Most find anti-Dion Tory ads unfair: poll
Published Wednesday, February 7, 2007 4:48PM EST
OTTAWA - The good news for federal Conservatives: a lot of Canadians seem to have seen their recent TV ad campaign targeting Liberal Leader Stephane Dion.
The bad news? A majority of the Canadians who've seen those ads may think they're bunkum.
That's the finding in a Decima Research survey released Wednesday to The Canadian Press -- a poll reinforced this week by the fleeting zeitgeist of comedic television spoofs.
Decima polled 1,016 Canadians Feb. 1-4 and found that 38 per cent recalled seeing the ads, a finding considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The relatively heavy saturation was helped in no small part by the news media. Almost a third of the 388 respondents who said they'd seen the spots recalled them only in the context of news coverage, slightly more than had seen them only as paid TV ads.
About 59 per cent said the ads were unfair in describing Dion. Only 22 per cent felt the ads were fair.
And two thirds of the respondents said the information in the ads was not relevant to their choice in the next federal election, compared with 26 per cent who said it was relevant. Among the subset of respondents familiar with the ads, the margin of error is plus or minus five percentage points, 19 times in 20.
"To the extent that they had the desired impact, it was largely among the core supporters of the Conservatives,'' said Decima pollster Bruce Anderson.
"Ads do tend to work best at reinforcing existing perceptions. I'm not sure they can't start the process of creating perceptions -- probably that's what the Conservatives are hoping they will have done here.
"I think the evidence is pretty scant at this point as to whether or not they've succeeded.''
The Conservative ads -- "Stephane Dion is not a leader'' -- first aired Jan. 28, courtesy of the national news media which responded to a "technical briefing'' on the three, 30-second spots with blanket coverage.
They generated a tremendous amount of media buzz as the House of Commons returned from the long winter break.
Running partisan attack ads outside an election period is almost unprecedented in Canada. The roll-out, including a pricey buy during the Canadian Super Bowl telecast, spoke to both the flush coffers of the Conservative party and its desire to tag the new and relatively unknown opponent.
The ads were dismissed by the Liberals as an act of desperation by a stalled minority government. But a Conservative party spokesman argued Wednesday that "the Liberals' outraged response was quite frankly proof enough that these ads are effective.''
"That's the best measurement generally,'' said Ryan Sparrow.
While the Liberals professed more disdain than anger, others have had an entirely different response to the ads.
They have yet to reach the near iconic humour status of last year's Liberal election attack ads --"Soldiers with guns. In our streets. We're not making this up.'' -- but they are gaining some comedic attention.
Both the Royal Canadian Air Farce and the Rick Mercer Report this week lampooned the Tory spots.
"Goalies win games. Ken Dryden is not a goalie,'' intoned a mock ad on the Rick Mercer Report, after cutting in partial clips of the Liberal MP and NHL hall-of-famer's self-deprecating speech from a recent sweater retirement ceremony in Montreal.
"Ken Dryden is soft on communism,'' said the spoof after quoting Dryden on a 1972 Summit Series loss to the Soviet Union.
Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, said the best that can be said for the ads in a non-election period is that they rally core Tories.
"This is classic Harper 101. They're going to come out fists blazing,'' said the corporate communications expert.
"What you're seeing is a combative Harper philosophy at work here.''