Manitoba Election: Kinew and NDP hold six-point advantage at midway mark of campaign

Manitoba Election: Kinew and NDP hold six-point advantage at midway mark of campaign

Conservatives viewed as best on economy, NDP on health; NDP viewed as best to form government

September 20, 2023 – Halfway through Manitoba’s provincial election campaign, Manitobans will have a chance to see three party leaders square off in a televised leadership debate Thursday.

As the leaders make their final debate preparations, new data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds the Manitoba NDP holding a six-point advantage over the incumbent Progressive Conservative party, as the two frontrunners for the province’s top job attempt to sway voters over the two defining issues of the campaign – the economy and health care.

Indeed, both of those issues stand out as top priorities across the province and across the political spectrum. For the NDP and leader Wab Kinew, health care appears to be a strength. Two-in-five (40%) Manitoba residents say his party is best to lead the province in this area. That said, when it comes to economic issues, Heather Stefanson’s Progressive Conservatives hold a key advantage. Notably, on both health care and the economy a significant portion of the province say they are not yet sure who is best to steward, suggesting hearts and minds are still to be won on the campaign trail.

The NDP appear to have the upper hand when it comes to leadership. Kinew holds a 17-point advantage in favourability over Stefanson. Further, in the first two weeks of the campaign, Stefanson has significant negative momentum in the eyes of residents (31% say opinions have worsened, 11% opinions have improved), while Kinew has tread water (21% worsened, 23% improved).

Winnipeg represents a stronghold of support for the NDP. In the province’s major urban centre, more than half (53%) say they will vote for their local NDP candidate, compared to the three-in-ten (31%) who support the Manitoba PCs. That said, outside of Winnipeg, the Conservatives hold a 15-point advantage.

More Key Findings:

  • The NDP holds a 22-point lead over the Progressive Conservative Party in Winnipeg (53% to 31%), while the PCs hold a significant lead in the rest of the province, 53 per cent to 38 per cent.
  • One-in-three prefer Kinew (34%) on the question of which leader would make the best premier. One-quarter choose Stefanson (23%), while fully one-in-five Manitobans say none of the options would make a good premier (21%). Notably, just half (50%) of 2019 PC voters say Stefanson would make the best premier.
  • The NDP are chosen as the best party to lead on both Indigenous issues (52% NDP – 15% PC) and LGBTQ2+ issues (31% NDP – 17% PC) by a comfortable margin.

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: Impressions of leadership

Part Two: Priorities and performance

  • Top issues

  • PCs viewed as better on economy, NDP on health care

  • Best to form government

  • Best premier

Part Three: Vote intention

  • Age and gender

  • The regional divide

  • Voter retention

  • Three-in-five say they’re voting against a party rather than for one


Part One: Impressions of leadership

After Heather Stefanson took over for departing Progressive Conservative Party leader Brian Pallister in November 2021, she has had a difficult time finding the good graces of Manitoba residents. Her approval rating has always been below three-in-ten.

She fares little better in these recent data – three-in-ten (31%) say they have a favourable view of Stefanson. Meanwhile, half say they view NDP leader Wab Kinew positively (48%), as he enjoys strong appeal among younger people in the province (60% favourability). Kinew bests Stefanson in all age and gender categories except men older than 54:

Notably, Kinew generates twice the favourability of Stefanson within Winnipeg, while the two leaders are nearly tied in the rest of Manitoba – an area Stefanson likely hopes to secure much needed electoral support:

Stefanson’s largest source of consternation may be the views held by past supporters of her party. Those who voted for Pallister’s PCs in 2019 offer majority, but nowhere near unanimously positive views of the new PC leader (61% favourable), while Kinew generates 92 per cent favourability among those who voted for the NDP in 2019:

The campaign began on Sept. 5, with candidates hitting the pavement to sway voters while summer turns to fall. Over the first two weeks of the campaign, views of Stefanson have worsened across all demographics, while women have become more positive in their opinions of Kinew:

Part Two: Priorities and performance

Top issues

The NDP and PCs have chosen different themes to centre their campaigns. For the NDP, the focus has been on health care, including promises to reopen emergency wards, and cut red tape to allow international nurses to work in Manitoba. The PC Party has built its campaign on tax incentives and cuts, including halving the tax rate on the first $47,000 of income every Manitoban earns.

The parties have chosen different top issues to focus on, it seems. The rising cost of living is picked as a top challenge facing Manitoba by three-in-five, while 54 per cent choose health care. Those living in Winnipeg pick health care (53%) and inflation (55%) at similar rates, while Manitobans outside of the capital are more inclined to choose the rising cost of living (67%) than health care (55%).

Public safety and crime are believed to be a top concern by three-in-ten (31%), while taxes (21%), housing affordability (20%) and poverty (19%) are chosen by one-in-five:

PCs viewed as better on economy, NDP on health care

Evidently there are a handful of key issues for Manitobans in this provincial campaign, with health care, economic management, and crime and safety standing out. Those three issues show just how torn Manitobans may be come election day. The Progressive Conservatives hold an 11-point edge on the economy, the NDP hold a 13-point advantage on the health file, and the parties are nearly tied when it comes to public safety. This, with at least one-quarter of residents undecided as to who would be best on each:

Many other issues are closely contested, but the NDP have two notable advantages. On both LGBTQ2+ and Indigenous issues, the NDP are preferred by a wide margin. Debate over two high-profile issues – whether or not to search Manitoba landfills for the remains of murdered Indigenous women, and a new policy surrounding gender and schools – may both be reflected in these responses:

Best to form government

When considering these different factors, and which party would be best, Manitobans lean toward an NDP government. Two-in-five (39%) say that party is best suited to lead at this time, while one-in-three (33%) say the incumbents should remain. The NDP’s advantage among women of all ages is evident on this question:

The NDP are chosen as best to form government by 42 per cent in Winnipeg and 33 per cent in the rest of Manitoba. A close-to-inverse result is found for the PCs, chosen by 25 per cent in Winnipeg, but 44 per cent outside:

Best premier

Taking all of these factors, including personal appeal and performance on issues, into account, Manitoba residents give a slight edge to Kinew as their top choice for premier. One-in-three say this (34%), while one-quarter (23%) choose Stefanson. Neither is a particularly ringing endorsement, and indeed, one-in-five (21%) say there is no leader they prefer among the current options:

Three-quarters of those who voted NDP in 2019 believe Kinew is the best choice for premier. Past PC voters are less enthusiastic about their candidate for premier in this election. Half (50%) believe Stefanson is the best choice:

Part Three: Vote intention

The Manitoba NDP have held a vote intention advantage for the better part of the last two years, but campaigns can amplify leadership, messaging, and issues in a way that can alter the landscape quickly.

Age and gender

At the mid-point in the campaign, the NDP looks to hold its highest vote proportion since the 2019 election, while the incumbent PCs continue to hover around the two-in-five mark. The NDP advantage is built on support from women and Manitobans younger than 55. The two parties are statistically tied in vote intent among those older than 54, while men lean towards the Conservatives:

The regional divide

There is a rural-urban divide between the two parties. The NDP has stronger support in Winnipeg, while the PCs are more popular outside of the province’s largest city. This split in support represents a positive development for the NDP, however, as Winnipeg is home to 32 of Manitoba’s 57 seats in the legislature.

Voter retention

The NDP also hold an advantage when it comes to vote retention. Nearly all of those who supported the NDP in 2019 say they will be repeating their vote come Oct. 3. Half (54%) of past Liberal voters also say they will be moving their vote over to the NDP. Meanwhile, four-in-five (80%) past PC voters say they will vote again for the party on election day, with one-in-eight (14%) saying they will support the NDP instead:

*Smaller sample size, interpret with caution

Three-in-five say they’re voting against a party rather than for one

There appears to be more enthusiasm among NDP voters for their choice in party than among those who say they will vote PC on Oct. 3. Half (52%) among those who intend to support the NDP say they are voting because they like the party and Kinew. Comparatively, one-third (34%) of likely PC voters say the same. Two-thirds (66%) among that group instead say they dislike the other options more than they like their own party.

Overall, there is much dissatisfaction with the choices as a majority (57%) among likely voters say they are picking the least-worst option:

When the dust settles, Manitobans are more likely to feel happy with an NDP majority than another four years of the PCs in power. Half (50%) say they would feel good or be delighted if Kinew became premier with a majority mandate. Two-in-five (42%) say they would have positive feelings if the PCs were re-elected to another majority, with as many (40%) saying they dread that outcome:

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Sept. 13-19, 2023 among a representative randomized sample of 990 Manitoban 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 +/- 3 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 – Wab Kinew/Facebook; Heather Stefanson/Facebook


Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821