Harper Not the Most Popular… But… people want him on the job


THUNDER BAY – Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has embarked on his latest tour of Canada to try to connect with Canadians. The approach might be doomed from the start, at least if the latest Angus Reid Public Opinion poll is right.

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not the most popular leader but people want him on the job when Canada faces serious challenges”, according to the latest Angus Reid Public Opinion poll.

In the online survey of a representative national sample of 2,031 Canadian adults, 36 per cent of respondents (+1 since late May) would support the governing Conservative Party in the next federal election.

The Liberal Party is second with 27 per cent (=), followed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) with 20 per cent (+1), the Bloc Québécois with 10 per cent (+1), and the Green Party with seven per cent (-1).

Regional Breakdowns

Albertans (62%) and respondents in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (55%) continue to express a preference for the Tories.

The federal Liberals register their highest level of support in Atlantic Canada (50%)—and their lowest in British Columbia (16%) and Alberta (15%).

The NDP is more popular in BC (33%) than anywhere else. In Quebec, the Bloc leads with 39 per cent, followed by the Liberals at 24 per cent.

Approval and Momentum

Harper’s approval rating stands at 31 per cent, tied with NDP leader Jack Layton. However, almost half of Canadians (48%) disapprove of the way Harper is doing his job, while only one-in-three (32%) feel the same way about Layton.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff remains highly unpopular. Just 14 per cent of respondents approve of the way he is handling his duties, while a majority (53%) voice disapproval.

Ignatieff continues to post the worst momentum score, this time of -24, meaning that while five per cent of respondents now have a better opinion of him, 29 per cent of Canadians now have a worse impression. Harper’s momentum is -21, while Layton fares much better than his two rivals at -3.


Canadians were asked to select up to six words or expressions from a list to describe the four party leaders sitting in the House of Commons. The top results for each one of the leaders are:

• Stephen Harper – Secretive (45%), arrogant (43%), out of touch (34%), intelligent (34%), uncaring (32%) and boring (30%).
• Michael Ignatieff – Out of touch (39%), arrogant (37%), boring (36%), intelligent (33%), inefficient (31%) and weak (26%).
• Jack Layton – Intelligent (36%), down to earth (31%), compassionate (31%), honest (28%), open (26%) and out of touch (22%).
• Gilles Duceppe – Arrogant (34%), out of touch (32%), intelligent (23%), inefficient (19%), boring (19%) and dishonest (17%).

In a separate question, which aims to review how Canadians relate to the four leaders on a personal level, Layton emerges as an affable choice. Canadians pick the NDP leader over the other three contenders as the best man to have a beer with at a bar (34%), best to babysit their kids (30%), and best to play with in a sports team (27%).

Ignatieff is seen as the brainier of all, with Canadians picking him over the others to play in their trivia quiz team (26%), and as the best person to recommend a book to read (22%).

Harper has the edge on most policy matters, with at least three-in-ten respondents seeing the current prime minister as the best person to lead Canada in the event of a terrorist attack (37%), to negotiate with United States President Barack Obama on trade and security issues (36%), to deal with Russia on matters of Arctic sovereignty (35%) and to be in charge if there is another sovereignty referendum in Quebec (31%).

When it comes to who would be best at representing the country at the next round of climate change talks, Harper (27%) and Layton (26%) are virtually tied.


Throughout the year, the Conservatives have maintained their standing in the mid-30s, still away from majority territory. The G8/G20 summits did not provide a bounce for the governing party, and Stephen Harper’s actions are rated disparagingly by almost half of Canadians. Despite the fact that two-in-five respondents regard him as secretive and arrogant, the incumbent prime minister is the first option for Canadians on most major policy issues.

The Liberals are slightly ahead of their 2008 election total, with the support of about one-in-four decided voters. Michael Ignatieff continues to struggle on approval and momentum, and while he shares some of the negative words that are used to describe Harper (such as arrogant and boring), he is also perceived as inefficient and weak.

The NDP’s Jack Layton, like his two main rivals, is seen as an intelligent politician, but is clearly regarded as friendly, with people using words such as down to earth, compassionate and honest to describe him. It is important to note that the good showing for the NDP in British Columbia—where Layton took part in a campaign against the unpopular harmonized sales tax (HST) last month—could become a problem for the Conservatives in the next federal election. The NDP finished in second place in 11 of the 22 federal ridings that the Tories currently hold in BC.

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