Who cares most about Liberal scandals?

So far in this campaign, Andrea Horwath has been more aggressive than Tim Hudak in trying to make the Liberals wear the scandals (like gas plants) that occurred under their watch.

The data from our Listening Post survey with Innovative Research Group, though, suggests that attacks on the Liberals’ ethics have gotten a great deal more traction with self-identified Progressive Conservatives than New Democrats.

Perhaps most telling on this front, and some help in explaining why despite its tough rhetoric the NDP has been calling for the Liberals to be put in the “penalty box” rather than given up on altogether, were responses when those who align with each party were asked whether they agree or disagree 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

Responses to several other questions point to underlying impressions that help explain this discrepancy between Tories and New Democrats (and unaligned voters, to some extent). Here, for instance, is how people who align with each party responded to the question: “When it comes to waste or mismanagement of government spending, do you think the provincial Liberal government is better or worse than other provincial governments we have had in Ontario?”

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

A question about whether the Liberals have been better or worse than past governments when it comes to “favours to friends and insiders” brought a similar response:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

As a side-note, even most self-identified Liberals don’t seem to think their party of choice has been more ethical than past governments; just that it’s no worse. But it’s quite remarkable how many self-identified New Democrats seem not to think the Liberals have been unusually bad on that front, either.

Now, before going too far in assuming only Mr. Hudak can successfully play the ethics card, it’s worth noting that the pattern is a bit different when it comes to questions about which party would be most ethical in government. Here’s how PCs, New Democrats and unaligned voters responded when asked which party would “do the best job of cleaning up
favours to friends and insiders if they form government”:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Also worth noting is how pessimistic unaligned voters are about any of the parties’ ability to run a clean government. Here’s how they responded to that same question about who would clean up favours to friends and insiders:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

So going by these numbers, if Ms. Horwath is able to make more of her likely supporters care more about Liberal scandals, and/or if she’s able to convince more voters who don’t really associate with any party that she’s truly capable of cleaning up corruption, this issue could be a winner for her. But so far, the biggest impact of all the scandal talk seems to be that it energizes Mr. Hudak’s supporters.

(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.)

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.)