Canada’s political parties look very different in the eyes of voters than they did in 2019. On the eve of an election, INNOVATIVE conducted a new online survey of 1,500 voters. The poll was conducted from July 17th to August 4th, 2021 and went beyond the horserace numbers to explore Canadian perceptions of the party brands. Topics included brand loyalty, feelings towards parties, party brand personalities and brand promise. This post covers the key findings on feelings towards parties and brand personalities. The full results can be found here.
Positive and Negative Views of Parties
Feelings are critical in political campaigns because our feelings that motivate us to act. Our feelings also frame the information we attend to and the way we perceive that information. Many people are conflicted in their feelings, holding both positive and negative views of the same party.
Canadians had a dark view of the federal parties on the eve of the 2019 campaign. At that time, only the Green party had net positive views. Feelings towards the NDP and the Liberals were around 10 percent more negative than positive. The CPC and the Bloc were around 15 percent more negative than positive. The PPC had 24 percent more negative than positive views.
Those numbers have changed significantly. Three parties have seen significant gains. The Bloc now has the positive brand with 13 percent more positive than negative views. The NDP is also now in positive territory with 5 percent more voters feeling positive rather than negative. The Liberals now have as many negative as positive views.
Three other parties have seen declines. The Green numbers have flipped with 8 percent more negative than positive views. The CPC have dropped further and now have 22 percent more negative than positive views. The PPC has also lost a little more ground now with 28 percent more negative than positive views.
Brand personality is way to humanise brands, even in politics. This month INNOVATIVE combined items from the classic Aaker brand personality scale, the Saucier scale based on the Big 5 personality literature, and some work applying those scales in India which identified a potential secular/religious dimension in political branding.
Looking at brands this way, Canadians see:
The Liberals as confident, careless, and practical,
The Bloc as unique, daring, and honest,
The CPC seen cold, practical, and mean,
The NDP as hardworking, intelligent, and honest,
And the Greens as unique, careless, and imaginative.
Below, we take a closer look at pertinent or meaningful insights for Canada’s major political parties from throughout the report.
Party Spotlight: Liberals
No matter how we measure it, more people are open to voting Liberal than any other party. However, voters are conflicted about the Liberals with as many holding negative views as holding positive ones. People don’t expect a new Liberal government to make a big difference in their lives, perhaps in part due to the fact they have already been in government for six years. Liberals score well on personality measures associated with confidence. Their key weakness is a perception of carelessness.
Party Spotlight: Bloc
The Bloc are the strongest rivals to the Liberals. They come closest to the Liberals in their voter pool and brand loyalty. Quebecers don’t expect the Bloc to make a big difference in their lives, but they like the Bloc much more than they like the Liberals and that positive image has improved significantly since 2019. The Bloc is seen as unique and daring by supporters and opponents alike. Supporters see it as honest and reliable while non-voters see it as cold.
Party Spotlight: Conservatives
The Conservatives stand out from other national challengers to the Liberals with their larger base, but every way we measure it, far fewer voters are open to the Conservatives than to the Liberals. While feelings towards the Liberals are up 10-points, feelings towards the Conservatives are down 7-points. Conservative supporters see the party as practical and hardworking; non-voters see them as cold. While many Canadians may dislike the Conservatives, it is not clear that they are seen as a personal threat. Only 23% believe they will be personally worse off if the CPC win. Meanwhile, slightly more Canadians feel their lives will be better off if the Conservatives win than feel that way about the Liberals (22% better for the CPC vs 19% better for the Liberals).
Party Spotlight: NDP
While the NDP have a smaller base than the Conservatives, depending on where we draw the line their voter pool is equal to or larger than the Conservatives. Feelings towards the NDP have shifted from 9-points more negative to 5-points more positive. Supporters and opponents are likely to see the NDP as hardworking and friendly. Supporters also see them as intelligent and honest while non-supporters see them as careless. A big potential edge for the NDP is that 24% say the NDP will make a positive difference in my life. This is the highest level for any party.
Party Spotlight: Green
The Greens key challenge is there are very few voters actively considering voting for them. When it comes to feelings, the Greens have lost a lot of ground since 2019, dropping from 9-points more positive to 8-points more negative now. There remains some real strength in the underlying brand with both supporters and non-supporters seeing the Greens as unique, imaginative, original, and friendly. However, non-supporters see them as careless and temperamental. A surprise is that more voters feel they will be worse off than better if the Green’s gain influence. This is true both at the personal and national levels.
Looking across brand measures, the Liberals enter the campaign in a strong position with a bigger voter pool than any other party and a reasonably positive underlying brand.
The Bloc are well positioned to challenge the Liberals in Quebec. They have a significantly more positive brand now than in 2019 and a strong underlying brand personality.
The CPC is struggling. Their relatively large base leaves them well-positioned to be the main opposition party, but their negative brand is holding them back from challenging the Liberals.
The NDP is not positioned to challenge for government, but they are well-positioned for growth. Their brand is perceived positively, and they are the most likely to be seen to make a real difference to voters’ lives.
The Greens are limping into this campaign, but there are still key strengths in their brand personality that should give them hope for the future.