Sunday, November 16, 2008

Campbell looking like a liability for Liberals

Fixed election dates make for a better democracy.
But some Liberals must be wishing Premier Gordon Campbell had been more interested in political advantage and a less in this democracy stuff. (All the more reason to give Campbell full credit for his commitment.)
If the election date hadn't been fixed for next May 12, four years after the last vote, the Liberals would have options. They could have called an election last spring, when the economy was strong. They could put off the election until May 2010, giving them time to rebuild support. Or to find a new leader.
The latest Angus Reid Strategies poll is not good news for Campbell.
The NDP is ahead of the Liberals by five points. It has the support of 44 per cent of decided voters; the Liberals 39 per cent; and the Greens 11 per cent.
The last Angus Reid poll found the parties effectively tied, with the NDP at 41 per cent and the Liberals at 38 per cent. The poll's margin of error is 3.5 points. Now, the gap has widened into statistical significance.
With six months until election day, that's bad news for the Liberals. The party in power often sags in the polls between elections, only to rebound.
But it's not good to be behind with months to go.
The Liberals have a significant problem. They have built their public presence around Gordon Campbell. He's front and centre for good news announcements. His priorities - like climate change, or help for First Nations - become the government's (at least for a while).
Now it appears Campbell might be dragging down his party.
The Angus Reid Strategies poll asked for people's judgments of Campbell and NDP leader Carole James.
The responses raised some fascinating questions about what will matter to votes in May.
Overall, about one-third of people thought James would be the best premier; one-third chose Campbell; and one-third were undecided.
The poll also measured momentum. In the last two months, Campbell fell sharply in respondents' estimation. But people were being over by James.
Here is where gets interesting. The poll also asked about attitudes toward the two party leaders.
Campbell was well ahead on ability to manage the economy, decisiveness and vision.
James was rated more highly for honesty, understanding British Columbians' problems and sharing their values and ideas.
And more highly for caring about the environment; ironic, given the NDP's fight against the carbon tax.
There are very clever pollsters and political strategy types trying to figure out what this will mean next May.
Are people likely to vote for a good economic manager who is out of touch with their concerns and can't be trusted?
Or for a person they trust, with inferior skills.
And how will the economic collapse affect all this. When everything is haywire, will Campbell's perceived strength on the economy win big support?
Or will voters decided that it's easier for a trustworthy person to learn skills than it is for a skilled person to learn how to be trustworthy.
There are a couple of other interesting elements in this poll.
The big one is that the Liberals trail the NDP among Greater Vancouver voters, 46 per cent to 41 per cent. In the last Angus Reid poll, in August, the parties were effectively tied. There are a lot of seats in Greater Vancouver. And the only place the Liberals are ahead is in the northern Interior.
Objectively, this shouldn't be happening. The government has messed up often - on seniors' care, children and families, health care.
But the government's finances are in good shape and there are jobs for more people.
Yet the Liberals are in trouble, if the polls reflect the public's views.
The legislature is back this week, for a few days. What happens could be important for the next election.
Footnote: The poll is available at One interesting element in all this is the big shift since 2005. James was considered suspect as a long-term leader. She has ground out a base of support.
Now it's Campbell who faces some tough questions about whether he's helping or hurting his party.


Anonymous said...

"the government's finances are in good shape and there are jobs for more people."

Not so fast there PW - the BC economy is going down faster than the Hindenburg.

By the time we go to the polls next spring the same BC Liberal government that was claiming credit for the BC 'economic miracle' will be in full spin mode blaming 'outside forces' for failing finances... Colin Hansen has already admitted as much.

Anonymous said...

Paul, Angus Reid are just on-line pollsters and even the NDP didn't believe their last poll results.

These guys have no track record in BC. OTOH both Mustel and Ipsos have a lengthy track record and have been quite accurate with their results.

Today's Ipsos poll:

Liberal: 44%
NDP: 35%
Green: 16%

Best Premier:

Campbell: 53%
James: 37%

Most trusted to deal with downturn in economy:

Campbell: 56%
James: 34%