Prorogation controversy takes hit on Tory lead, Harpers popularity: poll

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is paying a price for underestimating opposition to his decision to suspend Parliament, a new poll suggests.
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates Harper's personal popularity has taken a nosedive and his party's lead over the Liberals has been sliced almost in half.
And contrary to Harper's assertion that prorogation of Parliament is a routine procedural matter of little interest to Canadians, the poll suggests a majority believes Parliament is "in crisis," is opposed to its suspension and suspicious of Harper's motives.
"He has really squandered some significant, if not goodwill, certainly respect that he'd been able to garner managing his way through the economic crisis," Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg said Thursday.
The prospects for Harper's Conservatives might be much worse but for the fact that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff remains the least popular federal leader and has so far been unable to gain much mileage out of Harper's miscalculation.
"If the game of Canadian politics is a little tighter today, it's only because Mr. Harper has scored on his own net," Gregg summed up.
MPs had been scheduled to return to work on Jan. 25 but Harper announced on Dec. 30 that he was proroguing or suspending Parliament until March 3.
Among other things, the move dissolved all parliamentary committees, including the special committee which had been investigating allegations that prisoners handed over by Canadian soldiers to Afghan authorities have been routinely tortured.
In the wake of that decision, the poll suggests Liberal support has crept up three points to 30 per cent, while the Tories have remained unchanged at 34 per cent. The NDP stood at 16 per cent and the Greens at nine.
The Bloc Quebecois held a commanding lead in Quebec, with 36 per cent to the Liberals' 22 per cent, the Tories' 15, the NDP's 13 and the Greens' nine.
More tellingly for Harper, the poll suggests Canadians with a favourable impression of the prime minister dropped seven points since last November to 44 per cent. At the same time, those with an unfavourable impression jumped seven points to 48 per cent.
In other words, Harper's "net favourability rating" plunged 14 points to minus four.
Despite Harper's misfortunes, Ignatieff's rating remained virtually unchanged at minus 18.
The NDP's Jack Layton enjoyed the best rating among national leaders, with a net score of plus 10, followed by the Greens' Elizabeth May who scored a plus four. The Bloc Quebecois' Gilles Duceppe was the clear favourite in Quebec, with a rating of plus 29.
The poll was conducted Jan. 7-10, when the post-holiday news void was filled with reports about mounting public outrage over Harper's suspension of Parliament.
Gregg said the abrupt shift of focus to the Harper government's swift response to Tuesday's catastrophic earthquake in Haiti may help change the channel and restore some of the prime minister's lustre.
But he said the poll suggests the prorogation controversy goes beyond the simple decision to suspend Parliament, deepening doubts about Harper's character that may prove hard to shake.
According to the poll, 61 per cent oppose prorogation; only 21 per cent are supportive. Even among Conservative supporters, as many were opposed (43 per cent) as supportive (42 per cent).
Prior to Christmas, when the respondents were asked in the abstract about the possibility of Parliament being suspended, 46 per cent said they'd be indifferent, while 34 per cent said they'd be unhappy and 15 per cent said they'd be happy.
But the level of indifference has dropped 10 points to 36 per cent now that Harper has actually gone ahead with the idea, while the unhappiness level has risen to 52 per cent. A scant seven per cent said they're happy with the decision.
In testing attitudes towards prorogation, 53 per cent agreed with the assertion that "Canada's Parliament is facing a crisis" and 64 per cent agreed that "the motive for proroguing was to avoid tough questions or criticism."
By contrast, the justifications advanced by many Conservatives fell flat. A majority disagreed with the assertions that the Harper government is "only doing what any government would do" and that proroguing is "a reasonable thing for a government to do."
Still, respondents were split over how much influence the suspension of Parliament will have on how they vote in the next election. Forty-two per cent agreed it would have a "big influence" while 47 per cent disagreed.
Ignatieff has tried to capitalize on the controversy by announcing that Liberal MPs and senators will return to work on Jan. 25, as previously scheduled.
But while 64 per cent said that's a good move, only 21 per cent said it makes them more likely to vote Liberal - essentially the same proportion (22 per cent) who said it would make them less likely to support the Grits. Fully 50 per cent said it would have no bearing on their vote.
Gregg said the poll suggests Liberals might gain more traction from the prorogation controversy if they can "shift it into an issue of character and values, that there's something kind of brutish and unCanadian about Stephen Harper."
"I think Canadians are starting to connect the dots here, that there is a bit of a pattern in that the prime minister has been either tone deaf or consistently assuming that the population is uninterested and kind of stupid and that he can do these things and no one will care."
The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted Jan. 7-10 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is larger for regional sub-samples.

Organizations: Conservatives, NDP, Canadian Press Harris-Decima Bloc Quebecois

Geographic location: OTTAWA, Quebec, Haiti Canada

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Recent comments

  • Flogger
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    And would this be the same Canadian Press (CP) that despises Harper because he does not have the time of day for them? Hmmm, a CP Harris-Decima poll .. sounds a little fishy to me ; )

    PS I'll be interested to see if TDN prints this comment.