What Riles Up CARP Members?

Well, it turns out, many of the same things that rile up most Canadians. Now, CARP members aren’t typical Canadians; as we’ve mentioned here before, their demographic characteristics (older, slightly wealthier) match with those of supporters of the Conservative party, and, yes, CARP members are more likely to support the Conservatives than all Canadians are.

National polls usually show a 5% to 7% lead for the Conservatives over the Liberal Party, whereas this edge tends to be 15% to 17% among CARP members. By the same token, CARP members are about half as likely as all Canadians to support either the NDP or the Green Party.

All that being said, it is instructive to see what it takes to shake up CARP member support for the Conservative party, or to increase support for the opposition. On election day, October 2008, party standings in the CARP poll were Conservatives 49%, Liberals 32%, NDP 13% and Green Party 7%.

In the latest wave of polling, completed last week, party standings were Conservatives 49%, Liberals 34%, NDP 11%, Green Party 6%. In other words, nothing really changed since the last election, right? Wrong. It’s what went on between those dates that’s really interesting.

In August and September of 2009, the Liberal Party leader threatened to bring down the government, force an election and take power under a coalition government. The members got riled up, support for the Conservative government soared (to an all-time high of 62%) and the Liberals (and the other opposition parties) became cellar-dwellers for a few weeks.

Not that long after, however, in late December, the Prime Minister prorogued parliament (for the second time) and the members got even more riled up. For the first (and, so far, only) time in our polling, the Liberals were preferred to the Conservatives (42% to 38%) by a significant margin.

The Conservatives regained most of their support among our members, but the Afghan Detainee scandal of February and March, 2010 took its toll, and just two points separated the Conservatives (41%) and the Liberals (39%).

Once again, support for the Conservatives bounced back, but was moderated somewhat by the ongoing soap opera of the Rahim Jaffer/Helena Guergis affair.

Once again, however, the government tripped on its own strategically-placed banana peel with the decision to cancel the long-form census. Support for the Conservatives plummeted and only three points separated them from the Liberals (43% to 40%).

Evergreen again, the Conservatives climbed back up to their customary level of support (about 49%), until the long-gun registry fight came along. and, once again, just a few points separated them from the Liberals (45% to 39%).

The most recent movement in The CARP Poll™ occurred last month, when the government’s decision not to pursue significant reforms to CPP, but to introduce private plans instead, lead to a decline of several points in the poll for both the Conservatives and the Liberals, while the NDP appeared to benefit, if only temporarily.