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Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes in the Alps view from the shore of Lake Geneva in Montreux, Switzerland, on Oct. 24, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes in the Alps view from the shore of Lake Geneva in Montreux, Switzerland, on Oct. 24, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservatives have wind in their sails Add to ...

According to the latest Angus Reid poll, it's beginning to look as though the zeitgeist in Canada today is conservative:

The Conservative Party holds a double-digit lead in Canada and overall voter preferences are very similar to the will expressed by the electorate in the last federal election, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

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In the online survey of a representative national sample of 1,016 Canadian adults, 37 per cent of respondents (+3 since September) would support the governing Conservative Party in the next federal election.

The Liberal Party is second with 26 per cent (=), followed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) with 19 per cent (+1), the Bloc Québécois with 10 per cent (=), and the Green Party with six per cent (-5).

All five parties are within a point of their totals in the 2008 federal election. The large gains made by the Greens in September have disappeared, and the out-of-Parliament party is once again trailing the Bloc at the national level….

In British Columbia, the NDP has moved to first place with 37 per cent, followed by the Tories with 32 per cent and the Grits with 22 per cent.

In Ontario, the Conservatives are ahead of the Liberals by nine points (41% to 32%).

This poll comes in the wake of the Toronto municipal election. And it comes the same day that Frank Graves of EKOS gives his take on the political situation behind Le Devoir's pay-wall (my translation):

"Conservative populism, which rejects elite authority and in some ways is anti-intellectual, has much greater support than in the past. [As with Tea Party supporters]people who are motivated by a mixture of insecurity and anger….

Those who come from the professional elite don't understand the movement's success. One wonders what it will take for them to wake up. This movement abolishes their census, dismantles programs for which they fought and replaces them with talk about cutting government services.

And the reaction of the elite? They say to themselves, 'Oh , that Ford! He's so crude. They roll their eyes, cluck their tongue and don't realize that this man has thoroughly defeated their candidate."

This marks quite a change from Mr. Graves's take on the political situation on Sept. 2:

Stephen Harper's miscalculation on the census has resuscitated Michael Ignatieff's Liberals with the two parties now deadlocked, according to a new poll. It's all because of the government's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census, pollster Frank Graves says.

"The direct testing suggests that the census initiative has gone over with a massive thud," he said. "It is receiving near universal raspberries from a flummoxed electorate."

The poll gives the Conservatives 29.4 per cent support of Canadians, a drop of three points from two weeks ago. The Liberals are at 29.1 per cent support, an increase of nearly two points from the previous poll.

New Democrats are at 15.7 per cent national support, the Green Party is polling at 13 per cent and the Bloc is at 10.9 per cent. The poll of 3,559 Canadians was conducted between Aug. 18 and Aug. 31; it has a margin of error of 1.64 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The 11-point lead the Tories enjoyed over the Liberals at the beginning of summer is gone. And the timing of this survey couldn't be worse for the Tories as the government prepares to return to the House this month. It comes, too, as Mr. Harper is attempting to make his case for a majority government."

And here's what Mr. Graves had to say to The Globe on Oct. 13:

Mr. Graves's polling shows that the highly educated classes began leaving the Conservatives for the Liberals over the government's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census. "The big exposure for the government is that this fits into an increasingly damaging narrative that portrays the country as lacking sophistication and gravitas," he says. "This would certainly be problematic with the professional and university-educated classes who have been showing increasing reservations about the government's management style."

Mr. Graves notes that one of the reasons the Conservatives did well in the last election was because they attracted both the Tim Hortons crowd and professional, affluent Canadians.

"The current issues around the gun registry and the long form census place them on the wrong side of this group," he says. "The failure to gain a seat on the security council would also be problematic for this group. The possible trump card for the government with this group is their superior bona fides with economic stewardship, but they may be straining this advantage by a cumulative series of disappointment on other fronts."

Finally, here's what he had to say on Oct. 14, as the Conservatives began to re-open their lead in his latest poll:

After a summer and early fall of discontent, Stephen Harper is liked again by Canadians. His Conservatives are now almost a full seven points ahead of Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, according to a new EKOS poll.

… Pollster Frank Graves believes the Tories have benefited from the waning of the furor over the government's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census. That issue, fallout from the Helena Guergis affair and the long-gun registry vote had been dogging the Conservatives since summer.

While this latest poll is good for the Tories, it is not encouraging for the Liberals. It now appears the highly-educated classes - who had left the Tories for the Grits over the census - are now returning to the Conservative fold. But Mr. Graves is not convinced that support is solid.

"It will be very interesting to see if the UN Security Council seat renews concerns amongst the more educated in the coming month," the pollster said, referring to the Harper government's bungling of the Security Council vote at the United Nations Tuesday.

Mr. Graves's survey finds that the Conservatives picked up the most strength in Alberta - not a province where they have ever lacked support - with 61.8 per cent. He says the Tory strength right now is "concentrated in white, male seniors from Alberta and the rest of the Prairies."

Ontario is a different story, however. The Tories are in a deadlock with the Liberals in the vote-rich province, pulling in 37.8 per cent compared to 37.3 per cent for the Grits.

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