BC Election: New Democrats seen as best on health and social issues, but lag BC Liberals on economic growth

BC Election: New Democrats seen as best on health and social issues, but lag BC Liberals on economic growth

Just two-in-five voters say they’re absolutely certain which party they will support


October 6, 2020 – As one of the most unique provincial election campaigns in B.C. history runs through its third week, new data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute reveals the issues of most importance to British Columbian voters – and the parties that do best – and worst – on those issues.

While its COVID-19 response continues to preoccupy the province most, matters that took precedence before the pandemic are also dominant. Housing affordability, health care, climate change, and economic growth are also ballot issues in this campaign.

But traditional differences highlight the perceived strengths and weaknesses of each party on these key issues. While the New Democrats are seen as best on social and health issues, the BC Greens continue to hold high ground on climate change, and the BC Liberals are deemed to be the strongest party on economic factors.

At this stage, these dynamics favour the BC NDP, which continues to hold a significant lead over the other opposition parties.

More Key Findings:

  • The incumbent BC NDP currently holds an 18-point advantage in pre-debate vote intention. 49 per cent say the will support John Horgan’s party, while 31 per cent say they will vote for the BC Liberals and 14 per cent the BC Greens. This dynamic is largely unchanged over the past month.
  • Three-in-five British Columbians say that this election is unnecessary and should have been held next year. Notably, even 28 per cent of those who plan to support the NDP feel this way.
  • While it is early days so far, just one-in-three British Columbians say they are fully engaged in the campaign. Most are aware of it, but not closely following developments

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.

INDEX:

Part One: Core campaign issues

  • Top issues by age and gender

  • Different regions, different priorities

  • Which parties do best on British Columbians’ top issues?

Part Two: Voter sentiment and motivations

  • Was calling the election fair or power grab?

  • Voters divided on whether they like their party or dislike the other more

  • Just two-in-five voters say choice is locked in

Part Three: Pre-debate vote intention

  • Age and gender

  • Region

Part One: Core campaign issues

While it may be too early in the campaign to identify the “ballot question” in this fall’s election, B.C. voters identify four key issues that may hold the keys to electoral success on October 24. The COVID-19 response, health care, housing affordability, and climate change are chosen above all other core issues, each by at least three-in-ten British Columbians. The next tier of issues, economic growth alongside poverty and homelessness, are chosen by close to one-in-five.

Top issues by age and gender

Among different age and gender demographics, unique priorities emerge. For young people (18-34), while COVID-19 is important, housing affordability, and climate change take on heightened priority.

Those between the ages of 35 and 54 put near-equal emphasis on the top four issues, but men in this cohort are most likely of any group to say that economic growth is paramount to them. For potential voters 55 years of age and older, health care is the story of this campaign, though other issues still resonate, as seen in the summary table below:

Different regions, different priorities

The importance of COVID-19 as an election issue is relatively stable across most of the province, however, in the Interior, the percentage of residents choosing it as a top issue drops to one-quarter (24%), considerably lower than other regions.

One of the starkest differences in regional priorities is the importance of housing affordability in Metro Vancouver compared to elsewhere. As prices continue their upward trend, 40 per cent of Metro Vancouverites say it is among their three top concerns.

On Vancouver Island, climate change eclipses other issues, but COVID-19 and health care remain of top of mind.

Which parties do best on British Columbians’ top issues?

Having identified which three issues they care about most in this election, those same respondents were then asked which party they trust most on each. The results show the wide difference in perceived strength that both the BC NDP and BC Liberals have on certain issues, and the entrenchment of the BC Green Party as a ‘one issue’ option.

COVID-19 Response

The top issue facing the province, and the one defining the past year of the BC NDP’s governance, is the response to the coronavirus outbreak. Premier John Horgan has received among the highest praise in the country for his work on this file, and his party is trusted by two-thirds (67%) of those who said this is important to them. Just 11 per cent among this group say the BC Liberals would be better:

Health care

As with the COVID-19 response, the BC NDP is heavily preferred on health care. Three-in-five (57%) of those who choose this as a top issue say they prefer the incumbent party, while one-in-five (18%) prefer the BC Liberals. The two parties have recently sparred over health care, specifically the return of monthly medical services plan fees.

Housing affordability

The ballot question of the 2017 election, the cost of and access to housing continues to keep thousands of British Columbians up at night. Three years ago, the BC NDP made the case it was better positioned to handle the issue. But with a mixed record on this file, it is notable that half of those who are most concerned about housing affordability say the governing party is the best option, though 14 per cent say no party is able to do a good job and 14 per cent are unsure. This, as housing sales and prices continue to rise in Metro Vancouver, despite the pandemic. Premier John Horgan’s government has implemented a vacancy tax and speculation tax since the previous provincial election. Wilkinson’s BC Liberals have promised to end both taxes:

Climate change/Environment

The BC Green Party continues to hold an important position in portions of the province where climate change and environmental concerns are paramount. For those who chose this as their top issue, the Greens are the runaway first choice. The BC NDP are chosen by 16 per cent:

Economic growth

The BC Liberals have so far promoted a campaign with the tagline “Restore Confidence. Rebuild B.C.” The party hopes to highlight the devastating economic damage done by the COVID-19 outbreak, which is projected to reduce growth by 6.7 per cent this year, and lead to a $13 billion deficit.

The economy is the issue that the BC Liberals are most trusted on among those who are concerned about it. Nearly two-thirds who chose this as a top three issue (64%) say that the Liberals would handle it best, while just 15 per cent say this of the incumbent NDP.

Part Two: Voter sentiment and motivations

Was calling the election fair or power grab?

One of the inescapable criticisms of the Horgan government has been the timing of the election call. Critics say this was unnecessary and could have waited until a scheduled election next October. Voting during the coronavirus pandemic has indeed been a source of anxiety for many voters, and one that Elections BC is attempting to overcome with unprecedented mail-in ballot requests.

Overall, three-in-five residents voice some resentment about the issue, saying this election is unnecessary and an attempt by the BC NDP to concentrate its power. Perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly all of those who intend to vote for the BC Liberals feel this way (93%), but they are joined by 28 per cent of those who say they will support the incumbent party anyway, and 72 per cent of Green voters.

Voters divided on whether they like their party or dislike the other more

For many, their vote is less motivated by supporting a candidate they love, and more by voting against a candidate they do not care for. Indeed, half of B.C. residents say they like the party they are supporting and what it stands for (49%) but half say they dislike the other options more. BC Liberal voters are by far the most likely to say their vote is intended to block a different outcome:

Just two-in-five voters say choice is locked in

Ahead of the scheduled leadership debate between John Horgan, Andrew Wilkinson and Sonia Furstenau, fewer than half of BC voters voice absolute certainty about their choice. Two-in-five (41%) say they are locked in and will not change their vote. For a similarly sized group (37%) the feeling is fairly certain but less absolute. For one-in-five voters (22%) the decision is subject to change. Notably, 43 per cent of those who are leaning toward the Green Party say that their vote could change:

 

Part Three: Pre-debate vote intention

Many British Columbians have yet to truly key into the campaign. Indeed, just one-in-three say they are following news closely and having discussions with friends and family about it at this point (see detailed tables for more). That, combined with potential vote fluidity, means that much of the result remains unsettled. At this point, however, the incumbent BC NDP holds a considerable 18-point advantage among leaning and decided voters. These vote intention figures are largely unchanged over the past month, across multiple polling firms:

Age and gender

The BC NDP’s strength is its breadth of appeal. In every age and gender category, it holds a lead and dominates among women of all ages.

Region

The BC NDP lead in all regions outside of the Interior, where the BC Liberals hold an 11-point advantage. Meanwhile, the BC Green Party will be looking to secure important votes on Vancouver Island in order to maintain its seat count. In that region, 27 per cent of voters say they will support the Greens, their highest proportion in the province.

Another strength that the BC NDP brings into this election the party’s vote retention. More than four-in-five (85%) of those who cast a vote for John Horgan’s party in 2017 say they will do so again. This is the case for three-quarters of BC Liberal voters but just 53 per cent of BC Green supporters:

For detailed results by age, gender, education, and other demographics, click here.

For detailed results by region, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodologyclick here.

To read the questionnaire, click here.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org


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