Justin Trudeau’s po­lit­i­cal base still loves him

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In a trend rem­i­nis­cent of Sally Field’s fa­mously mis­quoted Os­car speech, “You like me … you re­ally like me!” let there be lit­tle doubt that mem­bers of the Lib­eral Party base still like Justin Trudeau. They re­ally do.Prob­a­bly to the cha­grin of his crit­ics, they still like him for be­ing the leader the Con­ser­va­tive Party worked so hard to mock. They em­brace that “nice hair,” that ex­u­ber­ance, those sunny ways.Three years af­ter the Lib­er­als roared back to ma­jor­ity govern­ment, the un­of­fi­cial count­down to the next elec­tion — cur­rently sched­uled for one year from now — is un­der­way. And while the Trudeau govern­ment’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity on files such as bor­der se­cu­rity and the Tran­sMoun­tain pipe­line means noth­ing can ever be taken for granted, the prime min­is­ter may be bet­ter po­si­tioned with his own base to­day than his op­po­nents are with theirs.It’s too early to take any mean­ing from “horser­ace” polling num­bers. In­stead, the An­gus Reid In­sti­tute can­vassed three dis­tinct seg­ments of the Cana­dian pop­u­la­tion: those who say they would def­i­nitely, likely, or maybe vote for each of the three main par­ties rep­re­sented in the House of Com­mons. Think of each group as rep­re­sent­ing the Lib­eral, Con­ser­va­tive or NDP vote uni­verse.In­side the Lib­eral tent, it’s a ver­i­ta­ble love-in. Four-in­five say Trudeau is ei­ther a good or very good leader. The ma­jor­ity (61 per cent) say he’s po­si­tioned the party for elec­toral suc­cess in 2019. Asked to de­scribe their leader, most (62 per cent) say he’s “charis­matic"; half call him “com­pas­sion­ate.”By con­trast, the Con­ser­va­tive uni­verse is more equiv­o­cal about An­drew Scheer. To be sure, most think he’s a good or very good leader (two-thirds), and say he’s poised to help the party pick up seats in the next elec­tion, but three in 10 shrug their shoul­ders when asked to de­scribe the man the Lib­er­als have tried to brand “Harper lite.” Those com­mit­ted to or lean­ing CPC who have an opin­ion about their leader are most in­clined to say he’s “down to earth” and “hon­est” (37 and 35 per cent re­spec­tively).Beyond marks for gen­eral com­pe­tence though, Scheer has some­thing nei­ther Trudeau nor Singh do: the big­gest tent. While the mem­ber­ship of all these tents will over­lap — par­tic­u­larly among “maybe” vot­ers — fewer say they could “never” vote for the Con­ser­va­tives than say the same of the Lib­er­als or NDP (37 per cent ver­sus 50 per cent).Speak­ing of the New Democrats, their tent con­tains about the same num­ber of pos­si­ble vot­ers as the Lib­er­als, although fewer are locked in and more are merely flirt­ing with the party. Un­for­tu­nately, were the NDP leader pro­filed on some weird, yet-to-be-in­vented ver­sion of po­lit­i­cal Tin­der, more vot­ers on the left would also be swip­ing left on Jag­meet Singh (in case you’re not fa­mil­iar with reg­u­lar Tin­der, swip­ing left isn’t a good sign).Fewer than half of the NDP uni­verse (47 per cent) thinks Singh is good or very good at his job. Also trou­bling for the leader and his strategists, just one-in-three (34 per cent) mem­bers of his own base think he is po­si­tioned to in­crease the party’s seat count next fall. Nearly half (46) can’t find the words to de­scribe him.Why is this im­por­tant? Be­cause if you can’t con­vince the peo­ple al­ready pre­dis­posed to drink­ing your KoolAid that it tastes re­ally good, how will you get ev­ery­one else, i.e. the gen­eral elec­torate, to im­bibe? In an age when ev­ery­thing — in­clud­ing pol­i­tics — is mar­ket­ing, your base should be com­prised of your most en­thu­si­as­tic brand am­bas­sadors.Of course, where per­sonal ap­peal may be lack­ing, there are pol­icy strengths on which Scheer and Singh may lean. For the Con­ser­va­tive leader, it will be ham­mer­ing Trudeau’s not-so-glow­ing record on deficit man­age­ment. For Singh, it will be mak­ing the case that he is the one to de­liver the best univer­sal Phar­ma­care plan to Cana­di­ans. Where pas­sions fail to ig­nite, cold ar­gu­ments may yet pre­vail.Shachi Kurl is Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of the An­gus Reid In­sti­tute, a na­tional, not-for-profit, non­par­ti­san pub­lic opin­ion re­search foun­da­tion.

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