Thursday, January 20, 2011

The "better off" ballot question gets some early answers

Update (8:30 p.m.) below.

The Star is reporting on an Angus Reid poll on whether Canadians feel better or worse off than they did five years ago, i.e., during the tenure of Stephen Harper's government. The poll was taken on January 13th & 14th so it was concurrent to the just released "Five Years of Harper" document by Liberals and its question: "Is Canada better off?"

A few findings touching on economic sensibilities suggest some weakness in the supposed Conservative economic armour:
Asked how they felt compared to five years ago, just 30 per cent of those polled said they were much better or moderately off, 29 per cent said they were about the same and 38 per cent felt they were worse off.
The effects of the recession appear to weigh heavy on the national psyche with 32 per cent describing their own financial situation as poor or awful. Another 40 per cent said it was average while just 24 per cent rated their own circumstances as good.

And 36 per cent were pessimistic about their financial future, compared to 27 per cent who optimistic.
In the wake of news of the Liberal release of the "better off" question, some columnists heeded the call and offered up their answers. References to GDP numbers and Wall Street Journal charts and the like could be found in such columns saying yes, Canadians are better off. While this is one poll, admittedly, it does seem to indicate that the answer to the better off question is not the slam dunk that some have thought.

There is also an overwhelming finding in the poll that is of interest. On the question of which party is most responsible for increased partisanship in our politics: 61% say the Conservatives. Liberals run a distant second at 16%. "All share the blame equally" comes in at 14%. Rarely do we see such a strong result like that 61% level in any poll in Canada these days. Unless it's to do with one of the provincial situations gone awry, that is (see Charest, Campbell).

Further, that 61% result on partisan blame is so contrary to what one hears from time to time at the national level. "All the parties do it" is a common refrain, the Conservatives are just doing what Chretien et al. did back in the day, for example. Mr. Harper also tried to give the impression the other night that partisanship is running along at normal speed, it has always been such, nothing out of the ordinary to see here. We get a sense in this poll, however, that a strong majority perceives Conservative responsibility for the tone. The equalization of nasty partisanship among all the parties is actually not what is perceived.

The report (and presumably the numbers, to come in more detail from Angus Reid) also includes other questions that are worth a look, including perceptions about Canada on the world stage, crime and Harper's performance as PM.

Update (8:30 p.m.): See FarAndWide as well.