There’s no sign that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sharper attacks against the Conservatives have shifted public sentiment in his favour a month into 2024, and things are getting worse for the Liberals on some metrics, according to new polling.
The Nanos Research data, released Monday and conducted for The Globe and Mail, shows Mr. Trudeau isn’t faring well among voters’ perceptions. He doesn’t enjoy the typical advantage of a sitting Prime Minister in managing U.S. relations. Closer to home, views on his performance as Liberal leader have slipped, and only a tiny fraction of Canadians believe the best thing for the party would be for him to stay on.
The latest public opinion polling is compounded by weekly ballot tracking showing that, since September, the governing Liberals have consistently polled closer to the third place NDP than the first place Conservatives. Mr. Trudeau’s party has hovered in the mid to low 20s, compared with the Tories, who are in the high 30s to low 40s.
To try and reverse their slide, the Liberals have levelled more consistent attacks on Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, including trying to tie the Tories to Donald Trump, questioning their support for Ukraine and characterizing the Conservatives as the party of cuts. Nanos Research founder Nik Nanos said it’s not working so far.
“The sharper Liberal attacks so far have not undermined the Conservative advantage,” he told The Globe. “At this point, the one thing most likely to shake Conservative support would be a Poilievre misstep.”
According to the poll, conducted between Jan. 29 and Jan. 31, just 3 per cent of respondents said the best way for the Liberal Party to increase its chances of winning the next election would be to keep Mr. Trudeau as leader.
Meantime, 39 per cent said the best option for the party would be to replace him as leader, and 25 per cent said the Liberals could improve their prospects if they focused more on economic issues.
Twenty per cent said the party can do nothing to increase its chances of winning the next election. Six per cent said the Liberals should continue with the current set of policy priorities, and another 6 per cent said they were unsure.
Mr. Nanos said this data set is the most worrying for the minority Liberal government. Taken together, the numbers show the party’s current policy direction and leader have far less support than the 25-per-cent support that the Liberals have on the ballot tracker, he said.
It indicates that even “many Liberal supporters believe the party needs a reboot,” he said.
The poll also shows that both Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Poilievre are polarizing figures, Mr. Nanos said.
Just a quarter of respondents, 25 per cent, said Mr. Trudeau is doing an excellent job as Liberal leader. That’s a 10-point drop from January, 2022. A further 46 per cent said he is doing a poor job, and 28 per cent said his performance is average.
Nearly one in three respondents, 29 per cent, said Mr. Poilievre is doing an excellent job as leader; 41 per cent rated him at a poor job, and 21 per cent said he was average. Eight per cent said they were unsure.
The numbers signal trouble because it suggests that Mr. Trudeau is “hitting a political best before date,” Mr. Nanos said. That is especially true when voters no longer give the upper hand to a sitting Prime Minister on issues such as managing the relationship with the United States and the economy.
Respondents in the poll said they believed Mr. Poilievre would do just as well at handling relations with the U.S. as Mr. Trudeau, despite the latter’s eight-year record in government.
Mr. Poilievre was deemed the best leader to have a positive relationship with the U.S. by 31 per cent of poll respondents, compared with 29 per cent who said the Prime Minister would be best – a statistical tie.
Seventeen per cent of respondents said none of the listed party leaders were the best choice to manage the trading and security relationship, nine per cent were unsure, and seven per cent said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh would be the best.
“To have Poilievre tied with Trudeau on this suggests that a number of Canadians see Poilievre as a prime minister in waiting and ready to manage the bilateral relationship,” Mr. Nanos said.
The same poll showed 70 per cent of respondents thought President Joe Biden would be better for Canada, than the likely Republican candidate, Mr. Trump, who was favoured by just 13 per cent.
The hybrid telephone and online random survey had 1,114 respondents and a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.