Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Conservatives Not So Scary Anymore

The Truth Hurts: Canadian Political Blog
It will be very interesting to see the results of today's seat forecast (for the article assessing the current forecast click here). There has been some interesting information coming to the surface in the polling data. For example, in an article on December 21 I wrote:

"My Conservative readers are going to hate me for this, but I think the voters are starting to believe that the priorities of a Conservative government are going to be, to a very large degree, the same as the Liberal government. However, delivery on those priorities will be consistent with a 'conservative' approach - i.e.: smaller government."

Well, my assessment seems to have been proven correct in a survey completed by Decima from December 29-31:

"In all 15 [policy] areas a plurality (minimum 42%, maximum 61%) felt that things would be no different if the Conservatives were to replace the Liberals after the election."

That is bad news for the Liberals, who want Canadians to believe that a Conservative government would negatively change Canada.

This same survey also showed that 52% of Canadians thought a Liberal majority was undesireable or unacceptable while 56% thought a Conservative majority was undesireable or unacceptable, that latter figure being the same for the NDP. So while Canadians would like a majority government, there is no consensus or which party Canadians could at least somewhat agree on as the government.

The hope for the Liberals is Ontario. In a variety of polls on a variety of issues it is the area that seems to lean in favour of the Liberals on the underlying issues. They are more likely to believe Canada is on the right track, they are more likely to think Paul Martin would make the best Prime Minister, they are more likely to think he has the best leadership skills, they are more likely to think a Conservative majority is undesireable or unacceptable, etc.

While the negative ads the Conservatives are now running are risky, I think negative advertising is what they need to do. Done poorly, negative advertising can backfire. Done properly, negative advertising can cause people to re-examine their voting intentions. If the Conservatives are going to win they need to shake Ontario up, and negative advertising may be the only way to do it. And for the Liberals, well they have been getting hit by negative ads left, right and centre. Okay, maybe not centre, but certainly from the left and right - particularly from the right. I am beginning to think that either the Liberal war room is asleep at the switch or they have a brilliant campaign plan that my feeble brain cannot comprehend. But they are going to have to run negative ads as well. Their ace in the hole has been the fear Canadians, Ontarians in particular, have of the prospects of a Conservative government. Some of that fear still exists, but most of it has subsided. Negative advertising could re-ignite that fear in favour of the Liberals.

Have the Liberals finally collapsed in Ontario? Have the Conservative's negative ads backfired? Perhaps today's seat forecast will give us a glimpse of the effects of these last few days.