Canadians, including voters who identify as Conservatives, say it is more important for the party’s next leader to be fiscally conservative than socially conservative, a new poll shows.
Thirty-three per cent of Canadians polled by Nanos Research said the ideal Conservative Party leader would not be socially conservative, while 15 per cent said they view the next leader of the party as very socially conservative. Thirty-seven per cent said the ideal leader should be neutral on social issues and 14 per cent said they are not sure.
Nanos Research asked respondents to rank positions on social and economic issues on a scale from one to 10. The polling firm categorized rankings of one to three as being “not at all," four to seven as being “neutral” and “very” being eight to 10.
People who say they regularly vote for the Conservative Party federally are more likely to say the ideal federal leader should be “very socially conservative” and “very economically conservative” than those who never vote for the party. But regular party voters say they are more likely to favour a Conservative Party leader that is economically conservative than socially conservative.
Nanos Research surveyed 1,003 Canadians between Jan. 27 and Jan. 29. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Nik Nanos, the founder and chief data scientist of Nanos Research, said the data show that the Conservatives have to be “very careful" about possible perceptions that the party is veering toward a socially conservative agenda, saying that a “tried and true Liberal trap” is to draw the Conservative leader of the day into commenting on social issues that have been settled.
The issue of social conservatism has dogged the party, with outgoing Leader Andrew Scheer declaring in the past federal election campaign that he is personally against abortion and failing to address how he feels about LGBTQ rights.
New controversy dominated the early days of the race to replace Mr. Scheer after candidate Richard Décarie told CTV News that he believes being gay is a choice and calling the LGBTQ abbreviation “a Liberal term.”
Mr. Nanos said the perceived front-runners in the race – former cabinet minister Peter MacKay and Conservative MP Erin O’Toole – are “more traditional Conservative candidates, who are more likely to focus on fiscal issues.”
Potential leadership contenders who have yet to meet the party’s requirements to run include Mr. Décarie, a former radio talk-show host and political staffer for Stephen Harper while in opposition, and Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu.
Thirty per cent of Canadians said the ideal Conservative Party leader should be very conservative on economic issues, while 12 per cent said the ideal leader should not be conservative on economic issues. Forty-nine per cent said the ideal leader is neutral on economic issues and 10 per cent said they are not sure.
Forty-six per cent of Canadians said they never vote for the Conservative Party, 29 per cent said they occasionally vote for the party and 25 per cent said they vote regularly for the Conservatives.
Jamie Ellerton, principal at public relations agency Conaptus, and formerly manager of media relations on Mr. Scheer’s election campaign tour, said Canadians have “made it clear” they do not want a leader who is going to reopen past issues, but instead look to address the country’s challenges.
“It’s clear that Conservatives don’t want to be a party of opposition. ... They want to be a party of solutions that ultimately move Canada forward,” he said.