Nanos poll tests leaders' trust on trade, taxes and environment

An exclusive poll done by Nanos Research for Power & Politics shows a trust deficit for NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair when it comes to the environment.

Exclusive Power & Politics poll asks for views on current party leaders - and a potential one

In a new weekly segment on CBC's Power & Politics, Nik Nanos, president of Nanos Research, shares the stories behind the poll numbers 9:31

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is losing the confidence race when it comes to the environment, according to a new Nanos Research poll done for CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

The online survey of 1,000 Canadians asked respondents to choose the leader they trusted most from among the five main parties on a variety of topics.

But for the Liberal Party, respondents were given the choice of apparent leadership front-runner Justin Trudeau rather than interim leader Bob Rae, who is not running for the permanent job.

Among the survey's findings, just 8.3 per cent chose NDP Leader Tom Mulcair on the question of "who do you trust most to protect the environment." Here are those results:

  • Stephen Harper (CPC): 12.0%
  • Daniel Paillé (BQ): 1.2
  • Thomas Mulcair (NDP): 8.3
  • Justin Trudeau (LIB): 15.0
  • Elizabeth May (GREEN): 31.4
  • None of them: 15.2
  • Unsure: 17.0

The survey comes as politicians battle over the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in B.C. and foreign ownership of the oil sands, as they await the government's decision on the multi-billion dollar takeover bid for Calgary-based producer Nexen by China's CNOOC.

The NDP has gone hard at the government on both of these issues, but does not seem to benefiting in the Nanos survey.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was the clear winner on this issue and it might have come at the expense of the NDP.

"This has to be very troublesome for the New Democrats. They've been very effective at trying to what I'll say compartmentalize and encroach on the green space in order to not split voters who are environmentally minded," Nik Nanos of Nanos Research told Power & Politics host Evan Solomon. "An 8 per cent score for Thomas Mulcair has to be considered low under any circumstance."

"For him to be behind the prime minister, I think probably even has to be a greater concern to New Democrats," Nanos says.

Trust on Trade

On the other side of this issue is the debate around foreign ownership in Canada's oil patch as well as the negotiation of international trade deals.

Respondents were asked, out of the following leaders or potential leaders, "who do you trust most to negotiate trade agreements?" Here are the results:

  • Stephen Harper (CPC): 27.9%
  • Daniel Paillé (BQ): 1.0
  • Thomas Mulcair (NDP): 11.7
  • Justin Trudeau (LIB): 18.4
  • Elizabeth May (GREEN): 3.5
  • None of them: 16.6
  • Unsure: 21.0

Nanos says this is good news for the Conservatives.

"Harper's personal brand for the past little while has been built around trade: talk about trade with the Pacific and also with Europe. As a result he is definitely at an advantage in terms of who Canadians trust on trade," Nanos says.

But what the Conservatives have to worry about here are what signals decisions like the rejection of the multi-billion dollar bid by the Malaysian state-owned Petronas of Canadian natural gas producer Progress Energy Resources and the upcoming decision on the CNOOC takeover bid of Nexen send to not just potential investors but also to Canadians.

"Canadians want to hear about jobs. Linking trade to jobs makes it a political winner. We haven't seen enough of that," Nanos says.

Trust on Taxes

While Nanos says the government hasn't linked trade with jobs enough yet, support for all of the current or potential leaders is weak when it comes to how tax dollars are spent.

When asked "who do you trust most to spend tax dollars wisely?" respondents gave these results:

  • Stephen Harper (CPC): 18.3%
  • Daniel Paillé (BQ): 1.1
  • Thomas Mulcair (NDP): 17.2
  • Justin Trudeau (LIB): 16.7
  • Elizabeth May (GREEN): 5.5
  • None of them: 25.6
  • Unsure: 15.7

Nanos says these numbers were very surprising, and notes the real winner is "None of them" at 25.6 per cent.

"It speaks to malaise out there; perhaps the Conservatives are getting hit in terms of their tax-dollar image because of some of the spending that's occured, such as the estimation related to the F-35 and other things," Nanos says.

This will be crucial for Stephen Harper to regain ground on, because it could be difficult for the Conservatives come the next election.

"Because if the Liberals start to do well on taxes... they will be able to encroach on the Tories," Nanos says. This will be the number to watch going forward and ahead of the next campaign, he says.

The national representative online survey of 1,000 Canadians 18 years of age and older was conducted between Oct. 13 and 14. There is no margin of error for the online survey.