Since becoming CPC leader, the respected Angus Reid survey shows O’Toole has gained no new supporters, while half of those who were previously undecided have now formed a negative opinion.
With Justin Trudeau’s popularity declining, many have wondered how the Liberals still lead in the polls.
It comes down to the old adage about running away from a bear in the forest.
You don’t need to be fastest, you just need to make sure you aren’t the slowest.
And the problem for the Conservatives is that as unpopular as Justin Trudeau may be, Erin O’Toole is doing even worse.
Currently, Trudeau’s approval stands at 45%, while 52% disapprove.
While this is down in recent months, the Conservatives have been unable to capitalize, and O’Toole’s numbers show why.
When he became CPC leader, 30% of Canadians expressed a favourable view of him, while 31% expressed an unfavourable view.
The most important number was the 39% of Canadians who hadn’t yet formed an opinion of him.
That is where there was room for growth.
However, much of O’Toole’s time as CPC leader has been consumed by reversals and shifts in messaging that simultaneously upset much of the party base, while failing to resonate with the broader public.
As a result, the latest Angus Reid survey now shows 29% of Canadians holding a positive view of O’Toole, with 51% holding a negative view.
Just 20% now say they don’t know what to think of him.
To say these are troubling numbers would be an understatement.
You would expect him to have picked up a few points among undecided Canadians even by accident, just through exposure in the media and a higher profile. And, while O’Toole’s approval had risen to 36% by December of 2020, he has lost all of it
To have gained zero new support, while having unfavourable perceptions surge at the same time, is a big problem.
As I have discussed previously, the Conservatives are playing a very dangerous game by attempting to so rapidly shift their image from the ‘True Blue’ that O’Toole ran on, to the ‘moderate centrist’ messaging that has popped up.
If it doesn’t work – and so far it appears to be failing – they would simultaneously demoralize their own base, while failing to pick up new voters, and leaving much of the public distrustful of what the Conservative Party says. After all, if it seems many CPC voters can’t trust the party, why would the general public do so?
A further area of concern is the breakdown in intensity of support for O’Toole.
Just 5% have a ‘very favourable’ view, with 24% holding a ‘favourable’ view.
By contrast, 27% have a ‘very unfavourable’ view, and 24% have an ‘unfavourable’ view.
That 22 point gap between those who have a very favourable and very unfavourable view of O’Toole is a big problem.
Without a strong core base of committed supporters, it is tough for a party to overcome strong opposition.
And in terms of strong support, O’Toole even trails Trudeau with 9% saying they ‘strongly approve’ of the PM.
What does this all mean?
It means that O’Toole needs to ‘dance with those that brung ya,’ and remain true to what he promised during the leadership campaign, and remain committed to core conservative ideas of limited government, a strong national defence, and individual freedom.
Trying to be all things to all people will leave him with nothing.
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