Post-Election Poll: Voters wanted change

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Post-Election Poll: Voters wanted change

Big vote movers: infrastructure investment, niqab, balanced budget

TORONTO October 21st, 2015 - In a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll™ among 1451 Canadian voters in the two days immediately following the 42nd general election, it is clear that the single most common issue mentioned as having an effect on their vote is the “need for change in Ottawa”, cited by 3-in-10 (28%). While this is closely followed by “jobs and the economy” (24%), which is usually mentioned first in any political poll, the third mention is “ethics in government” (15%), and this is a damning indictment of an incumbent government.

For Conservatives, the most important issues were jobs and the economy (45%) and national security and terrorism (20%). Among New Democrats and Liberals, the need for change leads (42% and 38%, respectively). The niqab ban is not seen as an important issue (5% in total) by any party, nor is the Syrian refugee crisis (2% total) or the Mike Duffy trial (1% in total).

Jean Chretien most valuable endorsement tested

Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien has the effect of improving his party’s image more by his endorsement than any other person tested. One fifth of voters said their image of the Liberal Party was improved when Chretien delivered his endorsement (21%). This is followed very closely by the positive effect of former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion’s endorsement, also of the Liberals (18%). Naturally, the Chretien and McCallion endorsements worked best on Liberals (34% and 28%, respectively), rather than Conservatives (7% and 6%) or New Democrats (19% and 16%). McCallion’s endorsement is especially effective among the oldest (55+ - 23%).

Trailing these two is former UN Ambassador Stephen Lewis’ endorsement of the NDP (12% improved respondents’ image), Actor Donald Sutherland’s NDP endorsement (9%), and, at the bottom of the list, the Wayne Gretzky endorsement of the Conservatives (8%) and a similar endorsement from brothers Rob and Doug Ford (4%). In fact more than half of Conservative voters say the Ford endorsement did not improve their image of the party (54%).

One quarter changed vote during campaign

In total, one quarter of decided voters changed their minds during the election (25%), most commonly those who voted Liberal this time (30%), and who voted NDP in the previous election of 2011 (35%). This means that 3-in-10 one-time New Democrats changed their voting allegiance en masse during the course of this campaign.

Liberal deficit spending promise changed most votes

While more than half of those who changed their vote mention something other than the listed items (54%) as being the reason, among those tested, the most commonly mentioned is the Liberal promise on infrastructure spending (19%), followed by the NDP promise to balance the budget (9%) and Conservative stance on the niqab (9%). Other issues, such as the Syrian refugee crisis (3%), the Duffy trial (2%), the Rob and Doug Ford rally (2%) and Liberal co-chair Dan Gagnier’s resignation (2%) are not seen to be game changers.

Among those who switched to the Conservatives, the party’s stance on the niqab is the most important reason (33%). Among those who switched to the Liberals, the most important reason is the promise of infrastructure spending (29%). Among those switching to the NDP, the most important reason is the NDP promise to balance the budget (27%), followed by the Liberal deficit spending promise (17%).

Best party, civic duty, desire for change prompt voting behaviour

When asked why they cast a ballot, one third, the plurality, say they support a particular party, leader or candidate (32%), but this is followed by more than a quarter who say it is every citizen’s duty to vote (27%) and just fewer who voted against a particular leader, candidate or party (23%). Half this proportion believe their vote counts and can make a difference (12%). So, while party and leader allegiances are important, the dynamic of change was also important in getting people to the polls in this election. Conservatives are especially likely to say they vote the party, leader or candidate (45%), while New Democrats are especially likely to say they vote against a party, leader or candidate (33%).

Lack of interest, time most common reasons for not voting

Those who didn’t vote in this election say they are not interested and didn’t follow the campaign, or that they didn’t have the time or opportunity to vote (21% each). This is followed by those who believe their vote doesn’t count and nothing will change (14%) and those whose physical condition doesn’t permit voting (8%). One third mention something not listed (36%).

Canadians vote for party first, change second, leader third

The plurality of Canadians asked say they voted for the party they like best (28%), but just fewer say they voted for change in Ottawa (21%).This followed by the best leader (19%), the best candidate (14%) and voting against another party (11%). Conservatives overwhelmingly vote their party (42%) while Liberals (32%) and New Democrats (26%) are most likely to have voted for change.

4-in-10 decided after Labour Day

As many as 4-in-10 voters in total (41%) made their final decision after Labour day, primarily before Election Day (30%), but some as late as on Election Day (9%), or even in the voting booth (2%). Four-in-ten also decided their vote before the writs were drawn up (41%). Those voting Liberal are most likely to have finally decided post-Labour Day (50%) while those voting Conservative are most likely to have made up their minds before the election started (62%). New Democrats are especially likely to have decided their vote on Election Day (14%).

Voting takes less than 5 minutes for majority

More than half of those who voted say it took 5 minutes or less (57%), while a further one fifth report taking 5 to 10 minutes to cast a ballot (20%). Therefore, voting took less than 10 minutes for three quarters of those exercising their franchise (77%). On average, voting took 9 minutes.

Two thirds claim to be very interested in election

Two thirds of Canadian adults in total say they were very interested in the election (62%), and a further quarter say they were somewhat interested (26%). Interest in the election is common to the oldest (72%), males (64%), the wealthiest ($100K to $250K - 68%), in BC (73%), but not in Quebec (43%), among Conservatives and Liberals (70% each) but not so much among New Democrats (59%), among strong party supporters (74%), the best educated (71%), those born outside Canada (72%), and executives (68%) and managers (70%).

“These findings confirm beyond doubt that this was a change election and that strategic voting was a successful factor in the outcome. We have also learned that the campaign promise with the most impact was Justin Trudeau’s undertaking to run three deficits to invest in infrastructure. For New Democrats, the equivalent promise was a balanced budget in the first year. Among Conservatives, the vote changer was the niqab issue, after all. Apart from this, it is refreshing to see that, for the most part, Canadians took some very serious issues very seriously in this election,” said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.

Lorne Bozinoff, Ph.D. is the president and founder of Forum Research. He can be reached at or at (416) 960-9603.