Turning inner space into outer space

April 21, 2011

Likable Layton leads NDP surge

The polls seem to be all over the map in this election, but one of the more astonishing results shows Jack Layton and the NDP jostling with the Bloc Québécois for first place in Quebec.

His charm offensive in Canada’s French-speaking province began a couple of weeks ago when he appeared on a TV talk show called Tout le monde en parle (Everyone’s talking about it). The street French he learned as a lad growing up in Montreal, coupled with a likable personality that makes him popular everywhere in Canada, led to an instant surge in popularity for the NDP in Quebec.

At the time, pundits were skeptical that it would have any lasting effect, but the polls seem to indicate otherwise.

Check out Campaign Trends, and you’ll see a big uptick in Google searches for the NDP. It’s fallen off, but the NDP is still far ahead of the other parties. Of course, Google searches may have nothing to do with voting preferences. At the very least, though, they indicate strong interest in the NDP.

Searches for the party leaders, including Layton, are not quite so dramatic. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has held the lead for most of the campaign, but Layton went ahead at one point, and continues to nip at Harper’s heels.

So why do so many people like Layton? The fact that he has any personality at all may be part of it. Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff are both intellectuals, who seem ill at ease when mingling with the masses. Layton, on the other hand, seems like a guy you might actually enjoy hanging out with.

Still, one of the problems for the NDP is that a surge in popularity won’t necessarily translate into more seats in Parliament. If the party’s new-found support is spread out too thinly, it could mean a lot of candidates coming closer to winning, but not actually able to claim victory.