Justin Trudeau's political honeymoon the envy of world leaders in Davos

The world leaders Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet in Davos, Switzerland, would certainly like to have his personal approval ratings, but how does his post-election honeymoon stack up to past Canadian prime ministers three months into the job?

But a post-election surge is typical for new Canadian prime ministers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will address world leaders at the World Economic Forum at Davos. Polls suggest he's more popular at home than many of them. (Michel Euler/Associated Press)

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, today, some of the world leaders in attendance may be a little envious of his polling numbers at home.

But the numbers suggest Trudeau's honeymoon is typical by recent Canadian standards.

The Liberals are sitting on some strong poll numbers three months after the federal election. Two recent surveys peg the Liberals' support at 44 to 45 per cent of decided voters, up from the 39.5 per cent the party took on election night.

The government's approval rating was at 53 per cent, with just 25 per cent disapproval, in a recent poll from Abacus Data. The Conservative government under Stephen Harper had an approval rating of just 32 per cent, with 47 per cent disapproving, before the campaign kicked off last August.

The numbers for Trudeau himself are also positive, with a Nanos Research poll suggesting 54 per cent of Canadians prefer him as their choice for prime minister, against just 14 per cent for interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose and 11 per cent for NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. The prime minister had an average approval rating of 61 per cent, with 29 per cent disapproving, in polls taken in early December.

But though these are impressive results for Trudeau and the Liberals, they are typical for a new prime minister this deep into his or her first mandate.

Approval ratings of new prime ministers, three months after taking office (available polls or average of polls closest to three month mark).

The increase in support for the Liberal Party is similar to the increase the Conservatives and Progressive Conservatives recorded three months after their election victories in 2006 and 1984, respectively. And these honeymoons pale in comparison to Jean Chrétien's: his Liberals were polling at 55 per cent three months after their 1993 election victory, when the party captured 41 per cent of the vote.

It is the same situation at a personal level, with Trudeau's approval ratings almost identical to those of Harper and Brian Mulroney after they first took over the job.

Trudeau's ratings are a little weaker than Chrétien's score in early 1994, though they are much better than those of Paul Martin and Kim Campbell after they first came to power. However, both of those leaders were taking over a party that had been in office for about a decade.

Other world leaders less popular

Trudeau has the opportunity to be measured against other world leaders directly in Davos this week. On that score, he stands well above some of his peers.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. (Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

Enrique Pena Nieto, the beleaguered Mexican president at the mid-point of his (one) six-year term in office, has an approval rating of just 32 per cent. Even that is an improvement — coming after the capture of drug kingpin Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman — over where he has stood for most of the last year.

Mauricio Macri, who won a closely fought election in Argentina just days after Trudeau's victory, boasts an approval rating of 52 per cent and a disapproval rating of 39 per cent in a recent poll conducted in that country. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron. (Andy Rain/Reuters)

British Prime Minister David Cameron secured a majority government for his Conservatives in the election held in May. But one recent poll put his approval rating at just 40 per cent, against 46 per cent disapproval. And Cameron did not have the benefit of the kind of honeymoon that Trudeau is currently enjoying. Three months after his first election victory in 2010, Cameron only had a net approval rating of plus-20, compared with Trudeau's plus-32.

French President François Hollande. (Yoan Valat/Reuters)

Another leader who probably would like to have Trudeau's level of support in his own country is François Hollande. One recent poll showed that just 29 per cent of people in France had a favourable view of their president, against 66 per cent with an unfavourable view. And Hollande's own honeymoon was short-lived. In August 2012, three months after he defeated Nicolas Sarkozy for the presidency, he already had a net approval rating of minus-three.

However, Trudeau will not run into the French president in Davos, as Hollande's more popular prime minister, Manuel Valls, is attending instead.

If history is any guide, these world leaders may not envy Trudeau's numbers for very long. The decline in support for Mulroney, Martin and Harper set in quickly. But that is not a given, as Chrétien enjoyed high approval ratings for years.

The prime minister should enjoy his time at great heights — be it in the polls or in the Swiss Alps — while it lasts.

The poll by Abacus Data was conducted between Jan. 8 and 12, 2016 interviewing 1,500 Canadians via the Internet. As the survey was conducted online, a margin of error does not apply.

The poll by Nanos Research was conducted between Dec. 20, 2015 and Jan. 15, 2016, interviewing 1,000 Canadians via the telephone. The margin of error associated with the survey is +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.