Trudeau’s first month: PM enjoys strong approval ratings, but Canadians are divided on his deficit policy

Trudeau’s approval rating in his first month as PM is the inverse of Stephen Harper’s in his last

December 1, 2015 – The red tide that lifted Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party (LPC) to power in October is showing continued strength, as the latest public opinion poll from the Angus Reid Institute shows nearly two-thirds of Canadians approve of their new Prime Minister.Canada Polling

The support doesn’t necessarily extend to the Liberal agenda, however, as recent ARI polls on refugees and Canada’s involvement in the combat mission against the Islamic State have shown.

In fact, this new research finds Canadians divided on a key element of the Trudeau economic plan to run budget deficits to pay for infrastructure investment and stimulate the economy. Roughly half (53%) say such spending is a good idea – the rest (47%) say it’s not.

Key Findings:

  • Twice as many people approve of Trudeau (63%) as disapprove of him (29%),
  • The economy remains the top issue Canadians see facing their country (37% choose it as one of the two most important issues)
  • Canadians themselves are experiencing economic stress: three times as many say their standard of living is worse now than it was this time as year ago, as say the opposite

Approval and Momentum:

As noted earlier, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Canadians say they approve of Justin Trudeau. This approval rating is higher even than the proportion of people who said they found him “appealing” in ARI’s last pre-election poll (54%).

Trudeau’s approval rating is the mirror opposite of what Stephen Harper’s was shortly after the 2015 election was called. At that time, 64 per cent disapproved of Harper, and 36 per cent approved.

Driving Trudeau’s high approval is the support of 95 per cent of those who voted for his Liberal Party in the recent election, as well as almost three-quarters (74%) of those who voted for the New Democratic Party (NDP). Only among those who supported Harper’s Conservative Party (CPC) does a majority (72%) disapprove of the new Prime Minister:

This poll also records Trudeau’s highest momentum score since becoming Liberal Party leader in April 2013. A momentum score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of people who say their opinion of a leader has worsened over a period of time – in this case, the last three months – from the percentage who say it has improved.

In this survey, more than two-in-five Canadians (44%) say their opinion of Trudeau has improved, compared to just 19 per cent who say it has worsened (37% say their opinion of him has stayed the same). This yields a momentum score of 25, continuing the upward trend that began during the campaign:Canada Polling

For comparison, the momentum scores for the other two leaders of major federal parties are both negative. Interim CPC leader Rona Ambrose records a score of -2 (13% improved; 15% worsened; 72% stayed the same), while NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s score is -17 (9% improved; 26% worsened; 64% stayed the same).

Top Issues:

As it did throughout the 2015 election campaign, the economy tops the list of most-important issues Canadians see facing their country today. Not quite two-fifths of respondents (37%) choose “economy” as one of the top two issues.

Terrorism/security is the second most-chosen issue, selected by 21 per cent of Canadians – up 15 percentage points since August, no doubt as a result of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

The environment – another issue that has been in the news lately ahead of this week’s COP21 summit on climate change – is a top-two issue for roughly one-in-seven (14%) Canadians.

Canada Polling

Divided on Deficits:

With the economy once again top of mind for Canadians – it is of note that their approval of Trudeau’s job performance doesn’t extend as fully to one of the key policies on which he and the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) ran and won – namely, to table multi-billion dollar deficit budgets over the next three years, and balance the books in year four.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said these steps are even more necessary in the face of what the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s downgraded budget forecast, but Canadians are divided on the issue. Just over half (53%) say deficit spending is a “good idea” right now while the rest (47%) take the opposing view.

Not surprisingly, political preference has a significant impact on this question – with those who voted Liberal October 19 most extremely supportive of the deficit plan and those who voted Conservative vehemently against it (see detailed tables at the end of this release).

Views on the goals and outcomes of deficit spending are less mixed. On this front – job creation takes precedence in the minds of respondents two-to-one over spending on infrastructure upgrades:

Canada Polling

The reason for this inclination towards job creation may well lie in the economic anxiety Canadians are feeling – particularly in Alberta. Nationally, people in this country say their standard of living is worse today than it was a year ago almost three-to-one over those who say it’s better. In the province hit hardest by falling oil prices, that ratio jumps to four-to-one:Canada Polling

Their hopes for improvement over the next year are similarly muted. While the plurality (44%) across the country expect their standard of living with neither improve nor decline – just one in five say they think they’ll be doing better a year from now:Canada Polling

That said – if the Trudeau government’s promised infrastructure spending does indeed go ahead, Canadians say the investment should focus on helping people get around: highways and public transit take precedence over other possible areas:Canada Polling

What stands out here is the foreseeable – but nonetheless significant split between rural and urban respondents. Their preferences on the blacktop-versus-buses question are nearly inverse:Canada Polling

Equally notable – although perhaps also unsurprising – is the strong preference in Quebec for infrastructure spending to go to bridge repairs and upgrades. Two-in-five (40%) Quebecers say the most money should be invested there.

Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Shachi Kurl, Senior Vice President: 604.908.1693

Image Credit – Prime Minister of Canada