Top Election Issues: Jobs and the Economy

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In the early days of the 2014 Ontario election, the issues of jobs and the economy are playing a central role in the parties’ messaging and platforms but also the perceptions of the electorate.

Almost six in ten Ontarians rate the current state of the economy as poor or very poor, with higher levels of pessimism in the southwest and northern regions of the province.  Where pessimism about the economy is higher, support for the Ontario Liberals is lower.  There is a strong relationship between the two variables.

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That being said, although the Tories have made the economy the central focus of their campaign, voters who identified the economy as their top issue are more likely to identify the Liberal Party as best able to handle the issue.  The Tories have successfully set the issue agenda but have not yet convinced enough voters that their plan is superior to either the NDP’s or the Liberal Party’s.

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If the Tories or NDP are going to push the change narrative further, they have to increase the public’s concern about the economic situation in the province.  Many Ontarians are not seeing the economic gloom that Tim Hudak is describing.  However, where voters are more cognizant of the economic challenges facing their communities, the Liberals are weakest – see SW and Northern Ontario.

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In other words, if Ontarians are going to be convinced that the province needs the “medicine” the Tories are prescribing, they have to agree on the diagnosis.  Right now, that does not seem to be the case.

These perceptions may change as voters pay more attention to the campaign and the parties ramp up their advertising and outreach.  But right now, the Liberals and Tories are deadlocked in voter intentions  partly because there’s no consensus among the electorate about the state of Ontario’s economy.

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Key Findings

  • Jobs and the economy are the top issue for one in three eligible voters in Ontario (33%).
  • Honesty and accountability in government (14%), provincial deficit and debt (10%),  health care (9%) and electricity prices (7%) round out the top 5 issues.
  • 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 (26%) and the NDP (21%).
  • Ontarians are split in their evaluations of the provincial economy.  Four in ten eligible voters rate the current provincial economy as very good or good while 58% rate it as poor or very poor.
  • Residents of SW Ontario (postal code R) are most likely to be pessimistic about the Ontario economy.
  • 42% of eligible voters believe their electricity prices have increased a lot in the past year.
  • None of the major parties or leaders have a significant advantage on economic management competence.
  • More than half of eligible voters in Ontario said they were unfamiliar with the provincial budget released on May 1.
  • When asked whether they approved or disapproved of the document, 21% of eligible voters said they approved while 29% disapproved.

Methodology

The survey was commissioned by the Sun News Network and conducted online with 2,000 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 14 to 16, 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 +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.  The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 1,672 committed voters of the same is +/- 2.4 %, 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.