Apr 22, 2018

Is a youthquake coming to Ontario? How millennials feel about the Ontario election

Authored by:

David Coletto

David Coletto

Our analysis thus far of data collected from our survey of over 4,100 Ontarians has concluded that:

  • The election is anyone’s to win but that Doug Ford and PCs have the easier path to victory and Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals face immense head winds as they seek re-election.
  • One in five Ontarians are undecided at this stage and many will likely not vote. But those who may, there’s a strong desire for change and few have positive impressions of Premier Wynne.
  • “Ford Nation” is a small but sizeable group of Ontarians who share an extraordinary affinity for Doug Ford. He connects with these Ontarians more than any other politician, and they are enthusiastic to be his tribe. They feel he fights for them, speaks their language, and doesn't talk down to them. Though they do not suffer from the pronounced economic anxiety of the Trump voter, they are nonetheless a group with some similarities – a disinclination for elites, mainstream media, and the "scourge" of political correctness.
  • Kathleen Wynne is personally unpopular with over six in ten Ontarians saying they have a negative impression of her. Doug Ford and Andrea Horwath are viewed more positively than her.

In this edition of poll analysis, we turn our attention to one of my favourite topics: generational differences. Specifically, how the millennials are thinking about Ontario politics at the moment.

This will be the first Ontario election in which more millennials will be eligible to vote than baby boomers.

For context, this will be the first Ontario election in which more millennials will be eligible to vote than baby boomers. In the last federal election, youth turnout increased by about 20 percentage points which was a key factor in the majority win for the Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals.

In Ontario, millennials can play a big role in the outcome. Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals have staked a lot on this group coming out to vote and voting Liberal in big numbers.

Here’s what our polling found:

Millennials are less likely to think the province is off on the wrong track than older generations but this is really a matter of degrees than direction. More still feel things in the province aren’t going so well.


Millennials are far more open to voting for all the parties than older Ontarians. Two thirds (67%) are open to voting NDP and 56% would consider voting Liberal or PC.  Generationally speaking, millennials are the most accessible group of voters for the Ontario Liberals. But many are still open to voting PC and especially NDP. 


Despite being open to all parties, most millennials still think it would be good to have a change in government. While the desire for change is less intense than for older generations, 78% still think change would be good with almost half feeling it’s definitely time for a change in Ontario. This is not a good number for the Ontario Liberals and a real opportunity for both the PCs and the NDP.


When it comes to current vote intentions, millennials are far less likely to say they would vote PC than older generations. While the PCs get over 40% of the vote among GenXers and Boomers, they trail both the Liberals and NDP among millennials.  The Ontario Liberals currently have the largest share of the millennial vote, 34% compared with 28% for the NDP and 25% for the PCs. The Ontario Greens do best among millennials as well with 10% of the vote.


Where we see the greatest divide between generations comes on the issues millennials think are most important. Millennials are far more likely to prioritize housing affordability (43% ranked it in their top 3 issues). They are also more likely to rank jobs and the economy and the environment/climate change in their top 3 issues. In contrast, they are much less likely to rank health care, provincial deficit and debt, and honest and accountability in government as a top issue facing the province.


But as we have seen in other jurisdictions, if millennials collectively decide to support an agenda and come out to vote, their electoral power can shift outcomes.


Millennials alone will not decide the outcome of the election. But since they represent over a third of the electorate, their influence on an Ontario election has never been greater. And they aren’t being ignored by the parties.

Consider the policies the Ontario Liberal government have pursued for the past few years: free tuition, rent control, free prescription drugs to those 25 and under, climate change action, and minimum wage increases. All of these issues speak to the things that young people care deeply about.

The recent NDP platform also speaks to young families and Ontarians. Affordable childcare, investments in transit, build new affordable homes, and converting student loans to grants.

The PCs have less on offer to young voters but don’t count them out yet. The promise to eliminate income tax from minimum wage earners may only be the start to a platform that speaks to the anxieties of this generation.

But the PCs have a big lead among voters aged 55 and over, enough perhaps to push them into office even if they lose among younger voters. 

Yet, as we have seen in other jurisdictions, if millennials collectively decide to support an agenda and come out to vote, their electoral power can shift outcomes. 

Learn more about the power of the Millennials

If you’re interested in more insights and data about millennials, subscribe to Abacus Data’s Canadian Millennial Report [http://abacusdata.ca/canadian-millennials-report/]. Here’s a sample of some of the content we have produced in the past few months:

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