The Hamilton Spectator
Next election may feature the leadership gender gap
Justin Trudeau has now said it twice — there are Canadians, he admits, who won’t believe him, no matter what he says.
Who are these Canadians? They are obviously not Liberal supporters, the prime minister says. They are also disproportionally men.
Anyone who’s talked politics around a dinner table or at a gathering of friends knows this anecdotally: this prime minister, more so than other political leaders, seems to bug men, in a visceral kind of way.
So Torstar asked Abacus Data to take a closer look into Trudeau’s particular unpopularity among men — to see from where it originates and what drives it.
And yes, in this 4,000-respondent poll by Abacus, carried out in early February, the gender gap is glaringly evident: a full 52 per cent of men reported a negative view of Trudeau, compared to 44 per cent women.
But things get really interesting when you look at voters with “very negative” views, the type Trudeau knows are not going to believe him, no matter what he says.
“So 36 per cent of men in Canada, over one in three, have a very negative view of the prime minister,” says Abacus CEO David Coletto. “They really, really don’t like him.” Women who reported “very negative” views, on the other hand, numbered around 26 per cent. “Men tend to dislike the prime minister more than women,” Coletto says.
When Coletto focused in on the demographic details of this 36 per cent of male voters, some of his findings were not a huge surprise. A strong current of negativity is linked to geography, demography and politics. If you’re a man who despises Trudeau, you’re more likely to be over 45 and from Alberta or Saskatchewan.
Half of this group places itself on the right of the political spectrum, 38 per cent in the centre and nine per cent on the left.
About 60 per cent of them voted Conservative in the last election, 13 per cent voted for the People’s Party
of Canada, seven per cent for the NDP and just three per cent for the Liberals.
Again, no surprise.
In this poll, Abacus asked the negative voters what it was about Trudeau they disliked, and what words they would use to describe him. Some of the most common were “idiot,” “phoney,” “arrogant,” “liar” and “corrupt.”
“Some used vulgar language,” Coletto added. The dislike, in other words, is intensely personal.
“For men who would feel threatened of their own position, Justin Trudeau seems like perhaps a sellout,” Coletto says. He’s “a guy in a position of power who is actually, in their minds, doing a lot to weaken their position in society, and that’s very threatening to them. And so the way that they challenge him is by seeing him as weak, ineffective, corrupt and even, I think, feminine.”
Those of us who receive angry letters from this segment of the population have long been aware of this “feminization” of Trudeau. These correspondents, almost all of them men, often put an “e” on the end of his name, to call him “Justine,” or mock his clothing and looks in the same way women politicians used
to be ridiculed.
Trudeau’s recent remarks about his own credibility gap have been taken as an admission that he’s written off this segment of the population. He probably should, Coletto advises.
“There’s nothing he’s going to be able to do to convince them otherwise, or to even turn down the heat. The only way the heat goes down is when he steps off the stage,” he says.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean defeat at the hands of this gender gap either — Trudeau has won three elections despite lagging popularity with men, says Coletto. Moreover, Poilievre has a similar problem with women voters.
If the next election does in fact come down to a contest between Trudeau and Poilievre, it may well be waged on gender-gap lines. Or, as Coletto puts it, “we are entering perhaps in a very different political environment, in which both of the primary choices to be prime minister are going to be deeply despised by large segments of the population.”
Little wonder no one seems in a great rush to get to that election.