Expectation versus reality: Canadians divided about preferred election result, largely expect Liberal minority

Expectation versus reality: Canadians divided about preferred election result, largely expect Liberal minority

Just half of Liberal voters want to see party form a majority; 81% of CPC voters say same of their party

September 2, 2021 – Canadians are bearing witness to the roller coaster ride that has been the first weeks of the 44th federal election. A comfortable advantage for the incumbent Liberals has vanished, while the Conservative party picked up support driven by its leader’s surging momentum.

Regardless of how they vote, however, Canadians – at least at this stage in the campaign – say they largely expect an election outcome that mirrors the way government looked when the writs were dropped Aug. 15.

New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds half of Canadians (49%) saying they anticipate another Liberal minority government. Another one-in-nine (12%) say that they expect the Liberals to turn it around and win a majority. Just one-in-three (34%) expect a Conservative government in any form.

That’s not necessarily what Canadians want, however.

Asked what form of government they would prefer if they could choose, the largest group – 42 per cent – would like to see the CPC take over from the Liberals, whether in majority (32%) or minority (10%) composition. Three-in-ten (31%) would like the Liberal Party to govern again, divided evenly between hoping for a majority or minority, while slightly fewer (27%) want Jagmeet Singh as prime minister, and the NDP as the government.

More Key Findings:

  • Just 52 per cent of current Liberal voters say they would like to see an LPC majority. Far more Conservative (81%) and NDP (63%) voters would like to see this from the party they plan to support.
  • A majority of residents in Alberta and Saskatchewan would like to see a Conservative majority. Nowhere else do a majority of voters agree about which party they would like to see govern.
  • More than four-in-five Liberal voters (84%) expect their party to win. Two-thirds of CPC voters (64%) say they believe their party will win, while just 14 per cent of NDP voters say this of the NDP.


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.



Part One: What Canadians want

Part Two: What Canadians expect


Part One: What Canadians want

Innumerable analyses are released weekly about Canadians’ vote intentions. (For the Angus Reid Institute’s latest vote projections, click here.) Less common, however, are questions about what voters actually want, or think would be best for the country, regardless of their own personal choice.

After six years of governance, the Liberal Party is attempting to convince Canadians on its record of accomplishments, its pandemic management, and the future of the country in its own vision. Thus far, that sales pitch is not resonating with as many voters as the party and prime minister may like.

Fewer than one-in-five Canadians (17%) would like to see the party win a majority; it has been commonly noted by observers that this was the underlying purpose for an early election call by the government. A similar number would like to see the Liberals continue to govern as a minority.

The largest group of Canadians would like to see a Conservative majority, joined by one-in-ten who would be happy with a CPC minority. One-in-five would like to see the NDP form an unprecedented majority (18%):

The strength of Conservative Party support on this question comes from a passionate base, with additional support from Bloc Québécois voters. While nearly all CPC voters would like to see their party form a majority; this is not the case for its main competition: only half of Liberal voters would like to see their party form a majority, and – troublingly for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, 14 per cent would actually like to see the NDP win outright.

Encouraging for Erin O’Toole in Quebec, nearly half of Bloc Québécois voters would be happy with a Conservative government. This suggests the potential for movement in that province, where the BQ are currently supported by approximately three-in-ten residents:

The division on governing party preference is perhaps best viewed along regional lines. While those in Alberta and Saskatchewan are in agreement that the CPC would be best, and should form a majority, the rest of the country is divided between the three main contenders.

In British Columbia, the preference for the NDP is driven by those who say they will support either the Green Party or another. In Alberta and the Prairies, those supporting other parties would likely cast votes for the CPC if forced to choose between the three:

The split in Quebec is notable, given the intense competition for votes within that province. The Liberals, BQ, and CPC are all currently supported by at least one-in-five. When forced to choose, the Liberal and Conservative Parties are near-equally preferred.

In Ontario, where federal elections are largely won or lost, each party has room to rise or fall based on their performance in the next three weeks. This is even more evident by contrasting the current vote with the preferred government. The CPC trails vote intention by two points in Canada’s most populous province, but in a three-way race, is preferred by five points:

Age and gender are also key delineators of government preference. Half of young women hope the NDP form government. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a full majority of men over the age of 34 prefer the CPC. Meantime, Justin Trudeau’s key support group – women over the age of 54, now only slightly prefer that his party form government:

Part Two: What Canadians expect

Having recently lost Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts at the age of 80, perhaps it is apropos to remember that You Can’t Always Get What You Want. It certainly appears as though many Canadians are expecting to be disappointed. Though just three-in-ten say they hope for a Liberal win on Sept. 20, double as many expect that it will happen. One-in-three (34%) say they anticipate a CPC government, while just five per cent have faith in the NDP making immense gains over the next three weeks to win:

Two-thirds of Conservative voters are casting their ballot with the confidence of impending victory, while 84 per cent of Liberals say the same. That said, neither group has much faith that their party can win a majority. For NDP voters, the reality of the centre-left split in Canada looms large. Just 14 per cent are voting with the expectation of an NDP government:

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Aug. 27 – 29, 2021 among a representative randomized sample of 1,639 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI. 

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.

To read the questionnaire, click here.

Image – Dennis Sylvester Hurd/Flickr


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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