Online poll shows Jagmeet Singh faces stiff challenge to win over Canadian voters

Canada’s first non-white political party leader seems to be going from strength to strength. After Jagmeet Singh was elevated as the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) – the first turbaned Sikh to head any political party in Canada – 69% respondents in an online poll said they would consider voting for a national party leader who wears a turban and carries a kirpan.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Photo courtesy: Twitter

The survey by Angus Reid Institute, a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation founded in 2014, revealed that Canadians were even more enthusiastic about Jagmeet Singh representing a visible minority, with 71% agreeing with the statement, "having a member of a visible minority leading a major political party is good for Canada overall", reported the Times of India.

The survey also suggested that being a practising Sikh will hurt Jagmeet Singh's chances in an election. When respondents were asked how many of their close friends and family members would not vote for a party led by a Sikh, 50% replied "most or some of them".

But, 77% agreed that "ultimately, a politician's religious or cultural identity shouldn't matter – only their policies should." When respondents were asked, "how many people in Canada do you feel could not vote for a party led by a Sikh man", 80% of the respondents replied in affirmative. Out of these, 21% respondents answered: "most people" and 59% said "some" (think like this).

The survey also noted that the pushback for Jagmeet was strongest in Quebec, where debates over public officials wearing religious symbols and accommodating religious minorities are part of both recent history and an ongoing political process.

"The greater hesitancy of Quebecers to vote for a party led by a practicing Sikh is troubling for the NDP , which once viewed Quebec as its base, after the province provided a majority of the seats that led the party to official opposition status in the 2011 election," it said. In Quebec, 47% agreed with the statement about Singh's religion would hurt his party's electoral standing compared with 33% in the rest of Canada.

The survey brought out the fact that though Jagmeet's leadership victory was historic and generated a great deal of media coverage, but most Canadians were still largely unfamiliar with him. "Roughly one-in-three respondents (33%) said they had never heard of him until taking this survey, and 36% only knew his name, but nothing else about him," it noted. Meanwhile, 43% across the country said the NDP had a "real vision" for the future and 40% said the party could be trusted to "competently manage" government.