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Each day during the 2021 Federal Election campaign, researchers at Abacus Data will share insights and analysis from our polling in concise, insights-focused reports. To never miss our polls and analysis, subscribe to our newsletter.

By Richard Jenkins

Elections often feel like a referendum on the previous 4 years, or in this case 2 years. A choice between “kicking the bums out” or acknowledging that we are better off than perhaps we would be otherwise. So what role does voter emotion play in election campaigns and outcome? Are Canadians happy or unhappy with where we are now?

With the first week of the campaign underway, in the books, the average happiness score is 64.8 out of 100. Our overall happiness is consistently higher than it was last fall and winter. While this is good news for the incumbent party, as it may indicate a potential “reward” for getting us through the pandemic so far.

Happiness and Political Engagement Go Together

It turns out that political participation is related to happiness. The average happiness score for people who didn’t vote in 2019 is 55.1; a full ten points lower than the average Canadian. Voters for the smaller parties are also less happy now. Those who voted Liberal, Conservative and BQ in 2019 are the most happy now. NDP voters in the last election are, however, a major party of voters who are not happy right now.

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While we don’t know if their unhappiness caused them to not vote, unhappiness, it appears, is part of a disengagement with community. Those who don’t trust other people are much less happy. The happiness score for those who trust other people always is 76.0. This is 24 points higher than for people who never trust other people.

While unhappiness may be a motivator to act for change, it also appears (perhaps over time) to disengage Canadians from the political process. This is important because of the very strong relationship between age and happiness. Older Canadians are much more happy than those under 30 years of age.

UPSHOT

According to Richard Jenkins: The improved positive emotion that Canadians have now compared with the pandemic offers the incumbent some good news. The three big questions are: (1) Will young people punish the incumbent as a reflection of their relative unhappiness or will they simply disengage? (2) Does the relative happiness of Conservative voters from 2019 offer the Liberals a chance to convert them to Liberal voters in 2021? (3) Will the unhappiness of NDP voters from 2019 lead to NDP gains?

We know that emotion will be central the happiness levels of different kinds of voters are likely to impact the strategies that parties use to activate them and get them to vote.

METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2000 Canadians aged 18 and over from August 17 to 22, 2021. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are 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 +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. In Canada 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.

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 follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here:  https://canadianresearchinsightscouncil.ca/standards/

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