OTTAWA — A high number of undecided voters in the ongoing Conservative leadership race suggests there’s room for others to catch up to, and potentially beat, front-runner Peter MacKay, says the vice-president of the Leger polling firm.
Leger’s latest survey suggests MacKay remains at the head of the pack in the contest, with the support of 25 per cent of those polled overall, and 38 per cent of those who say they would vote Conservative in an election.
In second place is Erin O’Toole, with four per cent support overall and nine per cent among people who’d vote for the party in a general election.
Sixty-three per cent of those surveyed said they don’t know whom they’d vote for, with 47 per cent of Conservative voters in that camp.
That 47 per cent is the number that matters, said Leger’s Christian Bourque.
“The fact that the front-runner is not able to convince half of the people who say they would vote Conservative in the poll, to me says they are not sure about him or any of the other leadership candidates,” Bourque said.
“So at this point in time it doesn’t mean there will not be a race and a tighter race than we are seeing now.”
Eight people are currently in the leadership contest, but only MacKay has paid the entire $300,000 entry fee and submitted all 3,000 required signatures, ensuring his name will be on the ballot.
The remaining candidates have until March 25 to meet the requirements, otherwise they drop off the list.
The survey of 1,540 Canadians was conducted online between Feb. 28 and Mar. 2 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered truly random.
During that time, one of the candidates whose name was floated to poll respondents as a potential choice was barred from entering the race. Outspoken social conservative Richard Decarie had met the first requirement to register — $25,000 and 1,000 signatures — but for reasons the party will not disclose, was not allowed to run.
In the Leger survey, he had the support of two per cent of those polled overall, and one per cent among those who would vote Conservative.
He had the same level of support as five other existing candidates — Rick Peterson, Marilyn Gladu, Leslyn Lewis, Derek Sloan and Rudy Husny. Less than one per cent of those polled support Jim Karahalios.
The 47 per cent of voters who are undecided give candidates considerable room to build support, said Leger.
“It’s focusing on this other raft of Conservatives who have not yet made up their mind, and what they’re about, who they are and what they want to hear,” he said.
Only party members are eligible to vote in the leadership race, and people must purchase a membership by April 17 in order to cast a ballot.
The Tories are to elect a new leader on June 27.
—With files from Teresa Wright
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press