Thinking of women as a singular voting block disregards the simple fact that women come from all parts of the province, all parties, all backgrounds, all income and education levels, however, there are distinct issues and characteristics that women prioritize at different levels than men. What are these differentiators that define women voters and what will they be thinking when they head to the polls on June 7th? We set out to answer this question in two recent H+K election studies.
According to our most recent election survey in the field May 28-29, 2018, 51% of women reported having voted for the Ontario Liberals in 2014, 27% reported voting for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and 17% said they voted for the Ontario NDP. When we asked who they intend to vote for in this election, 20% of women said they are planning to vote for the Ontario Liberals (-31 points), 32% said they are planning to vote for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives (+5) and, a significant jump, 42% said that are planning to vote NDP (+25 points). Compare this to men across Ontario where the Ontario Progressive Conservative are the most popular choice of decided male voters at 41%, while 18% are planning to vote for the Ontario Liberals and 37% for the Ontario NDP.
The most popular choice among Ontario women for the type of government they would prefer to see elected is an Andrea Horwath NDP Majority (27%) followed by a Doug Ford Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Majority (23%). These top two choices are flipped for men, with 29% preferring a Doug Ford Ontario Progressive Party Majority and 20% preferring an Andrea Horwath NDP Majority.
The 905-region surrounding Toronto is a hotly contested area this election with many seats up for grabs. Women in the region are slightly more inclined to vote for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives than women in the rest of the province, with 36% planning to vote for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, 22% planning to vote for the Ontario Liberals and 39% planning to vote for the Ontario NDP. This is also a significant shift from how women in the region reported voting in the 2014 election, where again we see a large shift away from the Ontario Liberals (57% of women in the region reported voting Liberal in 2014) and a big jump for the NDP (8% of women in the region reported voting NDP in 2014, a 31-point increase). However, unlike the rest of the province, 27% of 905-region women prefer to see a Doug Ford Progressive Conservative Majority government compared to 23% who prefer to see an Andrea Horwath Ontario NDP Majority government.
When we tested “likability” of the party leaders, we found that province-wide an almost equal number of men said they like Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath best (31%) as those that said they like Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Doug Ford (28%). However, among women there is a vast gap between the two leaders; 36% chose Andrea Horwath as the most likeable, compared to only 17% choosing Doug Ford. Surprisingly, the gap was only marginally smaller in the 905-region where 29% of women chose Andrea Horwath as the most likeable, compared to only 23% choosing Doug Ford.
The top three priority issues for this election are the same for both men and women – healthcare, economy and jobs. However, there are several issues that women across the province, including the 905-region, prioritized at much higher levels than men, namely social issues. 7 in 10 women prioritized housing affordability (71%) versus 57% of men, 68% of women prioritized poverty versus 51% of men and 57% of women prioritized climate change versus 41% of men.
Child care is an issue that has received a lot of attention during this campaign, as well in the months leading up to the election with the governing Ontario Liberals announcing free daycare for pre-schoolers starting in 2020 on the eve of their most recent budget in March. The Ontario NDP and Ontario Progressive Conservatives then announced their own childcare plans, aimed at saving parents’ money and opening more spots. While child care is often seen as a women’s issue, the benefits of these plans will affect both parents’ pocketbooks and it is identified as a priority issue by 57% of all parents surveyed. However, the results of our research suggest that women in fact do prioritize child care at a higher rate than men – 47% versus 39%.
Should women be the deciding factor in electing Ontario’s next government, it could be those who remain undecided who make all the difference. Nearly a quarter of Ontario women (24%) remain undecided as to who they will vote for but when asked which party they are leaning towards, 9% are leaning Liberal, 21% are leaning Conservative and 32% are leaning NDP. While the undecided Ontario men are leaning towards parties in similar percentages to the women (9% Liberal, 22% Conservative and 30% NDP), only 17% remain undecided. Given how close the race appears, these undecided women could be the ones to watch.
The H+K research studies were fielded May 11-15, 2018 and May 28-29 with n=1500 Ontarians participating in each. 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.