Voters’ Feelings: Then and Now

Earlier in the campaign, we reported on the emotions Ontario voters told us they were feeling about this provincial election.

How voters feel is an important thing to measure during elections because of the predominant role that emotions play in decision-making and in behaviour.

Our initial survey was in the field from May 11th to the 15th. Hill+Knowlton Strategies completed a second round of research (May 28th to 29th) after the provincial leaders’ debate and we wanted to revisit the issue of voters’ emotions especially as the parties’ horse-race numbers have crystallized late in the campaign, with Andrea Horwath’s NDP now virtually tied in popular support with Doug Ford’s PCs.

In our first survey early in the campaign, among leaning and decided voters, the PCs had 38% support, the NDP had 32% support, and the Liberals had 23% support.

In our second survey heading into the campaign’s homestretch, PC support had remained virtually the same at 37%, the NDP had vaulted to 39% support, and the Liberals had fallen to only 19%.

If these horserace numbers are an indication of how the campaign has gone for each of the three parties, we wanted to see if feelings about the election had changed as the campaign has unfurled.

As a reminder, this is where voters’ emotions stood early in the campaign:

Two weeks later, we have seen some change in two particular emotions.

Encouraging for the NDP, the number of their supporters who report feeling frustrated is down from 33% to 28%—an indication that NDP supporters may be growing more motivated as their popular support numbers rise and the government feels more within their grasp than it has been in 25 years.

And while NDP supporters had reported feeling the most frustrated of any party at the beginning of the campaign, they’ve been supplanted at the top of the frustration podium by the PCs, who have seen a relatively large increase in the percentage of their supporters who report feeling frustrated.

As Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne has struggled to avoid falling further in the polls, Liberal supporters have grown more frustrated by nearly the same margin, from 18% to 24%. For Liberal supporters, frustration is now their dominant emotion, whereas early in the campaign it had been fear. This shift does not bode well for their motivation to go to the polls.

Speaking of optimism, this is the emotion where we have seen the largest single shift: among PC supporters, optimism levels have fallen from 33% early in the campaign to 18% after the debate. Where once optimism reigned supreme as their supporters’ dominant emotion, that title now goes to frustration. Like with the Liberals, this shift may well indicate that PC supporters’ motivation to vote is falling as their campaign fortunes appear less rosy.

Taken together, the low levels of optimism among all three parties show the extent to which this campaign has failed to deliver a positive feeling of hope among voters in any of the three parties—something that suggests the negative tone that has characterized much of this campaign will persist beyond election night.