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Tim Hudak’s polarizing campaign

If you’ve been watching this campaign even casually, you can probably guess that Tim Hudak – who’s running on a stridently conservative platform that includes a promise of 100,000 public-sector job cuts – is a polarizing force in it.

Still, it’s striking just how much our Listening Post project with Innovative Research Group (which you can read more about here) shows the Progressive Conservative Leader pleasing his own party’s supporters, and upsetting everyone else.

Here, for starters, is what different voter groups said when asked whether that 100,000 job cuts proposal made them more or less likely to vote for the PCs:

Likely to vote PC

After hearing 100,000 job cuts proposal

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

A broader question about Mr. Hudak’s platform, using his preferred name for it, didn’t get a much different response. Here’s what people who indicated they had “read, seen or heard” something about his “Million Jobs plan” (a strong majority in all voter groups) said when asked if it made them more or less likely to cast a PC ballot:

Likely to vote PC

After hearing about the “Million Jobs plan”

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Some good news, for Mr. Hudak, is that those who self-identify with his party are really fired up by the prospect of booting the Liberals out of office. 71 per said they “strongly agreed” that it’s “time for a change in government.” And here’s how overall agreement/disagreement with that statement compared to other groups:

Is it time for a change in government?

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

While another thing that might be encouraging for Mr. Hudak in those “time for a change” numbers is the agreement among unaligned voters, there’s a bit of a problem in how most of those voters – and, again, everyone else who doesn’t self-identify as a PC – responded to the question of whether they’re “afraid of what Tim Hudak and the PCs might do if they form government”:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

And then there’s the reminder of Mike Harris, the former premier Mr. Hudak counts as a mentor, and whose Common Sense Revolution he has somewhat imitated in spirit. When asked whether they agree or disagree that “The PCs under Mike Harris did such a bad job running the Ontario government in the 1990s that I don’t think we can take a chance on letting them run the government again,” unaligned voters didn’t display especially strong views. But everyone else did:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

As he been noted in this space and elsewhere a whole bunch of times already this campaign, Mr. Hudak’s strategy revolves far less around persuading swing voters than in having a more mobilized support base than the other parties. Still, he may have alienated potential vote-switchers and undecided voters a little more than he intended. And the big question, as these numbers suggest, is whether in addition to motivating his supporters to come out and vote, he has also motivated supporters of his opponents to do likewise.

(As parties get more sophisticated in targeting messages to individual voters, we want to get as many people as possible involved in helping us keep track of those messages and how they’re delivering them. If you’d be willing to help us tell the story of this campaign by keeping a campaign diary to let us know who contacted you and uploading campaign material, or maybe giving your reaction to ads, issues and events, you can sign up for the Listening Post Network here.)

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Filed under: Ontario Election

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