Jack Layton the runaway favourite in survey from Pollara
Interesting and slightly weird results. Layton’s greatest accomplishment was becoming Leader of the Opposition, but he really didn’t have much of an opportunity to do a lot in the job given the state of his health and his early passing. Indeed, it was his successor that really made something of the job, though Mulcair turned out not to be able to hold onto many of the Orange Wave seats he inherited. His skill in the House did not translate on the campaign trail. It raises the question of how people judged “best” or “effectiveness” in answering the question. Lots to unpack in these results.
If Jack Layton hadn't died, he could have become PM in 2015. I'd love to have a peek into that alternate universe.
I think this poll only shows what Canada doesn't know about history. I am not a supporter of any Conservative party. But one has to say Robert Stanfield and Preston Manning accomplished much more than Jack Layton did in his limited time as leader. As has been said, Layton's accomplishment was in becoming leader; Mulcair did much more as leader.
I have such complicated feelings about Michael Ignatieff, who actually seems like he'd be quite good as a national leader, but was a completely inept politician. Like, if he'd emerged at a more favourable time, he might have proven to be a latter-day Pearson: not exactly a political success, but someone capable of achieving great things as a leader and administrator.
But that also goes to the emergence of a new trend in politics: aspirants timing their shots. We appear to live in an era when opposition leaders get one bite at the apple. You either win the election, or your party will devour you. (Even if you gain seats, even if you run a good campaign, even if you exceed expectations, if you don't WIN, it's suppertime.)
This means that, if you want to be Prime Minister, you don't want to waste your shot leading your party into an unwinnable election. Keep your powder dry, let potential opponents disqualify themselves (either by losing the general election or by humiliating themselves with failed leadership bids), and seize the leadership at its ripest.
I feel like this has the effect of making Leaders of the Opposition less interesting, less important, and less powerful. Either you become Prime Minister (in which case you probably aren't going to be remembered as a notable Leader of the Opposition), or you get remembered as a loser: you had your one shot and you blew it.
Good analysis, Eric.
Although this might be telling us more about polling (recency bias, name recognition) than it does about the quality of the leader, if the voters are influenced by these factors in polling, these factors should also determine their votes in an actual election. So there should be a good analytical quality to this poll.
I do have a question about the methodology. Were respondents permitted only one choice? Or, for example, were they asked to rank their top three? To this point, were the people ranked below Layton the second choice of Layton supporters or the first choice of non-Layton responders? And, we might speculate, would those rankings be different?
And, although he was not on the list, Bob Rae had a very positive influence on parliament. It would be interesting if you were to have more podcasts in this series discussing the importance of others in parliament. They could include third party leaders such as Tommy Douglas and Real Caouette, cabinet ministers such as Paul Martin Sr. and CD Howe,) and short-term Prime Ministers who were more important in other portfolios such as Joe Clark and Paul Martin Jr.
Thanks for a great blog.
I think people pretty obviously interpreted the question as “favorite person to become opposition leader”, because as others have mentioned, Layton was basically LOTO in name only. And fair enough, it’s just interesting that it’s how people took it. Most people also probably just don’t have strong takes on opposition leaders leading them to just default to the biggest name
Also, was thinking, Eric, would be curious to see an all party leaders poll. So including PMs, third parties, etc. Would be fascinating to see how Layton holds up against PM’s, how someone like Paul Martin would fare, etc