Jobs and the Economy Still #1 Election Issue

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Jobs and the economy continue to play a central role in the 2014 Ontario election campaign.

The shift in tone and focus of the NDP campaign makes sense when you consider the results of this survey.  If the ballot question is focused on economic management, Horwath and NDP are likely to be squeezed by the polarizing debate between the Liberals and PCs.

Horwath, and Hudak to a lesser extent, are trying to bring focus back to the gas plant scandal and issues around honesty and accountability in government.  The challenge with this strategy is that voters may not find any of the parties credible on that issue.  Among those who said honesty in government is their top issue, most were unsure about which party could best manage the issue.  This suggests that voters are cynical about all parties and their motives.  Even if the NDP is successful in shifting the electorate’s focus back to Liberal scandals, they may not be able to take advantage of it.

issues1As  our Chairman Bruce Anderson explained last week, with a large enough group of the electorate believing the economy is doing well, and only a few believing things are very poor, the appetite for change may be muted by concern over the stability of the economy.  As we have seen time and again in provincial elections over the past three years, incumbents have been re-elected because voters are not willing to risk change in an uncertain, but not desperate, economic times.  Voters increasingly value leadership competence and credibility over commitment to a cause or ideology.  In this world of “valence” politics, change simply for change’s sake is not enough.

In other words, enough voters may resist throwing the bums out if they are uncertain that the alternatives will improve their lives – whether that be economically or socially.

Key Findings

  • Jobs and the economy continue to be the top issues of the campaign with for one in three eligible voters in Ontario (33%) selecting it as the top issue.
  • Honesty and accountability in government (13%), health care (9%), taxes (9%), and deficit and debt (8%) rounding out the top five.
  • PC core voters are more likely to identify debt, deficits and accountability as their top issue, while OLP core voters are most likely to identify jobs and the economy.
  • For the third of eligible voters who selected jobs and the economy as their top issue, a plurality picked the Liberals as best able to manage the issue, followed by the Tories (23%) and the NDP (17%).   These numbers are largely unchanged from last week.
  • Ontarians continue to be split in their evaluations of the provincial economy.  Four in ten eligible voters rate the current provincial economy as very good or good while 56% rate it as poor or very poor.
  • Residents of SW Ontario (postal code N) are most likely to be pessimistic about the Ontario economy.
  • None of the major parties or leaders have a significant advantage on economic management competence.

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Methodology

The survey was commissioned by the Sun News Network and conducted online with 1,000 respondents who are eligible to vote in Ontario. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Ontarians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading provider of online research samples. The survey was conducted from May 21 to 24, 2014.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys.   The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.  The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 864 committed voters of the same is +/- 3.4 %, 19 times out of 20.

Likely voters were identified by creating a six-point scale based on seven questions about a respondents interest in politics, their intention to vote, whether they have voted already, and the attention they have paid to the election campaign.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Ontario’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding. For more information please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or at 613-232-2806.