April 16, 2006 by Joseph Krohn
The Conservatives got a passing grade from a healthy proportion of voters who didn’t support them during the January election, a new poll suggests. Forty per cent of Liberal voters, and a quarter of NDP and Bloc Quebecois voters, told Decima Research that they were generally satisfied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. The Conservatives won 36 per cent of the popular vote during the last election. Pollster Bruce Anderson cautions that the numbers don’t mean that those Liberal, NDP and Bloc voters would automatically check off Conservative on their ballot if an election was held tomorrow. But the party is doing something right.
“If the big test for a Stephen Harper-led Conservative government is whether or not it could appeal to centrist voters, the early results here suggest it’s doing that in a relatively significant fashion,” Anderson said. Overall, 53 per cent of poll respondents were satisfied with the performance of the Conservative government, including 70 per cent of that party’s supporters. The poll, conducted March 31 to April 4 by Decima, was provided exclusively to The Canadian Press. There were 2,131 respondents, a sample considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Another poll by Strategic Counsel and released Saturday suggested 73 per cent of Canadians thought Harper was doing a good or average job. The Decima survey was taken at a time when Harper was making front-page news. He had just wrapped up his first major international summit in Mexico with U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Also, the spring session of Parliament was opening with a succinct, focused throne speech on April 4. The polls suggest that more people thought the Conservatives were doing a good job of handling international affairs and Canada-U.S. relations than those that thought they were doing a poor job. Ditto for the economy. But the reverse was true of areas such as child care, the environment and health care. For example, 63 per cent of respondents said they thought the Conservatives were doing a poor job on the environment. That was before the news came out that the government was pulling funding for a number of climate-change initiatives. Anderson said public opinion research suggests Canadians are becoming more focused on global environmental issues and that Harper should take note. “It’s important for them to position themselves as progressive advocates of envrionmental solutions domestically and internationally if they want to broaden their support base,” he said.