Ontario Politics: Tories lead by 3; Ontario Liberals and NDP tied at 30%

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With Ontario’s legislative assembly returning this week and the three main parties coming to terms with the results of the five by-elections in July, there has been some movement in vote intentions in the province changed.

Provide-wide, the Progressive Conservative Party has the support of 33% of committed voters, followed by the Liberals and NDP at 30% respectively.  Since May, the Tories are down a marginal one point, while the Liberals are down four points and the NDP is up five points.  The Green Party is at 5% while 15% of respondents were undecided.

Provincial politics in Ontario appear to be in a stalemate with none of the three major parties well positioned to win a provincial election.  However, the results suggest that the Ontario NDP and its leader Andrea Horwath have the greatest opportunity to expand its support since Horwath is the most popular provincial leader and its potential pool of support is equivalent to the Liberals (45% would consider voting NDP and Liberal) and higher than the PC Party (42% would consider voting PC).

Provincial Vote Intention

Since early May, the Ontario Liberal Party’s support among decided voters in the province is down four points to 30% with the PC Party now ahead by three points among committed voters.  The NDP’s slide has been reversed with the third party gaining five points and moving into a tie with the Liberals for second place at 30%.

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Regionally,  the once commanding 16-point lead in Metro Toronto for the Liberals has been reduced to eight points (OLP 41%, NDP 33%, PC 24%) while in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton/Niagara region surrounding Toronto the PCs have opened up a nine point lead over the Liberals leading 40% to 31% among committed voters.  The NDP is well back in third at 24% in the surrounding region around Toronto.

The PCs have a significant 10-point lead in eastern Ontario (PCs 39%, OLP 29%, NDP 25%) while the NDP, coming off two by-election wins in Windsor and London have a marginal lead in southwestern Ontario, leading the Tories by four points (NDP 37%, PC 33%, OLP 23%).

In Northern Ontario, the NDP leads the Liberals by 27-points, 55% to 28% with the PCs running well back at 6%.  However, due to a small sample size in the North, readers who use caution when making conclusions about support in the region.

In terms of demographics, the PCs have a three-point lead over the Liberals among men (PC 35%, OLP 32%, NDP 26%), while the NDP has opened up a four point lead over the PCs among women with the Liberals falling from first to third among female voters (NDP 35%, PC 31%, Liberal 29%).

The NDP is strongest among voters aged 18 to 29, leading the Liberals by 15 points while the Liberals lead among those aged 30 to 44 (OLP 34%, NDP 30%, PC 25%).  Among older Ontarians, the PCs lead holding an 11-point lead among those aged 45 to 59 and a six-point lead among those aged 60 and over.

Top Provincial Issues

Respondents were shown a list of 18 issues and were asked to select the top three that were most important to them personally.  Overall, there has been a slight shift in the priorities of Ontarians since May.  Job creation is down nine points (from 39% to 30%) while debt and deficit has increased by five points from (25% to 30%) in the past four months.

The top five issues ranked by respondents in order are:

  • Accountability in government (33%),
  • Health care wait times (32%)
  • Deficit and debt (30%)J
  • Job creation (30%)
  • Gas prices (23%)

The table below reports the results of the top issue question by current party supporters, with the coloured boxes highlighting which issues supporters of each party were most likely to rank as important

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Profiling Support of Party Leaders

When respondents were asked to rate their personal impressions of the leaders of the main Ontario political parties, only Andrea Horwath registered a net positive impression score.  This represents a measurable shift in the perceptive landscape from May 2013, when Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne held the highest positive score of the three major leaders.

As the Liberal honeymoon with Kathleen Wynne comes to an end, her positive score slipped by three percentage points from May, dropping down to 31%.  Meanwhile, Andrea Horwath’s positive numbers jumped by five percentage points over the same period to 38%, making her the only leader tested with a net positive score.

With these observed shifts in net positive scores, both Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horvath are in a precarious position, each with relatively high positive scores from those who voted for the others’ party in 2011.  Kathleen Wynne was just as likely to be seen in a positive light (31%) by NDP supporters as her overall figure, while 36% of past Liberal voters held positive impressions of Andrea Horwath.  Although these tracking figures suggest that the many burdens carried by the Ontario Liberal Party may be too much for Kathleen Wynne to overcome, the status of the provincial economy may be the deciding factor for voters migrating from the NDP base.

Although his negative numbers have dropped slightly since May, Tim Hudak remains the least liked of the three major party leaders.  Almost a majority of Ontarians have a negative impression of the Leader of the Opposition (42%) while only 20% view him positively. Those who view the PC Leader positively are almost exclusively those who voted PC in 2011 with only 10% of past Liberal and NDP Party supporters saying they have a positive impression of Hudak.  If leadership becomes a primary driver for voting behaviour, these numbers indicate why the PCs will continue to have a difficult time expanding support beyond their 2011 level.

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Leadership Attributes

Survey respondents were also asked whether a number of attributes accurately described each of the three main party leaders in Ontario.  Figures in brackets track the change since May 2013.

Overall, Kathleen Wynne has suffered a weakening of her personal brand.  Since May, every one of her tracked qualities has moved in a negative direction, most notably a drop of ten percentage points on traits of having sound judgement and likeability.

Simultaneously, Andrea Horwath’s figures have all moved in favourable directions, particularly in areas of her likeability likeable,  vision for Ontario, and having sound judgement.

Tim Hudak’s personal numbers are not as positive as either Horwath or Wynne, with fewer respondents agreeing that he is likeable, has sound judgment, and is honest; however, his leadership attributes registered only minor changes since May 2013.

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Even with constant and significant pressure related to the gas plant cancellations, the Tories have been unable to improve the image of Tim Hudak in the public eye.  However, the troubles of the provincial Liberal party have had a significant impact on the reputation and image of Kathleen Wynne who, although still leading Hudak in terms of judgement, leadership and qualification to be premier, suffered significant drops in those key metrics.

In the wake of Wynne’s fall, Andrea Horwath emerged as the front-runner in terms of leadership attributes; particularly in key areas of likability, sound judgement, honesty, and clear vision for Ontario.  Perhaps most importantly, she now tied with Kathleen Wynne on being qualified to be Premier.

The Bottom Line

The honeymoon period for Kathleen Wynne is now over.  The party is now tied for second with the NDP among committed voters (at 30%), only 24% of respondents believe the province is headed in the right direction (down four points since May) and Kathleen Wynne’s personal numbers have entered negative territory with more people now having a negative impression of the Premier than those with a positive impression (positive 31%, negative 36%).  In May, these numbers were reversed (positive 34%, negative 28%).  The longer Premier Wynne has been in power, the less Ontarians seem to like her.

Despite suffering a hit in their overall numbers, the Ontario Liberals are buoyed by positive perceptions about the provincial economy.  The opposition parties have not been effective in making the case that Ontario’s economy would be stronger under their watch as neither party has an advantage over the governing Liberals when it comes to which party respondents believe would best manage the provincial economy.  In fact, a plurality of respondents are unsure about which party they think would do a better job with economic management.

For the NDP, the important findings in within this study were Horwath’s personal leadership numbers.  Thirty-eight percent of respondents have a positive impression of her compared with only 20% who have a negative impression.  Compared with the other main party leaders, more respondents perceive her to be likeable, honest, and having sound judgment and she is competitive with Kathleen Wynne on qualified to be Premier.

Under Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative Party has a small lead among committed voters, the party remains weak in Toronto despite its by-election win in Etobicoke Lakeshore.  Hudak’s personal numbers remain weak and the party has lost its advantage on which party voters think is best to manage the economy.  On the bright side, issues that the party has focused on, reducing the deficit and debt and accountability, are the top concerns for many voters presenting the party an opportunity to connect with those voters.  Moreover, frustration and disappointment with the current government is growing with only 22% of respondents believing that the Liberal government deserves to be re-elected.  The challenge for Hudak and the PCs continues to be whether they can convince voters that the PC Party deserves to be elected in its place

Methodology

The survey was conducted online with 1,000 Ontarians eligible to vote using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative online panel of over 400,000 Canadians.  The survey was completed from August 30 to September13,  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 1,000 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 Ontario’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region.

For more information about the poll’s methodology or the results, please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or at 613-232-2806.

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.  He’s an avid road cyclist.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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