Jack Layton has jumped ahead of Stephen Harper in the Nanos Research leadership index - indicating that the NDP Leader will be able to drive home his party's advantage in the closing days of the federal election campaign.
Mr. Layton's numbers have soared to such an extent that his presence will further boost NDP support, the so-called coattail effect, said Nik Nanos, president and CEO of the polling firm. Although his coattails are longest in Quebec, where the rise in his leadership score is most pronounced, Mr. Layton will be able to buoy his party's performance across the country, Mr. Nanos said.
And Mr. Layton has also acquired a Teflon coating. He is by far the most trusted leader, according to the survey, meaning that it will be difficult for his opponents, particularly Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, to attack the NDP and derail its momentum. The most likely effect of any attack, especially Liberal sorties, will be to solidify NDP support, Mr. Nanos said.
For the Conservatives, there is also cause for worry. Mr. Layton has moved ahead of Mr. Harper on the leadership front, a major shift from the start of the campaign. "This is the first time anyone has even come close to Stephen Harper," Mr. Nanos said.
The pollster said he considers the leadership index to be an advance indication of possible shifts in party support, noting that Mr. Layton moved ahead of Mr. Ignatieff on the leadership front about a week before NDP poll numbers began to shoot upward. The latest rise in Mr. Layton's numbers come as polls indicate the NDP is starting to whittle down the consistent lead the Conservatives have had since the writ was dropped.
The daily Nanos leadership index, from April 26 and released Wednesday afternoon, has Mr. Layton jumping 13 points to 86.2 overall, with Mr. Harper falling the same amount to a second-place score of 82.7. Mr. Ignatieff trails distantly with a score of 40.1, essentially unchanged from the previous poll.
Mr. Layton leads with 33.2 per cent of respondents saying he is the most trusted leader, while 24.5 per cent of respondents say they trust Mr. Harper the most; 11.3 per cent say the same for Mr. Ignatieff.
The NDP Leader also has a slight edge over Mr. Harper on having the best vision for Canada, although that advantage is within the poll's margin of error.
The Conservative Leader has a narrow lead on the question of who is the most competent leader: 30.7 per cent to Mr. Layton's 23.9 per cent, half of the lead that Mr. Harper held previously.
Green Leader Elizabeth May and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe have leadership scores of 12 and 10.6, respectively.
The daily poll asks respondents to indicate which of the five federal leaders they consider the most trustworthy, the most competent and having the best vision for Canada.