September 3, 2014

By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto

(5th of 6 releases based on our August 15-18th poll) For interviews/quotes, or to find out about our services, please contact Chairman Bruce Anderson at banderson@abacusdata.ca (613-882-0929) or CEO David Coletto at david@abacusdata.ca (613-232-2806)

For years polling has tended to reinforce the notion that there is only one “top issue” facing the country. However the reality is that voters have a range of issues that they care about, and expect governments to do more than concentrate on any one thing.

When given a chance to name their top three issues, it becomes apparent that the economy matters, but so does health care, accountability, and the environment. And when it comes to the economy, there’s no single economic issue that dominates: jobs, taxes, debt, middle class incomes and retirement security are all pretty important.

The chart below illustrates the issues that were picked as “top three” agenda items.

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Ontarians were more likely to put job creation and taxes in their top three agenda items, Quebec residents gave above average priority to middle class incomes, the environment, and education, and British Columbians were more likely to highlight natural resource development.

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TOP ISSUES AND PARTY LEANINGS

Clearly, it’s too early to know what the defining issues of the next election will be. But our poll tells us that some issues will serve some parties better than others.

For voters concerned with health care, job creation, accountability, middle class incomes and education and the environment, the Liberal Party enjoys a lead over the other parties. The advantage is 10 points on health care, 7 on middle class incomes and retirement security, 6 on job creation, accountability and education. But it is on the environment where the gap is most sizeable. Among those voters who put the environment on their list of top three issues, fully 44% say they will vote Liberal, followed by 26% who would vote NDP. The Conservatives are the third choice party on this issue, with just 13% support.

The Conservative Party has the advantage among voters who care about taxes and fiscal issues: leading the Liberals by 8 on taxes and by 10 on debt and deficit. The Tories have a 9-point lead on crime and a whopping 17-point advantage on “natural resource development”.

The NDP are most competitive among those who identify poverty as a top issue. They are also close to the Conservatives in level of support among those who cite health care, accountability, middle class incomes, and education. The NDP ranks a more distant third on job creation, taxes, natural resource development and fiscal issues.

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THE UPSHOT?

Over the coming months the different parties will try to sharpen and improve their positioning on different issues, and clarify how they differ from each other. These results highlight some things that may have been easy to predict, such as the Conservative advantage on resource development, crime, taxes and fiscal matters. These are themes the Conservatives have stressed heavily in recent years.

What may surprise is how competitive the Liberals are on job creation, a theme the Conservatives have tried to own as the economy has recovered. Also worth noting, the Conservatives won office in 2006 on an accountability platform and now find they are trailing badly on that criteria.

Finally, the environment is clearly a weaker issue for the Conservatives, with most of the advantage going to the Liberals at this point in time. While the Conservatives have a large advantage on natural resource development, roughly twice as many people put the environment on their top three issues list. For the NDP these numbers signal some risk: if Canadians are looking for a policy approach that blends job creation, natural resource development and the environment, the NDP has work to do to establish itself as a leading alternative.

METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 1,614 respondents by Abacus Data, August 15 to 18, 2014. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading provider of online research samples.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Abacus Data is an innovative, fast growing public opinion and marketing research consultancy. We use the latest technology, sound science, and deep experience to generate research based advice to our clients. We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and value added insight.

Our team combines the experience of our Chairman Bruce Anderson, one of Canada’s leading research executives for two decades, with the energy, creativity and research expertise of CEO David Coletto, PhD. For more information, visit our website at http://www.abacusdata.ca/

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