Federal Politics in BC: Conservative 34%, NDP 31%, Liberal 27%

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According to a provincial survey of eligible voters in British Columbia on federal politics, if a federal election was held at the time of the survey, the federal Conservative Party would have the support of 34% of decided voters, followed by 31% for the federal NDP, and 27% for the federal Liberal Party.  Eight percent of decided voters said they would vote for the Green Party.

Regionally, the Conservative Party leads by seven points in Greater Vancouver with 36% of the vote, while the Liberal Party and NDP tied for second at 29%.

On Vancouver Island, the NDP has a significant 20-point lead over the Conservative Party, Green Party and Liberal Party.  The NDP has the support of 41% of decided voters on Vancouver Island, followed by 21% for the Conservatives, 20% for the Greens, and 18% for the Liberals.

The Tories also lead in the interior, central and northern regions of British Columbia.

Demographic Breakdowns

Within British Columbia, there are a number of interesting demographic differences.

The Conservatives lead among men (CPC 41%, NDP 26%, LPC 25%) while the NDP had a slight advantage among women (NDP 35%, LPC 29%, CPC 27%).

Each main political party leads among a different age group.  The Liberals lead among decided voters aged 18 to 29 (LPC 36%, CPC 28%, NDP 25%) while the Conservatives lead among those aged 60 and over (CPC 43%, NDP 29%, LPC 25%).   The NDP has a slight lead among those aged 30 to 44 (NDP 35%, CPC 26%, LPC 25%).

Past Vote vs. Current Intention

Comparing the voting behaviour of respondents from the 2011 federal election with their current federal vote intention, we find some stability in voting behaviour but also some shifts, mainly to the federal Liberals.

Among those who voted Conservative in 2011, 74% would vote Conservative again while 18% said they would vote Liberal and another 6% would vote NDP.

Among past Liberal voters, 78% would stay with the Liberals while 10% would vote NDP and 6% would vote Conservative if an election was held at the time of the survey.

Past NDP supporters are the most loyal, with 84% saying they would vote NDP again and 12% switching to support the Liberals.  Only 4% of past NDP supporters would now vote Conservative.

Accessible Voter Pools

When respondents were asked if they would consider or not consider voting for each of the main federal political parties, the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP each had about the same size pool of accessible voters.

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they would consider voting for the federal Liberal Party, compared with 44% for the Conservative Party, 43% for the NDP, and 32% for the Green Party of Canada.

Converting Accessible Voters

Party

Would Consider Voting
(All respondents)

Would vote if election held at time of survey
(All respondents)

Conversion Rate

Conservative

44%

28%

64%

NDP

43%

25%

58%

Liberal

48%

22%

46%

Green

32%

7%

22%

When we compare voter conversion rates (% of respondents indicating they will vote for a party divided by the % of respondents who would consider voting for a party) we find that the Conservative Party has the highest conversion rate (64%), followed by the NDP (64%), and the federal Liberal Party (46%).

Direction of the Country

British Columbians are split on whether they think the country is headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track.

Over four in ten respondents (44%) believed that the country is headed in the right direction while 33% believe it is headed on the wrong track.  Another 23% were unsure.

Not surprisingly, 72% of Conservative voters in 2011 believed the country was headed in the right direction while only 14% believed it was off on the wrong track.  Supporters of the other main parties were less optimistic about the direction of the country although Liberal supporters were more split than NDP supporters from 2011.

Federal Government Approval Rating

Along with the general direction of the country, British Columbians are also split on assessments of the federal government.

Overall, 39% of respondents either strongly or somewhat approve of the job performance by the Harper government while 41% disapprove.  Another 20% said they neither approve nor disapprove.

Approval was highest among men (46%), those aged 60 and over (46%), and among those who voted for the Conservative Party in 2011 (76%).

Federal Party Leader Favourability

Turning to the four main political party leaders, the Sun News/Abacus Data poll found that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has the highest favourable rating among all of the leaders tested.

Forty-seven percent of respondents said they had a very or somewhat favourable impression of Justin Trudeau compared with 22% who had an unfavourable impression of the new Liberal leader.

Impressions of Stephen Harper were more mixed with 39% saying they have a favourable impression while 42% said they had an unfavourable impression of the Prime Minister.

Tom Mulcair’s personal ratings were less defined, with 22% saying they had a favourable impression and 26% have an unfavourable impression.  Thirty-four percent of respondents were neutral to the Leader of the Opposition while another 18% did not know what their impression was.

Comparing the Leaders

Favourable Rating

Stephen Harper

Justin Trudeau

Tom Mulcair

Elizabeth May

Favourable

39%

47%

22%

28%

Neutral

17%

24%

34%

39%

Unfavourable

42%

22%

26%

17%

Unsure

3%

7%

18%

16%

“British Columbians have mixed views of Stephen Harper while Trudeau is viewed positively by almost a majority of voters in the province,” said Coletto.  “Perhaps most telling is the weakness of Tom Mulcair who has a lower favourable rating than Green Party leader Elizabeth May.  Mulcair is largely an unknown quantity in BC.”

Party Leader Best to Look out for British Columbia

Respondents were asked which leader they thought would best look out for the interests of British Columbia.  Overall, one in three respondents (33%) said none of the leaders was best and no leader had a significant lead over any other.

One in four respondents (24%) selected Stephen Harper, followed by Justin Trudeau (18%), Tom Mulcair (14%), and Elizabeth May (12%).

Leadership Attributes: Harper vs. Trudeau vs. Mulcair

Finally, respondents were asked to consider some favourable and unfavourable things that have been said about various politicians.  They were shown a list of statements and asked whether they agree or disagree that the statements apply to Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, and Tom Mulcair.

Not surprisingly, respondents were more likely to have an opinion of, or were able to evaluate, Stephen Harper than they were of Justin Trudeau or Tom Mulcair.  The two tables below report the percentage of respondents agreeing with each statement for all respondents (table 1) and for only those who had an opinion of each leader (table 2).

Overall, Stephen Harper has an advantage over the other two leaders when it comes to having the qualifications to be Prime Minister (60%), having sound judgment (50%), and having a clear vision for Canada (56%).

Trudeau’s advantage was on likeability, with over three in four respondents (76%) agree that the Liberal leader was likeable.  Trudeau also was close to Stephen Harper when it came to understanding the problems facing Canada (Harper 54% vs. Trudeau 51%).  Trudeau’s weakness is the perception that he is more style than substance; a majority of British Columbians (56%) agreed with the statement.

Leadership Attributes
(% Agreeing with Statement, all respondents)

Statements

Stephen Harper

Justin Trudeau

Tom Mulcair

Advantage

Is qualified to be Prime Minister

60%

39%

29%

Harper

Has sound judgement

50%

44%

33%

Harper

Likeable

45%

76%

33%

Trudeau

Understands the problems facing Canada

54%

51%

38%

No one

More style than substance

33%

56%

23%

Mulcair

Has a clear vision for Canada

56%

43%

29%

Harper

Out of touch with ordinary people

58%

31%

22%

Mulcair

 

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair held an advantage over the other two leaders on whether he was more style than substance and whether he is out of touch with ordinary people.

The challenge for Mulcair in British Columbia is not that he has a weak personal brand but that he doesn’t have much brand definition with many voters in the province.  For example, on almost all of the attributes tested, four out of ten respondents were unsure about what they thought about Mulcair.

Tom Mulcair gets good evaluations from those who know him.  When we include only those with an opinion (see table below), he rivals Harper and Trudeau on judgement, understanding the problems facing Canada and vision, and is not seen as out of touch or more style than substance by more than 40% of respondents.

These results only confirms that even after a year as federal NDP leader, his personal brand is limited outside of Quebec and in important 2015 battlegrounds like British Columbia.

Leadership Attributes
(% Agreeing with Statement, only respondents with an opinion)

Statements

Stephen Harper

Justin Trudeau

Tom Mulcair

Advantage

Is qualified to be Prime Minister

65%

51%

48%

Harper

Has sound judgement

55%

63%

58%

Trudeau

Likeable

47%

86%

55%

Trudeau

Understands the problems facing Canada

59%

65%

62%

No one

More style than substance

37%

69%

37%

No one

Has a clear vision for Canada

62%

58%

51%

Harper

Out of touch with ordinary people

62%

39%

37%

No one

 

Bottom Line

British Columbia will undoubtedly be a battleground in the next federal election.  The province receives six additional seats in the House of Commons for 2015 and as this poll reports, there is the potential for a close three-way race that will put many seats in play.

At 27% of decided voters, Liberal support in BC has doubled since 2011 when the party received 13% of the vote in that year’s federal election.  But support around 27% is consistent with the party’s performance in BC in the past twenty years.  The chart below reports the Liberal Party’s vote share in BC since 1993.  From 1993 to 2006, the Liberal Party received about 28% of votes cast in BC during federal elections held between those years.  Since 2006, Liberal vote share dropped to 19% in 2008 and then 13% in 2011.

These polling numbers while improvements for the Liberals over the past two years are not extraordinary for the party consider historical voting trends.

In many ways, the current federal political climate in BC looks very similar to that found in 2006 federal election in which the Conservatives won 37% of the vote with the NDP (29%) and Liberals (28%) basically tied for second place.

Tory support in BC is down slightly province-wide but the party’s support is holding in Greater Vancouver where most of the province’s seats are.

Methodology

The survey was conducted online with 1,042 British Columbians eligible to vote in the 2013 provincial election using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from the Research Now consumer panel of over 500,000 Canadians.  The survey was completed from April 23 to 26, 2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 1,042 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched British Columbia’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region.

The survey was commissioned by the Sun News Network.

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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