Though Canadians remain divided over the Liberal government’s decision to settle its suit with Omar Khadr, it hasn’t negatively affected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s overall ratings – in fact, his approval ratings are up four percentage points since April, according to an Ipsos poll.
Trudeau remains popular with his usual bases – young voters and those in the eastern provinces, for example. But the bump in overall standing was surprising considering the backlash the government faced when the $10.5-million payment and public apology to Khadr became public, said Sean Simpson vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs.
“It’s the only thing I find surprising, is that his support went up when most people thought it would be going down,” he said in an interview Thursday.
Given several weeks to digest news of the Trudeau government’s settlement with Khadr, Canadians remain torn on which party leader’s messaging was the right approach, with Trudeau barely edging out Conservative leader Andrew Scheer at 51 per cent to 49 per cent.
Respondents to this poll were shown two short video statements – one from each leader – and asked which is closest to their own point of view.
The gist of Trudeau’s statement was the government can’t choose when and to whom Charter rights apply.
Scheer’s, meanwhile, said paying and apologizing to Khadr was a choice Trudeau made, and framed the decision as a “slap in the face” to Canadian troops.
The text attributed to Trudeau each poll respondent was presented with was as follows:
“The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, every one of us, even when it is uncomfortable. This is not about the details or merits of the Khadr case. If government violates any Canadian’s Charter rights, we all end up paying for it.”
Scheer’s script was presented as follows:
“Make no mistake. This settlement is a choice made by Justin Trudeau. What’s worse: Justin Trudeau is hiding it from Canadians. This payout is a slap in the face to the men and women in uniform who face incredible danger every day to keep us safe. If Omar Khadr is truly sorry for what he has done, that money should be given directly to the family of Sergeant Speer.”
The decision to ask respondents about the messaging was taken because there has been a battle between the Conservatives and Liberals to “own the debate” on the Khadr settlement, Simpson said.
“We wanted to put those arguments to Canadians because the arguments are not actually different sides of the same coin, they’re arguing two different things,” he said.
Whereas Trudeau argued the government had a legal responsibility, Scheer’s main argument was that, based on Khadr’s alleged actions in Afghanistan, Khadr doesn’t deserve any money or sympathy.
WATCH: Scheer continues to take aim at Liberals over Omar Khadr payout
“We wanted to understand which of those arguments and sentiments resonates more and, ultimately, if it is having an impact,” Simpson explained.
To the first point – which message resonated more – it turns out Canadians were split almost right down the middle (51 per cent to 49 per cent in favour of Trudeau’s message).
And as to whether the issue has had an impact, well, to the surprise of many including Simpson, Trudeau’s approval went up.
WATCH: Trudeau asked if criticism over Khadr settlement in U.S. media could affect NAFTA talks
Six in 10 respondents approved of the Liberal government’s performance (15 per cent strongly, 45 per cent somewhat), an increase of four percentage points since April.
Conversely, four in 10 disapproved of the government’s performance (20 per cent strongly, 20 per cent somewhat).
“Half the people side with the government’s position, and their approval rating is around 60 per cent. What that means is that roughly 10 per cent of the population still approves of the government but sided with the Conservative tweets,” Simpson said.
“Some people may ultimately feel closer personally to the sentiment that Scheer has been saying, but you can still ultimately … approve of the government’s performance.”
Breaking the results down by generational divide, it seems the older the respondent, the less likely they were to support Trudeau, while the reverse was true for Scheer.
This Ipsos poll was conducted on behalf of Global News between July 24 and July 25, 2017, using a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ from the Ipsos online panel who were interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.