FOLLOWING the October 13 BC provincial election leadership debate, Insights West’s election poll shows that despite the controversy over Premier John Horgan’s comments about white privilege, he is widely seen by most to have had the upper hand in the debate and still enjoys a commanding lead in the latter stages of the election race.
Since Insights West’s poll in the first week of the campaign, the dip in support that the BC NPD saw following the announcement of the snap election has been regained and they maintain a comfortable lead despite a small gain by the BC Liberals. The BC NDP has increased their lead from 42% of decided voters to 47%, back to the same levels as in June.
The BC Liberals have also made small gains and have captured 33% of decided voters, up four points since late September, while the Greens have dipped slightly to 14% (down 2 points) and the BC Conservative vote stands at 6%.
The undecided vote has narrowed to 15% from 20% earlier in the campaign, and of this group, intentions still lean towards BC NDP (15%), followed by the BC Liberals (12%); the BC Greens and the BC Conservative Party are both at 5%; while the remaining 63% are either truly not sure still (34%) or preferred not to answer (28%).
THIS poll is no different from the last several, where we have found the BC NDP leading in nearly every demographic and regional category, from males (40%), females (54%), and voters of different ages (51% of 18-34 years, 49% of 35-54 years , and 42% of 55+ years) and nearly every region in the province (City of Vancouver at 56%, rest of Metro Vancouver at 47%, and Vancouver Island at 53%; the rest of BC has the Liberals leading the BC NDP slightly at 41% to 37%).
Voter certainty has solidified and risen, as it often does throughout an election campaign, and both the BC NDP and BC Liberal parties enjoy increasing levels of certainty in the number of voters in each camp who are very certain they will vote for the party they’ve chosen. Currently, 73% (up 12 points from last poll) of those who intend to vote BC NDP are “very certain” they will vote BC NDP and 72% (up 7 points) of BC Liberal voters are “very certain” they will vote BC Liberal. A further 22% BC NDP voters are “somewhat certain”, and 26% of BC Liberal voters are “somewhat certain”, and both parties have only a handful who say they might change their mind come election day. Sample sizes of decided voters for BC Green and BC Conservatives are too low to draw conclusions.
ALTHOUGH COVID-19 remains firmly entrenched as the number one issue on voter’s minds, post-debate it has dropped slightly from 38% to 32% who consider it the number one issue facing our province today. The economy and jobs together have risen slightly (17%, up 2 points), while housing prices/affordability has held steady (13%). Concerns about the environment have risen slightly (9%, up 2 points), while healthcare (5%), homelessness (5%), and the opioid crisis (4%) have also held basically steady. Currently, BC Liberal voters place a higher priority on economy and jobs (34%) than BC NDP voters (8%) and BC Green voters (8%).
Coinciding with the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks, a larger proportion of those who intend to voter plan to do so by mail (53%) compared to the early stages of the campaign (46%). Currently, 30% intend to vote by mail between now and election day and 23% indicate they already have voted by mail. Of those who have already send in their mail-in ballots, the BC NDP is in the lead with 51% of ballots sent in, followed by the BC Liberals at 24%, and BC Greens at 10%.
Consistent with June, it is interesting to note that BC Liberal voters are more likely to cast a ballot in person (56%), while BC NDP voters are more likely to send mail-in ballots (61% mail-in versus 38% in-person), raising the interesting spectre that the election might be closer than polling suggests on election night compared to the final outcome when all mail-in ballots are tallied.
THE debate itself doesn’t appear to change the expected course and final election outcome, but based on the results there are a couple of interesting surprises. As expected with the sizeable lead that he has in voter intentions, it is perhaps no surprise that Horgan was seen to perform the best during the debate: 53% of British Columbians who saw/listened to the debate or read about it later rate his performance as either “good” (35%) or “very good” (18%) and he was chosen by most (28%) over other candidates to be the winner. As expected, his own constituents rated him most highly (80% “very good” or “good”), with 59% of BC NPD voters selecting him as the outright winner.
BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson performed nowhere nearly as well, with only 36% rating him as either “good” (25%) or “very good” (11%), and much fewer picking him as the debate winner (14%). More significant however, is the fact that a very small proportion (39%) of his own voters say he was the winner of the debate.
Considering that BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau has only captured 14% of the decided vote, her debate performance was very strong, with 48% believing she did either a “good” (30%) or “very good” (18%) job during the debate itself. Further, 14% of British Columbians felt she won the debate, the same number as Wilkinson.
DESPITE early resentment over calling a snap election, as found in our earlier poll, it appears many British Columbians are watching the election race closely. A total of 63% of BC residents are watching the election either “very closely” (19%), or “somewhat closely” (45%), and a further 27% are following it, albeit “not very closely”. Only 10% of residents are “not following it closely at all”. That being said, only 47% British Columbian’s watched/listened to the full debate (20%) or part of the debate (17%), while others watched highlights (10%), or read about it afterwards (12%). BC Green voters are more likely to have watched/listened to part or all of the debate (68%) than BC NDP (50%) or Liberal (51%) voters and are also more likely to be watching the election very/somewhat closely (85% versus 71% of BC NDP supporters and 68% of BC Green supporters).
“Despite a couple of fumbles by the BC NDP and BC Liberals though this campaign, and the leadership debate, it doesn’t appear that these snafus have impacted the direction of the overall campaign,” said Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “And despite earlier concerns about Horgan’s snap election call, it appears as though his stellar handling of COVID-19 pandemic response, and high approval ratings throughout the summer will carry him through to the final week of the campaign with a likely positive outcome for him and his party.”
Results are based on an online study conducted from October 13-14 among a sample of 1,030 BC residents. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Click HERE to view the detailed data tabulations.