Abacus poll reveals what the 2015 campaign was really all about

Survey finds more voters combined think Oct. 19 election is about change and values than see it as mainly about the economy


Thomas Mulcair, Stephen Harper, Elizabeth May, Stephen Trudeau.  NO Credit.

More voters combined think Monday’s election is about change and values than see it as mainly about the economy, according to a new Abacus Data poll conducted for Maclean’s, and that sense of what was really at stake in the campaign spells trouble for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

The Abacus survey, conducted online with 3,103 Canadians from Oct. 15-17, found that 36 per cent picked the economy, along with which leader has the best economic plan, as the top issue. Of those who feel that way, 44 per cent said they are voting for Harper’s Conservatives, 33 per cent for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, and 16 per cent for Tom Mulcair’s NDP.

But that apparent advantage for Harper is overshadowed by his weaker standing when it comes to values—encompassing the set of issues that rose to prominence in the campaign when the debate focused first on how quickly to accept more Syrian refugees, and then on the Conservatives’ position that the niqab—the veil worn by a small minority of Muslim women— shouldn’t be allowed during Canadian citizenship ceremonies.

Of the 24 per cent of voters who said the election is most about picking the leader and party that best represents the values they want reflected by the federal government, fully 40 per cent said they are voting Liberal, 25 per cent NDP, and just 16 per cent Tory.

Another 23 per cent said electing a party and leader to deliver change is their top priority, and 47 per cent of those voters said they favour the Liberals, well over the 32 per cent who said they are voting for the New Democrats. (Not surprisingly, only eight per cent of “change” voters were going with the incumbent Conservatives.)

Abacus CEO David Coletto said the formidable Liberal lead on values and change could be decisive on Monday, which suggests Harper may have made a big mistake taking such a stern line on the need to screen Syrian refugees for security reasons, and then focusing on the polarizing niqab issue, in middle section of the marathon 11-week campaign.

A key tactical problem for the Tories was that the apparent popularity of Harper’s stance on the niqab in Quebec tended to hurt Mulcair, who stood firmly in favour of the right of women to wear face coverings, eroding the NDP’s strong standing in the polls in the province.

“What’s actually happened is the Conservatives thought they had a wedge issue they could win on that has probably backfired and caused their defeat,” Coletto said. “It weakened the New Democrats in Quebec, made it clear to voters outside Quebec that the NDP can’t win, and that accelerated a consolidation of change voters around the Liberals.”

Those so-called change voters are key to Trudeau’s strong position going into Monday’s vote. Among the 60 per cent of those responding to Abacus’s survey who said it’s definitely time for a change in Ottawa, 49 per cent intended to vote Liberal, and only 33 per cent NDP.

Coletto says the Mulcair’s decision to run on a promise of balanced books, while Trudeau was touting his plan for three years of deficit-financed spending, seemed to strongly influence those Canadians craving a new direction from Parliament Hill. “Once the NDP was locked into their balanced-budget promise, I think that signalled to voters that they couldn’t offer the spending that people think is tied to more ambitious change.”

So change was a key issue for many voters throughout the campaign, and the question was which of the two main opposition parties would come out on top as the better vehicle for delivering it. Values emerged during the race as an unexpectedly top-of-mind concern, likely to the detriment of the Conservatives. And while the economy has remained a significant preoccupation, it doesn’t appear dominant enough to outweigh the combined impact the change and values factors.

Other issues the Tories wanted to highlight just didn’t seem to get any traction. Abacus found only six per cent of Canadians felt keeping taxes low was the top issue, and just four per cent felt picking the party and leader who would keep Canadians safe was what the election was all about.

With taxes and security hardly registering, and values going against him, Harper reverted in the final stage of the campaign to emphasizing overall economic competence. But Coletto said it would take a major change of heart on in the ballot box on the part of a lot of voters to make that concern definitive on Oct. 19.

“If voters who haven’t voted yet, and haven’t locked in their votes, step into the voting booth and ultimately decide that the election is not about change, but is about the economy, then the Conservatives have a chance,” he said. “They don’t have a big advantage among voters who think that way, but they do have an advantage.”

The Abacus survey was conducted online with 3,103 Canadians aged 18 and over from Oct. 15-17, from a large representative panel of over 500,000 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 plus or minus 1.8 per cent, 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, education, and region.



Abacus poll reveals what the 2015 campaign was really all about

  1. A Canadian cultural war….yes, indeedy

  2. Until the books have been opened and the numbers pored over, Harper’s competence as an economic manager will be in question

    • We already know that Harper has the worst economic record of any Prime Minister since WW2.

      For me his vague campaign promises on “keeping Canada strong”, “protecting the economy”, “keeping Canada strong”, “lower taxes” were pure indiluted BS and I never in a million years would have voted CPC.

      • People are daydreaming in Technicolour. Trudeau is likely the worse choice for a leader Canada could chose. The PM has been doing a remarkable job under remarkable times of global economic stress. We have survived the worst recession possible and emerged strong. we have had low unemployment of under 7% for most of the period. we have not lost our houses to banks because of a no cost influx of money to CMHC to protect banks. And yes we would have seen many fore closures without such backing. Yet no money was really spent and tax payers and home owners survived very well. Yes we have an increased debt but at the same time we increased the GDP by almost $0.9 trillion dollars, the biggest ever increase in GDP. In fact it was much greater than the debt taken on that the Net debt to GDP ratio has been lowered from 40% to 31%.

        The media hammered this success by omission and expansion of what they determined was poor social policy. And then that was not always true or even close.

        • It’s probably not going to get through to you, but Canadians have values beyond those of just money.

          • You work for free, then? Great. We have an opening. When can you start?
            I have found I can pretty much guarantee that anyone who claims that financial means is “not important” to them has a government job that pays them above market value for the work they do, guarantees them a pension that is dramatically outsized for the amount of money they have to pay in, protects them from the vagaries of economic forces, and is backed by a union that will fight the citizenry tooth and nail over any attempts to bring some semblance of fiscal reality to the public sector workplace.
            Those who don’t fit that template are artists looking for some kind of grant to help facilitate their “expressive manifestations”. All for our own good, obviously.
            What area of the public sector employs you, Daman?

          • ” …anyone who claims that financial means is “not important” to them…”

            Who you quoting there, Greenwood? Your imagination?

  3. I want my Canada back.

    If Mr. Trudeau can pull off a win, he will have a tough row to hoe.
    No one is capable of snapping their fingers and making it all better, the fix will take a generation.
    The days of a living wage for unskilled labour are over, forever. Higher education is the only path now.
    I trust the people will put their faith in the Trudeau team, and give them a full mandate to proceed.
    And I trust the a prime minister Justin Trudeau will not for a second believe that (he) is King.
    (Conrad Black has an excellent article in the comment section of the National/Huffington Post.)
    The wisest words from any incumbent this election, and I’ll paraphrase, the future does not depend on the government, the future depends on You.

    • Yeah, it’s gonna take a long time to get things back to normal so we can move forward again.

    • “No one is capable of snapping their fingers and making it all better, ”

      –on the contrary. That’s what Trudeau,the Liberals and their supporters are promising. Stephen Harper is evil. And Justin is all sweetnes and light. A million dollars will be deposited into the bank accounts of all Canadians when he is elected. The land will be filled with abundance and peace will reign.

  4. Thank you Mr. Harper for ruining our Parliamentary democracy for the past ten years. The worst mistake we voters made in 2011 was to give you the majority Government. You abused our trust to the fullest. No more CONS masquerading as Conservatives after this election. Preston Manning, Joe Clarke, Brian Mulroney and many other Conservatives were correct about you in their recent statements.
    We do not want Republican “Tea Party” North in Canada – period. We want our Canada back.

  5. I vote strictly on one issue.

    Economic liberty. THe rest is pure BS and flack to screw the people with more taxes for an ever increasingly bloated and ineffective governance. Costs us jobs too, as seniors with devalued money and negative value returns can’t spend and emply younger people that need high wages to live in a tax inflated economy. We lose jobs to Mexico, USA, Asia as they do not have CBSa $45+ billion hidden tax greed to support. Means they can work for less and not freeze to death as the utility/tax creep really screws families and low income.

    Needs to be a life after government. Economic liberty is under attack when its the only option on the ballot to be taxed more to get less. And Harper did raise taxes, just lied on how it was done. Devalue money tax for thin air debt and lower value money increase hidden taxes, even on food, clothing…

    And media never once asked the tough questions, like who can manage for effective, efficient and economical governance? All the greed pandering and lies is sickening. Good it will be over tomorrow…

    Be sure now to be a party blind faith puppet and vote…I will vote, just not for the Three Stooges of Canada.

  6. “Let me be clear… this election will likely be remembered more for its length than for its substance.”
    While Stephen Harper is certainly not the first or last politician to lean a little too heavily on a “Trust me, I know what’s best for you” leadership manner, he has only himself to blame for the fear-based campaign that we have all endured as a result.
    While most Canadians probably don’t take the time out of their life to adequately dissect federal budgets and understand the multi-faceted nature of global foreign policy or job “creation”, they do have enough sense to know when they are being misled by selective quotes and images, distracted by emotional reactions or deliberately kept in the dark like mushrooms. By limiting nationally viewed and substantive debate, and running annoyingly negative ads for months before an election was even called, Mr. Harper sought to position himself as the ONLY credible candidate (and by extension party) that could possibly govern Canada, rather than the BEST choice for the position.
    By attempting to silence and scare the Canadian public for month after month, he has actually given credence to the idea that maybe, just maybe, the sky is NOT falling and Canada will not instantaneously dissolve into a puddle of tears come Tuesday morning… regardless of who wins or loses.

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