Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Environment a Sore Spot, Voters Say

Mostly fair to middling news for the Harper Tories in today's Decima Research Poll, as reported here. Were an election held today, the Tories would garner 39% of the vote, a figure which hasn't moved much since they've been in power. Overall, 53% of poll respondents approve of their performance so far, with a breakdown as follows: 70% Conservatives, 40% Liberals, 25% NDP and 25% Bloc.

However, the poll also confirms what many have suspected (for example the inestimable Jason Cherniak here), which is that the Tories are falling down with respect to Environmental issues:

The polls suggest that more people thought the Conservatives were doing a good job of handling international affairs and Canada-U.S. relations than those that thought they were doing a poor job. Ditto for the economy.

But the reverse was true of areas such as child care, the environment and health care.

For example, 63 per cent of respondents said they thought the Conservatives were doing a poor job on the environment. That was before the news came out that the government was pulling funding for a number of climate-change initiatives.

Anderson said public opinion research suggests Canadians are becoming more focused on global environmental issues and that Harper should take note.

"It's important for them to position themselves as progressive advocates of environmental solutions domestically and internationally if they want to broaden their support base," he said.

As the article notes, this 63% figure is a record of public opinion before the announced cuts to environmental programs, and before reports of the Tories muzzling their own scientists .

In fact, Harper's behavior with respect to environmental issues has been bizarre. The Kyoto Accord, as it stands, has so many loopholes as to be a paper tiger. Further, the Tories could always follow the Liberal strategy, which is to endorse Kyoto but do nothing towards achieving its targets. Instead, Harper has chosen to make some rather gratuitous displays of belligerence. It is as though he feels the need to play to the global warming doubters and flat-earthers in the party base.

So, is there a strategy here: stroke the party faithful and write-off the rest of the population on this one issue, so as to seize the middle (and maybe offend the party base) on other "top tier" issues (economy, int. affairs)? Or are the Conservatives simply reverting to form?

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