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By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto


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In next year’s federal election well over 1,000 people will register as candidates for different parties or as independent candidates. This willingness to participate in the political process is important to the health of any democracy. We recently explored the idea of political candidacy in our polling. Here are the highlights of what we found:

– 6% of Canadians say they would consider running for office, and another 15% say they might consider it. While the vast majority of people wouldn’t consider running, the 21% represents a considerable pool of potential political talent, the equivalent of millions of Canadians.

– The persistent gender imbalance in politics is reflected in the fact that men are quite a bit more (28%) inclined to run compared to women (15%). The instinct to consider standing for office peaks between the ages of 30 and 45 (27%)

– Of those who would consider running, 35% think they would (definitely or probably) win. While men are more likely to consider running, women are slightly more confident than men that if they ran they would win.


Across the population as a whole, asked which party they would run for, the Liberal and Conservative brands have the most appeal: 22% would run for the Liberal Party, 20% for the Conservatives, and 14% for the NDP. In Quebec 12% would run for the BQ.

Conservative and Liberal voters are most likely to say they would run for the party they plan to vote for. Only 12% of Conservative voters, and 13% of Liberal voters would consider carrying another banner or running as an independent. 22% of NDP voters would do so.

In terms of how people feel about their current representatives:

– 41% say they could name their federal MP, and another 17% say they probably could.

– 17% say their MP deserves to be re-elected and another 24% say “probably”. In Alberta, the province with the largest proportion of presumed “safe” incumbents the number of voters who think their MP deserves to be re-elected is only marginally higher than average (45%).

– In Quebec and Ontario, the two provinces with the most seats, 45% and 40% think their MP deserves re-election.

– Women (38%) are considerably less likely than men (44%) to support incumbents.

– Among those who say they know the name of their MP, 56% say their MP deserves re-election, 36-points higher than those who cannot or probably cannot name their MP.

The Upshot?

While there has been plenty of evidence of voter frustration with politics over the years, a considerable number of people believe that they can make politics better, and are open to participating as candidates. A good number also believe that they would have a chance to win.

In our first past the post system, incumbents often win with considerably less than 50% of support. Notwithstanding that, voters seem less critical when evaluating the performance of their own MP than of the system or a party as a whole. The numbers also show how valuable it can be for local MP’s to become well known among constituents, it clearly tends to condition people towards supporting incumbents.

Finally, the gender balance in our politics seems to have more to do with women feeling less able or willing to consider a run for office – and is less about confidence in their prospects of victory: women are if anything more confident than men that they could win if they ran.


Our survey was conducted online with 1,850 Canadians aged 18 and over from October 30 to November 4, 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 +/- 2.3%, 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.

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 https://www.abacusdata.ca/

Download the full report with tables: PDF

Good Decisions Require Good Data.