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Prime Minister Stephen Harper listens to a question during a joint news conference with his Honduran counterpart in San Pedro Sula on Aug. 12, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper listens to a question during a joint news conference with his Honduran counterpart in San Pedro Sula on Aug. 12, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Public Opinion

Harper makes 'remarkable' gains in best-prime-minister ranking Add to ...

Stephen Harper is quickly gaining ground as the best prime minister since 1968, according to a new Angus Reid poll.

Mr. Harper is in second place in the online survey after Pierre Trudeau, with 19 per cent support compared to 36 per cent for the late Liberal prime minister. Jean Chrétien, who held office from 1993 to 2003, is in third place with 12 per cent.

Although Mr. Harper is well behind Mr. Trudeau, his “fluctuations” on the best-prime-minister question have caught the eye of Angus Reid pollster Mario Canseco.

In 2007, Mr. Harper had polled around 14 per cent. His support had not really changed until this year when he gained eight points from last year’s mark of 11 per cent.

“Gaining eight points in a year is remarkable, although he continues to trail Trudeau,” Mr. Canseco told The Globe. “We’ll have to see if the majority provides Harper with a chance to gain some points.”

Mr. Harper finally won a majority government in the May 2 election. Brian Mulroney, who won two for the Progressive Conservatives between 1984 to 1993, came fourth in the survey, scoring 6 per cent.

“Mulroney’s still facing tough times,” Mr. Canseco said, noting that in 2007 he was at 14 per cent. The pollster believes that Mr. Mulroney’s numbers are down not so much because of recent controversies, but because “centre-right voters now have someone they like more.”

He noted that Mr. Harper had been Prime Minister for only two and a half years when the first survey was conducted in 2007.

Mr. Mulroney, meanwhile, was followed by Mr. Chrétien’s successor, Paul Martin, with 2 per cent. Joe Clark also came away with 2 per cent while Kim Campbell and John Turner scored just 1 per cent support in the survey.

When asked about who they considered the worst prime minister, poll respondents said Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Harper. The Tory pair were tied with 19 per cent. “[Mr. Mulroney]always been first or second as worst PM,” Mr. Canseco said.

Mr. Trudeau came third with 13 per cent followed by Mr. Chrétien, with 10 per cent, and Ms. Campbell with 8 per cent. Mr. Clark and Mr. Martin both scored 4 per cent and Mr. Turner came through with 3 per cent on the worst-prime-minister ranking.

Mr. Canseco also broke down the numbers on a regional basis. “The fascinating aspect on the worst PM question is where the animosity comes from,” he says. “For Trudeau, it’s Alberta, not just because of the [national energy program] but also because that is the province where the centre-left parties have the hardest time connecting.”

Twenty-three per cent of Albertans thought Trudeau was the worst prime minister compared to 6 per cent for Mr. Harper.

The current Prime Minister, however, does not score well in Atlantic Canada or Quebec – “the areas where the Conservatives are least popular,” according to Mr. Canseco.

In fact, 28 per cent of Atlantic Canadians felt Mr. Harper was the worst PM compared to 6 per cent in Alberta.

The online poll of 1,002 Canadians was conducted between Aug. 10 and 11.

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