Friday, February 09, 2007

Harper Attack Ads Didn't Do the Job on Dion

There are a few new poll results out that were in the field after the Cons attack ads were run. they were designed to position Dion as not being a leader and a do nothing guy on the environment.

The polls are all over the place proving voter volatility is the new normal. There is no clear preference of party leader nor do we have any definitive indication of a preferred political direction in the mind of voters.

Nik Nanos’ SES NationState poll surveyed 913 Canadians between Feb 2 and 8th and shows a Dion/Harper “dead heat” at 33% each of committed voters but the trend lines show Harper in decline and Dion ascending. There are fewer uncommitted voters everywhere since the November 2006 results except in Ontario which is constant and the highest of uncommitted voters at 12%. Quebecers are leaving the Bloc in droves (-11) and those supporter seem to be moving to the Conservatives (+8). The Greens are the strongest in the West at 9% (+1) and the Cons are waning a bit in the West (-7).

What Harper gains in Quebec he is losing in the West but will that result in any seat changes in either place? Not likely but it will be interesting to see how much Harper is prepared to risk his western base loyalty to win Quebec in search of a majority government. The west is obviously noticing Harper's priority focus on Quebec's issues.

Leger has a survey of 1500 run from January 30 to February 4th. They redistribute the undecided responders in proportion to the actual poll allocation and get an increased 7% delta between Cons and Libs, in Harper’s favour. What evidence that undecided will vote and if so, that they split like the rest of the population? The Libs and Bloc are tied in Quebec and Harper “owns” Alberta at 59%. Again the Greens are knocking on the NDP door in the west but they are not there yet to surpass them. A full 15% were not committed or didn’t want to participate. The trend lines show no net change in the party support levels since the 2006 election when the margin of error is applied.

Finally we have Angus Reid’s results of 909 Canadians surveyed on line January 30 and 31, 2007. This was an on line survey designed to test the effectiveness of the Cons attack ads. They asked questions before people saw the ads and then asked them again after they viewed the ads on their computer screens. The report results say “the attack ads didn’t work.” The decline in perceptions of Dion post –viewing the ads was negligible dropping 1% from 40 to 39 on the question of who “would be the best Prime Minister.” Harper’s approvals stayed the same at 36%.

So not only did the attack ads not diminish Dion they added nothing to Harper’s positive profile either. Another key figure is the “Don’t Knows.” A quarter of Canadians have yet to make up their minds on which of these two guys are the best to lead the country. Voter volatility is potentially the ruling factor in the next election results. That means the campaigns will matter.

The next set of questions went to the Dion’s character and capability. The ads reduced perceptions of Dion ability to lead – the prime reasons for running the ads in the first place – by 5% - moving 3% away from his pre-ad supporters and 2% from undecided voters. Other perception questions on Dion and the environment, trust to keep promises and manage the public purse saw the ads have more impact. They changing poll results with more people have a diminished perception of Dion but the change came mostly from the undecided ranks and not from the core Dion support. these question tend to remind voters about the old Liberal fiascos under Chretien and Martin. The Liberals are not yet out of the penalty box but Dion does not get blamed for the "penalty" in the first place.

Only in the "will he improve the environment" question did Dion seem to have a glove laid on him. Then his core support went from 53% before seeing the ads to 47% afterwards. Some perspecitve isneeded here. If Dion actually got 47% of the popular vote in an election he would be forming a Liberal majority…so it is not really indicating much of a body blow to Dion’s potential electoral fortunes.

The hoopla over the ads and the big money spent, including the Super Bowl buy has to be very discouraging to the Tory war room given the net results being bugger all. Not much momentum coming out of this "full court press" on Dion by the Cons, especially for the money they spent on those ads. There is a glimmer of hope though; the ads are reported to have had to the most impact, such as it was, in Ontario and female voters, two key targets for Conservatives in the next election. Their money may not have been totally wasted.