The 'she loves me, she loves me not' Nanos trend line of 2019
OTTAWA -- It was a tumultuous 2019 for all of the federal parties and leaders. The year opened with the federal Liberals in majority territory and ended with the Conservatives ahead of them in terms of popular support by only a handful of percentage points.
Between the open and close of 2019, it was a roller-coaster ride where the Conservatives and the Liberals exchanged the advantage in ballot support on several occasions. The trading advantage was more about self-inflicted mistakes than the brilliance of any party or leader. Although the Liberals started the year with the advantage, the Wilson-Raybould controversy shook the very foundation of Liberal support. The proverbial Liberal “sunny ways” were dead and Canadians looked at the Scheer-led Conservatives as an alternative.
The 2019 federal election itself was a see-saw battle. In the CTV News/Globe and Mail/Nanos nightly tracking, the Conservatives and the Liberals led on 22 and 15 occasions out of 37 nights respectively. The outcome of 2019 was a moral victory for Conservative Andrew Scheer, winning the popular vote, but a parliamentary victory for Justin Trudeau who won the greatest number of seats, albeit fewer than 2015, in the House of Commons.
This should give the Liberals pause and provide hope to the Conservatives. Canada remains a country divided with about two of three Canadians preferring parties other than the Liberals. For the Conservatives, they remain within striking distance of the Liberals in popular support but have to consider what their growth strategy might be to broaden the Conservative coalition in order to challenge the Liberals.
On the leadership front, Trudeau’s numbers have not significantly recovered from the first part of his mandate, but still a significant proportion of Canadians see him as their preferred choice as prime minister and as a politician that is a good political leader. For Scheer, the election experience was bruising to his brand with the outcome and with a greater number of Canadians thinking he did not have the qualities of a good political leader at the end compared to the beginning of the 2019 campaign. One brand winner this year has been NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Before the election less than three in 10 Canadians thought he had the qualities of a good political leader, he closes 2019 on this measure about 20 percentage points stronger.
Perhaps the key takeaway of 2019 should be that Canadians are not enamored with the choices on the political menu and are not happy enough right now to give any party the upper hand. The “she loves me, she loves me not” mantra should be front and centre in deciphering the political mood.
Nik Nanos is the pollster of record for CTV News and Chief Data Scientist at Nanos Research.