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Fewer Canadians believe Trudeau leading the country in the right direction

Just over half of Canadians believe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is leading the country in the right direction.

The Canadian Press reports, “The post-election enthusiasm toward the Trudeau government’s overall performance has declined in the last year, said [pollster Nik] Nanos. After both election victories, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were seen by 64 per cent of respondents as taking the country in the right direction. A year later, those numbers dropped, with about half of those polled having the same opinion. Similarly, the Liberals saw 63 per cent support for their direction of the country after being elected. That support dipped in this year’s survey to 54 per cent.”

The Toronto Sun adds, “According to a Nanos-IRPP Mood of Canada survey released this week, just 15 per cent of people rate the performance of the federal Liberal government as ‘very good’, a plunge of 22 per cent in just one year.”

Nanos says, “This concept of Trudeau being exceptionally popular is actually empirically untrue because his scores, for example, on the performance of the federal government are very similar to Harper at the same point in Harper’s mandate. So I think this survey is a bit of a reality check. It looks like the Liberal reputation is not immune to coming up against controversies related to approving pipelines and carbon tax and legalizing marijuana and those types of things.”

CBC poll analyst Eric Grenier notes, “For most of 2016, public support for Trudeau’s Liberals appeared to be invulnerable to the slings and arrows of the opposition. But a series of recent polls suggests some of the attacks might be leaving a mark — though the extent of the damage isn’t entirely clear just yet.”

A Forum Research poll conducted in December for the Toronto Star found that support for the Liberals had fallen to 42 per cent from 51 per cent in November, a statistically significant drop of nine points. Grenier notes the poll also showed Trudeau’s approval rating dropping by seven points to 51 per cent. An Angus Reid Institute poll also found that Trudeau’s approval rating had fallen by ten points to 55 per cent since mid-September. But he adds an Abacus Data poll showed the Liberals at 44 per cent, down two points, which isn’t statistically significant.

Various polls also suggest that Canadians see Canada’s global reputation and federal-provincial relations improving under the Liberals, that 75 per cent want Trudeau to stand up to President-elect Donald J. Trump on progressive values and 77 per cent want Trudeau to invite Trump for a visit to Canada, while two-thirds either support or somewhat support Trudeau’s decision to approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. Other polls show that 62 per cent of Canadians disapprove of the Liberal cash for access practice of private fundraisers, and 59 per cent believe the Liberals should keep their promise on electoral reform.

It also important to note that poll results change as a situation develops and consequences become more apparent. When Canada first sent troops to Afghanistan in 2002, 75 per cent of Canadians were supportive of the mission. By 2004, the number had dropped to 61 per cent, and by March 2008 the number had turned around to 56 per cent of Canadians expressing disapproval of the war. Also, in 2013 polls found that nearly seven in ten Canadians supported the Canada-European Union ‘free trade’ agreement, but 65 per cent of Canadians opposed the provision in the agreement that gives longer patents to pharmaceutical corporations for prescription drugs.

While Grenier notes Trudeau’s numbers are still strong, he highlights, “the apparent softness in Trudeau’s numbers suggests things could get worse for the prime minister before they get better.”

In November 2015, just weeks after Trudeau was sworn in as prime minister, Grenier commented, “If a honeymoon is defined as the period in which a party polls above its vote share in the election that brought it to power, it can vary in length dramatically. According to polling by Environics, Joe Clark’s honeymoon in 1979 lasted a mere five months, while Stephen Harper’s honeymoon in 2006 endured for seven. Brian Mulroney, however, saw his honeymoon last for about a year after his 1984 victory, while Jean Chrétien never scored under his 1993 electoral performance throughout his first term in office, which lasted just short of four years.”

Grenier concludes, “On average, these honeymoons have lasted an average of 16 months since 1979.”

If that statistical average holds true, we may see Trudeau’s popularity dip even further by early-March 2017.