Liberal love-in? Trudeau’s approval among his base tops what CPC, NDP bases feel for Scheer, Singh

Liberal love-in? Trudeau’s approval among his base tops what CPC, NDP bases feel for Scheer, Singh

Opposition leaders must overcome significant unknown factor among their own supporters

October 16, 2018 – As stopwatches are set in the count down to an expected federal election 12 months from now, the latest public opinion survey from the Angus Reid Institute finds more Canadians say they may be open to voting for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), but it is the Liberal vote universe that is most buoyant about the performance of its leader, Justin Trudeau.

In canvassing the views of Canadians who say they’ll definitely, likely or maybe vote for the three main parties currently represented in the House of Commons, several themes emerge – revealing the strengths, weaknesses, advantages and hurdles each party leader faces in the year ahead.

While Trudeau and CPC leader Andrew Scheer are seen among their potential bases as equally likely to be able to achieve electoral success in the next election – it is Scheer – along with the New Democratic Party’s Jagmeet Singh, who must also define themselves to the electorate they court.

Further, Singh faces the additional task of igniting excitement and confidence, even among locked-in NDP voters who profess an allegiance to the party, but are ambivalent about their leader or his chances at the ballot box next year.

More Key Findings:

  • Most potential CPC voters (60%) say Andrew Scheer is setting the party up to win more seats in 2019; the same number of potential Liberal voters (61%) credit Trudeau with the same. By contrast, half as many potential New Democrats (34%) are confident about Singh’s ability to grow his party’s seat count next year
  • Scheer and Singh have little time to lose defining themselves to their own bases: nearly one-third (30%) of potential CPC voters say they don’t know enough about Scheer to describe him, and this number grows to nearly half (46%) of potential NDP voters asked to describe Singh
  • Trudeau’s support for the TransMountain appears to appeal to less certain Liberal voters, providing a hint on which issues resonate across party lines. For Scheer, it is his stance on border security, and for Singh, it is the promise of universal Pharmacare



Part 1: The vote universe

  • Who would consider the CPC?

  • Who would consider the NDP?

  • Who would consider the Liberals?

Part 2: Measuring leader performance

  • Good or bad overall?

  • Scheer and Trudeau evenly matched on key metrics

  • Other aspects of leadership performance

Part 3: How does each party describe its leader?

  • Adjectives for each leader

Part 4: Each leader’s policy strengths and weaknesses

  • Border security a winner for Scheer

  • Trudeau fares well on TransMountain; vulnerable on deficits

  • Pharmacare is Singh’s biggest strength


Part 1: The vote universe

This survey sought to assess Canadians’ propensity to vote for each of the main federal parties by looking at respondents’ personal voting history as well as their willingness to consider the parties under their current leaders in a future election.

As seen in the following graph, more Canadians are open to voting for the Conservatives and Andrew Scheer than any of the alternatives:

ARI researchers combined this data with respondents’ reported voting histories to create three categories within each party: “Core”, “Likely”, and “Maybe” supporters.

Broadly speaking, a party’s Core supporters are the people who vote for the party in every election and tend to toe the party line on every major issue. Likely supporters are less locked-in to their choice, but still largely align with the party on issues and vote for its candidates. A party’s Maybe supporters, meanwhile, are people who are open to considering that party, but do not have a history of voting for the party regularly.

The three main parties’ Core, Likely, and Maybe groups are shown in the following graphic:

Note that the size of the Liberal and NDP “Never” groups appears to have grown considerably since the last time the Angus Reid Institute performed this analysis, when each one contained roughly four-in-ten Canadians. The Never CPC group has remained roughly the same size it was last year.

Related – Analysis: Which Canadian party has the biggest tent?

The demographic make-up of each party’s consideration set is discussed in the following sections. For greater detail on each one, see voter propensity tables.


Who would consider the CPC?

Core CPC voters tend to be older, male, and more likely to be located in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Likely CPC voters share the age and gender characteristics of the Core, but are more evenly distributed geographically, while Maybe CPC voters are younger and more female than the other two groups, as seen in the graph that follows:

Who would consider the Liberals?

Like the CPC Core, the Liberal Core tends to be older than the general population. Unlike the CPC Core, it contains roughly equal numbers of women and men. Geographically, Core Liberals are quite evenly distributed, though it’s notable that the Liberal Party is the only party with a Core that contains significant numbers in Atlantic Canada.

Likely and Maybe Liberals tend to follow the same geographic distribution as the Core, while containing fewer people ages 55 and older and more people under age 35. This is especially true of the Maybe Liberal group, which is also notable for containing more men than women:

Who would consider the NDP?

In addition to being much smaller than the CPC Core, the NDP Core has a lot of the opposite characteristics. It tends to be overrepresented in British Columbia and Quebec, but underrepresented in Alberta. It also contains more women than men and is much more evenly distributed across age groups.

Likely NDP voters are also more female than male, while the Maybe NDP group contains more men than women.

One interesting characteristic that separates the NDP consideration set is income. The core tends to come from households with lower incomes, while the Likely and Maybe groups have larger numbers of higher-income individuals within them:

Part 2: Measuring leader performance

Good or bad overall?

On this measure, Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau inspires greater confidence among his potential voters than either Conservative leader Andrew Scheer or NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. As seen in the graph that follows, this may be attributed to the fact that fewer of Trudeau’s partisans are unsure about his leadership qualities, while significant numbers are uncertain about Scheer and Singh.

For each leader, the bulk of support comes from his Core voters, while Likely and Maybe voters tend to have more reservations, either saying they are not sure or that they feel the party’s current leader is a bad one. Here, again, Trudeau has the highest number of supporters who say he is a good leader for the Liberal Party, though it’s worth noting that he also has the highest number of Maybe supporters who see him as a bad fit for the role.

Scheer and Trudeau evenly matched on key metrics

The ultimate measure of success for a party leaders isn’t how they are perceived, but how their parties perform in elections. To that end, the Angus Reid Institute asked each party’s potential voters whether they believe the party’s current leader is setting himself up for electoral success.

On this key question, Scheer and Trudeau inspire similar amounts of confidence from their respective potential voters, while Jagmeet Singh lags behind.

Some six-in-ten (61%) who are willing to consider the Liberals in a future election say Trudeau is doing a good job setting his party up to maintain its majority, and a nearly identical number (60%) of Scheer’s potential supporters say he is setting up his party to win more seats in the next election.

Both Scheer and Trudeau have the backing of an overwhelming majority of their Core supporters on this question, with less resolve among their Likely and Maybe supporters:

For its part, the NDP consideration set is divided on Singh’s potential to grow the party’s seat count. And while Core NDP voters are more likely to see Singh’s performance as good, they do not offer the same large majority endorsement that Scheer and Trudeau receive from their Core groups:

Other aspects of leadership performance

Respondents were asked whether their party’s leader is doing a good job or a bad job at a variety of aspects of his role, from maintaining party unity, to communicating the party’s message, to setting the party’s agenda. On each one, as seen in the following graph, Trudeau has the highest number of potential supporters saying he’s doing a good job, while Singh has the lowest:

Scheer’s performance on the “promoting party unity” question is notable in light of the high-profile departure of Maxime Bernier from the Conservative caucus.

Bernier narrowly lost to Scheer in the 2017 CPC leadership election and was removed from his role as the party’s innovation critic in June of this year. By August, he had quit the party, calling it “intellectually and morally corrupt,” and in September he formed the People’s Party of Canada.

The fact that a majority of potential Conservative voters say Scheer has done a good job promoting unity within the party bodes well for the Conservative leader. Though Bernier’s party certainly has the potential to pry away some would-be Conservative voters, more people in the CPC’s consideration set find Bernier unappealing than appealing:

For his part, Singh has also had problems keeping his caucus together. His refusal to readmit Saskatchewan MP Erin Weir to the NDP caucus has angered many long-time party supporters in that province.

Weir was removed from caucus after allegations of harassment, including sexual harassment, were brought to the party’s attention. Weir called the party’s investigation of the complaints “deeply flawed,” and maintains that he did not intentionally harass anyone, but had been “slow to pick up on social cues.”

Most potential NDP voters are unsure how they feel about Singh’s refusal to readmit Weir to the party’s caucus, but those with an opinion are more inclined to agree with the NDP leader than to disagree with him:

Part 3: How does each party describe its leader?

Adjectives for each leader

Each party’s potential supporters were also asked to choose up to five words or phrases from a list of 20 that might be used to describe the party’s leader, or to write in their own.

Trudeau’s top descriptors – “charismatic” and “compassionate” – speak to his personal brand. He is a leader known as much for his emotional appeal and global celebrity as for any specific policy position.

Related – ‘Charismatic’ and ‘Modern’ or ‘Arrogant’ and ‘Flaky’? Canadians weigh in on the Trudeau Brand

For full lists of descriptions for each leader, see voter propensity tables.

Scheer is most likely to be seen as down-to-earth, honest, and ethical, though his potential supporters are much less unified in their perception of him than Trudeau’s.

Singh’s descriptors are similar to Trudeau’s, a finding that reflects a comparison made frequently during the former’s NDP leadership bid.

That said, the most striking thing about perceptions of Jagmeet Singh among those considering voting for his party is how little of an impression he seems to have made thus far. Almost twice as many would-be NDP supporters say they don’t know enough about Singh to choose a description for him as choose any word or phrase:

Note that the two opposition leaders have higher numbers of respondents who “don’t know enough to say” This speaks to the considerable room each of the opposition leaders still has to make an impression with potential supporters, but also to the dwindling of time the leaders have to accomplish this.

For Singh, the uncertainty extends beyond Likely and Maybe NDP supporters – who generally have fewer ties to the party – to those in the Core NDP group. Among Core NDP voters, 37 per cent don’t know enough to say how they would describe the party’s leader. That’s still more than choose any specific descriptor, as seen in the following graph:

Part 4: Each leader’s policy strengths and weaknesses

None of the three main parties has a Core large enough to win an election on its own, without the help of some of the its Likely or Maybe supporters. So, what can the parties do to woo those voters who aren’t locked in?

The answer to that question depends on the party. Each one has some policy strengths it will likely look to capitalize on as next year’s election approaches, as well as some liabilities it might like to avoid discussing in the coming months.

Border security a winner for Scheer

If there’s a single issue on which the Conservative Party is likely to gain ground leading up to the election, it’s border security. Scheer’s Core voters overwhelmingly agree with his stance advocating for greater security to deter people from crossing irregularly, but large majorities of Likely and Maybe CPC voters are onside with this position as well:

Other issues are less uniformly winners for Scheer and his party. Most potential CPC voters agree with his stance on protecting Canada’s system of supply management, which restricts the production of milk products, cheese, eggs, chicken, and turkey in order to ensure consistent profits for farmers, but it’s not an overwhelming majority.

Crucially, while 62 per cent of Core CPC supporters favour Scheer’s approach, a substantial three-in-ten (28%) oppose it. This is significant because Maxime Bernier’s opposition to supply management was one of the things that led him to leave the CPC. This data suggests Bernier could possibly siphon support not only from the CPC’s Likely and Maybe supporters, but from its Core.

Another potential liability for the CPC is Scheer’s position on carbon pricing. While Core CPC voters overwhelmingly support eliminating the federal carbon tax, Likely and – especially – Maybe CPC voters are more tepid in their reaction to this proposal:

Trudeau fares well on TransMountain; vulnerable on deficits

For the governing Liberals, the calculus is somewhat different. While opposition parties are judged on the positions they take, governing parties are judged on their record.

Justin Trudeau’s record has some notable accomplishments and some equally notable failures. In the former column, as far as Likely and Maybe Liberal voters are concerned, is the federal government’s support for building the TransMountain pipeline, in conjunction with its implementation of the aforementioned carbon tax. Half of Maybe Liberal supporters agree with Trudeau’s stance on both of these issues, as do six-in-ten Likely Liberals:

Trudeau’s failure to keep budget deficits to $10 billion or less, and his failure to return the federal budget to balance by 2019, are significant liabilities. While Core Liberals agree with Trudeau’s position that larger deficits were necessary, Likely and Maybe Liberal supporters offer considerable disagreement:

Pharmacare is Singh’s biggest strength

Jagmeet Singh’s most appealing policy stance appears to be his support for a publicly funded national Pharmacare program. Past Angus Reid Institute polling has found Canadians broadly supportive of such a program, so it makes sense that fully seven-in-ten across Core, Likely, and Maybe NDP voters agree with Singh’s position.

Related – Prescription drug access and affordability an issue for nearly a quarter of all Canadian households

Singh’s opposition to the TransMountain pipeline project, however, is a considerable liability, particularly with those who are Maybe NDP voters, nearly half of whom disagree with the NDP leader’s position:

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.

For detailed results by voter propensity, click here

Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey


Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693 @shachikurl

Ian Holliday, Research Associate: 604.442.3312

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