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Layton the only leader whose performance helps party

NDP Leader Jack Layton greets supporters at a campaign stop in Welland, Ont., on April 19, 2011.

Mike Cassese/Reuters/Mike Cassese/Reuters

Only NDP Leader Jack Layton has had an election campaign that's really helping his party, a new poll suggests.

A Nanos Research poll conducted April 14 to 16 asked 1,200 Canadians whether the party leaders would have a positive or negative impact on their party's local candidate - the same question the pollster asked in February, before the campaign began.

It found that of the leaders, only Mr. Layton has really added appeal that helps his local candidates.

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The April survey showed 45 per cent believe Mr. Layton will have a positive impact on the NDP candidate in the riding, and 17 per cent say he will have a negative impact. Another 28 per cent believed his impact would be neutral; another 10 per cent were unsure.

That translates to a positive 28-point spread for Mr. Layton now, a big boost over the 8-point lift for his candidates that the poll found in February.

It's still slightly behind Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe's Quebec-only plus-33 lift for his candidates, but survey respondents in April saw him as less of a boost than they did in February. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's plus-10 score is almost unchanged from February.

And though Liberal Leader fared better than in February, he's still a drag for the party's candidates, with a minus-7 score, as 28 per cent say he will have a positive impact on the local Liberal candidate, and 35 per cent say his impact is negative.

Pollster Nik Nanos said the results show that Jack Layton "is the one for whom the election has been significantly positive" on a leadership level.

That means Canadians can expect to see an NDP campaign message and advertising that focuses heavily on Mr. Layton to help boost his party's fortunes.

Mr. Layton's ratings in the Nanos Research Leadership Index - a daily snapshot of how 400 Canadians rate each leader on whether they are trustworthy, competent, and have the best vision for Canada - have also been rising, though he remains behind Mr. Harper.

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Mr. Nanos noted that Mr. Layton's leadership ratings have been boosted by good scores in Quebec, where the party has little history of winning seats - and is still unlikely to be able to convert goodwill to more than a handful of seats. For Mr. Layton, it would be more likely to translate to seats if it came in Ontario or B.C, Mr. Nanos said: "It's the right movement, in the wrong province."

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About the Author
Chief political writer

Campbell Clark has been a political writer in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau since 2000. Before that he worked for The Montreal Gazette and the National Post. He writes about Canadian politics and foreign policy. More

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