Stephen Harper’s endorsement of Pierre Poilievre for the Conservative Party leadership may have soured some voters on the Ottawa MP, a new poll suggests.
The former Conservative prime minister recently said Mr. Poilievre is his preferred choice, from a field of five candidates, for the party’s leadership.
But a new Nanos Research poll commissioned by The Globe and Mail says that Canadians are more than two times more likely to say Mr. Harper’s endorsement has given them a more negative impression of Mr. Poilievre than a more positive impression.
The research was based on a telephone and online survey of 1,038 people conducted between July 29 and Aug. 2 as part of an omnibus survey. The poll is considered accurate to plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
It found 35 per cent of respondents had a more negative impression of Mr. Poilievre because of the endorsement than the 14 per cent who were left with a more positive impression.
However, 46 per cent said the endorsement had no impact on their impression.
The question to respondents was: “Has Stephen Harper’s recent endorsement of Pierre Poilievre as a candidate for the Conservative Party leadership given you a more positive impression, a more negative impression, or has it had no impact on your impression of Pierre Poilievre.”
Nik Nanos, chief data scientist and founder of Nanos Research, said the likely audience of the endorsement was Conservative Party members voting in the leadership race, but there could be ramifications beyond that contest in the rest of the population.
“What will be interesting is the eventual response of the Liberals – a Poilievre victory with a Harper endorsement may fire up a progressive base during the next election,” Mr. Nanos said in a statement.
Jean Charest, Leslyn Lewis, Roman Baber and Scott Aitchison are also running for the leadership. Conservatives are now voting in the race. The winner is to be announced in Ottawa on Sept. 10.
The highest finding of a “more positive impression” of Mr. Poilievre was on the Prairies at 22.1 per cent. The highest finding of a “more negative impression” was Ontario with 38.2 per cent, followed closely by Quebec with 36.2 per cent.
The most significant province of “no impact” was Quebec at 54.4 per cent.
Mr. Harper was prime minister from 2006 to 2015. He is the only prime minister for the Conservative Party of Canada, created in 2003 by the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
He endorsed Mr. Poilievre in a video clip posted on Twitter on July 25.
Mr. Harper, who left elected politics after his Conservatives were defeated by the Liberals in 2015, had not endorsed candidates in either the 2017 or 2020 leadership race.
However, he said Mr. Poilievre had been a strong minister in his cabinets, and that the leadership candidate has been a strong opposition critic, is popular in caucus and also with existing party members, and has brought new members into the party.
Mr. Poilievre’s campaign has said it has signed up about 311,000 members, taking the Conservative Party to a total of 678,708 members, as a result of leadership candidates signing up members.
“That’s how we win the next federal election,” said Mr. Harper, referring to Mr. Poilievre’s actions and positive qualities. “In my opinion Pierre has made by far the strongest case that he is the person to do that.”
Tweeting in response to Mr. Harper’s endorsement, Mr. Poilievre wrote that Mr. Harper led Canada through turbulent economic times, balanced the budget, and made life more affordable for Canadian families.
“I was proud to serve in his cabinet, and it’s a big honour to have his support in this leadership race,” he says in the tweet.
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