Trudeau’s Poll Position

Many Canadians polled have heard of this man

It’s no secret that Liberals love power above all else, so it’s hard for any Liberal to stay immune to Trudeaumania when you see headlines like “Justin Trudeau could lead Liberals to first place, new poll shows” or “Trudeau could be Grits’ only hope, says pollster Graves“.

I’ll admit that seeing a Trudeau-led Liberal Party at 40% in the Angus Reid “fantasyland” poll caused my heart to flutter a little bit. Hell, it’s been a while since the Grits were anywhere near the 32% they hit in Forum’s less rosy Trudeau scenario. With numbers like this, it seems foolhardy for any other candidate to even consider running against the reluctant saviour. Let’s just arrange catering for the victory party, and wrap this leadership race up now!

While there are many good reasons why Justin Trudeau should run, and there are many good reasons why Liberals should consider supporting him, polls like this should be low down the list.

What’s being measured in these surveys is not how a politician will perform as leader, but how familiar voters are with them now – and what their superficial opinion of that politician is now. While voters may know and like Justin Trudeau, I suspect a Liberal Party led by Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, or Justin Long would poll just as high.

Obviously, it’s good that Canadians have a favourable image of Trudeau, since that will make it harder for the Tory smear machine to define him. But despite this level of name recognition, I’d wager that Trudeau is still largely undefined. Voters may remember his eulogy and his boxing match – they might like his name and his hair. That doesn’t mean they have any idea of the type of leader he’d be or how he’d perform as Prime Minister. They may not be considering those factors when a pollster calls them on a Saturday afternoon three years out from a general election, but they certainly will be before they vote. For proof on how quickly things can change, a similar hypothetical poll last fall had Thomas Mulcair 13 points behind the Conservatives – today, he leads.

Polls like these will no doubt tempt many Liberals. However, we’ve all spent the past year talking about how much the Liberal Party needs to do to rebuild and make itself relevant to Canadians again. It would be foolish to assume we’re one saviour away from a trip to the promised land.

Even if you believe the Liberals are one leadership change away from power (and, hey, we can all dream), the best leader is not neccesarily the one with the highest level of name recognition today. If it were, I’d be starting a “Draft Bieber” blog.

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15 responses to “Trudeau’s Poll Position”

  1. I think Paul Wells of Macleans pointed out this AM that polls also showed the same thing for Dion and Ignatieff. Obviously, as you say, Trudeau would possibly be tougher to run attack ads against, but if he IS running, I’d like to see what he actually is proposing for ideas and policies. I’m afraid from reading things elsewhere that some Liberals are still hopeful of the Conservatives and NDP both imploding at the same time, while we pick a charismatic leader that will make people instantly want to vote us back into government, without needing to take chances or risks on new policies or ideas that the party brass don’t like.

  2. I believe there were polls showing Ignatieff et al ahead, but the gap wasn’t nearly this pronounced (i.e. I think it was a case where Libs were at 30% and poll showed Iggy at 35%).

    • I agree! And there’s a good chance when Bieber is Trudeau’s age, he’ll have more political sophistication.

  3. These polls are informative about voters not candidates. During the NDP leadership there was a polling trend I noticed, that I believe is repeating itself here. Leadership candidates from Quebec fared much much better in general election polls than those from elsewhere.

    We have good reason to believe that a lot of that movement is precisely because of Quebec voters. The NDP’s Quebec support is a mile wide and an inch deep. And that pool is getting bigger, as the Bloc fades away.

    And I suspect that if one digs a little, NDP Quebec support is also intrinsically divisible. It includes a number of separatists and soft nationalists wooed by the new NDP line on decentralization. But the NDP also won in plenty of places that are federalist bastions. The Dippers came within 2 points of winning Westmount for heck’s sake. Whatever Justin Trudeau’s merits as a candidate, I think his brand is one that is well-suited to wooing federalist Montrealers.

    That said, asking whether a candidate, at their best, can bring the party back to its former glory is the wrong question. The real question is whether a candidate, at their worst, will allow the party to survive.

    The Maritimes are a life support system for the Liberal party, and any leader should be able to campaign their successfully. Quebec represents the biggest opportunity. Off-hand, Dominic Leblanc strikes me as the best person to accomplish those goals simultaneously.

  4. I suspect a Quebecer like Trudeau on the left of the party will effectively peel off NDP support in Quebec leading to a favourable vote split for the Conservatives. The Liberals I suspect need someone with a centrist appeal, is fluently bilingual and has solid economic credentials so they can take votes from both left and right.

  5. It is time for a leader from Quebec.
    The NDP neophytes are ripe for the picking. All trees no roots as per Mulcair himself.
    Trudeau or Garneau. Take your pick!

  6. If Trudeau has more substance than style, he’ll say he has no interest in running until the Liberal party has been built up in the 100 plus ridings where there is no active organization. Instead of swooning fangirls thinking social media will make him PM, let them go out and build a Liberal organization.

  7. The “fine print” is where you have to look to find magic words like “among decided voters”.

    An informed analysis would ask who those decided voters are, and why anyone would have “decided” anything this early in the race.

  8. it’s lovely that we can all agree that this poll doesn’t guarantee the liberals would suddenly win under trudeau. can we also agree it’s at least a very positive signal for his level of appeal?

  9. Once again, Liberals seem to be casting about for a charismatic leader to show them the way out of the wilderness. It’s not going to work.

    What the Liberals need, more than organization or a telegenic appealling leader, is a PLATFORM that clearly defines them and that Canadians will support. There is NO WAY around this work, although it looks like they’re trying to avoid it.

    And picking Trudeau looks like a desperation move, and desperation is NEVER attractive. C’mon, folks, he hasn’t even held a major shadow cabinet portfolio!

    • and i suppose Jack Layton won on HIS platform with the million and one holes in it? yeah right.

      Michael Ignatieff actually put forward a fairly serious and coherent platform, but that got him nowhere. The messenger had long been discredited by then.

      Let’s face it. Politics is not a reductionist, one factor game. It depends on the circumstances, dynamics of the competitors, skills, knowledge, policy, AND yes, charisma and credibility. It’s not everything, but certainly A important factor.

      Granted, even charisma is in the eyes of the beholder. Frankly many people found Jack Layton more demagogic than charismatic.

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