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Canadians not happy with Tories or direction of country, poll suggests

Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers a question in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canadians are not feeling good about the performance of the federal Conservative government and the direction of the country, but they are more positive than they were last year, a new poll suggests.

A survey released Thursday from Nanos Research and the Institute for Research on Public Policy found that 45 per cent of respondents rated the performance of Stephen Harper's government as poor or very poor, with 37 per cent rating it as very or somewhat good. Forty-eight per cent of respondents said the country is going in the "wrong direction," while 37 per cent said the country was going in the "right direction."

In addition, 50 per cent said Canada's reputation around the world had gone down and 52 per cent of respondents gave poor grades to the relationship between the federal government and its provincial counterparts. Respondents from Ontario and Atlantic Canada were the most likely to say federal-provincial relations had not improved in the past year.

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All the ratings are more positive for the Prime Minister than a year ago, in which 56 per cent of respondents gave a poor or very poor grade to the Conservatives and 55 per cent said the country is on the wrong track. But the last two years' responses are historically low since Nanos began asking the questions in 2007.

"What we know empirically is that 2013 was a very bad year for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives," Nik Nanos, chairman of Nanos Research, said. "2014 is a little better, but generally the view of many Canadians, of the government and its performance and the direction of the country, is still negative. [The Conservatives] are not out of the political woods by any stretch of the imagination."

Mr. Nanos noted that the negative numbers have grown partly because fewer respondents are giving Mr. Harper average marks. "If people thought the Harper government was polarizing in 2006, Canada is much more polarized now."

Nanos Research conducted the poll using telephones (landline and cellphones) and online methods, surveying 1,000 Canadians between Nov. 15 and 18 as part of a larger poll. The margin of error is considered to be 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. (Read: everything you need to know about political polling)

The results generally line up with trends in polls asking for voting intention, in which support for the Conservatives dropped in 2013 and has slowly increased in the months since. In ThreeHundredEight.com's latest average of federal polls, the Liberals had the support of 36 per cent against 32 per cent for the Conservatives and 20 per cent for the NDP. A year ago, in December, 2013, the Conservatives averaged only 26 per cent, with the Liberals at 32 per cent and the NDP at 23 per cent. Polls taken this fall have shown a close race heading into next year's scheduled federal election.

The Conservatives won a parliamentary majority in the 2011 election with 39.6 per cent of the popular vote, against 30.6 per cent for the NDP and 26.3 per cent for the Liberals.

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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More

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