The Head vs. the Heart: In campaign’s 2nd week, O’Toole is voters’ intellectual choice, shares ‘gut’ preference with Singh

The Head vs. the Heart: In campaign’s 2nd week, O’Toole is voters’ intellectual choice, shares ‘gut’ preference with Singh

Trudeau trails on both measures, but all main party leaders chosen by at least ¼

August 26, 2021 – In an election that may be decided by small segments of moveable voters migrating between parties, leadership matters.

A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds that, while the Liberals continue to hang on to a small advantage in vote intent, party chief Justin Trudeau is neither the most attractive leader when voters consider their choice with their head, nor with their heart.

When asked who they would be most amenable to if they rely on their gut in this campaign, 23 per cent of Canadians choose Trudeau, compared to the one-in-three (33%) who pick NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, or the three-in-ten (31%) who opt for the CPC’s Erin O’Toole.

Further, 60 per cent of Liberal supporters say Trudeau is the most attractive leader for them if they rely on their gut, while nearly one-third of this same base opt for Singh.

By contrast, among their own respective voters, O’Toole (86%) and Singh (88%) both generate far higher levels of support on this question.

And what if potential voters relied on their reasoning and intellect? In this case, O’Toole garners the highest preference, chosen by 36 per cent of Canadians. Trudeau (29%) and Singh (25%) both receive significant support on this measure as well.

This is not unfamiliar territory for Trudeau. In 2019, he trailed Conservative opponent Andrew Scheer as the choice for both voters’ hearts and minds but still ended up with a minority government despite narrowly losing the popular vote.

More Key Findings:

  • Nearly all (95%) of those who say O’Toole is the choice of their heart also say he is their choice using reasoning and intellect. That’s only true for three-in-five (59%) of those who choose Singh.
  • Trudeau is not the top emotional choice in any region in the country and only the top intellectual choice in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.


About ARI

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.



Part One: What the heart wants

Part Two: Relying on reason


Part One: What the heart wants

When Justin Trudeau burst on to the national scene in 2015, rising from a semi-distant third place in the earlier months of 2015 to form a majority government in the fall, there was a key factor in his support; uncommitted voters said he was their top choice if they voted with their hearts. This, alongside other important factors involving deficit spending and an unpopular long-time prime minister, helped to propel the Liberals to governance.

In 2021, Trudeau is no longer the choice for Canadians who follow their heart in the ballot box. Now, just 23 per cent say they would prefer Trudeau if they used this calculus, placing him well behind both Jagmeet Singh (33%) and Erin O’Toole (31%):

There is good news and bad news for each leader, depending on the prism through which they view these data. For Trudeau, this is not the first time he has been denied the top spot on this question. In 2019, due in large part to the appeal of then Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Trudeau trailed Andrew Scheer by seven points. Singh appears to have captured the hearts and minds of many of those who leaned Green last time around, while O’Toole is chosen by a near-identical proportion as his predecessor.

The primary strength of both O’Toole and Singh early in this campaign is that their supporters are enthusiastic. Among those who currently say they will support the CPC, 86 per cent say O’Toole would be their preferred leader if emotional considerations were their guide. Close to the same number of NDP voters say the same of Singh.

Related: Latest federal politics vote intention poll

While a majority of current Liberal voters say their heart prefers Trudeau, a significant segment are more attracted by another leader. For 29 per cent, that leader is Singh:

Trudeau is not chosen first in any region of the country on this measure of leader attractiveness. O’Toole is the clear preference for residents in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while Singh is preferred in B.C., Ontario, and Atlantic Canada.

The same dynamic is true across age and gender combinations. Trudeau is in a three-way tie with Singh and O’Toole among older women (55+) on the leader that their instincts prefer, but leads among no group. Half of men over the age of 54 choose O’Toole on gut, while women overall tend to lean toward Singh, especially in younger age groups:

Part Two: Relying on reason

Voters do not, however, just rely on their gut when they cast a ballot. And to the chagrin of many proportional representation proponents, strategic voting, too, enters their decision-making processes. When Canadians are asked which leader they would prefer if they were to rely only on their reasoning and intellect, the ordering of their choices changes.

In this case, O’Toole emerges in the top spot, chosen by 36 per cent, while Trudeau is preferred by 29 per cent, and Singh by one-quarter (25%):

What is perhaps most notable here is the interaction between the two measures — the head versus the heart. Nearly all (95%) of those who say O’Toole is their preferred emotional choice also say he is their preferred intellectual choice. For the rest of the leaders, it isn’t as simple.

Four-in-five who prefer Trudeau as a gut choice say that he is also their intellectual choice, but one-in-five disperse to other leaders. Singh has even more work to do to convince his emotional supporters that his party is the correct intellectual choice. Only 59 per cent of those who prefer Singh with their gut or heart say the same when it comes to their intellect. In the latter case, 26 per cent say Trudeau is their choice, potentially suggesting that they believe Trudeau is more fit to lead in practice:

Trudeau and his Conservative rival are in near-identical positions on this measure compared to two years ago, despite the change in opposition leader from Andrew Scheer to O’Toole. Singh is evidently seen as more capable this time around, and potentially aided by absence of trust on this measure for the leader of the Green Party:

Trudeau is perceived more viably from an intellectual perspective than an emotional one. He is the top choice on this measure in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and competitive in Ontario, where his party still leads by six points in vote intention. Notably, while Singh performs well regionally among those making their decision with their heart, he is not the top choice in any region on this intellectual measure. O’Toole is the top choice in every region west of Quebec:

While Singh is the clear top preference to lead among young people when choosing with their gut, support falters when reason is inserted into the equation. In considering their choice this way, young men prefer O’Toole by a slight margin, and young women are much more evenly divided between the three. Overall, men show a clear preference for O’Toole when they use intellectual considerations, while women are more divided:

Ultimately, almost all Canadians who currently say they will vote for the CPC say that O’Toole is their intellectual preference, while just seven-in-ten supporters of the other parties say the same of that respective party’s leader:

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Aug. 20-23, 2021 among a representative randomized sample of 1,692 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

To read the full report including detailed tables and methodology, click here.

To read the questionnaire, click here.


Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693 @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821