Research results – A “Hold Your Nose and Vote” Election

As we head into the homestretch of the 2018 Ontario election campaign, a Hill+Knowlton Strategies survey of Ontarians has found the NDP and PCs at a near tie amongst decided voters. This recent survey, in the field May 28-29, 2018, updates a number of questions from our initial research done at the outset of the campaign, and also explores some new territory—namely a deeper look at the choices Ontarians feel they have in this election and, what is motiving their vote.

There has been a lot of media attention and pundit chatter around “strategic voting”, “anyone-but-Ford” and “anyone-but-Wynne” effects in this election, so as a starting place we wanted to get a sense of what is actually motivating voters to support one party over another.

The proportion of committed voters is rising for the NDP, with 78% of NDP supporters indicating they “will definitely vote”, an increase of 4 points from our initial election survey. The NDP vote intention proportion is gaining, their potential voter pool is gelling and becoming more committed, but they are largely motivated for strategic reasons, or Leader reasons, not really because they are seen as the best party to govern. Put simply, it’s a “hold-the-nose” vote, and as a result supporters aren’t very enthusiastic about it.  Only 45% of NDP supporters are “enthusiastic” about their choice of who to vote for and it’s the lowest enthusiasm score of any the parties.

For PC supporters, it’s all about change, and change because they believe their party is best suited to run the province.  Very few are motivated to vote the way they plan to because they think their leader is best suited to be Premier.

The PC vote is also a “hold-the-nose” vote, but for other reasons. For them, it’s the leader that is the issue. Unlike the NDP, who is attracting many Liberal supporters from the last election, the PC support is largely made up of returning voters from the last election.  The PC voter believes in their bones that Ontario needs to rid itself of Kathleen Wynne. When we asked if people agreed or disagreed with the following statement “We must prevent Kathleen Wynne from being Premier again, at any cost” 81% of PC supporters agreed, compared with 35% of NDP supporters.  However, 26% of PC supporters agree with “I don’t think Doug Ford is ready to by Premier” and a further 26% taking a neutral position on that statement. This compares to only 14% of NDP supporters agreeing with the statement “I don’t think Andrea Horwath is ready to be Premier”.

Notably, the pool of committed voters for the PCs has shrunk by four points since our first survey fielded at the outset of the election.

For Liberal supporters, they’re holding on because they believe the Premier will make the best Premier again and that the Ontario Liberal Party is the best suited to govern.  Interestingly 14% of Liberal supporters intend to vote that way because of the “local candidate”, not a huge number, but remarkable in comparison to the other party supporters at 6% for the PCs and 3% for the NDP.


Hill + Knowlton Strategies conducted an online survey of residents of Ontario between May 28-29, 2018.  A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of 400,000 Canadians.  In total n=1,500 members of the general public in Ontario 18 years or older participated.  The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA) policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of this size is ±2.5%, 19 times out of 20.