FULL REPORT: BC Liberals Have Edge but Electorate Remains Volatile

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Innovative Research Group Inc. (INNOVATIVE) released the findings of 3 election polls today:

  • A Live-caller, mixed cell/landline RDD telephone survey of 600 British Columbian voters conducted from April 25th to April 30th
  • An online panel survey of 500 British Columbians conducted from April 28th to May 1st
  • An online panel survey of 1,000 British Columbians conducted from April 20th to April 23rd, 2017

The BC Liberals lead the BC NDP in all three polls by between 3 and 7 points in the combined vote (first choice + lean).  The race remains too close to call but there is more upside for the BC Liberals than the BC NDP.

In addition to the results from the surveys themselves, INNOVATIVE has used a riding segmentation created by transposing the results of the 2013 and 2009 elections to the new electoral district boundaries to look at the shape of the race in BC’s swing ridings.

Several factors favour the BC Liberals:

  • BC Liberals show sustained strength in their large base of “safe” and “likely” seats. The BC Liberals begin the campaign with 33 of the 44 seats they need for majority in a “safe” category. These are seats they won by 10 points or more in both previous elections. The BC Liberals have another 7 seats in a “likely” category. These are seats they won in both elections, once by more than 10 points.  Although the Green party has been growing in every group of ridings, the BC Liberals retain a 21 point lead over their nearest competitor in with voters who live in their “safe” and “likely” seats. That is the same size of lead they enjoyed in the 2013 election.
  • The NDP show some vulnerability in their smaller base of “safe” and “likely” seats. The BC NDP begin the campaign with only 22 of the 44 seats they need for majority in a “safe” category with another 7 in the “likely” category. While the NDP continue to hold a strong 19 point lead in those seats, that lead is down 11 points from 2013 which suggest some of their “likely” seats may be vulnerable.
  • The BC Liberals hold an 8-point lead in party identification – the political equivalent of brand loyalty. This gives the Liberals a fundamental edge over the BC NDP which helps to explain why NDP election victories have been relatively rare.
  • Time for a change lacks intensity. While time for a change sentiments are running high (66% agree it is time for a change), more detailed probes show the intensity behind that sentiment is quite a bit smaller (28% strongly agree the most important thing is to get rid of Christy Clark and the BC Liberals; only 30% in total agree they are so angry at the BC Liberals, they will never vote for them again).
  • Christy Clark best on competence attributes. On questions such as showing strong leadership, representing BC in the world, or dealing with Donald Trump, Clark has a significant lead over Horgan and Weaver. This means that when events such as softwood lumber take center stage, Clark benefits.
  • The pre-writ Liberal negative ads on Horgan worked. Compared to numbers from September more than twice as many voters say Horgan is the leader best described as someone who flip flops and makes unrealistic promises. This now puts him on par with Christy Clark on these negative attributes. He is now ahead of Clark on which leader is “Too negative” by 8 points with most of that change appearing in the last week.

It’s not all coming up roses for the Liberals.  The NDP have some good news as well.

  • There is a small shift to the NDP from the Liberals in the 16 swing seats where small shifts matter. The shift is small. In the 2013 election, the Liberals were 2 points ahead in these seats while the NDP is now up by 2 points instead (both parties are down overall with a big increase in the Green vote). The important thing is that the election is playing better for the NDP in the battleground seats than their base seats.  In part this is a regional story as the Greens are growing most on Vancouver Island which is the NDP’s best region,
  • The NDP campaign has been doing better at emotionally connecting with voters. Our earlier 1,000 person online study explored whether how what voters have read, seen or heard about the campaign makes them feel. NDP loyalists were twice as excited about the Horgan’s NDP campaign as Liberals were about Clark’s BC Liberal campaign.
  • More people are committed to kicking the Liberals out (38%) than want to stop the NDP from winning (22%). Passion equals action. The NDP have a larger group of impassioned voters to draw upon than the BC Liberals. For the Greens, just 10% say a pox on both the Liberal and NDP houses.
  • Most voters see the election as a fight between the NDP and the Liberals (67% agree). What we saw in the 2011 federal election is that the key shift that allowed the NDP breakthrough was a decline in the number of people agreeing that election was a fight between the CPC and the Liberals. You can like the Greens and their leader, but if you don’t think they are in the race, you are less likely to vote for them.
  • Horgan has a strong lead over Clark on cares about people like me. 27% pick Horgan on this attribute compared to just 15% for Clark. Stories such as the #IamLinda drive a comparison that helps the NDP.

A key issue in this campaign is vote splitting on the centre left.

  • The Green base is among Core Left voters. When we grouped respondents to our first online survey based on their values, we found one-in-five BCers share core Left values.  They believe in redistributing wealth, don’t trust the profit motive and want the government to play an active role in the economy. While the NDP can normally count on these voters, in this election they have only 43% of their support while the Greens are winning 25% of them.
  • The Greens are also pulling support from the “Anybody but BC Liberal (ABL)” voters according to both the phone and online polling. The vote splitting is not as large in the ABL vote, but in the telephone poll there are still 18% of these angry voters voting Green while 54% are voting NDP.  On the other hand, the Liberals enjoy 77% support among “Anybody but NDP” voters. The same pattern is seen in the online polling.


With their strong base of “safe” and “likely” seats and their competitive position in swing seats, the Liberals are well positioned for a win at this point in the election.  However, an NDP victory is still possible:

  • 40% of the electorate say they want to hear more before making up their minds. This is almost exactly the same number we saw at this point in the 2012 Alberta election, before a surprise PC upset at the very end of the campaign.
  • Most of the uncertainty lies on the centre left, particularly among Green voters. Many of these Green voters are angry at the Liberals and some see the election as a two horse race, even though they are currently saying they will support the Greens.

A minority with a Green balance of power also can’t be ruled out.  The challenge there is they have to do well enough in the south island to win seats without splitting the anti-liberal vote in the rest of the province.

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BC Results - Breaking
BC Results - A deeper dive