Apr 30, 2018

Is 2018 the Ontario NDP's best opinion environment since 1990?

Authored by:

David Coletto

David Coletto

This weekend, the NDP formally launched its election campaign with an event in Hamilton on the weekend in what it dubbed its "biggest" campaign in history.

By "biggest" they are referring to the amount of resources they plan to use. In the CBC article, Horwath is quoted as saying, "What Ontario doesn't need is Doug Ford, and what Ontario doesn't want anymore is Kathleen Wynne, that's why we're offering change for the better."

And looking at the survey data we have released over the past two weeks, I don't think there's been a better opinion environment for the Ontario NDP since 1990, when Bob Rae surprised many (not me because I was only 9 years old) by winning a majority government.

Consider these results from our survey of over 4,100 eligible voters:

  1. The desire for change is very high. 80% want change, 60% intensely so.
  2. The NDP aren't far behind the Liberals for second. Our first poll had them at 24%, four behind the OLP. Other polls show the same thing.
  3. 58% of Ontarians are open to voting for the NDP including 67% of millennials (who will make up more than a third of the electorate).
  4. The NDP floor is 13%, that's what we estimate is the party's core vote. But there's a lot a room to grow because unlike the PCs or Liberals, they can grow from three persuadable groups: those who want change, those who are leaning Liberal, and those who are truly undecided (and are least likely to vote).

These two groups - swing change voters and Liberal leaners - will likely decide the election. Both are prime targets for the NDP. 

The Liberal leaners are, as their name suggests, leaning Liberal but are open to voting NDP as well. Generally more progressive than other groups, they support much of the Liberal agenda, hold less negative views towards Premier Wynne, but most would also like to see change, they just aren't as passionate about seeing change as other voters.

Lean Lib

Swing change voters want change. They won't vote Liberal and are open to voting PC or NDP, but lean PC at this point. Many of them voted Liberal and NDP last time and during the 2015 federal election.

The challenge for the NDP with this group is that their issue set looks more like traditional PC voters. They care more about government finances, electricity prices, and accountability in government.


From a leadership perspective, Horwath also has a big opportunity to have an impact, largely because she's unknown and her opponents are highly polarizing.

  1. 62% have a negative view of Kathleen Wynne and views on Ford are mixed (although more positive than Hudak's at the start of 2014).
  2. Andrea Horwath is generally well liked, but unknown as well. 28% have a positive impression of her compared with 15% who view her negatively.
  3. Most striking, 53% say they don't know Horwath well or at all. This is much higher than both Wynne and Ford, despite this being her third election campaign.

My reading of the data suggests that 2018 may be the best opinion environment the NDP has faced since 1990.

The Upshot

My reading of the data suggests that 2018 may be the best opinion environment the NDP has faced since 1990. To take advantage of it, Ms. Horwath and the NDP have to:

  1. Find a way to get into the mix. So far, the Wynne vs. Ford battle has all but excluded Horwath from the discussion. Even a look at Google Search trends shows how far behind Horwath has been to her opponents.
  2. Execute on a path to victory that builds a coalition of voters who (a) want change but don't like Ford plus (b) progressives who like the Wynne Liberal agenda but fear a Ford victory. For this to happen, voters need to think Horwath has the better shot at winning than Wynne.

Doug Ford and the PCs are the favourites to win. But if the NDP does spend more on this campaign than they have in the past, there's a clear path for them to win because of an opinion more favourable than at any time since 1990.

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