Should Gregor Robertson's plummeting approval ratings concern Vision?
At first blush, a review of the newly released poll by Justason Marketing Intelligence regarding the municipal scene in Vancouver appears to be enough to send both the NPA and COPE into a mild depression. With a little over a year to go before the election, 52% of decided voters told Justason they would vote Vision Vancouver if an election were held tomorrow. Meanwhile, 28% said they would vote NPA, while a mere 13% said they’d vote COPE. This is good news for Vision, but a more in depth analysis of the data reveals there are some clouds forming on the horizon for the governing party.
This is why they are so worried and have recently gone on the attack against their opponents.
I am very skeptical of all polling at the municipal level in between elections. That’s because pollsters ask 100% of the population their voting intentions when we know about 30% or less of the electorate actually cast a ballot. In Vancouver, we also know older voters and those who live on the West Side also vote in greater numbers than their younger or East Side counterparts. If this important data point is not properly factored into the equation, you are guaranteed to get skewed results.
In this poll, Justason went out of her way to point out that the older the voter was, the more likely they were to vote for the NPA. In the important 65+ demographic, the NPA was actually leading (37% vs 33%). Meanwhile, in the 35 and under demographic, which traditionally has a much lower turnout, Justason reports Vision has a commanding lead over the NPA and COPE. As a result, while the overall poll results show Vision with a massive lead over its nearest rival, that support may be a lot softer than it appears.
The most concerning data point for Vision has to be the declining trend line for their leader Mayor Gregor Robertson. According to Vision’s own internal polling, last spring Robertson was sitting at a 78% approval rating. This has now plummeted to below 50%, and by all accounts appears to be in free fall. If you recall, a few months after the Olympics in Torino, Sam Sullivan was sitting at about a 65% approval rating. It led some media types to ask how the Mayor could have such “low” numbers shortly after the Games.
Fast forward to the 2010 Olympics and it would appear this event actually dragged down Robertson’s numbers below even those of Sullivan. His spinmeisters are busy saying that 49% is a great number compared to other politicians. That may be true, but he is now trailing his own party in popularity. We all know these poll results have Vision’s backroom boys and girls wondering what they can do to reverse this trajectory – and fast.
Another area of concern is how the public have now clearly associated Robertson’s administration to the success or failure of the Olympic Village housing project and solving homelessness. Shortly after the election the Mayor and his provincial counterparts struck their own deal for financing the South East False Creek development and are on the hook. As a result, he now politically “owns” the project.
The public will have no appetite for him blaming previous governments regarding the fact that the 250 units of social housing remain empty as we head into the last year of his mandate. If this project goes south, so too do his polling numbers.
In terms of homelessness, the poll demonstrated it was still the number one issue concerning Vancouverites. This too is a red flag for the Mayor who ran on a campaign platform of ending homelessness in Vancouver by 2015. By now, the Mayor was hoping all of those ribbon cuttings at social housing projects initiated by the previous NPA administration would have begun to pay dividends for him in the polls. Not so.
One reason might be the fact a recent survey found that homelessness had actually gone up 12% since Gregor Robertson took over from Sam Sullivan. As a result, every time anyone sees a homeless person wandering the streets of Vancouver, they inevitably ask why the Mayor hasn’t done anything for this person. If there is not major progress made to lower the overall rate of homelessness (not just street homelessness) by 2011, the Mayor may well find this becomes an issue his NPA opponents could pounce on in the next election.
Overall, I think the poll results provide both hope and despair for the NPA. On the negative side, there remains a lot of work yet to do before next year if they are going to beat an incumbent. On the positive side even without a leader, almost no media coverage or any visible presence in the community, they are still polling at around 30% support. One can only imagine what the NPA could do if they actually got their act together and secured a half decent NPA mayoral candidate next spring. This would instantly give them a 5-7% bump in the polls and would make the election extremely competitive – yet it is still Robertson’s to lose, by a country mile.
As for COPE, I simply don’t think there is any hope. At 13% in the polls, and the real prospect of them not running a mayoral candidate again, they will get completely wiped out in the next election. Even if Vision were to only run eight council spots (which is a point of hot debate within the party at the moment) and leave two open for COPE, I doubt any of them would get elected. That’s because a resurgent NPA will likely get 3-4 seats at a minimum, which would leave little room for candidates from a rump third party.
After having won a massive majority in the 2002 civic election, I think we are witnessing the dying days of what once was a household name in Vancouver politics. It’s kind of sad if you ask me. What would COPE patriarchs Harry Rankin or Bruce Eriksen think if they were still alive?
As I’ve reported here earlier, this has been a very bad summer for the Mayor. He went from boy wonder to boy blunder within weeks. His relations with Vancouver’s media (with a few notable exceptions) are at an all time low, and it will take a major jolt to turn that around with the current set of players. If the Mayor doesn’t begin to turn around his plummeting approval ratings, by next time this year we may be witnessing some interesting scenarios that haven’t been seen here in these parts for a long time.
What if the NPA runs on a campaign platform of “send a strong contingent of NPAers to 12th and Cambie to hold Gregor Robertson and his Vision team in check”. Then what if the Mayor wins, but 6 NPA council candidates make it over the top? It would mean we would have a Vision mayor, with an NPA majority on council. It could make for either a very effective bi-partisan atmosphere, or could result in massive bickering between the Mayor and his council colleagues, his "f***ing NPA Hacks" comment notwithstanding.
I found this poll to be an interesting read. Do I put much stock into whether it accurately reflects the public’s true voting patterns? Not really. I’ll reserve final judgment until the votes are counted in November 2011.
What do you think? Is this poll an accurate reflection of what might happen in the next civic election? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
- Post by Daniel