What is Motivating Voting Preferences in Canada?

Eddie Sheppard

Eddie Sheppard

From June 20 to 25, 2024 Abacus Data conducted a national survey of 1,900 Canadian adults exploring several topics related to Canadian politics and current events as part of our regular national omnibus surveys. In this edition, we ask Canadians about the top issues facing the country today, what motivates them to vote, and their reasons for supporting specific parties.

Mood of the Country and Top Issues Facing Canada Today

Today, 62% of Canadians believe the country is on the wrong track, while only 25% think the country is headed in the right direction. Those over 60 are the most likely to think the country is headed in the right direction while Conservative voters are the least likely. 1 in 3 of those intending to vote Liberal think the country is off on the wrong track.

The top issues of concerns for Canadians remain consistent with our tracking over the past two years.  The cost of living remains the largest issue facing more Canadians (71%), followed by housing affordability and accessibility (46%), healthcare (42%), the economy (33%), and immigration (27%). In total, 86% of Canadians put either the cost of living or housing as a top issue.

To anticipate how the ballot question might impact vote intentions, we crossed vote intention by top issues. The Conservative party has a big lead among those who rate the rising cost of living, housing affordability and accessibility, the economy, and immigration as top issues. The Liberals lead only among those who consider climate change and the environment as a top issue, while the NDP leads among those who prioritize inequality and poverty.

These results show that the Conservative Party is currently ahead on the issues that matter most to Canadians. For the Liberals to regain lost ground, they need to demonstrate their ability to address these top issues and rebuild trust with the electorate, or at the very least raise doubts about the alternatives’ ability to manage the issues.

Motivation to Vote in the Next Election

In this survey, we asked a new question we haven’t asked before, specifically, which factors best explain their motivation to vote whenever the next election comes.

Responses are quite mixed. 43% say their vote will be determined by a concern for specific issues facing Canada today. 40% say it is about a desire for change, 40% say it is about civic duty and responsibility, while another 40% cite which option offers the best long-term vision for the country. Note, respondents could select more than one option.

Roughly 1 in 4 Canadians say their vote is more about opposing other candidates than voting for an option, while another 1 in 4 say it’s about support for a specific policy position of a candidate or party.

When we look at the relationship between motivating factors and current federal vote intention, we find that current Conservative voters are motivated most by a desire to see a change in leadership (57%), a focus on specific issues facing Canada (50%), party/leader’s long-term vision for the country (43%), and civic duty and responsibility (38%). 29% say they are voting Conservative in opposition to other candidates.

For Liberal voters, the drivers are a bit different. 47% say it is out of civic duty and responsibility, 41% say it is because of the party/leader’s long-term vision for the country, while 37% say it is because they want to keep the current leader (Trudeau) in Parliament. Another 36% say they are voting Liberal in opposition to other parties.

For NDP voters, the primary drivers are specific issues (49%), a change in leadership (46%), civic duty and responsibility (40%), voting against another party (40%), and long-term vision for the country (38%).

When we flip the analysis and look at how people vote based on their response to the question, we find that the Conservatives are leading by a wide margin among those focused on specific issues facing the country, on those looking for a change in leadership, and among those who like the party/leader’s long-term vision for the country. They also lead among those who support a particular candidate/party’s policies.

The Liberals only lead among those who want to keep the current leader in Parliament and do slightly better among those who say they are voting in opposition to other candidates or parties.

We also explored the specific reasons influencing the decision to vote for a party in the next federal election.

Conservative voters are most likely to be motivated by economic policies (43%), leadership qualities (37%), their desire for change (36%), trust and integrity (30%) and their disapproval of other candidates (28%). They are less likely to be motivated by social issues, healthcare, foreign policies, or other specific issues.

Liberal voters are more motivated by healthcare policies (31%), disapproval of other candidates (30%), leadership qualities (29%), climate change (29%), and economic policies (26%). Not surprisingly, Liberal voters are not motivated by a desire for change.

NDP voters are more motivated by social issues (40%), healthcare policies (32%), a desire for change (29%), economic policies (28%) and trust and integrity (26%).

The Upshot

These findings highlight that many Canadians are motivated by a desire for a change in leadership—it’s almost as big a motivator as any specific issue or policy problem.

Right now, the Conservatives are riding this wave, especially with voters who are engaged with specific problems, want new leadership, and think the Conservative long-term vision is preferable to what is on offer from the Liberals or NDP. On the other hand, the Liberals are mostly appealing to those who want to maintain the current leadership or want a focus on healthcare and social issues and that base is much narrower than the others.

This reaffirms that the primary mindset of Canadians is change. Whether they want a change to specific policies or outcomes or a change in leadership – it is the major driver for Conservative and NDP voters.

While Canadians might not be in a “decision mindset” yet, it’s clear many are focused on change. This desire can impact how people feel about our current government and policies. When voters aren’t happy with how things are or see big issues that need fixing, they tend to look for new leaders or fresh ideas that have the potential to promise better results.

As long as voters are motivated to change governments and leaders and feel the alternatives are safe or acceptable, the Liberals and Prime Minister Trudeau will not regain vote share.


The survey was conducted with 1,900 Canadian adults from June 20 to 25, 2024. 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 +/- 2.25%, 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.

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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