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Canadians still can't get enough of Obama

Nearly a year after Barack Obama's first official visit to Ottawa, pictured, Canadians' affection for the U.S. President shows no signs of waning, a new poll says. Charles Dharapak/Canadian Press

Charles Dharapak

As U.S. President Barack Obama struggles to reconnect with recession-weary Americans, a new poll suggests his popularity is unrelenting in Canada.

A new Canadian Press-Harris Decima survey says Mr. Obama would be elected with a majority north of the border regardless of whether he was leading the Liberals or the Tories.

The survey suggests that if Mr. Obama were Liberal leader, 48 per cent of Canadians would vote for the party. That would result in the Tories losing a large chunk of their base, with 30 per cent of them saying they'd vote Liberal if Mr. Obama had Michael Ignatieff's job.

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If he were at the Conservative helm, 43 per cent of Canadians would cast their ballots for the Tories.

Doug Anderson, president of Harris/Decima, says he suspects the health-care debate that's been raging in the United States for months has likely cemented Canadian affection for Mr. Obama.

"That is something that is near and dear to Canadians, and he's out there fighting for it," Mr. Anderson said Wednesday, a few hours before Mr. Obama was slated to deliver his first offical State of the Union address.

"Universal health care is something that we value, and he's espousing its importance down there, and that's something Canadians admire."

Aside from party politics, the poll suggests the majority of Canadians continue to hold a high opinion of the President. Fifty-two per cent said he's exceeded their expectations since his election, while 15 per cent said he's done as well as they expected him to do. Nineteen per cent gave him a poor performance review.

East of Manitoba, those surveyed gave Mr. Obama particularly positive marks for his job performance. From Manitoba to British Columbia, support was lower; but the majority were still of the view that Mr. Obama had done better than expected.

Harris Decima interviewed slightly more than 1,000 Canadians between Jan. 21 and Jan. 24. The survey has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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The poll results might understandably prompt Mr. Obama to ponder a move north of the border, Mr. Anderson joked.

"He could have another beavertail," he said, referring to Mr. Obama's jubilant visit to the Canadian capital last year, which included an impromptu jaunt to a downtown market to pick up one of the popular Canadian pastries.

In the U.S., meantime, Mr. Obama's approval ratings have been sagging and now sit at about 50 per cent.

The President has been humbled in recent weeks by the election of a single Republican to the late Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat. Scott Brown's win essentially gives Republicans enough senators to put the brakes to Mr. Obama's legislative agenda, including his cherished health-care overhaul.

In his first official Sate of the Union address on Wednesday, Mr. Obama was expected to once again try to rally bipartisan support for some form of health-care reform in addition to charting his course for 2010.

Some political observers say Mr. Brown's win was a populist repudiation of the president and his progressive politics.

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Canadians apparently feel no such distaste for Mr. Obama, Mr. Anderson said.

"Right now in Canada, people are not soaking up the same kind of negative sentiment that Americans are; they are not feeling the ineffectiveness that some Americans are about him. They see him instead as pursuing something, in health care, that is worth pursuing," he said.

"There has not been a significant reduction in admiration that Canadians have for him. What they see is the kind of persona that they admire and the kind of leader they'd like to see in Canada."

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