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The Globe and Mail

Canadians still divided over prospect of Harper majority

Leadership-index results from a Nanos Research poll released April 19, 2011.

Canadians are still split on whether they are uncomfortable with the idea of Stephen Harper winning a majority government, a new poll has found.

The survey suggests that despite a strong lead over other parties, crossing the finish line with the targeted majority will still be a challenge for Mr. Harper and his Conservatives: The pool of people who are comfortable with him leading a majority has not grown.

The Nanos Research poll found that 43 per cent of respondents said they are comfortable or "somewhat comfortable" with Mr. Harper leading a majority government, five percentage points lower than in February.

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For the Conservative Leader, the solace is that of those who are at ease with a Tory majority, the level of comfort has grown: the proportion who identified themselves as outright comfortable with Harper majority - with no qualification - rose five percentage points, to 31 per cent.

Overall, 46 per cent said they are uncomfortable or "somewhat uncomfortable" with Mr. Harper's Conservatives forming a majority government - essentially an even split - and 11 per cent are unsure.

Though his party has a sizable lead over Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, and Mr. Harper's leadership ratings are far higher than either Mr. Ignatieff or NDP Leader Jack Layton, there has been no growth in the proportion of Canadians who are at ease with a Harper majority.

"There's been no breakthrough moment for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives," pollster Nik Nanos said. "He started the campaign at Rideau Hall saying he wanted a majority, and this issue is not decided yet."

While voters on the Prairies are overwhelmingly at ease with a Harper majority, Quebec is an obstacle for the Conservatives. In Quebec, 65 per cent said they are uncomfortable or somewhat uncomfortable with the prospect of a Harper majority.

The survey of 1,200 Canadians, completed between April 14 and 16, is considered be accurate within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The poll isn't a barometer of who will vote for which party, but it could be an indicator that inching into majority government is still tough for the Conservatives.

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Several pollsters have opined that they have often seen a "recoil effect" when Mr. Harper's Tories move into majority-government levels of support - and their support seems to slip back suddenly. Mr. Ignatieff has essentially geared his home-stretch campaign to raising opposition to a Harper majority.

At the moment, the Conservatives appear to be on the cusp of winning a majority. The most recent Nanos poll on voter intention, conducted April 16 to 18, found that the 39.8 per cent of respondents said they would vote Conservative - right at the 40-per-cent mark typically seen as the rough milestone to form a majority. The Liberals had the support of 30.2 per cent and the NDP, 17.3 per cent.

Mr. Harper still holds a commanding advantage in Nanos Research's daily leadership index, a one-day snapshot of how Canadians rate the leaders on whether they are trustworthy, competent, and have the best vision for Canada.

In the April 18 survey, Mr. Harper surged almost 15 points to 110.6, while Mr. Layton was second at 59.5, and Mr. Ignatieff was third at 49.1.

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