Liberal letdown

The Grits might have a new leader, but Canadians aren't ready to see them in power.

The federal Liberal Party may have a new interim leader in Michael Ignatieff, but popular support for the Liberals is still low, according to a poll of the general public conducted by COMPAS Inc.

The research firm surveyed more than 600 Canadians and found 30% would vote for the Liberals under Ignatieff if an election were called today, whereas 43% would vote for the Conservatives — enough to secure a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

A number of factors account for the Liberals’ lagging support numbers with respect to the Conservatives’. Many respondents were uncomfortable with the process that led to Ignatieff taking over leadership of the party earlier this month after the departure of Stéphane Dion.

Slightly more than 40% said leaders should be chosen at conventions attended by “rank-and-file” members of the party, and 39% favoured direct elections by party supporters, such as in the U.S. Only 19% said elected officials should choose party leaders.

Nearly 60% of the respondents believe that allowing elected officials to appoint Ignatieff interim leader took away the right of other Liberals to have a say in the matter, and 57% said the process was unfair to those Liberals who would have preferred someone other than Ignatieff.

Nevertheless, a slight majority of respondents (51%) felt the Liberals were right to force Dion out instead of waiting for the leadership convention in the spring, in large part because the respondents disapproved of the coalition government Dion formed with the NDP and Bloc Québécois.

The Liberals have since adopted the approach of “coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition.” Nearly 60% of the respondents believe a coalition government is a bad idea, and 46% see essentially no difference between the new approach and Dion’s coalition policy.