Top Election Issues: Jobs and the Economy

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. 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. 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. 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...

Wynne ahead as “Best Premier” but Horwath has least negative impressions.

Yesterday, we reported that the Liberals and PCs are tied among committed eligible voters while the PCs have a slight lead among likely voters.  Today, we focus on leadership and how Ontarians view the three individuals vying to be the next Premier. While NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has the more favourable personal numbers (or the least negative), Kathleen Wynne has the advantage on who would make the best Premier.  This, despite the fact, that the Tories lead the Liberals in vote intention among likely voters. Our results indicate that Kathleen Wynne is likely having a positive impact on Liberal fortunes so far.  Her numbers are not  significantly weaker than Andrea Horwath’s and are more positive than Tim Hudak’s.    She’s perceived to be different and a better Premier than her predecessor Dalton McGuinty by a plurality of eligible voters.  More importantly, she’s liked more than the other leaders by voters in the key swing groups we have reported on. Wynne also has a more or equally positive brand image than her competitors.  She more likely to be seen as a capable leader and despite all the challenges she’s faced dealing with the gas plants issue, as many voters consider her to be “more honest than most politicians” as they do of Horwath or Hudak. The challenges for Tim Hudak persist over his personal image.  The first days of the campaign have not improved his image.  Only 22% of the electorate has a positive impression of him and he trails Wynne on best Premier.  The biggest challenge for Hudak is convincing the OLP/PC swing voters that he would be a better premier than Wynne.  Right now, only 17% consider him to be the best choice for Premier but with 47% of those voters “unsure”, there is...

Ontario Liberals and PCs tied at 33%

Abacus Data and the Sun News Network are tracking every twist and turn during the 2014 Ontario provincial election.  Each week, starting May 14, Abacus Data will conduct a representative survey of eligible voters in Ontario.  Results will be released the following week on The Battleground with David Akin at 5 pm ET and in Sun Media papers across Ontario. Liberals and PCs tied at 33% among eligible voters.  PCs have a three point lead among likely voters. As the campaign entered the second official week of the campaign, the Ontario Liberals and Progressive Conservatives were tied with 33% support respectively.  The NDP was in third with 26% support. Among those most likely to vote however, the Tories lead by three. Regionally, with the Liberals ahead in metro Toronto and weak in southwestern Ontario, who wins the most seats will likely be determined by voters in the communities surrounding Toronto.  Right now, the Tories have a slight advantage but there are still many voters who would only consider the Liberals or Tories who are still undecided in the vote and seat rich region of the province. The Liberals are competitive because they have been able to maintain support among progressive voters who are considering both the Liberals or NDP and among more conservative or free enterprise voters who are considering voting either Liberal or PC. For the Tories to pull well ahead, they have to convince far more of those who would consider PC or Liberal to support the Tories while hoping that the NDP can siphon away more swing progressives from the left. The Liberals have a few paths to victory but the most likely is one that persuades OLP/NDP swing voters to back the Liberals to prevent a Hudak win. For the...

Valence Politics – The Economy and the Federal Conservatives

April has been a fairly good month for the federal Conservatives. The party’s polling numbers seem to be trending upwards while Liberal numbers are headed in the opposite direction.  Since taking over as Liberal Leader in April 2013, almost every national poll has had the Liberals ahead of the Tories nationally. The economy continues to grow at steady pace, the unemployment rate continues to drop, and the markets are performing well. Controversies that plagued the Conservatives for much of 2013 and early 2014 are clearing up.  The robocalls issue is likely behind them and the Duffy-Wright affair seems less toxic than it did only months ago. Over the next few months, we are going to write about the 2015 election and what the ballot question might be.  We will look at the dynamics of public opinion and assess what issues the three main parties in Canada will likely want the election to be fought on. In the next few posts (with Ontario election analysis as well), I will spend some time assessing the role of the Canadian economy and the next election and the role of valence politics in driving voting behaviour. According to Clarke et al. (2013) who have used the model extensively, “electoral choice is best understood as the product of the process of ‘valence’ or ‘performance’ politics. In a world of valence politics – where stakes are frequently high and risk is often better described as uncertainty – voters make choices primarily on the basis of evaluations of rival parties’ perceived abilities to deliver policy outcomes on salient issues involving broad consensus about what government should do.” Take the economy as a classic example of a valence issue. “Virtually everyone wants vigorous, sustainable economic growth coupled with low rates of unemployment and...

Free Trade and the Canadian Economy

The federal Conservatives have staked a lot of their reputation for sound economic stewardship on their determination to forge more trade ties with the rest of the world.  A new Abacus poll shows this agenda has a fair bit of public appeal. Canada-Korea Trade Agreement By a healthy margin of 41% to 28% Canadians believe the new trade deal with Korea will be good rather than bad for the economy.  While voters in the west are most convinced of the merits, the plurality of voters in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, are all more likely to see upside than downside. This is one idea that can do more than just rally the Conservative base.  60% of Conservative voters see benefits, compared to only 19% who see downsides.  But Liberal voters are 41% optimistic and 27% pessimistic.  Even NDP voters are split with equal numbers saying this will be good for the economy (31%) as bad (32%) Canada-Europe Trade Agreement Opinion is even more positive about the prospects of economic gains from the agreement negotiated with the EU.  Across the country, 58% expect it will be good rather than damaging (15%) to the economy. Enthusiasm is pretty high across the country.  Support is least strong in Atlantic Canada, but even there 50% foresee benefits, while only 15% anticipate downsides. Support for CETA cuts across partisan lines.  While the split among Conservatives is 78% positive-10% negative, it is pretty strong among Liberal voters (56%-15%) and even among NDP voters (53%-21%). Analysis by Bruce Anderson: “Canadian public opinion on trade liberalization has evolved a lot since the 1988 election on the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement.  More and more Canadians have come to believe that the country can and in fact must succeed in a global marketplace and...

What Canadians Think about the Fair Elections Act

18% THINK CANADIAN ELECTIONS ARE UNFAIR 60% THINK FAIR ELECTIONS ACT WILL HAVE NO IMPACT ON ELECTIONS A new national survey (March 19 to 23, 2014) shows that 18% of Canadians think elections in this country have been unfair, while more than twice as many think they have been fair (48%).  Among Conservative Party voters, 12% think Canadian elections are unfair. When asked if the rules that govern Canadian elections have “been working well or not” 43% say they have been working well, compared to 29% who say they have not been working well.  Among Conservative voters 54% say the rules have been working well, more than twice as many as say they opposite (21%). When asked if the proposed Fair Elections Act will change things for the better or for the worse, opinions are split, and uncertain.  Nineteen percent expect things to change for the better, 21% expect things to change for the worse, but the majority expect the Act will have no real effect. Finally, when asked whether the Fair Elections Act would improve election fairness, the results reflect mixed opinion and some indifference.  Eighteen percent (18%) expect more fairness, 23% less fairness, and 59% expect no impact.  While 2011 Conservative Party voters are more supportive of the bill, only 24% expect it to result in fairer elections, compared to 16% who expect less fair elections, and 60% no impact. Bruce Anderson comment: “This bill has been controversial within the House of Commons and has generated criticism from many political scientists and editorialists.  To date, the public seems neither enthusiastic about the bill nor hostile towards it. For the political capital the government is investing in the FEA, there is little apparent appreciation for the policy, even among the party’s base supporters. ...

Jim Flaherty Leaves Job with Pretty Good Reviews

Yesterday, we just finished a national survey (lots of interesting results coming). Just before we launched the survey, I was able to include a question asking Canadians to rate Jim Flaherty’s time as Canada’s Finance Minister. Overall, he received positive to neutral ratings from most Canadians. Fifteen percent rated his performance as excellent while 27% rated his performance as good.  A third (31%) rated his performance as “ok” while about one in ten thought he had done either a poor or very poor job as Minister of Finance.  Seventeen percent were unsure. Among swing voter groups, Flaherty’s performance was more positive among those in the “flexible right” group (excellent/good 55%, ok 24%, poor 4%) than those in the “flexible left” group (excellent/good 30%, ok 40%, poor/very poor 15%). The numbers suggest that Flaherty was an asset to the Harper government.   While the government’s overall job performance has been polarized and hovering around the 30-33% mark, perceptions about Flaherty’s performance  were markedly better. Most important for the Harper government, among  those who voted Conservative in 2011, Flaherty 63% rated his performance as excellent or good compared with 25% who said “ok” and three percent who rated him as poor.  The Tories can’t get re-elected unless they get most of their past supporters to show up again and vote Conservative.  Flaherty was a key part of the government’s narrative on the economy. Swing Voter Group Descriptions Fully flexible – would consider voting NDP, Liberal, Conservative. Flexible left– would consider voting Liberal and NDP, but not Conservative. Flexible right – would consider voting Conservative and Liberal, but not NDP. Survey Methodology The survey was conducted online with 1,164 respondents by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large...

Opinion Soft and Split on Income Splitting

There’s been much debate in Conservative circles about the merits of allowing income splitting as a way for some Canadians to see their tax burden reduced. But what do Canadians know about and think about this idea?  Abacus Data asked some questions to size up current public opinion. Who expects to benefit and by how much? Off the top, only 16% think they will personally benefit significantly if tax policy is changed along the lines promised by the Conservatives in the last campaign. Another 24% see a “small benefit”, while the rest are unsure (9%) or expect to see no benefit (52%). More likely to expect a significant benefit are those with incomes above $75,000 (23%) those in the 30-44 age bracket (23%) and parents of children under 15 (32%). Support or Oppose Income Splitting? A modest (57%) majority supports this idea, while 22% oppose it, and 20% are on the fence.  Support is higher than average in Ontario (62%) and Atlantic Canada (64%) and below average in Quebec (48%). Support is 65% among Conservative Party supporters, 54% among Liberals and 55% among NDP supporters.  It is highest among parents of children under 15 (69%). Is it one of the Better Ideas? While few oppose the idea, when asked whether this is “one of the better ideas” for the government to consider “once a budget surplus is reached”, enthusiasm is more muted.  Given this context and question, 42% consider it one of the better ideas, 29% say it is not, and 30% are unsure.  Even among Conservative Party supporters, and parents, only 51% say it is one of the better choices that could be made. How about other choices for $2.7 billion? Given a choice of three alternative ways of using the estimated $2.7...

Harper Government Approval at 34%

In our latest national survey, we asked Canadians to rate their approval of the federal government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Overall, 34% of respondents either strongly approved or approved of the job the federal government is doing (up three points since January) while 45% disapproved.  The remaining 21% of respondents said they neither approved nor disapproved of the federal government’s job performance. As expected, approval of the government differs substantially across demographic, regional, and political subgroups.  The charts to the right report the percentage of respondents within in each group who approve and disapprove of the federal government’s job performance. A number of findings are worth highlighting. First, the Conservative government performs better than average among all those groups above the red bar in the first chart and performs worse than average among all groups above the red bar in the second chart. Those that are more likely to approve of the Harper government include Ontarians, suburban voters, those living in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and not surprisingly among those who support the Conservative Party current, those who voted for it in 2011, and those who make up its core base of supporters (only those who would consider voting Conservative).  The Conservative government also gets above average approval scores from parents with young children (under 15). Those who are more likely to disapprove of the Harper government include middle aged voters (45-59), voters over 60 years of age, Atlantic Canadians, Quebecers, and anyone who voted or supports another opposition party.  Those most disapproving of the Conservative government are those who would consider voting Liberal and NDP, but not Conservative – the group we call flexible left. Second, focusing more on those voter groups we have developed – fully flexible, flexible left, and...

Canadian Politics: Liberals lead Conservatives by 6

A new national survey (February 28 to March 5, 2014) shows the federal Liberal Party with a 6 point lead among committed voters, at 34% followed by the Conservatives at 28% and the NDP at 23%.  Among all eligible voters 26% said they would vote Liberal, 22% Conservative, 18% NDP and 22% are undecided.  Fieldwork was completed following the Liberal Party convention in Montreal, held between February 20-23, 2014.   Liberals lead in Ontario, BC, Atlantic; Tories in the Prairies; 3 way fight in Quebec. While caution should be used in looking at regional patterns given smaller sample sizes this poll shows the Liberals leading in BC, Ontario and Quebec, the Conservatives in the Prairie provinces, and a close fight in Quebec.   Liberals lead among both genders, and voters under 60. The Liberals lead by 5 points among men and 6 points among women.  The Liberals are leading or tied for the lead among all age groups. Liberals gain from both Conservative and NDP 2011 voters The Liberals are doing well at holding their 2011 supporters and drawing from those who voted NDP and Conservative in 2011.  Among those who voted Tory in 2011, 17% plan to vote Liberal.  Among those who voted NDP, 21% now plan to support the Liberals.  In contrast, the Liberals have maintained 88% of their former vote, losing 6% of past supporters to the NDP, 4% to the BQ, and 2% to the Conservatives. Core and Swing Voters As things now stand, each of the three largest parties can count on virtually identical proportions of unwavering supporters.  13% say they would only consider voting Conservative, 13% say they would only consider voting NDP and 12% say they would only consider voting Liberal. Thirteen percent (13%) are willing to...

NL Liberals lead by 15 over PCs. Dunderdale’s resignation not improving PC fortunes yet.

According to a new VOCM-Abacus Data random telephone survey of 500 eligible voters in Newfoundland and Labrador, the NL Liberals hold a 15-point lead over the PC Party among committed voters (Liberal 49% vs. PC 34%) with the NDP well back in third at 15%.  The survey was conducted after the resignation of Premier and PC Party Leader Kathy Dunderdale on January 22, 2014. Among all respondents, 22% said they were undecided while 2% said they would not vote. Liberals ahead in all regions of Newfoundland and Labrador The Liberal Party leads in all regions of the province.  On the Avalon Peninsula and in St. John’s, the Liberals have a 14-point lead over the PCs among committed voters.  The Liberals have the support of 47% of committed voters compared to 33% for the PCs and 17% for the NDP. In Eastern and Central Newfoundland, the Liberals lead by 16-points with 51% of committed voter support compared with 35% for the PCs and 13% for the NDP. And in Western Newfoundland and Labrador, the Liberals lead by 15-points, with 49% of committed voters supporting the Liberals compared with 34% for the PCs and 15% for the NDP. Only four in ten past PC supporters are currently supporting the PCs When we compare current vote intention with how voters said they voted in the 2011 provincial election, the Progressive Conservative Party has the support of 41% of its former supporters.  Twenty-eight percent (28%) of former PC supporters now say they would vote Liberal while 24% said they are undecided.   Three percent of former PC supporters said they would now vote NDP. Insights from Abacus Data The resignation of Premier Dunderdale does not seem to have made much difference for PC Party support in the province.  The...

Perceptions about the Canadian Economy and the Politics Behind It

According to a new national survey conducted from January 14 to 18, 2014 by public opinion firm Abacus Data, more Canadians describe the state of the Canadian economy as poor than they did in October 2013.  When asked how the three main federal political parties would do in managing Canada’s economy a majority of Canadians believed that all three would do at least an acceptable job with the Liberals having a slight advantage over the NDP and the Conservative s. Perceptions about the Canadian Economy Perceptions about Canada’s economy have softened since late October 2013.  Overall, 59% of Canadians describe the current state of Canada’s economy as very good (2%) or good (56%), down 9-points since October.  Forty-two percent, in contrast, describe Canada’s economy as either very poor (5%) or poor (37%), up 9-points since October. When asked about the future performance of the Canadian economy in the next six months, 23% of respondents believe things will get better while 19% think things will get worse while the majority (59%) of Canadians believe things will stay pretty much the same as they have been. Of note, those who rate the current economy as good are also more likely to believe things will improve in the next six months while those with a more negative assessment of the current economy are more likely to think things will get worse.  Only 11% of those who rate the economy as poor/very poor believe things will improve in the next six months. Expected Performance on Managing the Economy Respondents were also asked to rate how well they believed each party and leader would do at managing Canada’s economy.  While none of the three parties scored particularly well, none of them were perceived to do a poor or very...

Who has what it takes to be Prime Minister?

New data from a nationwide public opinion survey shows that many voters believe that either Justin Trudeau or Tom Mulcair would be acceptable as Prime Minister. While 28% believe Stephen Harper does a good or excellent job in the office today, and another 29% would rate his performance as acceptable, fully 42% say he does a poor or very poor job. In contrast, only about a quarter of those polled believe that either Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Mulcair would do a poor job if they held the office of Prime Minister. 35% think Trudeau would make a good or excellent Prime Minister, highest among the three leaders and 8 points better than Mr. Mulcair. DOWNLOAD DETAILED TABLES Our poll also explored some of the potential vulnerabilities of each leader, based on the criticisms they have faced from their political opponents. The results reveal: Fully 59% think Justin Trudeau has good ideas for the future of the country, including a majority in every region of the country (52% in Alberta), one in four of those who intend to vote Conservative, and 58% of those planning on voting NDP, and 58% among those who are undecided about how they will vote. 53% think Mr. Trudeau has sound judgement, including 27% of Conservative voters, and 53% of NDP voters. Half (49%) believe Tom Mulcair has a good grasp of how the economy works, and the same number (50%) believes he has the right temperament to be PM.  Doubts about Mr. Mulcair’s economic approach are considerably higher west of Quebec. For Mr. Harper, 32% believe he is honest and accountable, and 38% believe he governs according to values they share.  Majorities in every region exhibit doubts about Mr. Harper on honesty/accountability including 52% in Alberta and 25% among...

Harper Government Approval Down to 31%

According to a new national survey conducted from January 14 to 18, 2014 by public opinion firm Abacus Data, the Harper government’s approval rating is down four points since October 2013 and fewer Canadians believe that Canada is headed in the right direction. Direction of the Country In our most recent survey, 38% of respondents believe that the country is headed in the right direction, down four points since October 2013.  In contrast, 33% believe the country is headed off on the wrong track, up seven points since October. Albertans were most comfortable with the direction of the country (46%) and those living in Quebec were least likely to feel that way (32%). A slight majority (56%) of those who voted Conservative in 2011 like the direction the country is heading in, while one in three 2011 Conservatives think things are on the wrong track. DOWNLOAD DETAILED TABLES Federal Government Approval While 38% think the country is heading in the right direction, somewhat fewer (31%) approve of the performance of the Harper Government.  About half said they disapproved (48%). This represents a four-point drop favourable evaluations for the Harper government since our last survey. Alberta voters (45%) were most likely to approve (45%) of the Harper government’s performance while those in Quebec were most likely to disapprove (59%).  In Ontario, voters are divided with a plurality voicing disapproval (35% approve – 44% disapprove). Conservative Party supporters were most likely to approve (63%), but among those who voted Conservative in 2011, 21% said they disapprove of the government’s performance. Yesterday, we reported that 26% of those who voted Conservative in 2011 were planning to vote for another party.  Almost all of these “switchers” are part of this group who now disapprove of the Harper government’s...