Closing the Enthusiasm Gap

Since this election began, a consensus has emerged in national polling showing the Liberals and Conservatives essentially tied in support. Neither party has managed to sustain a significant lead outside the margin of error.

It’s a frustrating dynamic for both parties. Both have thrown opposition research at the wall, announced various policies targeted to their voters, and taken photo ops designed to break them free of the polling gridlock. But these efforts have been met with limited success.

With the parties so tightly deadlocked, you can expect a renewed focus on making sure their supporters turn out to vote. In fact, much of the Liberal win in 2015 can be credited to a surge in young voters who swamped traditional Conservative turnout.

That means that for each of the parties, rallying their supporters will be essential in the short time left on the campaign trail.

There can be little doubt that the Conservative base is motivated. After months of negative headlines, like the SNC Lavalin affair and the recent unveiling of the Prime Minister costumed in blackface, Conservative frustration has grown and pollsters have increasingly identified that they are among the most motivated to cast their ballots on election day.

In contrast, the enthusiasm among Liberal voters is less certain. The first-time voters and young Canadians who pushed the Liberals across the finish line were unified in their attraction to the promise of change and doing politics differently. Key policy initiatives underscored the Liberals new approach to politics, like the legalization of marijuana, a commitment to overhaul the electoral system, and action on climate change. Hundreds of thousands of voters turned out on that premise.

But those voters who put the Liberals on the government side of the House are now in clear danger of sitting this election out or parking their support elsewhere. The sunny ways that drew them to the Liberals in 2015 have been clouded over by a near-constant barrage of negative headlines. For evidence of this fear in the Liberal campaign, you need to look no further than Trudeau’s tactics of linking Andrew Scheer to Premier Ford and wading into provincial issues such as education and health care.

It remains to be seen is if these tactics will motivate the Liberal’s brittle 2015 coalition this October. But what is certain, both parties will continue to work to close the enthusiasm gap among their base to drive their supporters to cast their ballot.