Ontario Politics: Horwath and Wynne are the most popular leaders in Ontario

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According to a new Ontario provincial survey, more Ontarians have a positive impression of Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath than have a negative impression.

While Dalton McGuinty hurt Liberal fortunes and support, Kathleen Wynne’s personal popularity seems to be lifting support for the Liberals.  In a poll released last week, the Ontario Liberals were tied with the PCs at 34% among those who had a clear vote intention.


When asked to rate their personal impressions of the main leaders, Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath both have net positive impressions.  Thirty-four percent of respondents have a positive impression of Kathleen Wynne while 33% have the same view of NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.  While the two female leaders are tied on positive impressions, Horwath has slightly better negative impressions.  But overall, both leaders are liked and are net benefits to their parties.


The popularity of Kathleen Wynne with past NDP supporters should be a major concern for Andrea Horwath and the NDP.  Overall, 36% of past NDP voters have a positive impression of Wynne while 31% have a negative impression of the Premier.  Consider that only 8% of past NDP voters have a positive impression of former Premier Dalton McGuinty and you can see how Kathleen Wynne is a serious threat to NDP fortunes and why the Liberals are now tied with the PCs for the lead among decided voters.

Tim Hudak on the other hand is in an entirely different position.  Almost a majority of Ontarians have a negative impression of the Leader of the Opposition (46%) while only 22% view him positively. Those who view the PC Leader positively are almost exclusively those who voted PC in 2011 with only 9% and 11% of past Liberal and NDP Party supporters saying they have a positive impression of Hudak.  If leadership becomes a primary driver for voting behaviour, these numbers indicate why the PCs will have a difficult time expanding support beyond their 2011 level.

To contrast the popularity of the three current main party leaders, respondents were also asked to rate their impression of former Premier Dalton McGuinty.  Overall, only 12% of respondents had a positive impression of the former Premier while 67% had a negative impression of him.

Leadership Attributes

Survey respondents were also asked whether a number of attributes accurately described each of the three main party leaders in Ontario.

Overall, both Andrea Horwath and Kathleen Wynne have quite positive personal leadership brands.  A majority of respondents aware of each leader agreed that both are likeable, have sound judgment, and are honest.  A majority of respondents also believe that both leaders understand the problems facing Ontario.



Tim Hudak’s personal numbers are not as positive with few respondents agreeing that he is likeable, has sound judgment, and is honest.

Leadership Attributes
(% Agreeing with Statement, Those with an Opinion Only)


Kathleen Wynne

Tim Hudak

Andrea Horwath


Is qualified to be Premier





Has sound judgement










Understands the problems facing Ontario





More style than substance





Has a clear vision for Ontario










These numbers might help to explain why the PCs have not been able to turn the gas plant cancellations into more support for the Tories, or at least weakening numbers for the Liberals.


When it comes to honesty and judgement, Kathleen Wynne has a significant lead over Tim Hudak.  When the Tories attack Premier Wynne on the file, it only energizes the Tory base who were never going to vote Liberal anyway.  The attacks do not seem to have impacted Wynne’s personal leadership attributes.

A large majority of Ontarians who know Kathleen Wynne think she’s honest and has sound judgment and fewer Ontarians think the same thing of Tim Hudak.  For an attack on integrity to be effective, the attacker has to have the high ground and be seen as having the qualities that those being attacked are perceived to lack.  That is not the case in a fight between Wynne and Hudak at the moment.

Bottom Line

“Most Ontarians like what they have seen from Kathleen Wynne so far.  A majority of Ontarians have either a positive or neutral impression of her and a majority would describe her as a leader who is honest, has sound judgment, and understands the problems facing Ontario,” said Abacus Data CEO David Coletto.

“While Andrea Horwath’s personal numbers rival the Premier’s, she remains at a disadvantage because of the polarizing nature of the province’s electoral system.”

“While she has a lot of goodwill with Ontarians, Horwath can no longer easily contrast herself with the other two party leaders,” said Coletto.

“Kathleen Wynne’s authenticity and new approach to governing appeals to many Ontarians and Tim Hudak has clearly positioned himself as an agent for change.  Horwath needs to find a new contrast point if she is going to take advantage of her positive numbers.”

“Tim Hudak struggles weak personal numbers, particularly in and around Toronto,” said Coletto.  “As we recently saw in British Columbia, it is hard to motivate voters for change when they dislike the alternative more than the status quo.”



The survey was conducted online with 1,185 Ontarians eligible to vote using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative online panel of over 150,000 Canadians.  The survey was completed from May 7to 9, 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 1,185 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.9%, 19 times out of 20.

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

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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