Will Hudak’s hard-right turn help create a two-way race?

With this morning’s pledge to cut 100,000 jobs from Ontario’s broader public sector, Tim Hudak erased any doubt about his willingness to campaign strongly from the right in this campaign.

That merits another quick dive into that research from Innovative Research Group I was on about in my last post.

Let’s start with the polling company this week asking its online panel of 1,000 Ontarians whether it agreed or disagreed that “It’s time for a change in the Ontario government.” Here’s what it found:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

The fact that  57 per cent want change (and only 20 per cent don’t) is bad news for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, and good news for the other two parties. But have a look, as well, at what respondents said when asked if they agreed or disagreed that “I am afraid of what Tim Hudak and the PCs might do if they form government”:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

So if this research is correct, most Ontarians want change from Ms. Wynne; most are also afraid of the guy likeliest to replace her.

At first glance, that would seem bad news for both of them, and good news for Andrea Horwath. And maybe it will turn out that way. But it’s not quite that simple.

The Tories’ strategy in this campaign, as evidenced by the sharp right turn they just took, is less about winning over new admirers than about mobilizing their supporters to come out and vote. Innovative Research’s data suggests that coming into today’s announcement, at least, about 30 per cent of voters with an opinion on Mr. Hudak weren’t scared of him. So the Tories’ popular support will probably stay somewhere in the thirties, as most horse-race polls have indicated, and if that party is gambling right its base will be more motivated to come out and vote than supporters of the Liberals or New Democrats.

The Liberals’ strategy, meanwhile, revolves around convincing centre-left voters that they’re the only alternative to the Tories. And the responses to another of this survey’s questions suggests there are still a lot of people willing to vote for Ms. Wynne’s party, if not thrilled by the prospect. Here’s what the panel said when asked if they agreed or disagreed that “After the past few years, I am so angry at the Ontario Liberals, I will never vote for them again”:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Okay, one more of these, and then  I promise I’ll stop for now. Here’s what respondents said when asked it they agreed or disagreed that “This election is really a two-horse race, only the Liberals and the Conservatives have a real chance of forming government:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

The Liberals’ current challenge is to get even more people into the affirmative on that last question. Today’s announcement by Mr. Hudak gives them a pivotal opportunity to do that, so it will be very interesting to see how they try to take advantage of it.

Depending on how much success the Liberals have with that, it could be trouble not only for the NDP, but also for a PC Party that probably needs some left-of-centre vote-splitting to be able to take enough seats to win power.


Where do voters get their politics news? TV and the Internet, mostly

In this new digital age, how do you reach voters? Increasingly, parties need to go online. But for now TV is still king.



Abacus conducted the survey by talking to 2,002 Canadians over the age of 18 through a mix of online panels and live telephone interviews. The data were demographically weighted in line with the general population, and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The poll was conducted in January and February of this year.

Ask The Globe: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader Greg Bennett asks: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

Energy reporter Shawn McCarthy says yes – it’s true. But the answer is a little more complicated:

Conservatives’ attacks on Mulcair not too effective, survey suggests

As explained in today’s story, new survey data from Innovative Research Group suggests the Liberals are having some success with advertising rebutting Conservative attacks against Justin Trudeau. But of course, they wouldn’t need to do so if those attacks hadn’t been effective in branding the Liberal Leader as a “not ready” lightweight to begin with.

To the much more limited extent that the Tories are going after NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, it appears they’re struggling to find an angle that’s similarly effective.

In the same early-August  survey in which it found the Liberals’ new ad has a significant impact on those who see it, the polling company also tested a pair of anti-Mulcair Conservative ads. Both use the same “job interview” format as the ones against Mr. Trudeau, but the attempts to cast Mr. Mulcair as an opportunistic career politician seemed to have more limited effect.

In fact, when Innovative Research screened the first of those spots (above) – asking respondents a series of questions both before and after they saw it – it found no statistically significant impact on either voting intentions or impressions of Mr. Mulcair relative to the other party leaders.

The second ad, which is slightly more focused on alleging Mr. Mulcair has wasted taxpayers’ money and less so on using his longevity in politics and his past as a (Quebec) Liberal to suggest he’s an opportunist, proved somewhat more effective. Among respondents who hadn’t seen it before, support for the NDP went down by five percentage points after they saw it, although it’s not clear whether that went to the Tories or the Liberals. And the share of respondents who chose Mr. Mulcair as the leader who most “cares about people like me” went down by seven points.

While significant, neither of those hits is huge when an ad is viewed in isolation. And on other perceptions of leaders’ qualities, such as competence and who cares most about the middle class, there was again no clear impact.

Considering how little these two ads have been airing so far, it’s possible the Tories aren’t using their best stuff against the NDP yet. But it’s worth remembering that, even with Mr. Trudeau, they spent a while running spots that didn’t really work before they hit their target. If they decide before this campaign is over to make Mr. Mulcair their main target, they’ll have a much smaller window to get it right.

(Full methodology for Innovative Research’s surveys are available from its website.)