There’s reason to doubt Justin Trudeau can win another election – today’s polls make a pretty strong case he would come out on the short end if he runs again. But if he did lose, it would have less to do with people disliking him and more to do with people simply growing tired of hearing from him.
In our spark*insights survey of 2,000 people across Canada in the month of October, we asked whether people have a positive or negative view of the major national party political leaders, but offered some more nuanced answer categories for people to choose from.
Across Canada 20% like Trudeau, 25% are “so-so” on him and 20% dislike him. The plurality say, “I’m tired of him”, at 36%. The combination of dislike and “tired of” amounts to 56%, compared to 41% for Pierre Poilievre and 40% for Jagmeet Singh.
In Quebec, Trudeau is competitive with Singh and Poilievre, but enjoys no real edge in his home province. Perhaps the bigger worry for the Liberals would be in Ontario, where 53% are either tired of or dislike Trudeau, compared to 38% for Pierre Poilievre.
With just one in five people saying they dislike Trudeau, he’s not unusually unpopular – his challenge is that interest in what he has to say has waned. How did that happen?
Surveys have documented the phenomenon of people becoming tired of all the worrying news in the world, and tuning out more as a result. News is always on, popping up on our phones, and demanding our nervous energy. The fight for our eyeballs and emotions is not making people dive deeper into politics, it’s having the opposite effect.
Against that background, the Trudeau government has been hugely visible, partly because of a pandemic, but partly by its own design, giving Ministers long mandate lists, generating a massive number of announcements each year, and being ever present on social media.
Combine a public tired and wanting to tune out stressful news, and a government that chews up a lot of bandwidth, often talking about things that are stress inducing. That’s a recipe for a deeper level of fatigue and helps explain where the Liberals find themselves today.
Most Canadians don’t dislike Justin Trudeau’s values, character, or much of his policy record. But as the government’s most prominent communicator, it’s a challenge if people are tuning out what he has to say. For the Liberals to win the next election, they need to find a way to rekindle interest in what they have to say.