Trudeau government begins to (slightly) lose its appeal: poll

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained a high approval rating.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained a high approval rating. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Trudeau government may be showing the first signs of wear after more than a year in power, a new poll suggests, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating holding steady even as Canadians begin to lose confidence in his party’s ability to get things done.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Global News between Dec. 15 and Dec. 19, reveals that two in three Canadians (67 per cent) agree strongly or somewhat that “the Trudeau government is more style than substance.”

That’s up eight points since the government’s one-year anniversary, just over a month ago. A third of respondents (33 per cent) disagreed with that statement, down eight points.

WATCH: Prime Minister Trudeau’s overall approval rating dropping

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Prime Minister Trudeau’s overall approval rating dropping: poll

Meanwhile, six in 10 Canadians still approved (13 per cent strongly and 49 per cent somewhat) of “the performance of the Liberal Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” which is down only three points since October. Four in 10 disapproved of the government’s performance under Trudeau’s leadership.

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Comparatively, the poll found that on average, Canadians are far less fond of their provincial leaders. The average approval rating for provincial governments across the country was just over 40 per cent, suggesting that they’re experiencing a rough ride compared to Trudeau.

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“The (federal) government’s down a couple of points … but the difference isn’t massive here,” said Sean Simpson, vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs. “Despite all the gaffes and missteps.”

The “gaffes and missteps” this fall have included everything from mishandling democratic reform to issuing controversial pipeline decisions. Trudeau was also accused of penning an overly complimentary official statement following the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Then, just this week, an attempt to hammer out a new healthcare agreement with the provinces fell apart.

The key to the government’s enduring popularity among a majority of Canadians, Simpson said, is that none of these things were particularly surprising.

“Most of the time (the controversies) just reaffirm what people already know. Justin Trudeau goes off and he makes a comment about Castro that’s an ill-advised comment. Does that surprise us? Well, no … sometimes he just says what’s on his mind.”

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Justin Trudeau under fire for his controversial statement on the passing of Fidel Castro

The Liberals were elected primarily because they represented the best alternative to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in the minds of voters, he added, and not because of specific platform promises. So when a promise is broken or a policy changes, it doesn’t tend to drive down approval ratings as rapidly as one might expect.

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“Canadians are willing to give (Trudeau) a long leash,” Simpson said. “If over the course of three or four years these things become habit … it’s eventually going to stick.”

As usual, it’s the economy that has Canadians most concerned. A full half of the poll’s respondents said the Canadian economy should be the top priority for the government in 2017.

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The runner-up was ensuring that the country is safe and secure, at 18 per cent.

Fewer than eight per cent of respondents said the Liberals’ top priority should be the legalization of marijuana, addressing the First Nations suicide crisis, establishing a good relationship with Donald Trump, implementing a carbon tax, or addressing the fentanyl crisis.

Electoral reform, a file that has plagued the prime minister’s office this fall and generated plenty of negative headlines, was chosen by a mere three per cent of respondents as the top priority.

“This is a juxtaposition between the priorities for elites and the priorities for the masses,” Simpson said.

“Despite all these other things, which are no doubt important, the number one thing is the economy. The average person wants the government to remember that.”

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This poll was conducted between Dec. 15 and Dec. 19, 2016, with a sample of 2,003 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel who were interviewed online. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

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