ACCORDING to the latest version of Insights West’s “Government of British Columbia Report Card,” the high approval ratings that the BC NDP has been accustomed to throughout this pandemic has waned as other voter issues have resurfaced. Despite recent drops, current voting intentions show Premier John Horgan has a firm hold on power since winning the election just eight months ago.
After Horgan’s landslide victory last October and subsequent lower approval ratings, current voter intentions indicate the BC NDP still enjoys a comfortable lead, the Greens have improved, and the BC Liberals continue to lose ground. If an election were held today, the NDP would receive 42% of the decided popular vote (compared to 48% in the October 2020 election), BC Liberals would get 31% (3 percentage points lower than the election results), Greens would get 19% (up 5 percentage points). The current undecided vote is very low at 16%.
COVID-19 has dominated the public agenda much of this past year as the number one issue facing British Columbia, but concern levels have dropped from 32% last June to 18% currently; housing has since returned to the top spot (23%, up 10 percentage points) as the most important issue in the public’s collective mindset.
The economy (12%, up another 1 percentage point) has continued its slow and steady climb over the past several years. The opioid crisis (8%) has made its debut as the fourth most important issue in the province, and forestry (another new addition) is a little further down the list at 4%.
With the proliferation of gang-related shootings in the past six months, crime/public safety (7%, up 5 percentage points) has resurfaced in importance while the environment (5%), taxes (5%), and poverty (4%) have all held steady.
Issues around jobs/unemployment (3%, down 3 percentage points), homelessness (4%, down 2 percentage points), and healthcare (2%, down 5 percentage points) have all dropped slightly in the past year.
Consistent in the past several waves, housing prices are a far greater concern among 18-34 year old residents (36% vs. 22% for 35-54 and 16% among 55+ in May 2021), and this level of concern has increased 12 percentage points among this group of young British Columbians since last year at this time.
While last June’s report card showed massive increases in approval ratings for the BC NDP and Horgan overall, results have now returned to pre-pandemic levels. Last June, Horgan’s approval ratings skyrocketed to 68%, the highest approval rating ever seen in this study for a standing premier; this has returned to 50%, similar to the 51% seen in November 2019.
With two new opposition leaders in their role the past year, BC Liberal leader Shirley Bond’s approval rating is at 25%, which is 5 percentage points lower than the reading on BC Liberal’s Andrew Wilkinson this time last year. BC Green leader Sonia Fursteneau’s score of 35% is higher than interim Green leader Adam Olsen (29% in June 2020). BC Conservative party leader Trevor Bolin’s performance has dropped considerably from 18% to 11% in the same time period.
In contrast, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s approval rating has better stood the test of time, despite occasional public scrutiny over COVID-19-related decisions. Approval ratings for Dr. Bonnie this time last year on her handling of the COVID-19 situation were an astounding 79%; that has dropped only slightly to 73% currently.
Approval ratings for Adrian Dix have similarly dropped, but from not as high a starting point (72% to 65% currently). John Horgan’s approval rating on COVID-19 has also dropped but remains higher than his overall approval rating (from 65% to 56%, 6 percentage points above his overall approval rating of 50%). In comparison, Trudeau’s approval rating has dropped considerably further in the same time frame (67% to 46%).
Softer approval ratings for Horgan are also evident from results regarding change in opinions of him as a leader. Only 16% of BC residents have better opinions of him in the past six months vs. 40% whose views have worsened (34% has stayed the same and 10% are unsure). There is some consolation in the finding that only 28% of NDP voters indicated their opinion of him has worsened, while the majority of past Liberal (54%) and Green (52%) voters indicate it has worsened.
The BC government continues to receive high approval ratings for the handling of the COVID-19 crisis, but those ratings have dropped substantially since one year ago, and ratings on non-COVID 19 files have likewise dropped. The government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic still receives high approval levels from a majority of BC residents on nearly every dimension, as 64% think they have done a good job on providing financial support for people impacted from COVID-19 (previously 69%), 61% (previously 84%) for providing information about the pandemic, and 58% (previously 85%) on combating COVID-19. Currently 63% give the government good marks for their handling of the vaccine rollout, and 55% for the current restart plan.
The only area that has seen an improvement in ratings is the BC government’s handling of changes to ICBC coverage and policies, moving up from 24% in November 2019 to 32% in June 2021 and up again to the current level of 46%.
Approval ratings on other major files and decisions have dropped 8 to 13 percentage points since the last measure one year ago. This includes the government’s handling of:
* Managing BC’s crown corporations (39%, down 5 percentage points)
* Healthcare (54%, down 8 percentage points)
* Poverty (24%, down 8 percentage points)
* The economy (41%, down 9 percentage points)
* Money laundering (24%, down 9 percentage points)
* Climate change (31% down 10 percentage points)
* Transportation (40%, down 10 percentage points)
* The Kinder Morgan pipeline (20% down 10 percentage points)
* Education (41%, down 12 percentage points)
* Energy and pipelines (22%, down 13 percentage points)
* Homelessness (20%, down 13 percentage points)
Massive approval rating drops have been experienced in crime and public safety (27%, down 19 percentage points), housing prices (12%, down 16 percentage points), and the handling of the opioid crisis (17%, down 16 percentage points).
“The halo effect of our BC government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has worn thin, and we are starting to see a return to pre-COVID-19 levels in terms of approval ratings,” says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “That being said, approval ratings for government actions over this past 15 months have been among the highest we have covered in our 10-year existence as a polling company, and it is only recently where other public initiatives and issues have replaced and become centre stage in the upcoming post-pandemic world. As issues like the opioid crisis, the housing crisis and the continued environmental devastation of British Columbia continues, it is yet to be seen if the BC NDP government can continue to manage our province without a decline in voter and public sentiment support.”
The full June 2021 issue of the Government of British Columbia Report Card is available for download here.