The latest Nanos poll helps one understand the overall image of the Conservative government of Canada. By asking Canadians, unprompted, to articulate their views of strengths and weaknesses we can get to the nuance of what people associate with the government without introducing any content or information.
The research indicates that Canadians are more likely to associate weaknesses with the Conservative government as opposed to strengths (65% can articulate a weakness and 36% can articulate a strength). Of concern for the Tories is that one of every five Canadians believes the Conservatives have no strength whatsoever. Comparing that to the 3% who say the Tories have no weakness suggests that the anti-Harper sentiments are much firmer than the pro-Harper sentiments. Likewise, the weaknesses associated with the Conservatives at the time of the survey are linked to many of the former strengths – Stephen Harper himself, transparency in government and economic management.
Overall Prime Minister Stephen Harper is twice as likely to be identified as a weakness than as a strength which suggests that he is personally becoming a lightning rod for discontent with the government. This is not surprising since the Conservative political strategy has largely centered on Harper.
From a communications point of view there are really only two options - to try to change views related to the Prime Minister or to refocus on a Conservative team by regionalizing the face of the Conservative Party. Recasting views on the Prime Minister is possible but requires a longer term time horizon - one longer than the likely timing of the next election. Refocusing on a Conservative team is a more feasible short-term strategy.
The key take-away from the research is that there are a number of paths forward for the Conservatives. The Tories could recalibrate and refocus their image in order to overturn negative perceptions or alternatively to drive negative perceptions of the Liberals so that the Liberals are perceived as a worse comparative choice. The current round of attack ads suggest that the Conservative strategy at this time is to focus on the Liberals and not to expend effort to turn around negative perceptions of the government.
Polling between May 26 and June 1, 2009. (Random Telephone Survey of 1,001 Canadians, 18 years of age and older). A survey of 1,001 Canadians is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.
Conservative Government Strengths Question: Thinking of the Conservative government, what do you think its main strength is? [Open-ended]
- Defined strength 36%
- No strength 19%
- Unsure of strength 45%
Conservative Government Weaknesses Question: Thinking of the Conservative government, what do you think its main weakness is? [Open-ended]
- Defined weakness 65%
- No weakness 3%
- Unsure of weakness 33%
Net image impact: -29
The Net image impact score is calculated by subtracting defined weaknesses from defined strengths.
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