It might seem perverse, in the May sunshine, to be longing for the slushy days of late winter. But for federal Conservatives, spring has brought a polling chill, and they might well be hankering for the warm glow of the positive numbers they were basking in as recently as late March. Back then, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on a tear, with one pollster gushing that his Tories had “hit the magic number,” 40 per cent, or roughly enough support to start seriously thinking about forming a majority. Around the same time, another public opinion guru declared that Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion was “in free fall.”
Given the upbeat Conservative data and the dispiriting Liberal numbers, speculation that Harper would orchestrate his own downfall, triggering ajune election, briefly reached a fever pitch. Now, it looks like he might have dodged a bullet by ignoring pressure to test his appeal on the campaign trail. SES Research pegged Liberal support at the start of this month at 33 per cent, having held firm through April, whereas the Tories were at 32 per cent, after losing four points during the cruellest month. The SES poll came on the heels of a similar Decima survey that put the Liberals at 31 per cent and the Conservatives at 30 per cent.
What’s dragging Harper down? SES President Nik Nanos points to the ongoing Afghan detainees controversy and the rocky reception for the Tory climate change plan. Both issues play big in Quebec, where Dion’s Liberals climbed nine points to 27 per cent and Harper’s Conservatives plunged 11 to 17 per cent.
More good news for Liberals might be hidden in the Green party’s four-point rise to 10 per cent support nationally. “That could be a parking place for Liberal voters,” Nanos said, noting that putative Green voters tend to change their minds on election day. He added that Green Leader Elizabeth May’s recent pact with Dion could make it easier for her tentative supporters to switch, saying, “She’s put a big u Green party stamp of approval on Dion.” M
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