Jun 03, 2018

NDP holds onto lead over PCs as outcome is uncertain at this point.

Authored by:

David Coletto

David Coletto

Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson

As Ontarians headed into the final weekend before Thursday’s election, we at Abacus Data were busy crunching the numbers of our final survey before election day.

All the data reported here were collected prior to Ms. Wynne’s announcement Saturday morning admitting she won’t win the election.

Here’s what we are seeing:

The NDP continues to have the largest pool of accessible voters; 14 points greater than the PCs. The Ontario NDP still has the largest pool of people saying they are open to voting NDP (64%), but this is down 5 since last week. 49% are open to voting PC (down 3) while 40% are open to voting Liberal (also down 3).

34% say they are certain to or likely to vote NDP compared with 29% saying the same for the PCs and 21% for the Liberals. NDP supporters are as motivated, if not more motivated, than PC supporters. As with every election, who turns out to vote will impact the outcome but our poll indicates that the PCs may not have the most motivated voters in the election.


The NDP continues to lead by 4. The horse race is unchanged from last week. When asked how they would vote or did vote (we asked if respondents had voted in advance polls), among decided voters, the NDP gets 37%, the PCs 33, and the Liberals 23%. This is unchanged from our last survey completed last week. Undecided voters now represent 14% of the electorate - a drop of 4 points in a week.


We find a close two-way race between the NDP and PCs in Toronto and the communities surrounding the city (GTHA). The Liberals and PCs are close in eastern Ontario while the NDP are well ahead in Southwestern Ontario and in the North (although our sample size here is quite small).


The NDP leads among those aged under 45 while the PCs are slightly ahead among those 60+. The two are tied among those aged 45 to 59. The gap between PC and NDP support among older voters has closed in recent weeks.


The NDP’s lead among women under 45 is driving its province-wide advantage. They lead the Tories by 19 among this group, while among all other age/gender groups, it’s a much closer race.


1 in 5 Ontarians say they voted already and more voted PC than NDP. Among this group, 34% said they voted PC, 30% voted NDP, and 27% voted Liberal. Another 7% voted for the Greens. It appears the PCs may have an advantage in early voting.


Based on our read of the numbers, we think the race is impossible to predict. Several things are apparent, and a few things remain unclear. Let’s examine some of these knowns and unknowns.

So, where do things stand five days before election day?

Based on our read of the numbers, we think the race is impossible to predict. Several things are apparent, and a few things remain unclear. Let’s examine some of these knowns and unknowns.

The PCs are doing better among older voters and men. The NDP’s reliance on younger voters raises a question that surrounds many elections these days: what proportion of those voters will turn out?

Ms. Horwath continues to be viewed quite well: two people have a positive view of the NDP leader for everyone who has a negative view. The picture for Mr. Ford is almost the exact opposite.

During the campaign, Ms. Horwath’s positives rose 14 points and her negatives went up 5 – the campaign has clearly boosted her popularity. For Mr. Ford, his positives dropped by 4 and his negatives jumped 13.


One of the key measures we’ve been tracking is how people would feel about different election outcomes. Far more (60%) would prefer an NDP win compared to a PC win (40%). And more people would be dismayed with a PC government (43%) than an NDP government (31%). Although the number of those fearing an NDP government has risen by 11 points in a week, most of that has come from committed PC supporters.


Looking at this another way, among current Liberal supporters, almost eight in ten would prefer an NDP win over a PC win.

On the other hand, while more people fear a PC win, that number hasn’t increased in over two weeks. In the final days, the NDP may need to do more to drive this number up to help push soft Liberals and Green voters into their arms.

Among those who prefer an NDP win, 26% have been intending to vote Liberal. Given Ms. Wynne’s admission Saturday that she won’t win the election, these voters represent a large potential pool of swing voters. Here’s what we know about them: six in ten are open to voting NDP, only 25% are open to voting PC, and only one in four (26%) of them would be dismayed if the NDP won the election.

Looking at this another way, among current Liberal supporters, almost eight in ten would prefer an NDP win over a PC win. And this holds across the province from as high as 90% of Liberals in eastern Ontario to 74% for those living in the GTHA.


One question remains: Will the NDP be able to convert this opportunity to actual votes or will the PCs pull off victory, potentially with a lower number of actual votes, thanks to what appears to be a structural advantage in the electorate and perhaps a low turnout?


This is a race that has turned out differently than many people were expecting at the start of the year or even the start of April. The only thing that has not changed is the determination of Ontarians to change their government.

The most important change has been the PC’s new leader who has the sort of negatives normally seen with an incumbent of many years standing. The PCs were posed for a decisive win and today the outcome uncertain.

The NDP is often seen by longtime observers of politics and partisans as carrying a heavy brand burden - but today they have the biggest potential voter pool with two-thirds of voters saying they would consider voting for them. What’s more if forced to choose between an NDP and a Conservative win (the two outcomes Premier Wynne said were most likely), far more people would prefer the orange team to succeed.

The imponderables now start with who is motivated most to vote and how will that change in the final days. Ford’s negatives remain high, but Horwath’s have been rising as people start to look at her and the NDP more closely.

Voters don’t seem to be looking for a hard-left turn, a factor that plays in favour of the PCs.

Voters don’t seem to be looking for a hard-left turn, a factor that plays in favour of the PCs. But the animosity towards Donald Trump has also created a fear of right-wing populism, and a greater desire to avoid the brash style associated with the Ford name. How these two ingredients mix as voters really turn their attention to this decision is as impossible to say as it is to predict what President Trump might tweet tomorrow.

The results show little if any evidence that voters have consumed platforms or are focused on any particular issue - this a battle more about context and fear of the unpalatable and less about ideas or agenda.

The results show little if any evidence that voters have consumed platforms or are focused on any particular issue

The Conservative vote is older, and more efficiently spread across the province, typically factors that could be enough to elect the Tories.

But progressive voters are more numerous and it may appear to many of them that the Liberal leader has thrown in the towel. Few dislike Horwath; considerably more have a problem with Ford. With hours left on the clock, the outcome remains uncertain, and likely because many voters remain unsettled.

A lot can happen in 4 days. Events over the weekend show anything can, so this election is not over and predicting the outcome at this point seems like a fool’s errand to us.

It’s time to let the voters decide.


The survey was conducted online with 2,624 Ontarians aged 18 and over from May 29 to June 2, 2018. The sample is composed of two parts. 1,424 respondents who took part in our first and second survey of the election were completed the third wave. An additional random sample of 1,200 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 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 +/- 1.9%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Ontario’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding

Download the detailed tables on vote intention here.


As with the previous wave, the numbers reported in this survey come from two separate sample sources.

The first comes from a panel study we have been running since the early April. In our first survey, we interviewed 4,685 Ontarians eligible to vote. From that initial pool, we invited them to come back and complete our second, third and now the fourth survey.

This method enables us to track opinion and intended behaviour over time throughout the campaign in a way not typically done in publicly released election polling. It’s the way we approach our work with clients and my mission to never stop innovating or doing new things with my fabulous team at Abacus Data.

To ensure that our results are representative and are capturing broader shifts in the electorate, we also interviewed a new sample of 1,200 Ontarians eligible to vote. Both samples, the panel and the new sample, are weighted independently so each matches the Ontario population. Results are comparable across the two samples and I’m confident they provide us credible estimates of what the public is feeling and thinking about this election.

Wave 3 was conducted from May 16 to 18, 2018. 1,684 respondents from Wave 1 and Wave 2 were recontacted and completed the survey. An additional 1,140 respondents were invited who had not participated in any previous study (what we call fresh sample).

A flash poll was conducted from May 25 to 26, 2018 with 800 Ontarians who had not participated in any of our previous surveys. We reference this survey in our analysis.

This survey was conducted from May 29 to June 2, 2018, with 2,646 respondents in total including 1,200 new respondents who have not been part of our panel study. All the interviews were completed prior to Ms. Wynne’s announcement admitting she is not going to win the election.

For those interested, there was no statistically significant difference in vote intention among the panel respondents and new respondents.


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