Shortly after the official start of the Ontario election campaign in the first week of May, Hill+Knowlton Strategies launched an in-depth study of the political landscape in Ontario. We wanted to go beneath the horse race numbers and understand what motivates voters.
Our survey fielded May 11-15, 2018, with n=1500 Ontarians participating. The survey made use of our Perspectives+ panel, a research offering we frequently use with our clients to produce robust public opinion insights to inform strategic communications and public affairs approaches.
What we found is that the block of votes that built a majority for Kathleen Wynne in 2014 is being dismantled on the left and the right. Worse still, the Liberals have the least committed voters of all three major political parties.
The vote intention numbers from our survey in those first few days of the election campaign have Doug Ford’s Ontario PC Party at 38% of decided voters (excluding undecideds), Andrea Horwath’s NDP at 32% and Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberal Party at a distant 23%. There are almost 1 in 5 in Ontario at this stage of the campaign who are “undecided” (16%).
Another important indicator that we will use throughout our analysis is the commitment that Ontarians have at this stage of the election to cast a vote. In our survey 68% of those polled said they “will definitely” vote in this election, 22% said they are “likely to vote or will probably vote” and 6% said they will “probably not vote”. For the purpose of this analysis we will label these groups as “committed voters”, “likely voters” and “unlikely voters”.
Far and away, the PCs have the most committed voter base at this point in the election with fully 81% of PC supporters being committed voters; this compares to 74% of NDP committed support and only 69% of committed voters for the Liberals.
To measure how the electorate has changed since the last election, we asked voters whether they intended to vote for the same party they did in 2014. To reach their current level of support, the PCs have clearly grown their voter base from the last election, while also having the strongest base returning from the 2014 vote with 8-in-10 Ontarians who said they voted from the PCs in 2014 indicating they would vote for them again this election. Compare this to 75% returning to the NDP and a mere 44% returning to the Liberals. The Liberals don’t just need find new voters, they need to get old supporters back.
These votes are being bleed away from Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals on both sides: 34% of Ontarians who said they voted for the Liberals in 2014 are today intending to vote for the NDP, and a further 17% say they intend to vote for the PCs.
Further still, migrating voters from the other parties do not favour growth in the Liberals’ support: twice as many former PC voters are now favouring the NDP over the Liberals (12% compared to 6%), and a similar story is unfolding among former NDP supporters, where twice as many now favour the PCs over the Liberals (11% compared to 6%).
That’s an overview of where the numbers stand at this moment in the campaign. With nearly three weeks left in the campaign, however, things can change—and we will return to the field with a follow-up survey to measure how public opinion has changed in the final week of the campaign. Stay tuned to www.hkinsights.ca for those results.
In the coming days, we will continue to release more detailed numbers from our election survey, providing insight on important questions like:
- What role is emotion playing in the campaign, and how do the three parties’ supporters differ in terms of emotions like frustration, fear, and optimism? We will also be able to compare this campaign to the 2014 provincial campaign, building on past research.
- Who has got that factor that all parties covet—momentum—and who do the three parties’ supporters think will actually win?
- What do Ontario voters really think of the party leaders? What are their top characteristics and how do they compare in the minds of voters?
- Where are Ontarians getting their news about the election, party leaders, and local candidates? How much do they trust different sources of news?
All of these questions—and many more—will help shed light on the factors influencing the campaigns of the three parties, and ultimately the decision-making of Ontario voters leading up to election day on June 7th.
We encourage you to sign up at H+K Insights to receive an email notification as more results from our election survey are released in the days ahead.