If there isn’t already a handbook for politicians on how to answer questions about falling support numbers in public opinion polls, Kathy Dunderdale’s government could write one.
Setting aside the tired truisms — “a poll is just a snapshot in time” and “the only poll that counts is on election day,” (at least in the beginning) — the Tories sent out Jerome Kennedy to address particularly bad numbers with a statement that his party is taking those numbers seriously.
They’d have to be: the Tories are now in third place, behind the NDP and the Liberals, and Dunderdale’s personal support has slid even lower. The Tories are at 27 per cent support and Dunderdale is polling at 21 per cent.
Meanwhile, CBC tracked down Dunderdale herself, who offered up: “I have unequivocal caucus support. … We’re very tight as a party, we spend a lot of time together, talking together, and I’m very comfortable where I am.”
That’s a new one: the only poll that counts is the caucus. Welcome to the denial bunker.
There are other signs that the numbers are a growing frustration.
Dunderdale recently told the St. John’s Board of Trade that the government wasn’t getting the credit it deserved for the work it was doing, a sure sign the Tories are flummoxed about the fact that the public has a different view of their administration than MHAs themselves do.
That kind of statement is a regular refrain from governments at a loss to understand their sliding numbers.
There’s also frustration behind the scenes: to say that the trending polls are making for a nervous political backroom is an understatement.
Insiders have had their own mantra recently: “if there’s one more bad polling period …”
And yet the bad polling periods have kept coming.
That does not seem to be slowing Dunderdale, though.
She pointed out to the CBC that she’s only at the midpoint of her mandate: “But you know, I’ll be judged on my four years, and people will make a choice in the poll that really counts about whether or not they give me another kick at it. And I’m very comfortable with being judged on those four years rather than six months.”
But what else could she really say?
The Tory slide has been a steady downhill run for over a year now; turning those numbers around could take every bit as much time. Or longer. In fact, it may already be too late.
Regardless of her belief in the caucus’ united support, Dunderdale’s own time might be coming — caucus support tends to last only until the numbers are so bad that concerns about self-preservation kick in.
In the meantime, it will be worth watching what happens in the premier’s inner circle. Whatever the premier and her senior staff have been trying to do to address their failing support clearly hasn’t been working.
That usually means some changes will be made, one place or another.