Conservatives hold lead in BC as NDP pushes ahead of Liberals

Strategic voting firmly in play: Most voters are not voting on a love or loyalty toward a particular party or leader as 26% say it’s a “best of the worst” scenario, 22% to keep another party from winning.

WITH just days left in the 2019 federal election campaign, Canada’s western-most province is looking like a flurry of blue, red, and orange as the three major parties fight for every vote before the final ballots are cast. Insights West’s third and final poll of the 2019 federal election campaign shows the Conservatives holding a lead with a final-week surge for the NDP and lukewarm support for the Liberals. The poll was conducted online with 1,670 adult residents of BC between October 13 and 16. (The margin of error is +/- 2.4 percentage points).

The Conservatives under Andrew Scheer have held a steady lead in British Columbia in all three of Insights West’s polls, though not an unsurmountable one. The latest poll shows 27% of voters in the province saying they would vote Conservative in the election. That support has dipped slightly from earlier Insights West polls conducted in September when support for the Conservatives in BC clocked in at 29% in both rounds of polling.

The good news for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party is that they too are holding steady with their support in BC. The bad news is that is tepid at best – the Liberals only get 20% support in BC, up marginally from 19% in mid-September.

But the most interesting election development in BC is the surge of the NDP over the campaign’s final weeks. The New Democrats have made a breakthrough to push ahead of the Liberals for second place in BC with 23% of voter support, up from 14% in mid-September. Much of that appears to be at the expense of the Green party (down to 11% support from 14% in mid-September) and by undecided voters making up their minds in the final days.

The NDP’s new-found polling strength appears to be coming from three groups where they have traditionally found support: women, younger voters, and voters in the coastal areas of Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. NDP support among younger voters in BC has hit a remarkable 33%, up 11 points from the mid-September poll. Support among BC women has also moved up from 16% in mid-September to 26% in the new poll. The NDP message has also resonated stronger in all regions of the province, with Metro Vancouver showing a near 10-point increase to 23% support.

Another factor that could challenge both the NDP and Liberals on election day is voter certainty from their supporters. Compared to the 78% of Conservative voters who say they are 100% certain they will check the ballot as intended on Monday October 21, the NDP gets that strong of support from only 65% of their intended voters, and similarly 63% of Liberal intenders are showing the same certainty on their choice.

Record advanced polling turnout across the country is reflected here in BC, with 25% of voters polled reporting that they have already cast their ballot. Here the Conservatives lead the charge by a significant margin—with 34% of ballots cast in the advanced polls, followed by the NDP at 21%, and Liberals at 20% and Greens at 16%—while a further 7% refused to answer who they voted for.

“Our latest poll results are welcome news for the NDP and Jagmeet Singh, but before anyone breaks out the champagne, the key in this election as it has been in several in recent memory across Canada is voter turnout,” says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “More often than their older cohorts, young voters have a tendency to stay home come election day. As the advance polls have already suggested, Conservative voter turnout is something that party can bank on much more so than any other party.”

Voting motivations and rationales

The poll also shows that strategic voting is an entrenched practice among the electorate in British Columbia. For the first time ever, the Insights West poll took a look at the potential multiple reasons why voters are supporting a particular party or choice, and the results show that only a minority of all voters (19%) say that their choice is dictated by their support for their particular candidate in their local riding, and only 24% are voting so because they truly support the leader in the party they are choosing. 

A larger number of voters (26%) say their primary reason for voting the way they are is because they are choosing the “best of the worst” option. A further 22% say that their primary reason for their vote is they don’t want another party to win. And 9% say their primary reason is they’ve always voted for that particular party.

Voter intentions and motivators get much more interesting when looking at results by individual party preference. Jagmeet Singh’s leadership has the strongest support among NDP-leaning voters in BC – 39% point to his leadership of the party as a primary reason for voting NDP whereas Andrew Scheer gets that endorsement from only 21% of Conservative-leaning voters in BC, and Justin Trudeau gets this answer from a dismal 16% of Liberal-leaning voters in BC.

Results are equally polarized when it comes to voting so another party doesn’t win—25% of Conservative voters say it’s their primary reason as do 32% of Liberal votes—while it doesn’t come into play nearly as much with NDP voters (10%). The NDP (25%) and Liberals (21%) do the best job in garnishing votes from those who are truly supporting their local candidate relative to Conservative voters (13%). And finally, just over a quarter (26%) of all voters are making their choice as the “best of the worst”, with little variance for Conservative and Liberal leaning voters.

“Strategic voting remains a significant element in the election decision and a major factor in why BC voters will vote the way they do,” says Mossop. “It seems many BCers aren’t so much voting for who best represents them, but rather who can block a candidate or party they don’t want in power. It seems like a very large proportion of BCers are holding their noses at the ballot box and are not being particularly inspired by the choices in this election.”

Canadians go to the polls on Monday, October 21 for the 43rd federal election.