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Poilievre’s Support Now Rivals Trudeau’s 2015 Heights

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As popular discontent with Justin Trudeau’s government reaches a boiling point, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre is rising on a captivating message of hope and change. 

Poilievre’s support now mirrors the seismic surge that swept Trudeau to power in 2015. With economic anxiety surging and social frustration spiking, the incumbent Prime Minister is increasingly seen as yesterday’s man. 

Sensing the urgent hunger for renewal, Poilievre is racing to ride a wave of discontent to unseat Trudeau’s tired government. 

His vows of dramatic change are electrifying voters, just as Trudeau’s did leading up to his historic win nearly a decade ago. 

With momentum building and ads resonating across party lines, Poilievre aims to urgently channel Canada’s desire for a new direction before it spills over into chaos. The Conservative leader’s time may be now.

In the lead up to the 2015 federal election in Canada, the Liberal Party released a series of advertisements featuring Justin Trudeau that seemed to resonate with voters and help propel Trudeau and the Liberals to victory over the incumbent Conservative government. 

Now, eight years later, the Conservative Party has rolled out its own series of ads showcasing leader Pierre Poilievre in a similar light, tapping into the same sense of hope and change that Trudeau leveraged so effectively. Poilievre is positioned to duplicate Trudeau’s success in the next election by presenting himself as an agent of positive transformation.

The 2015 Liberal ads presented Trudeau in a positive, uplifting manner. Focus groups conducted by the polling firm Innovative Research at the time showed the ads generated powerful emotional responses from viewers. 

The ads made people feel more hopeful about the future and less angry about the present, cutting across partisan lines. Greg Lyle of Innovative Research explained, “The 2015 Trudeau ads were among the best we’ve ever tested.”

From Nov. 15 to Dec. 5 of 2023, Innovative Research repeated the same focus group methodology to gauge public reaction to Poilievre’s introductory ads. The results showed Poilievre’s ads eliciting similarly strong emotional reactions. 

Lyle noted, “What’s really striking about it is normally what happens with a political ad is that the people that support the party that put the ad out like it and the people that don’t support that party don’t like it. But if you look at these Conservative ads, people that support all the other opposition parties to the Tories, all their opponents, the supporters of all those parties say they like those ads and they agree with what the ads are saying.”

Typically, political ads preach to the choir, only resonating with a party’s own supporters while alienating or antagonizing those who affiliate with opposing parties. However, the Poilievre ads have somehow managed to cut across these partisan lines. Supporters of not just the Conservatives, but other parties that stand in opposition to the Conservatives, are responding positively to the ads.

This demonstrates the ability of these ads, and Poilievre as their focus, to tap into concerns, anxieties, and desires that are broadly shared by Canadians across the political spectrum. 

The content seems to speak to voters not primarily as Conservatives or progressives, but simply as Canadians struggling with economic instability and diminished hopes for the future. Poilievre comes across not just as a Conservative promising change, but as a leader who understands the day-to-day frustrations of ordinary Canadians. 

The ads successfully position him as empathetic and attuned to the collective worries of the electorate. This universal appeal mirrors the resonance and accessibility that propelled Trudeau’s rapid rise in 2015. 

It shows how Poilievre is strategically presenting himself as a leader for all Canadians, not just Conservative loyalists. The cross-partisan likeability of the ads underscores how Poilievre is positioning himself as an agent of hope and change for a disillusioned country eager for new direction after years of Liberal rule.

This cross-partisan appeal mirrors the broad resonance of Trudeau’s 2015 ads. Poilievre’s ads make viewers feel more optimistic and less angry, regardless of partisan affiliation. 

As Lyle observed, “That is unusual. And that is one of the things that made the 2015 Liberal ads stand out. They also were able to reach out across the aisle and appeal to people that didn’t feel like Liberals.”

One ad in particular, “We Had a Deal,” tested extremely well with focus groups. In the ad, Poilievre talks about the housing affordability crisis while standing on the street where he grew up. 

After viewing the ad, 25% more respondents reported feeling more hopeful compared to those who said they felt less hopeful. When asked if the ad made them feel more or less angry, 10% fewer people said they felt angrier after watching.

Lyle explained this is significant because “often, you’ll get an ad that works really well with your base that actually motivates your opponents as well. And so what you would be watching for is people saying, ‘I feel angrier after seeing these ads.’ But that did not happen with this or the other Conservative ads.” 

This ability to inspire hope and tamp down anger crossed political affiliations, just as with the 2015 Liberal ads.

In 2015, the Liberals and Trudeau successfully portrayed themselves as bringing hope and optimism. Now in 2023, Poilievre is doing the same thing – presenting himself and the Conservatives as the new agents of hope. 

Meanwhile, Trudeau and the Liberals are being seen more as representing the status quo. So just as Trudeau positioned himself as the candidate of change in 2015, Poilievre is now taking on that mantle while Trudeau has become the face of the establishment.

Recent polls underscore this shift. An Ipsos poll found 69% of Canadians feel Trudeau should step down as Liberal leader before the next election. This marks a reversal from 2015, when Trudeau positioned himself as an agent of change against a tired Conservative government. Now, Poilievre is claiming the mantle of change and optimism, while Trudeau represents the establishment Canadians feel it’s time to move on from.

Trudeau’s decline can be traced back to a series of damaging policies and scandals that have disillusioned many who supported him in 2015. His environmental policies have largely failed to meet targets and reduce emissions as promised. Ethics scandals like the SNC Lavalin affair have hurt his credibility. And the use of the Emergencies Act to crack down on peaceful protesters in 2022 damaged Trudeau’s image as a champion of civil liberties.

Perhaps most damaging has been Trudeau’s record on making life less affordable for the average Canadian. Despite lofty rhetoric about helping the middle class, soaring inflation and housing costs have left many struggling to make ends meet. The dream of an easy road to home ownership has vanished for many younger Canadians. Frustration over this gap between aspirations and reality is reshaping the political landscape.

Poilievre has cannily tapped into this wellspring of economic anxiety and discontent. His message focuses squarely on how he would tackle inflation and housing costs, the issues most top of mind for voters. By presenting himself as a new voice for a disgruntled electorate, Poilievre has managed to replicate the hopeful positioning that carried Trudeau to power in 2015.

Now the question is whether Poilievre can ride this wave of disenchantment with Trudeau’s government to form a government of his own after the next election. Trudeau did precisely that in 2015 by presenting voters with a fresh alternative to a tired Conservative regime. 

Poilievre is aiming to pull off the same trick in reverse. If the emotional resonance and cross-partisan appeal of his introductory ads is any indication, the Conservative leader is well on his way to completing Trudeau’s hero-to-zero journey.

For Trudeau though, this likely spells the beginning of the end of his political fortunes. The more he doubles down on defending his track record, the more he will embody the status quo that Poilievre rails against. After multiple terms in power, Trudeau will struggle to credibly portray himself as an agent of change. 

He will be forced to fight from a defensive crouch as Poilievre lands body blows over inflation and other economic weak spots. A tough loss appears inevitable for the Liberals in the next election, unless they experience an improbable comeback reminiscent of a Christmas miracle.

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