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Canada’s most polarized voters really, really hate Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a Liberal fundraising event at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, on Wednesday Dec.19, 2018. Trudeau is hitting British Columbia today as part of an outreach tour. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

Maybe it’s the meanness of social media or the low bar set by Donald Trump, but politics—as Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer have both warned—is feeling nasty in the run-up to next fall’s election. Figuring out how many voters really fall into camps of mutual loathing, though, is tricky. After all, even loyal partisans are sometimes open-minded rather than ideologically blinkered.

To try to sort out who’s truly hardline, the polling firm Abacus Data asked a set of questions meant to probe polarization among Canadians, and provided the findings to Maclean’s. The pollster counted as “polarized” anyone who answered that they hate Liberals or hate Conservatives, while also disdaining compromise or viewing people who don’t vote like them as their enemies.

By that combined test, 26 per cent of the population counts as polarized, leaving 74 per cent somewhere between extremes. The polarized group is fairly evenly split between left and right: 47 per cent would vote Conservative today, while a combined 45 per cent back the left-of-centre options—21 per cent Liberal, 16 per cent NDP and eight per cent Green.

For Trudeau, the findings point to growth potential among the non-polarized majority, but not much upside in pitching to the polarized quarter. Asked generally about how Canada is faring under him, 50 per cent of non-polarized voters agreed it’s “headed in the right direction,” while only 32 per cent of the polarized group concurred with that sunny prognosis.

On the supercharged issue of climate change, 37 per cent of non-polarized voters found Trudeau’s approach good or very good, but just 22 per cent of those whose views are polarized held the same opinion. That fits with the Abacus finding that a remarkable 55 per cent of polarized voters agreed with the statement that “climate change is blown out of proportion by radicals,” a view shared by 31 per cent of non-polarized voters—still a significant number not yet convinced of the urgency of global warming.

On Trudeau’s handling of immigration and refugees—another election-year hot button that’s bound to be pressed repeatedly by Scheer—59 per cent of polarized voters think the Prime Minister is doing a poor or very poor job, far higher than the 34 per cent of non-polarized voters who sharply disapprove.

In some other areas, though, favoured Conservative themes look solidly popular no matter which group is under the microscope. For instance, 75 per cent of polarized voters agree that Canada needs “deep cuts to taxes,” but even among the non-polarized majority, a sizable 58 per cent want to see those cuts.

Abacus conducted the survey Dec. 13-18 online with 2,000 Canadian adults, weighted to match the population for age, gender, education and region.

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@Lasher500: I agree but we’ll have to see if Sheer can turn up the charm and win over Ontario and Quebec. He might just get a majority if he plays his cards right. Trudeau is giving him every opportunity to win big.

January 11, 2019 at 10:09 am

I Love watching people on here act like as if Trudeau did ANYTHING different than the last 4 regimes of this country. All that has happened is a different head and part colour has been assigned to the leader but what they all do is the same. The next guy who will be in power ( I am guessing will be a conservative) will cut more stuff and will even try to sell us the idea that privatizing healthcare is a “great idea”. We have been stuck in a systemic cycle of lies from EVERY leader REGARDLESS what party they represent. But everyone has their favorite sports team too, right? Except this is not a sport. These are the people who WE pay for who SCREW US over. Doesn’t; matter if conservative, liberal or whatever else. Until people realize that, there will be no change.

January 11, 2019 at 10:51 am