New Leger Poll Provides Deeper Insight into the B.C. Campaign
What trends can we identify in the data surrounding issues and candidates?
This is not a traditional election campaign. There are no rallies or whistle stop events, and leaders’ tours have been pared down to basically one public event a day. So far, there have been limited policy announcements, the debates are not yet scheduled, and no party has released their full campaign platform. Consequently, the first period of the 2020 campaign has been a bit boring for keen political watchers. But luckily, this week the pollsters have been filling in the void.
A poll out October 1 from Leger once again shows the B.C. NDP with a strong lead that would translate into a majority if the election was held today. The poll also gives us some insight into what the major parties are likely thinking about as we head into the second weekend of the campaign. Perhaps most interestingly, Leger found only 7% of voters are undecided, a significantly lower rate than other recent polls that have put that figure in the mid- to low-twenties. Of decided voters in the province, the NDP has a healthy 16-point lead over the BC Liberal Party.
As in previous polls, there is a lot of good news for Premier Horgan, who is generally running a safe frontrunner campaign, focussed on healthcare capital and reinforcing his record in government. Premier Horgan is popular with 57% of those surveyed having a favourable or somewhat favourable impression of him, compared to 34% for BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and 27% for Sonia Furstenau of the Greens.
Premier Horgan, however, also knows that his incumbency advantage means that many do not know his opponents, with 27% of people saying they don’t know enough to have an opinion of Wilkinson and 49% for Furstenau. But consistent with his approach leading the government for the last 3 plus years, Horgan is showing he has learned lessons from the mistakes of his predecessors. In 2013, then leader Adrian Dix decided to run a positive campaign after people believed he had the election sewn up, one of several factors that is believed to have cost the NDP that election. Horgan will not make that same mistake. He and his team have tried to paint Wilkinson as out of touch and working for the wealthy at the expense of average British Columbians and launched negative ads that touted these claims this week.
The Leger survey results also point to one potential area of opportunity for the BC Liberals. For voters, Leger found that the most important issues are:
The economy is an area seen as a traditional strength for the BC Liberals, and failure to address affordability was one of the factors that hurt them in the last election, which possibly explains why Wilkinson’s first major policy plank was a temporary cut to the provincial sales tax (PST). So far, Wilkinson is focussing on big ideas, including the PST cut and free flu shots for all British Columbians. The PST promise is something the BC Liberals are clearly hoping will get people talking and turn their numbers around, and with 27% of those polled who said they are very, or somewhat likely, to change their vote, they may have room to grow. While the PST pledge is seen by some as a risky political move, looking at these numbers, it is easy to see why the BC Liberals have decided it is a risk worth taking.
Leger also asked about the snap election call and found that nearly one-half (49%) of respondents oppose the early election call while roughly one-quarter (26%) said they are less likely to vote NDP because of it. It has been clear since the election call, however, that Premier Horgan believes this issue will not endanger his goal of a majority government. This survey seems to support that view overall, with 49% of respondents stating they would prefer a majority government to deal with the pandemic. These findings are something the NDP would have tested before making the final decision to call this election.
As the saying goes “the only poll that counts is the one on election day.” In the meantime, Global’s B.C. team will continue to delve deeply into each poll with keen interest to identify trends and data surrounding issues and candidates. We look forward to offering a B.C. Election webinar, in partnership with Leger, to provide you with more information as the election day draws closer.