up," he told The Globe. "On the other hand, the Tories are continuing with their ad campaign, many of which target Ignatieff."

The pollster says that so far the "ad campaign is winning out." And what jumps out most in his latest numbers are the "significant increase in the number of Canadians who described Michael Ignatieff as dishonest and arrogant."

Respondents were asked to select up to six words from a list to describe the leaders: 39 per cent described Mr. Harper as secretive while 38 per cent said he was arrogant. This compares to 44 per cent who said Mr. Ignatieff is arrogant compared to 38 per cent who view him as out of touch. Meanwhile, 29 per cent of respondents described Mr. Harper that way and 30 per cent characterized him as dishonest compared to 28 per cent for Mr. Ignatieff.

Mr. Layton fared much better: 32 per cent say he is intelligent, 29 per cent described him as down to earth and 28 per cent said he is honest.

"The shift in perceptions in Ignatieff isn't being caused by Canadians who had a favorable view of him suddenly turning on him," Mr. Mukerji said, "but rather it seems to be coming from Canadians who were not sure how they felt about him or who were more neutral in their assessment of him taking a more negative view of him."

The on-line poll of 1,021 Canadians was conducted between March 8 and 9. It was released Thursday just hours before a major EKOS Research poll of 2,892 respondents found the Tories with 35.2 per cent compared to 27.8 for the Liberals.

The EKOS survey - which shows better results for the Liberals - was conducted between Feb. 24 and March 8.

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