The prime minister’s personal polling numbers aren’t recovering, but the Liberal Party’s numbers might be.
There are even signs now that the effects of the SNC-Lavalin affair might be starting to wear off for the Liberals, if not for the prime minister.
As of Friday afternoon, Abacus Data has been the only polling firm to release the results of surveys conducted after Philpott’s resignation on Monday and the testimony of Gerald Butts, the prime minister’s former principal secretary, on Wednesday.
The latest results — gathered from Tuesday to Thursday online and surveying 300 panel respondents per day for a total of 900 responses — found the Conservatives with only a one-point lead over the Liberals (34 to 33 per cent), down from the Conservatives’ seven-point advantage in the days following Wilson-Raybould’s explosive committee testimony (37 to 30 per cent). The shifts might not be very significant considering the sample sizes, but the trend has been consistent.
Abacus also asked respondents to choose their preferred prime minister. On that question, Trudeau’s edge over Scheer has grown to five points after having fallen behind the Conservative leader by one point between Feb. 28 to Mar. 1. Of course, that’s still a far smaller margin than the 16-point edge Trudeau enjoyed over Scheer in December.
But Trudeau and the Liberals have enjoyed no similar rebound in polling which doesn’t feature a multiple choice option rather than a simple for-or-against question on the PM and his government. The number of Canadians with a positive impression of the prime minister has not shifted at all, according to Abacus, while approval of his government is up a mere two points.
It all suggests that Trudeau might not be the asset for the Liberal Party that he once was. At the height of his popularity after the 2015 federal election, Trudeau was significantly more popular than his party. That margin diminished after the botched diplomatic mission to India took its toll — but Trudeau still tended to poll ahead of his party.
Before the SNC-Lavalin affair, Trudeau might have been able to drag the Liberal Party along with him to another majority government in the fall. Now, the best chance for the Liberals might not be the person leading them, but the people leading their opponents.