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.


  1. Anonymous2:46 pm

    An interesting thing about watching the Conservative Party's "Stéphane Dion is not a leader" ads is that I don't know if I am actually watching the real ads or Air Farce/The Mercer Report spoofs.

    I like how in both the real and spoof ads, there seems to be a type of cadence that distinguishes Stéphane Dion ads from other ones on television. Here's my ad:

    Stéphane Dion...
    has a dog...
    and Kyoto...
    was his name-o.

    Did you hear that?

    And what does Stéphane really think...
    about Kyoto?

    He just doesn't care...

    Every day...
    poor Kyoto...
    keeps losing a letter...
    in his name-o.

    Did you hear that, Stéphane?
    In his name-o!

    - - o t o...
    - - o t o...
    - - o t o...
    and Kyoto was his name-o.

    Fellow Canadians...
    how would you like it if Stéphane made Canada disappear?
    What would you be left with?

    - - n a d a.

    You wouldn't like that.
    Would you?

    Stéphane Dion is not a leader for Canada...
    or for his dog...

    (Paid for by the Conversative Parté of Canada)

  2. Ken, Paul Wells analyzes the polls which show the Cons at 38% and the libs at 31%:

    Calgarygrit is right on point when he analyzes the polls that question the effectiveness of the attack ads.

    Waste of money? They currently have money to burn. And if these polls continue, they'll be swamped with donations before the spring election.

    The "big money" spent turned out to be a mere $98,000. The MSM distribution far outweighed that cost.

    There is a lot of talk about the ads. Personally, I think it was a solid tactical move. If people who haven't payed attention to Dion, this was the first message they got from him.

  3. ken chapman3:54 pm

    Hi eric ... Only $98K for the ads boy that is cheap by any measure...especially given all the free earned media this tactic generated.

    Terrific leverage on the actual cash they spent then. Very clever! Yes a solid tactical move... if for no other reason that to give their base clear speaking points at the water coolers and coffee shops.

    The ads "worked" in the undecided group a bit and they had a lower perceptions of Dion after viewing the ads. Is that going to be lasting or just a blip? My guess the reason for undecideds to decide yet - no electoin call has been made. That is what it will take to move the fence sitters in one direction or the other.

    The Decima poll, that I did not included in my posting has, some interesting aspects too. The comments that folks say they don't like negative ads as a normative response and is to be expected. Just because it is a normative response does not mean it is not also accurate.

    Normative answers are the same as most people will answer the question: How are you doing? with "Fine." A meaningless but to be expected answer.

    That said lots of people, about 1/3, were familiar with the ads. The key number is 2/3 said the ads would not be relevant to their choice in the next election.

    The bottom line is the ads has a small influence on swinging undecideds to the negative on Dion...but for how long?

  4. No election has been called, but here in Ottawa you can feel one coming.

    See Calgarygrit - he states my opinion much better than I could: "The problem with a poll like this is that Canadians will always say they aren't influenced by negative ads, even when they are. Negative ads are considered ugly and no one wants to admit they're affected by then - hell, no one wants to admit any ads affect their decision.

    Ask Canadians what they think about reality TV and I'm sure 59% will say it's trashy...and then Deal or No Deal will come in at number 1 in the most watched shows of the week. Ask them if the media focuses too much on celebrity gossip and 59% will say yes...and then rush out to read the latest on Brangelina."

    Besides the ads, the feeling here in Ottawa is that the Cons might have a perfect storm brewing. If the polls continue to keep the Cons ahead or even tied, an election will come soon. A Charest win will ensure the Cons continue to hold Quebec City and maybe even more (although that might be overly optimistic).

    The next 2 months will be exciting!

  5. Anonymous4:26 pm

    All the ads did for me and everyone I've talked to was to confirm that the CPC wants to "do politics" as Americanly as possible, and wants to drag us into the sewer of American-style Swiftboat campaigning as fast as possible.

    A great message for a Minority Government to give an anxious electorate full of people unsure whether they're ready to forgive the Liberals yet for the sponsorship scandal, yet who are nervous about the Conservatives and their motives.

    So if that's what they were supposed to do, yup, that was $98,000 well-spent.

  6. No doubt this attack ad tactic was right out of the Karl Rove play book for Republican lightweights who want to be President.

    I think Harper is more substantial than that and he will use more of this kind of tactic because we really don't know Dion beyond the environment issue. He may be able to win on that issue alone but that is a big roll of the dice.

    Many years ago an unknown became federal PC leader and the next day the headlines said "Joe Who?" If it had not already been done, my guess we would have seen a December 3rd headlines saying "Stephane Qui?"

    Dion he is still open to being defined for the committed Con or Lib is going to change but the swing vote is about 25% and is open to being influenced.

    The ads did move about 6% of the toal vote from the undecideds on specific issues but the motivation was mostly tied to the Liberal track record of Chretien and Martin, not due to Dion good or bad!

    Dion is not the mere extension of those regimes but Canadians still have the Liberal party in the penalty box for arrogance and corruption.

    But regular readers of this Blog know I say campaings matter and the volatility of the voter means if we are into an early election - buckle up it will be a roller coaster of a campaign.