Roughly a third of voters in 45 battleground ridings believe Stephen Harper is the "nastiest" party leader of the election, according to a new Strategic Counsel Poll.

The survey, conducted from Sept. 10-13 for CTV and the Globe and Mail, looked at 20 swing ridings in Ontario, 15 in Quebec and 10 in British Columbia.

Of all the provinces, the Quebec ridings seemed to have the highest number of voters who had a negative impression of Harper, when asked which leader had been the "nastiest":

  • Stephen Harper (Conservatives): 36 per cent

  • Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Quebecois): 13 per cent

  • Stephane Dion (Liberals): 11 per cent

  • Jack Layton (NDP): 2 per cent

  • Elizabeth May (Greens): 1 per cent

  • None: 17 per cent

But in those same Quebec battleground ridings, most voters believed that Harper spoke about the values they personally cared about -- even beating Duceppe, who has traditionally offered himself as the main defender of Quebec society:

  • Stephen Harper (Conservatives): 24 per cent

  • Stephane Dion (Liberals): 14 per cent

  • Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Quebecois): 13 per cent

  • Jack Layton (NDP): 13 per cent

  • Elizabeth May (Greens): 6 per cent

  • None: 11 per cent

"I think the big story here is that in these 10 very tight Quebec ridings, Gilles Duceppe is not on the map," Peter Donolo of the Strategic Counsel told CTV's Question Period Sunday.

"He is not nearly competitive enough in terms of talking about the issues that Quebec voters seem to care about. And remember, for more than 15 years the Bloc Quebecois has been the vox populi for Quebec voters -- they treat the major parties as kind of just politicians whereas they have given the Bloc their endorsement as the vote of ordinary Quebecers."

In the Ontario battleground ridings, Harper was also considered the nastiest party leader of the election:

  • Stephen Harper (Conservatives): 29 per cent

  • Stephane Dion (Liberals): 18 per cent

  • Jack Layton (NDP): 11 per cent

  • Elizabeth May (Greens): 2 per cent

  • None: 9 per cent

Harper recently apologized for an English-language website,, that depicted a Puffin defecating on Dion's shoulder. The animation has since been removed, but the site's main goal -- discrediting Dion as a leader -- remains.

Liberal English-language ads have mainly focused on the party's policies, rather than directly attacking the Tories.

But despite the apparent negative impression of Harper, most Ontario voters in those same 20 swing ridings felt that the Conservative leader spoke about the issues they cared about. Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jack Layton barely edged out Dion:

  • Stephen Harper (Conservatives): 37 per cent

  • Jack Layton (NDP): 14 per cent

  • Stephane Dion (Liberals): 12 per cent

  • Elizabeth May (Greens): 9 per cent

  • None: 13 per cent

In British Columbia, voters in the 10 battleground ridings responded in similar numbers to those in Ontario, when asked which leader was the nastiest:

  • Stephen Harper (Conservatives): 31 per cent

  • Stephane Dion (Liberals): 17 per cent

  • Jack Layton (NDP): 11 per cent

  • Elizabeth May (Greens): 3 per cent

  • None: 5 per cent

Also like Ontario, Layton came out ahead of Dion when B.C. voters were asked who spoke about the issues that mattered to them personally -- but it was a far more significant lead of eight points:

  • Stephen Harper (Conservatives): 29 per cent

  • Jack Layton (NDP): 21 per cent

  • Stephane Dion (Liberals): 13 per cent

  • Elizabeth May (Greens): 11 per cent

  • None: 9 per cent

The New Democrats have a long history in the province of being a strong alternative to the Tories, and have made strong gains in the 10 swing ridings since the campaign began.

"We're seeing Jack Layton as a little more competitive and the reason I think is that there is a strong tradition of NDP grassroots in British Columbia -- and a tradition of NDP protest votes in British Columbia," Donolo told Question Period. "He is delivering a very lunch-bucket kind of message about fuel costs, and on a range of other issues he's slamming the oil companies. There is a big audience for that in British Columbia."

Tories keep lead in battlegrounds

The Conservatives still have an overall lead in the Ontario and B.C. battleground ridings, but still trail the Bloc in Quebec -- although the gap is less than the margin of error for the province, which is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

Here are the results, with the percentage-point change from a Sept. 9-11 poll in brackets:

Ontario battleground ridings

  • Conservatives: 45 per cent (none)

  • Liberals: 26 per cent (-3)

  • New Democrats: 18 (+2)

  • Green Party: 12 (+2)

Quebec battleground ridings

  • Bloc Quebecois: 33 per cent (-1)

  • Conservatives: 30 per cent (none)

  • Liberals: 19 per cent (-2)

  • New Democrats: 12 (none)

  • Green Party: 8 (+3)

B.C. battleground ridings

  • Conservatives: 36 per cent (-3)

  • Liberals: 29 per cent (+5)

  • New Democrats: 21 (-4)

  • Green Party: 14 (+2)

The Battleground 2008 Ridings:

British Columbia

Vancouver Quadra, Vancouver Island North, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, Fleetwood-Port Kells, Newton-North Delta, Burnaby-Douglas, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, Richmond, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, North Vancouver.


Parry Sound-Muskoka, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, St. Catharines, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, Brant, Thunder Bay-Superior North, Oakville, Thunder Bay-Rainy River, Huron-Bruce, London-Fanshaw, Ottawa-Orl�ans, Simcoe North, London West, Barrie, Kitchener-Conestoga, Halton, Peterborough, Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Burlington, Mississauga South.


Louis-H�bert, Ahuntsic, Beauport-Limoilou, Brossard-La Prairie, Papineau, Charlesbourg--Haut-Saint-Charles, Hull-Aylmer, Honor�-Mercier, Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, Pontiac, Jeanne-Le Ber, Laval-Les �les, Gatineau, Chicoutimi-Le Fjord, Brome-Missisquoi.

The Strategic Counsel will be polling these ridings throughout the election campaign.

Technical notes:

The poll was conducted from Sept. 10-13 by The Strategic Counsel for CTV and The Globe and Mail.

The B.C. and Quebec battleground ridings both have a sample size of 450 people and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

The Ontario battleground ridings have a sample size of 480 people and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Results are based on random samples of adults 18 years of age or older in each of the 45 battleground ridings. Results were weighted by age to be proportionate to the provincial population sampled.