Half sick of shadows: More musings on those EKOS approval ratings

Ever since this week’s EKOS survey came out, ITQ has found herself absolutely fascinated by the approval ratings for the various party leaders, mostly because those results actually seem to be telling us something we didn’t already know, as opposed to the voter intention flatlines that just keep on reminding us that, for all intents and purposes, as far as the permanent campaign goes, this summer has been one long, slow, dead heat.  But a poll that ranks Jack Layton above Michael Ignatieff, as far as general thumbs-uppedness from the voters, putting him just two points behind Stephen Harper, well — that makes you stop and go “huh,” especially when the very same respondents leave his party languishing in the mid-teens when asked where they’d mark an X on the next federal ballot.

(For those of y’all who are ready to eject ITQ from your bookmarks like Dana Larsen from an NDP convention if she doesn’t stop rambling on about opinion polls, the rest of this post has been ITQuarantined behind the jump.)

What might explain that apparently contradictory result, however, may be how those being surveyed have interpreted the question, which , as posed by EKOS, was the following:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the way Stephen Harper, Prime Minister and leader of Conservative Party/ of
Canada/Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Official Opposition and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada/Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada is handling his job?

Note — “his job”, which, as ITQ sees it, would mean the job that the leader in question already holds — not the one to which he aspires, in the case of the opposition leaders, or will be trying to keep, in the case of the prime minister. If you interpret it that way — and ITQ has no way of knowing whether that’s the case for these EKOS respondents, mind you — the numbers for Ignatieff and Layton, in particular, start to make more sense: as far as the general public is concerned, Layton, with his 34% positive rating,  is simply doing a better job of being an opposition leader than Michael Ignatieff, who can only muster up 59% from his own party’s supporters — the same supporters that give Layton a 37% approval rating, compared to just 17% for Harper. It

Meanwhiust 21% of NDP supporters approve of Ignatieff’s job-handling skills, with even fewer Greens — 21% — giving him a positive review, and just 23% of BQ voters, 77% of whom are thoroughly unimpressed with Stephen Harper. It really doesn’t seem to be an either/or (or either/or/or, if you add Layton into the mix) equation:  for these respondents, at least, it’s possible to disapprove of how both Harper and Ignatieff are handling their respective jobs.

If ITQ is right in her interpretation of their interpretation of the question, these results don’t actually show that 34% of Canadians want Layton to take over Langevin, but that they tend to prefer opposition leaders that actually, you know, oppose the government.  Regardless of their feelings towards the current prime minister, it looks like a fair number of Canadians — including likely or leaning Liberal voters — haven’t been terribly impressed by Ignatieff’s performance as the Leader of the Official Opposition, and unless he’s planning to take a shot at upgrading that title in the very near future, he might want to consider putting more effort into showing Canadians that he — not just his party, but him, personally — can be every bit as effective as Jack Layton and the NDP when it comes to keeping the government on the defensive. Wandering the countryside, Lear-like, as a hopeful prime minister in waiting is all well and good when the House isn’t sitting, but when Parliament gets back to business this fall, his primary objective should be to look like he can handle the job he’s got, and not worry that doing so will make it more likely that he’ll have the same one after the next election.

A caveat: Fellow Obsessive Poll Watcher, past whom ITQ tends to run her theories before putting them on the permanent pixel record, is of the firm view that she is wildly overestimating how thoughtfully poll respondents consider the question before providing their answer, which – in FOPW’s opinion – the vast majority will answer according to their overall impression of a given leader, ideally quickly enough that they can get off the phone and back to the dinner table. He may well be right. But on the off chance that she isn’t, would this not at least partially explain the perennial NDP conundrum, in which far more voters approve of how their leader — whoever he or she is — is doing his job, than would like to see that leader try his or her hand at running the country?