Monday, December 06, 2010

On priority lists

For the most part, the latest Nanos polling looks to fall more under the category of "drift within the usual party positioning" rather than "radical change in course". But perhaps the most interesting part of the poll is the fact that even in a relatively good sample for the Cons in terms of vote share, Harper and company look to face some serious problems with the issues considered important by voters:
The Nanos poll looked, too, at the top issues concerning Canadians. It found that voters continue to be worried about jobs, the economy and health care.

“What is interesting is the potential forward impact these issues will have on the public mind,” Mr. Nanos said. “As the Conservatives wind down their stimulus program, it will be more difficult for them to portray themselves as being pro-active on the economic front.”

The Prime Minister announced last week he would extend stimulus the deadline for infrastructure projects to be completed by another seven months. Until that point, the program had been intended to wind up in March.

The Nanos survey found that 22.3 per cent of respondents were concerned about jobs and the economy compared to 20.7 per cent who were worried about health care. The environment was the third issue of most concern although only 8 per cent of respondents mentioned it; high taxes came in fourth with 4.4 per cent of respondents saying they were worried about it.
Of course, the economy has been seen as a Con-friendly issue to date. But as Nanos notes, there's reason to think that message is evaporating as any pretense of an "action plan" winds down, to be replaced by declarations that the Cons are focused on the economy in place of any discernible action.

And yet, that's the least of the Cons' worries in the issues still at the top of mind for Canadians.

After all, the available evidence suggests that five years of "tough on crime" messaging has done absolutely nothing to convince Canadians that there's any serious issue to be dealt with. Instead, the #2 and #3 policy priorities are areas where only regular acting lessons and/or aversion therapy can allow the Cons to pretend to be remotely engaged without bursting into laughter. And while the Cons are presumably glad to see high taxes make the list, they can't draw much reassurance from the fact that they're seen as a top priority for under 5% of respondents.

So while the Cons may be riding high for now, that looks to be based more on their success in decoupling policy priorities from voting intentions than any reason to believe that they've managed to bring Canadians around to their way of thinking. And that gap offers an obvious opportunity for the opposition parties to start shifting votes by claiming the top issues for themselves.

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