With 6 months to go, Justin Trudeau is up against history

Half a year is a long time in politics, but if you are trailing in the polls it may not feel like it is long enough.
That’s where Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government finds itself with six months to go before the fall federal election.
And when beyond prime ministers have been in this area before, it normally has not ended well for them.
Since the Second World War, when political public opinion polling first started in Canada, the governing party has trailed in the polls six to eight months prior to the subsequent election nine times.
On two occasions, that party was reduced to a minority government. On five occasions, it was defeated. On only two occasions did it secure a majority.
For parties which led from the polls this far out from election day, it’s a far different picture: of the 14 such cases since 1945, the party top has been defeated just three times.
That is a poor historical precedent for Prime Minister Trudeau.
According to the CBC’s Canada Poll Tracker, an aggregation of publicly available polling data, the Liberals path the Conservatives by a margin of 2.5 percentage points, with 32.7 per cent against 35.2 percent for Andrew Scheer’s celebration.
Poll Tracker: Conservatives lead over Liberals slips to 3 factors Typically, prime ministers who met defeat at the ballot box trailed in the polls by a margin of three points at the mark. Those parties which went on to re-election using a majority government appreciated an average lead of 12 points at the six-month mark.
Obviously, much can change in six days before an election, let alone six months. Nonetheless, the historical record shows it is much better to be ahead than behind, even this far out.
Exceptions that prove the rule Past prime ministers have overcome wider polling shortages than the one Trudeau faces now. But those were exceptional cases.
Ahead of the 1962 election, John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives were behind Lester Pearson’s Liberals with a margin of six factors. In the end, Diefenbaker was able to continue but was shipped back to Ottawa with a shaky minority government that fulfilled its end within a year.
In early 1988, Brian Mulroney’s PCs were behind by seven points. However, Mulroney managed to flip the November federal election into a referendum on the free trade arrangement with the United States, keeping his party in energy in the procedure.
At the end of 1967, the Liberals were trailing the PCs and their recently installed chief, Robert Stanfield, by nine points. It took a change of direction of the own to get the Liberals to win in 1968 under Pierre Trudeau.
Pierre Trudeau barely surpassed the odds again after just one term in 1972. He was behind Stanfield moving within that fall’s election and emerged with a minority government.
That is not the sole example that’s some recognizable (in addition to familial) connections to the recent Trudeau government. The Liberals were trailing behind the PCs by a similar margin at the end of 1978, until Joe Clark’s short-term minority government was elected in 1979.
There are a number of exceptions on the opposite side of the ledger, too. Louis St-Laurent lost even though a 17-point lead in 1957 after 22 decades of Liberal government, Paul Martin was ahead by 10 points in 2005 before he dropped his lead to the Conservatives over the span of the 2005-06 campaign. And Stephen Harper was ahead in 2015 in the six-month mark, although that was due to the opposition vote being divided between Trudeau’s Liberals and Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats.
Scheer, Singh on par with predecessors
Both the Conservatives and the NDP are approximately where those parties tend to be at this stage of the pre-election period.
At just over 35 per cent nationally, Scheer’s celebration is about even with where previous Conservative parties under different leaders have stood with six months to go. Excluding the run-up to the 1997 and 2000 elections — if the right was divided between the PCs and the Reform/Canadian Alliance parties — the Conservatives have averaged 34 percent service with six months to go before an election.
It’s a level of support which can go either way. Clark’s celebration was at 37 percent at this point prior to his defeat in 1980, while Diefenbaker’s PCs were at 37 per cent before he was reduced to a minority government in 1962. Stanfield’s celebration had 35 per cent support at the mark until he held Pierre Trudeau to a minority in 1972, while Harper’s Conservatives were at 35 per cent before he was re-elected in 2008.
The NDP’s current standing in the polls is quite typical for the party this far out from voting day. With 15.3 percent, Jagmeet Singh’s NDP is only marginally below the 16 per cent average the party and its predecessor, the CCF, have handled at this point in election cycles since 1945. It puts Singh directly in the center of the pack of historic NDP performances.

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