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ontario_almostlast
(10/04/11) -

Tories Edging Liberals But Ontario Race Could Turn in Final Hours

The Progressive Conservatives keep the largest number of committed voters, but strategic voting could end up hindering their chances.

The Progressive Conservative Party has recovered some ground, but Ontario’s provincial ballot remain close as election day looms, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in partnership with the Toronto Star has found.

In the online survey of a representative sample of 2,223 Ontario adults, 36 per cent of decided voters and leaners would cast a ballot for the Tory candidate in their riding this Thursday, while 33 per cent would back the governing Liberal Party. The provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) is third with 26 per cent, followed by the Green Party with five per cent.

The Progressive Conservatives continue to boast the best retention rate of all contending parties (84%), followed by the NDP (79%). In contrast, the Liberals are holding on to 66 per cent of their voters in 2007, and the Greens to 48 per cent.

The level of commitment is also highest for Tory supporters (77% of them say they will not change their mind before the election takes place), compared to 71 per cent for the Liberals, 65 per cent for the NDP, and 45 per cent for the Greens.

Issues, Approval and Momentum

The economy (30%) remains the most important issue for Ontarians, followed by unemployment (13%), health care (13%), tax relief (10%) and government spending (9%). In addition, 55 per cent of respondents believe it is time for a different provincial party to form the government, while 28 per cent think the Liberals should be re-elected.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath maintains the highest approval rating (48%), followed by Premier and Liberal Party leader Dalton McGuinty (36%), Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak (35%), and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner (18%). Horwath also keeps a positive momentum score (+29) along with Schreiner (+2), while McGuinty (-19) and Hudak (-22) post lower numbers. On the Best Premier question, McGuinty (24%) and Hudak (23%) are virtually tied, followed by Horwath (19%).

Promises

Most Ontarians have little trouble identifying some of the pledges that the parties have made throughout the course of the campaign, but some discrepancies were observed. For instance, the Tory promise of an increased investment in health care by $6.1 million over the next five years was regarded by half of respondents (50%) as a Liberal pledge. In a similar fashion, the Liberal plan to reduce the cost of electricity bills by 10 per cent was regarded as a Tory idea by 45 per cent of respondents.

Strategic Voting

There is little fluctuation in the importance that both Liberal voters and Progressive Conservative voters place on the party’s proposals, leader, and the candidate in their riding. Party allegiance and aversion to other parties are not the main deciding factors for these electors.

However, Progressive Conservative voters are the least likely to vote for a party they dislike to force the defeat of a specific candidate in their riding (27%, compared to 34% of Liberals and 35% of New Democrats) and also the least likely to vote for a candidate they dislike to reduce the chances of a specific party forming the government (32%, compared to 43% of both Liberals and New Democrats). This finding shows that strategic voting will play a larger role for centre-left voters on Thursday.

Possible Outcomes

More than half of Ontarians say they would be dissatisfied if the election leads to a Progressive Conservative majority (53%), a Liberal majority (51%) or a Progressive Conservative majority with the support of teh NDP (51%). The public is less reluctant to the idea of a Liberal minority with the support of the NDP (Satisfied 43%, Dissatisfied 45%).

Analysis

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative voters have been steadfast throughout the campaign, consistently posting a high retention rate and being the least likely to change their minds before election day. Most members of the Tory base are also not considering any strategic voting scenarios. There has been little change in the perception of Tim Hudak, and while Andrea Horwath has kept her lead on the approval question, the NDP has been unable to get closer to the 30 per cent mark.

The final day will be crucial to assess the commitment of the Liberal base. The level of support for the governing party is lower than what was registered in the 2007 election. However, two-in-five Liberals and New Democrats are considering voting strategically—a fact that could drastically alter the race.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

CONTACT:

Jaideep Mukerji, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+514 409 0462
jaideep.mukerji@angus-reid.com

Methodology: From October 3 to October 4, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,223 randomly selected Ontario adults who are Angus Reid Forum panellists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Ontario. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.