Published June 29, 2018
Those Ontarians dissatisfied with the election result still would not change their vote in hindsight.
It has been three weeks since Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives won 76 seats and a majority government. Now that the dust has settled on the 2018 Ontario provincial election, it is time to dig a bit deeper and try to answer a few lingering questions about the results: How satisfied are people with the outcome? Would they vote differently now that they have the benefit of hindsight? When did people make up their mind? What issue influenced their vote the most?
Over the last three weeks, Vox Pop Labs and the team behind Vote Compass asked close to 20,000 Ontarians about the 2018 Ontario election. Here is what they had to say.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the shares of the popular vote — approximately 60% of the votes did not go to the Conservatives — voters from all parties except the Conservatives express a great dissatisfaction with the results. This dissatisfaction is the greatest among NDP voters (96%), even more than among Liberals who now find themselves with only seven seats.
More surprising, however, is the small proportions of voters who would change their vote if they could. Given the dynamic of the campaign and the fact that many votes from the center-left seem to have coalesced around the NDP, this result would indicate that what was left for the Liberals and the Greens was a small group of faithful supporters. Of those who voted for the Liberals, 87% say they would definitely not or probably not change their vote. That proportion is even higher for Greens at 92%. Taken together this means that for many Ontarians, the prospect of voting for their preferred party is more important than blocking a party that they do not like.
When and why did people make a decision?
Liking a party’s policy is, in fact, one of the main reasons that people gave to explain their vote. This is true for all parties, except for the NDP. 37% of NDP voters said they wanted to prevent another party from winning while 35% said they chose the NDP because of its policies. Again, this is not uniformly distributed between parties. Overall, about 20% of Ontarians voted to prevent another party from winning. One other result sticks out. The proportion of voters who told us they voted for a party because they liked the local candidate was slightly under 15%. It is also much more uniformly distributed between NDP, Green and Conservative voters (between 7 and 13%). However 27% of Liberal voters told us they voted the way they did because they liked the local candidate. One could argue that without this attachment of Liberal voters to their local candidate, the Liberal party could have ended up in an even more difficult situation.
When did people make up their mind? The answer varies a great deal depending on the party. Conservatives knew right from the start that Doug Ford would be getting their vote. A majority had decided before the campaign even started compared to only a quarter of Liberals and NDP voters. At the other end of the spectrum, only a small fraction of the electorate had not made up its mind on Election day. 20% of Liberal voters waited until the last minute to make a decision, perhaps being tempted to vote strategically before deciding against it.
Priority: The economy
When it comes to issues, the economy was at the forefront throughout the campaign. It was the number one issue at the beginning of the campaign [http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/vote-compass-results-economy-education-health-care-1.4660629] and remains at the top now. Given its importance, it is interesting to look at who voters thought is best at managing it.
Some results are not surprising. For instance, over 90% of Progressive Conservatives believe that their party is the best at managing Ontario’s economy. One interesting result, however, is the proportion of New Democrats voters who did not think the NDP was the best party to manage the economy. While 43% did, 27% thought the Liberals would have been better. The results are similar when we asked about leaders. While 49% of NDP voters thought that Andrea Horwath was the best at managing the economy, 24% chose Kathleen Wynne. Of course, those voters still decided to vote NDP, indicating that the economy is not all that matters for NDP voters. Still, this signals that the NDP has work to do to convince Ontarians, and even its own partisans, that it is the best at managing what many perceive to be the main issue in Ontario politics.
Doug Ford also has some convincing to do. While 40% of Ontarians think that the Progressive Conservatives are the best at managing the economy, that proportion drops to 30% when the question is about Ford specifically. This difference is even bigger when we only look at PC voters, while 92% see the party as the best to manage the economy, the proportion is 78% for Ford himself.
Promises and Cynicism
One potential source of cynicism in the electorate is the number of promises made during electoral campaigns that are pushed aside once a party is confronted with the reality of being in power. For example, Doug Ford mentioned throughout the campaign that he would find billions in efficiencies without a single government worker losing their job. We wanted to gauge Ontarians perceptions of those promises and asked them to rate how capable each leader was of delivering on them. The results are based on a 0 to 10 scale where 0 means not capable at all and 10 means very capable.
Ontarians are highly pessimistic (or cynical) in their evaluations. On average, they rated Ford’s capability of delivering on his promises at 3.3, Schreiner’s at 4.2, and Wynne’s at 4.9. Andrea Horwath was the only leader with a rating higher than 5 at 5.6. Again, voters tend to see their favorite party and leader as the ones most likely to fulfill their promises.
We also wanted to measure cynicism among Ontarians more directly. To do so, we ask for Ontarians’ opinions on a series of statements related to cynicism. Statements such as “Politicians don’t care about what people like me think” and “Elected official keep most of their promises”.
We then aggregated these questions into a cynicism index and looked at how cynicism differs by party. Interestingly, although Green and Conservative voters are more cynical on average, the distribution of cynicism is somewhat similar across party lines. Liberal voters were the least cynical of all. After so many years in power, they were of course more likely to see the political system as working, politicians as keeping their promises and government officials as being honest. Based on these results however, one can probably bet on an increase in cynicism among Liberal voters over the next four years under a Ford government.