Electoral reform revival? Support for changing voting systems skyrockets post election

After popular vote win, CPC supporters now outpace Liberals in support for proportional representation

November 21, 2019 – The wake of the 43rd Canadian federal election campaign appears to have churned up support for a certain policy change long thought lost to the depths of a watery political grave: electoral reform.

A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds support surging – post election – for the promise the Trudeau Liberal government killed in 2017. Angus Reid, Angus Reid Institute, Canada Polling, Canada Polls, Canada Electoral Reforms

Likely motivated by their preferred party receiving the most votes yet falling short in the House of Commons in a first-past-the-post electoral system, Conservative preference for proportional representation has more than doubled.

Seven-in-ten (69%) who supported the CPC in October say they would change the electoral system, compared to just 28 per cent of party supporters who said this when the Institute canvassed the same issue at the beginning of 2016.

It’s not just a spike in support on the right of the political spectrum, however. Increasing approval across all parties has transformed this – at least for now – from a divisive to a consensus issue. In 2016, just over half (53%) wanted to keep first-past-the-post while the rest wanted to move to proportional representation. Today, more than two-thirds (68%) now say that they would prefer Canada change its voting system.

 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.


Seven-in-ten now prefer proportional representation

In the leadup to the 2015 federal election, then-Liberal-candidate Justin Trudeau famously stated that he would ensure that if elected, his government would do away with the nation’s first-past-the-post voting system in favour of proportional representation. The House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE) was created shortly after Trudeau’s Liberals took office to study the issue and suggested, among other recommendations, that proportional representation be implemented through a national referendum. Despite this, in February of 2017, the government announced it was no longer pursuing reform.

The Angus Reid Institute asked Canadians after the 2015 election about their preferred path for Canada, keep the current first-past-the-post system or change to a system of proportional representation. At the time Canadians were divided. In 2019, however, a clear preference has emerged for proportional representation, with support for it doubling in some provinces. At least six-in-ten residents in every region of the country would prefer a change:

Note – the 2016 question on keeping or changing the electoral system offered a “don’t know” response. Support and opposition were recalculated to compare only those with a positive or negative opinion. For original 2016 release, click here.

This new enthusiasm comes on the heels of an election where the Liberal Party won 47 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons with one-third of the vote, enough to form a minority government, while the Conservative Party placed first in the popular vote and was left as the official opposition:


Angus Reid, Angus Reid Institute, Canada Polling, Canada Polls, Canada Electoral Reforms


Thus, Conservative voters, once firmly opposed to electoral reform, are now apparently strong champions of it. Meanwhile, supporters of every other party have also increased their level of openness to change:

Angus Reid, Angus Reid Institute, Canada Polling, Canada Polls, Canada Electoral Reforms


Looking at this trend regionally, areas of staunch opposition, the Prairies and Ontario, are now areas of support, as every region of the country voices firm majority support for a move away from first-past-the-post. Support for keeping the electoral system is highest in British Columbia, the province that rejected a change in a provincial referendum in 2018:


Angus Reid, Angus Reid Institute, Canada Polling, Canada Polls, Canada Electoral Reforms

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

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

Click here to read the full questionnaire used in this report.


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

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

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