Thursday, October 02, 2008

On desired reactions

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to watch last night's French debate - and have seen nothing but conflicting commentaries on who ultimately helped or hurt their cause the most. But a combination of post-debate and other polling suggests that Jack Layton may have outdistanced the pack on the attributes which Canadians value most.

To figure out what those attributes are, the Globe and Mail points out the following ranking from respondents to an IRG poll:
When asked to rank attributes they value in the Canadian debate, respondents rated empathy, or understanding “people like me,” as No. 1. This was followed by the ability to speak well, thinking quickly on their feet, looking knowledgeable, appearing trustworthy, not looking “like a deer in the headlights,” and a good sense of humour.

Mr. Harper outscores his Liberal, NDP, Bloc and Green rivals on five of seven counts, but trails Mr. Layton on the most important trait – empathy – as well as the least important one: sense of humour.
Now, I haven't yet seen polling on those exact questions from last night's debate. But from the Ipsos-Reid polling mentioned by Andrew Coyne, Layton looks to have ranked at or near the top on the ones which best fit into the top-rated attributes:
Likeability of the Leaders…

Jack Layton scored the best in terms of likeability with 46% of viewers (down 12 points) saying that he was the most likeable and the person they’d most like to go out for a beer or coffee with. Next was Gilles Duceppe (18%, up 1 point), Stephan Dion (14%, up 5 points), Stephen Harper (10%, up 2 points) and finally Elizabeth May (9%, up 6 points).

Impressions of the Leaders…

Subtracting worsened impressions from improved impressions, opinions of Stephane Dion improved (net +56) the most as a result of the debate, while Jack Layton (net +48) also fared well. Gilles Duceppe (net +30) also had a solid performance, according to those who watched the debate, as did Elizabeth May (net +18). Opinions of Stephen Harper plummeted (net -39) among those who viewed the debate.
Of course, the perennial question is how far Layton's continued personal appeal can go in pushing voters to support New Democrats generally. And there's some reason to wonder how much of Layton's success last night will be remembered by election day, as Layton seems to have been largely frozen out of today's headlines despite what was by all accounts at least a solid performance.

That said, the debate polling does suggest that Layton's French debate performance offered voters exactly what they're looking for. And that has to give Layton and his party a strong chance of continuing to build momentum for the rest of the campaign.

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