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BC Election: BC NDP leads by 10; Dix and Clark near even in personal popularity

According to the Sun News/Abacus Data provincial survey of eligible voters in British Columbia, the BC NDP leads the BC Liberals by 10 points among decided and leaning voters.  The BC NDP has the support of 43% of decided voters followed by the BC Liberals at 33%, the BC Greens at 12%, and the BC Conservatives at 9%.

Among all respondents, 12% said they were undecided even after being asked if they are leaning towards one party.

Download detailed tables

Provincial Vote Intention

Regionally, the BC NDP is strongest on Vancouver Island (57%) where it leads the BC Greens by 33 points and the BC Liberals by 43 points.

In Greater and Metro Vancouver, the race is much closer with the NDP only marginally ahead of the BC Liberals (40% BC NDP vs. 37% BC Liberals).

Demographically, the BC NDP leads among all subgroups include men (NDP 39%, Lib 35%), women (NDP 47%, Lib 31%), those aged 18 to 29 (NDP 39%, Lib 34%) and aged 30 to 44 (NDP 43%, Lib 29%).  However, the two main parties are closer among those aged 60 and over (NDP 44%, Lib 41%).

“A silver lining for the BC Liberals is that they are competitive where most of the seats are (Greater Vancouver) and among more reliable voters (those 60 and over),” said Abacus CEO David Coletto.

“With only a slight increase in popular support since 2009, this election is less about a popular NDP than it is about a less popular BC Liberal Party,” said Coletto.

The table above reports how current vote intentions compare with voter behaviour in the 2009 provincial election.  For example, among current NDP supporters, 67% voted NDP in 2009 while 14% voted for the  BC Liberals and 3% voted Green.

Among current BC Conservative supporters, only 9% of its current supporters voted for the party in 2009.  Almost a majority of its current supporters voted for the BC Liberals in 2009 while another 33% said they did not vote or can’t remember how they voted.


This demonstrates the impact of a stronger BC Conservative Party on the electoral prospects of the BC Liberals.

However, even if half of the BC Conservative/BC Liberal switchers returned back to the BC Liberals, the Liberals would still be seven points behind the NDP.

To win, the Liberals need to bring past supporters who have left to support both the NDP and Conservatives.  Only if they accomplish this can they compete with the larger NDP supporter pool.

Federal vs. Provincial Politics

The survey also asked respondents how they voted in the 2011 federal election.  The table below reports the composition of current provincial support by voting behaviour in the 2011 federal election.

What the data demonstrates is that all four provincial parties are coalitions of different federal voters but that current BC Liberal supporters are the most diverse.

Among those respondents who said they would vote BC Liberal, 55% voted for the federal Conservatives in 2011 while 33% voted for the federal Liberals.  Only 3% cast a ballot for Jack Layton and the federal NDP.

In contrast, the BC NDP is made up primarily of federal NDP voters (61%) but also has the support federal Conservatives (14%) and federal Liberals (13%),


BC Conservative support is less diverse in terms of federal party voters with almost three in four BC Conservative supporters saying they voted for the federal Conservative Party in 2011 with another 16% saying they voted Liberal.

 “When you look at how federal party supporters are voting in the provincial election, it makes sense why Tom Mulcair is in the game but Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau are staying away,” said Coletto.

“Whereas 87% of federal NDP supporters are going to vote for the BC NDP, federal Tories and Liberals are split between the BC Liberals (CPC 51%, LPC 52%), BC NDP (CPC 17%, LPC 29%), and BC Conservatives(CPC 18%, LPC 6%).  If Harper and Trudeau were to back the provincial party that a majority of their supporters are, they would both be campaigning for Christy Clark.  That would make for some awkward moments on the campaign bus.”

Accessible Voter Polls

Another challenge for the BC Liberals is that are playing in a smaller voter pool compared with the NDP.

When respondents were asked if they would consider or not consider voting for each of the main political parties in British Columbia, the BC NDP had the largest pool of accessible voters.

Fifty percent of respondents said they would consider voting for the BC NDP, compared with 41% for the BC Liberals, 34% for the BC Greens, and 27% for the BC Conservatives.

“The BC NDP not only leads among decided voters, but they also have the largest pool of voters who would consider voting NDP,” said Coletto.  “The BC Liberals can still win the election but they will need to convince all those voters who would consider voting for them to actually turn out and cast a ballot.  That’s a tough, but not impossible, mission two weeks out from election day.”

When we compare voter conversion rates (% of respondents indicating they will vote for a party divided by the % of respondents who would consider voting for a party) we find that the BC NDP has the highest conversion rate (76%), followed by the BC Liberals (71%), and the BC Conservatives (35%).

“The smaller parties like the Greens and Conservatives are facing a highly polarized election meaning unless one of the two main parties make a big mistake, it will be difficult to grow their support in the next two weeks of the election,” said Coletto.

Direction of the Province

British Columbians are split on whether they think the province is headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track.

One in three respondents (33%) believed that the province is headed in the right direction while 37% believe it is headed on the wrong track.  Another 30% were unsure.

Most worrisome for the BC Liberals is that only 55% of those who voted BC Liberal in 2009 believed that the province was headed in the right direction.  Another 24% believed it was headed on the wrong track while 21% were unsure.

Provincial Party Leader Favourability

Turning to the four main political party leaders, the Sun News/Abacus Data poll found that none of the four leaders are particularly popular in British Columbia.

Respondents were asked to rate their overall impression of the leaders on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means they really dislike the individual and 10 means they really like the leader.

Overall, none of the four leaders had a net positive rating (more people viewed them positively than negatively).  In fact, no leader was viewed positively by more than a quarter of respondents.

NDP Leader Adrian Dix was viewed positively by 23% of respondents compared with 24% who had a positive impression of Liberal Leader Christy Clark.  Conservative Leader John Cummins had a favourable rating with only six percent of respondents while 14% held the same positive views of Green Leader Jane Sterk.

While Adrian Dix and Christy Clark were about equal when it came to positive impressions, fewer respondents viewed Adrian Dix negatively when compared with his rival Christy Clark.  Thirty-five percent of respondents had a negative impression of Adrian Dix while 42% had a negative impression of Christy Clark, a seven-point difference.


“If Adrian Dix becomes Premier this spring it is not because British Columbians love the guy,” said Coletto.  “He is not more popular than Christy Clark, he’s just disliked less.”

When we compares leader favourability among a leader’s own supporters we find that NDP supporters are less likely to have a positive impression of Adrian Dix than Liberal supporters have of Christy Clark.

Only 51% of NDP supporters have a positive impression of Adrian Dix compared with 61% for Christy Clark among Liberal supporters.

“Many NDP supporters are not necessarily voting for the NDP because they like Adrian Dix.  They are voting for the NDP because they like Christy Clark even less and want change.”

Leadership Attributes: Clark vs. Dix

Finally, respondents were asked to consider some favourable and unfavourable things that have been said about various politicians.  They were shown a list of statements and asked whether they agree or disagree that the statements apply to Christy Clark and to Adrian Dix.

On three of the seven measures, the difference between Dix and Clark is not statistically significant.  About one in two British Columbians believe that Dix and Clark are qualified to be Prime Minister.  Less than a majority believe they both have sound judgment and a majority consider them to be likeable.  On qualifications, judgment, and likeability, neither candidate has a significant advantage over the other.

But Adrian Dix does have an advantage over Christy Clark on the three remaining measures.  British Columbians are more likely to agree that Dix understands the problems facing BC than Clark (Dix 61%, Clark 51%).   They are also more likely to think he has a clear vision for BC compared with Clark (Dix 53%, Clark 45%).  And there is a ten-point difference in the percentage of respondents who agreed that either leader is out of touch with ordinary people with 52% agreeing the statement applies to Christy Clark while 42% agreeing it applies to Dix.

Perhaps most troubling for Christy Clark, the survey found that 65% of British Columbians agree that she is more style than substance.  Even 42% of those who said they would vote Liberal agreed that Clark is more style than substance.


Bottom Line

With two weeks to go until the May 14 election and the leaders set to meet in the first and only televised debate tonight, the BC NDP is a strong position.  It has a 10-point lead among decided voters over the BC Liberals.  It has a big lead on Vancouver Island and is competitive with the BC Liberals in every other region of the province, including in Greater Vancouver.

It’s leader, Adrian Dix, while not loved by the population, is respected being viewed as qualified, likeable, and empathic by a majority of British Columbians.

While BC NDP support is not up significantly from the 2009 election, it is benefiting from the splintering of past BC Liberal support.  Among those who voted Liberal in 2009, only 62% plan to vote BC Liberal again in 2013 with 16% shifting to the NDP and 11% going to the BC Conservatives.

In contrast, the BC NDP is holding onto 82% of its previous support while picking up past Liberal, Green, and non voters to make up for the switchers.

For the BC Liberals, there are some optimistic findings.  First, the NDP lead is lower than polls released at the start of the campaign.  Second, while the NDP is ahead, it is not because of strong affection for the NDP leader Adrian Dix.  Third, NDP support is not up significantly since 2009 and only 37% of British Columbians believe the province is headed in the wrong direction.

The BC Liberals have an opportunity to come back, but a lot will ride on the leaders’ debate tonight.

The 2013 BC Election is far from over.  The NDP leads but a victory on May 14 is far from certain.  To win, the Liberals will need to convert every respondent who would consider voting Liberal into a voter on election day.


The survey was conducted online with 1,042 British Columbians eligible to vote in the 2013 provincial election using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a panel of over 500,000 Canadians.  The survey was completed from April 23 to 26, 2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 1,042 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched British Columbia’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region.

The survey was commissioned by the Sun News Network.

For more information about the poll’s methodology or the results, please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or at 613-232-2806.

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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