Trudeau Economic Plan for Canada Trumps Harper's: Nanos Poll

  • Liberals erode long-held Conservative edge as election nears
  • NDP's Mulcair places third in every voting block, survey finds

Justin Trudeau is winning the economic argument in Canada’s closely fought federal election.

Polling by Nanos Research for Bloomberg shows 39 percent of Canadians rank Trudeau as the leader with the best economic platform, compared with 33 percent for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and 16 percent for New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair.  The incumbent Conservative continues to be heavily favored by families with kids at home, a key voting constituency.

With Harper and Trudeau neck-and-neck in voting intentions, the Nanos survey shows how the Liberal leader has managed to erode the prime minister’s long-held advantage on economic matters with a pledge to raise taxes on high-income earners and run deficits. It’s a message that has resonated with most voter groups except the suburban families who hold the key to the districts that will likely determine the Oct. 19 election.

“Trudeau enjoys an advantage on the perception he has the best plan for the economy and competitively trails in terms of economic risk as a leader in general,” said Nik Nanos, president of Nanos Research Group. Harper, meanwhile, “still has the advantage among families with children, who are a make-or-break voter segment for anyone who wants to win the election.”

The difference reflects a large lead for Trudeau among women -- 43 percent to 27 percent -- while Harper has a big advantage with families and a small edge with male voters. Harper is also seen as the least risky leader on the economy by a plurality of voters, the poll found.

Two-Way Race

The latest polls show a tight race, with the Liberals and Conservatives jockeying for the lead while the NDP trails. Nanos’s daily tracking has the Liberals at 34 percent, the Conservatives at 31 percent and the NDP at 25 percent.

Trudeau entered the campaign in third place and his numbers began to increase after he broke from his rivals to favor three years of deficit spending, in part to fund an infrastructure blitz aimed at stoking Canada’s sluggish economy. He favors expanded child benefit payments, lower middle class taxes and increased taxes for high-income earners. Harper, meanwhile, is pledging no tax increases and a balanced budget, campaigning largely on a stay-the-course message.

Harper has an advantage of 44 percent to 33 percent among married couples with kids at home, who are also more likely to say the Canadian economy has outperformed the global economy over the past decade, largely under the Conservative government. Trudeau, in turn, was preferred by all those, married and unmarried, without children at home, the poll showed.

Erik Hertzberg/Bloomberg

To be sure, Harper’s lead among the married-with-kids crowd is significant. The prime minister’s gains in recent elections were largely in suburban ridings with the country’s heaviest concentrations of families with kids. Married couples with children at home made up 49 percent of families in the ridings the party gained in Ontario in 2011, compared with a national average of 36 percent. Harper has wooed families with measures such as expanded chilled benefit payments and allowing income-splitting, a tax cut aimed at single-income, two-parent households.

Harper’s core message that he is the least risky option for the economy is also resonating, with 37 percent of voters agreeing with the claim, the poll found. About one-third of voters perceive Trudeau as the least risky option while 18 percent say it’s Mulcair.

NDP Lags

The survey suggests the big loser as far as economic narrative goes is the NDP leader, whose economic plan is based on increased corporate taxes, balanced budgets and a new national daycare program. When asked which leader has the best plan for the economy, Mulcair finished third in every voting bloc, the poll shows.

Many of the country’s bellwether ridings are in heavily-populated suburbs with a high share of immigrants, and the poll showed little difference among those born in the country and those born outside of it. When asked who has the best plan for the economy, Trudeau led Harper by 7.3 percentage points among those born in Canada and by 4.9 points among those born abroad. Mulcair did slightly better among foreign-born respondents while still finishing in a distant third.

Trudeau and Harper earned similar support for their economic plans from those between age 30 and 49, while the Liberal leader led among 18-to-29 year olds, and among those 50 and over.

The survey of 1,000 people, reached by phone and online, was conducted between Oct. 3 and Oct. 5 and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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