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U.S. President Barack Obama listens to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hold a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, February 19, 2009. (LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)
U.S. President Barack Obama listens to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hold a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, February 19, 2009. (LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)

Canadians still prefer Obama, poll suggests Add to ...

Canadians remain smitten with Barack Obama.

That's the conclusion drawn from a poll published just in time for the Fourth of July that suggests the U.S. President is more popular with Canadians than any domestic politician.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests nearly three-quarters of Canadians think the U.S. President is doing an "excellent" or "good" job. Another 16 per cent said Mr. Obama was doing a fair job, and only 4 per cent thought he was doing a poor job.

Such extraordinary numbers are unheard of for any of Mr. Obama's Canadian counterparts. They may explain why Prime Minister Stephen Harper has hitched important sections of Canada's foreign and domestic policies to those of the new President without any of the public blowback that was in evidence when George W. Bush occupied the White House.

Mr. Obama's popularity stretches across the country he proclaimed his love for during his trip to Ottawa in February. The U.S. leader is most popular in Quebec, Atlantic Canada and Ontario, and marginally less popular west of Ontario.

But he needn't worry much about the western drop-off. Among Albertans, where his approval numbers are lowest, 67 per cent of those surveyed rated Mr. Obama's job thus far as good or excellent.

Harris-Decima vice-president Jeff Walker said the U.S. leader's popularity hasn't waned with Canadians since he took office.

"Even though President Obama has clearly had some difficult challenges over the first few months, at least from the Canadian perspective, he's still got the public with him," he said.

"Usually what happens when leaders come in, they come in and have to start making tough decisions, and that dampens public support. We just haven't seen that - at least not yet - for President Obama."

Canadians also responded well to Mr. Obama's handling of the economy and foreign affairs. Two-thirds of Canadians gave him a "good" or "excellent" rating on his approach to the economy, while 69 per cent of respondents said the same about how he has dealt with foreign affairs.

The survey suggests Canadians overwhelmingly think Mr. Obama has been good for Canada. Seventy-six per cent of Canadians say his brief tenure has been a good thing, while only 12 per cent think Mr. Obama has been bad for their country.

The poll also suggests most Canadians think there's more to the U.S. leader than his silver tongue - only 21 per cent of those surveyed agreed with that assessment, while 65 per cent disagreed with it.

Canadians also disagreed with the suggestion that Mr. Obama is juggling too many things at once. Sixty-eight per cent said he has to take on a number of issues because there is a lot to address, while 21 per cent said Mr. Obama is trying to do too much.

Asked why Mr. Obama is so popular with Canadians, Mr. Walker said it comes down to trust.

"There's just a basic issue of, 'Do I feel like this person is my kind of people?' And if they have that feeling, and they have a feeling of trust about that person, they're willing to cut quite a bit of slack to them," Mr. Walker said.

"President Obama really struck a chord with Canadians in his whole manner of how he deals with issues. He doesn't try to treat things straight ideologically. He tried to come at issues from a more pragmatic perspective, and I think that kind of approach really resonates with Canadians."

The poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted from June 18 to 21, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Canadian Press

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