What Canadians think a Poilievre-led Conservative government would do and not do?
May 9, 2023
We conducted a national survey at the beginning of the month to explore public perceptions of a Conservative government led by Pierre Poilievre. We asked respondents whether they thought such a government would or wouldn’t undertake a list of actions and whether a Conservative government should or shouldn’t do the same things.
The intention was to set a benchmark for public perceptions and to better understand the potential barriers the Conservatives face in growing support.
Here’s what we found:
First, many Canadians are uncertain about whether a Conservative government would or wouldn’t take all the actions we tested. Between 22% and 33% of respondents said they don’t know if a Conservative government would or wouldn’t do the actions we presented.
Second, few Canadians are certain about whether a Conservative government would or wouldn’t take the actions, but there are some areas where opinions are more defined. For example, more Canadians are certain that a Conservative government would eliminate the national carbon tax (17%), cut all public funding to the English-language CBC (15%), and make it harder for women to have an abortion (14%).
Conversely, 25% believe a Conservative government definitely won’t welcome as many immigrants to Canada as the Liberals, 20% believe they won’t deal with climate change seriously, 21% believe they won’t balance the federal budget within four years, and 15% believe they won’t cut personal taxes. Additionally, 12% of Canadians believe that a Conservative government definitely won’t make it harder for women to have an abortion.
However, many Canadians have an inclination about what a Conservative government will do.
When we combine “definitely will” and “probably will” and remove those who are unsure, here’s what Canadians expect a Conservative government to do, from most to least likely:
- 62% think a Conservative government will definitely or probably eliminate the national carbon tax.
- 61% think a Conservative government will cut all public funding to the English-language CBC.
- 55% think a Conservative government will end the national dental care program established by the Liberals.
- 55% think a Conservative government will make it harder for women to have an abortion.
- 51% think a Conservative government will end the national childcare program established by the Liberals.
- 42% think a Conservative government will cut personal income taxes.
- 41% think a Conservative government will make housing more affordable.
- 40% think a Conservative government will deal with climate change seriously.
- 38% think a Conservative government will balance the federal budget in four years.
- 28% think a Conservative government will welcome as many immigrants to Canada as the Liberals.
Following this question, we asked whether Canadians think a Conservative government should undertake the same set of actions. Here’s what we found, from highest to lowest:
- 91% definitely or probably think a Conservative government should make housing more affordable.
- 81% think a Conservative government should deal with climate change seriously.
- 79% think a Conservative government should balance the federal budget in four years.
- 70% think a Conservative government should cut personal income taxes.
- 54% think a Conservative government should eliminate the national carbon tax.
- 53% think a Conservative government should welcome as many immigrants to Canada as the Liberals.
- 38% think a Conservative government should eliminate all public funding to the English-language CBC.
- 25% think a Conservative government should end the national childcare program.
- 23% think a Conservative government should end the national dental care program.
- 23% think a Conservative government should make it harder for women to have an abortion.
The results indicate that some policy choices are more popular than others. Action on housing affordability is nearly universal, while serious climate action, balancing the budget, and cutting personal income taxes find widespread appeal. Canadians are more divided on the carbon tax and immigration, with a minority supporting the reduction of funding to the CBC and ending the national childcare and dental programs. Only one in four think that the Conservatives should make it harder for women to have an abortion.
Opportunities and Threats for the Conservatives
By examining the responses to both questions, we can identify policy actions that would likely attract or repel voters. We call the difference between the “will do” and “should do” responses the perception gap.
Policy areas where more Canadians want the Conservatives to take action and fewer think they will include:
- Making housing more affordable (50)
- Balancing the budget in 4 years (41)
- Dealing seriously with climate change (40)
- Cutting personal income taxes (28)
- Welcoming as many immigrants to Canada as the Liberals (25)
These are actions that generate significant interest, but fewer people are convinced the Conservatives will pursue them.
Areas where more people think the Conservatives will take action than think they should include:
- Making it harder for women to have an abortion (32)
- Ending the national childcare program (32)
- Cutting funding to the English-language CBC (23)
- Eliminating the carbon tax (8)
These are potential vulnerabilities for the Conservatives, particularly concerning abortion and ending the national childcare program.
When we look specifically at accessible Conservative voters – those open to voting Conservative but currently undecided or leaning towards another party – the story is somewhat similar.
Accessible Conservatives overwhelmingly want the Conservatives to balance the budget, cut taxes, and make housing affordable. These are clear opportunities for the Conservatives for which so far the Conservative Party has not established its credentials. Instead of focusing on defunding the CBC, a focus on these areas is likely to do a better job at growing those open to voting Conservative.
These are all potential vulnerabilities for the Conservatives – especially when it comes to abortion, climate change, and ending the national childcare program.
For example, 81% of accessible Conservatives want the Conservatives to address climate change seriously, but only 58% think they will.
While 53% of accessible Conservatives believe a Conservative government will end dental care, only 29% want them to; similarly, 44% think they will end childcare, but only 30% want them to. In the case of the CBC, 54% think a Conservative will defund the CBC, but only 41% want it to be.
What Unites and Divides Conservative Supporters?
Using the “what should a Conservative government do?” question, we can also identify what unites and divides the Conservative voter coalition.
Here are actions that a clear majority of current Conservative supporters want a Conservative government to undertake if elected:
- 92% want housing to be made more affordable
- 88% want the budget balanced within 4 years
- 82% want personal income taxes cut
- 81% want the national carbon tax eliminated
- 71% want serious action on climate change
Conservative supporters are almost evenly split on funding the CBC, with 58% wanting a Conservative government to eliminate all public funding for the English-language CBC and 42% opposed.
Here are areas where less than half of Conservative supporters want a Conservative government to take action:
- 30% want getting an abortion to be made more difficult
- 36% want the national dental care program ended
- 38% want the national childcare program ended
- 38% want as many immigrants welcomed to Canada as the Liberals have
As we approach an election, we will continue to monitor perceptions regarding the actions a Conservative government might take. The questions and answers discussed reveal both the opportunities and challenges the Conservatives face.
The Conservatives have ample opportunities to discuss tax cuts, fiscal restraint, and housing affordability. There is significant demand for action in these areas, and many believe the Conservatives will address them. Moreover, there is potential to convert accessible Conservatives into Conservative voters.
For the Liberals and NDP, abortion, childcare, dental care, and climate change are policy areas where public perceptions favor them. Among potential Conservative voters, there are notable gaps between what people want and what they think the Conservatives will do if elected.
This study also emphasizes the popularity of some Liberal initiatives over the years, particularly the national childcare and national dental care programs. Even among Conservative supporters, there is limited support for eliminating these programs.
Campaigns revolve around managing perceptions and expectations. This analysis has clearly shown the areas where Conservatives may be vulnerable, as well as the opportunities they have to connect with Canadians who are not yet convinced to vote Conservative.
The survey was conducted with 1,750 Canadian adults from April 28 to May 3, 2023. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.
The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.4%, 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.
This survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc.
Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here: https://canadianresearchinsightscouncil.ca/standards/
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