It has been months of headlines touting tanking polling numbers for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and climbing support for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, but what does a long-term look at party standings show? And, is it too late for the trend lines to turn around?
In the latest episode of CTV’s Trend Line, Nanos Research founder Nik Nanos and host Michael Stittle dig in to the “Nanos Party Power Index Tracking for Canada.” It offers a composite picture of various public opinion metrics, from the national ballot, to which party Canadians would consider voting for, as well as the top choices for prime minister and each party’s leadership qualities.
So, what do the overall brand strength scores show about the current federal political landscape, where climate change, the cost of living, and the security of Canadian communities are top-of-mind?
Nanos said his “big takeaway” is that the Liberal party’s brand is “weaker now” than when Trudeau became Liberal leader, and the Conservative brand is “stronger now… than at any time,” in the last decade, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s standing remains “steady,” currently sitting ahead of the Liberals.
“The Conservative brand compared to the Liberal brand basically is stronger at this particular point in time,” Nanos said.
But, is there still time for the Liberals to turn the tide, given the next federal election isn’t scheduled until October 2025? Nanos said there are many factors that are at play but big-picture, but it will take time to turn things around.
“You first of all have to get people to start being open to voting Liberal, and that’s been on the decline,” Nanos said. “The reality is, is that Justin Trudeau has taken what is traditionally a large tent party and made it smaller because of because of his particular agenda… They’ve kind of shifted over to the left as they’ve tried to keep the New Democrats at bay.”
Nanos also questioned whether given the current brand rankings, the New Democrats will be inclined to hold on to their two-party supply-and-confidence arrangement with the Liberals through until the scheduled June 2025 conclusion.
“The New Democrats have to worry that the problems with the Liberals, negative perceptions of the Liberals, and the weakness of the Liberal brand also transfers over to the New Democrats as their parliamentary partner,” Nanos said.
Other big factors and potential vote-drivers right now, Nanos noted, are how each party handles the economy, security, and foreign affairs. With recent polling showing 48 per cent of Canadians surveyed feeling worse off financially than they were a year ago, and 7 out of 10 Canadians expressing concern about increased hate-motivated incidents in their communities amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
LIBERALS: ON ‘STEEP DOWNWARD TRAJECTORY’
Digging in to each party’s respective rankings, the Liberal trend line paints a picture of the prime minister’s electoral trajectory, which currently has the party under Trudeau on “quite a steep downward trajectory.”
Trudeau has been at the helm of the Liberal party for a decade, and is currently showing a party power index ranking that’s lower than at any other time over his tenure.
Currently at a score of 41 points out of 100, the Liberals under Trudeau are far below from their near 70-point peak in 2015 after clinching a majority election victory in the 2015 change campaign against then-Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.
The Liberals are also sitting lower now than during the pre-2015 campaign period when the Conservatives ran a barrage of negative attack ads against the then-untested Liberal leader.
“You can see pretty good strength going into 2018, 2019, so forth. But, what you can see basically is a downward trajectory and quite a steep downward trajectory in the last month or so,” Nanos said.
The consistent descent into below 50-point territory appears to have begun shortly after the 2021 early federal election that saw the Liberals hold on to a minority government.
“One of the markers I think, for a lot of leaders: Is the party better or worse off after assuming the leadership, and once you leave? In this particular case, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau are in worse shape now than they were when he took over the leadership back in 2013,” Nanos said.
CPC: EQUAL OR BETTER THAN HARPER-ERA
Looking at the Conservatives, Nanos said even with a rotating cast of six leaders in the last decade, the party currently has the highest power index, scoring 55 points out of 100. Under Poilievre, the party is now at levels “that are equivalent to when, or better than the tail-end of Harper’s time as prime minister.”
The party’s power index paints a picture of “a little bit of a roller coaster ride” as the Official Opposition moved through a series of interim and official leaders from Rona Ambrose and Andrew Scheer between 2015 and 2019, to Erin O’Toole and Candice Bergen between 2020 and 2023.
But, Nanos noted that with the exception of a springtime dip, since taking the helm in the fall of 2022, the party under Poilievre has been trending upwards.
“Conservative brand strength is better now than it was when Pierre Poilievre assumed the leadership, and equivalent to Stephen Harper, which was the last time the Conservatives were in power,” Nanos said.
NDP: SINGH NOT ERODING OR BUILDING BRAND
Nanos’ party power index for the federal New Democrats shows that the brand scores for the party were stronger under previous leader Tom Mulcair, and higher than they’ve been at any time under current leader Singh.
The tracking shows a bit of a jump when Singh took the helm in 2017, but since then it’s been a “fairly steady trend line,” currently sitting at 46 points out of 100, which is five points ahead of the Liberals.
“The key takeaway for Jagmeet Singh is that he’s basically been within a narrow band… He hasn’t done anything to erode the strength of the New Democratic brand, or to build the strength of the New Democratic brand,” Nanos said.
“It’s almost kind of like a caretaker… I think if you’re a New Democrat, what you want to see is your numbers go up, so that there’s just more political muscle, so to speak, when you’re asking for Canadians to vote for you.”
WHAT ABOUT THE BLOC, GREENS, PPC?
While the Bloc Quebecois currently holds third-party status in the House of Commons, boasting more MPs than Singh’s NDP, the party’s power index has them ranked lower, at a score of 38. Still, Blanchet is boasting a more positive upward trend line than his predecessors. Nanos noted that these brand score figures are only reflective of voters in Quebec’s perspective, given the party only campaigns in that one province.
“You can see there’s been a bit of recovery this summer by him, after a bit of a downturn. But, you know, generally better under him than even under Gilles Duceppe when he came back in 2015, or any of the other leaders,” Nanos said.
The Green Party, with Elizabeth May back at the helm—alongside co-leader Jonathan Pedneault – is holding on to numbers comparable to where the party was between 2013 and 2018, up slightly from the leadership turmoil saga that saw a dip in the party’s power standing during the tenures of Annamie Paul and Amita Kuttner.
“What’s interesting is that, you know, her numbers are basically where they were… There hasn’t been a bit of a resurgence… Basically it’s back to where the Greens were,” Nanos said, of the Greens’ 31-point ranking.
As for the People’s Party of Canada and leader Maxime Bernier, Nanos said what is evident from the shorter trend line is that while there was “a little bit of interest” at the outset of the party’s creation in 2018 and during the 2019 election year, momentum has dipped, to a score of 25 out of 100.
“Basically no big positive movement for Maxime Bernier. I’m sure Pierre Poilievre is really happy… with that number because it shows that right now at least, the possibility of the People’s Party of Canada eating into the Conservative lunch [is] not that strong,” Nanos said.
Watch the full episode of Trend Line in our video player at the top of this article. You can also listen in our audio player below, or wherever you get your podcasts. The next episode comes out Wednesday, Nov. 29.
Methodology: Nanos Research, RDD dual frame hybrid telephone and online random survey, weekly tracking ending Nov. 10, 2023. N= 1,097, accurate 3.0 percentage points plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.
With files from CTV News Special Projects Producer Phil Hahn