by David Korzinski | July 19, 2018 7:30 pm
July 20, 2018 – Weeks of unflattering headlines and uncomfortable questions about an allegation of inappropriate touching almost two decades ago do not appear to have had significant damaging impact on Justin Trudeau’s standing in the eyes of his support base.
The issue has forced the Prime Minister to attempt to reconcile his initial denial and subsequent explanation of this alleged conduct – which took place long before he entered politics – with his current public stance supporting women who come forward with allegations of sexual harassment.
While this has led critics and observers to accuse Trudeau of hypocrisy, a new Angus Reid Institute study finds that a majority of Canadians (62%) – and, indeed, eight-in-ten women who voted for Trudeau’s Liberal Party in 2015 (83%) – say the Prime Minister’s response to these allegations has been “adequate”.
However, this leaves one-in-five past Liberal voters (21%) looking for more by way of response from Trudeau and saying their view of him has worsened in light of the incident.
Past Conservative voters are significantly more likely to be paying attention to the issue, and are twice as likely as past New Democrats and Liberals to say that their opinion of him has deteriorated as a result (58% say this).
Ultimately, Canadians offer competing views when considering allegations of inappropriate conduct. Nearly all say that men need to take responsibility for their actions toward women (91%). That said, more than six-in-ten (63%) say this specific incident is overblown and garnering too much attention.
More Key Findings:
The beginning of summer 2018 has forced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cast his attention back almost 20 years, to the Columbia Brewery’s Kokanee Summit Festival in Creston B.C. While at this fundraising event, a then 28-year-old Trudeau was accused of “groping” and “inappropriately handling” a young female reporter. According to an editorial published in the Creston Valley Advance newspaper the next day, Trudeau was said to have apologized for behaving in a way that was “forward”.
There are no specific details about what actually occurred, and the woman who accused the PM released a statement in early July saying she stands by her story but wishes to move on with her life.
The first response from the Prime Minister’s office was to state that Trudeau “remembers being in Creston for the Avalanche Foundation, but doesn’t think he had any negative interactions there.” After “reflecting very carefully”, Trudeau said he feels confident he did not act inappropriately, though he suggested that someone else may have perceived his actions differently.
Related: A comprehensive look at #MeToo in Canadian society
Most Canadians are say that Trudeau has responded to this situation adequately, while a significant minority of four-in-ten (38%) say that they expected more from him.
What is perhaps most notable from this study is the finding that in an era of discussions about the inappropriate behaviour women face on the job, female respondents are more inclined than men to say Trudeau’s response has been adequate. The PM has faced allegations of hypocrisy for advocating so strongly for women’s rights and feminism, while at the same time facing these allegations. Trudeau’s party has also removed member Kent Hehr for inappropriate conduct and suspended others. These criticisms are evidently not resonating with women as much as they are with men. Two-thirds of female respondents say the Prime Minister’s response has been sufficient:
Women who voted for Trudeau in 2015 are overwhelmingly supportive of the way that the Prime Minister has handled the situation. Overall, eight-in-ten female Liberals say the response has satisfied them, and a majority of past female NDP supporters (63%) say the same. That said, there are roughly one-in-six women who voted for the Liberals in 2015 who find the PM’s response inadequate:
This is an issue that, despite its relatively high media profile and discussion in political circles, has not engaged most Canadians. Just 13 per cent of respondents say they have been following it closely, while another 29 per cent say that they have had the occasional conversation about it.
Importantly, past Conservative voters have been most engaged on the issue:
Perhaps for this reason, those following this issue most closely are also most inclined to say that Trudeau has responded inadequately. Responses from past Conservatives closely mirror the responses from those who voice the most awareness of this saga:
The Prime Minister enjoyed a boost in public opinion in June after a tumultuous G7 Summit and a barrage of attacks from United States President Donald Trump. Trudeau’s approval jumped significantly – 12 percentage points – following these events.
So what impact do allegations of misconduct have on Trudeau? For six-in-ten Canadians, their opinion has not changed, while one-in-three (33%) say their view of him has worsened.
While the federal Liberals will likely be less concerned about the number of past Conservative voters who say their view of the Prime Minister has worsened, three-in-ten past New Democrats (32%) and one-in-five of Trudeau’s 2015 voters (21%) say their view has soured.
The potential damage done to the Prime Minister’s reputation may not be devastating, but he does not escape without some impact. One-in-three women who voted for the NDP in 2015 (34%), presumably voters the Liberal Party would target in the coming election, say their view of him has worsened:
The woman who accused the Prime Minister of inappropriate touching in August 2000 released a statement in early July, saying that she stood by her allegations but did not wish to engage in or pursue the issue further. The Canadian public is overwhelmingly supportive of her right to do so, regardless of how long it has been. More than eight-in-ten Canadians (86%) say that women are right to tell stories about sexual misconduct they have experienced, even if it was a long time ago:
However, more than six-in-ten (63%) also say that this particular story has been overblown, and that it is receiving too much attention. This opinion does not diverge by age or gender (see comprehensive tables for greater detail), but it rises to 80 per cent among Liberals, while a majority of Conservatives disagree:
This is perhaps explained in part by another, more controversial finding. Among discussions of the #metoo movement and the fallout from many of the accusations made in a public forum, a significant number of Canadians say that they have trouble ascertaining where “the line” is these days. This is not to say that they are necessarily dismissive of the allegations against Trudeau outright, but more so that seven-in-ten (68%), including equal numbers of men and women, say that there is a significant grey area in their day-to-day interactions:
The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.
For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.
Click here for the full report including tables and methodology
Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey
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