Ontario faces the first minority government in a generation as support for Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals and Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives remains virtually unchanged since the campaign officially began four weeks ago.
The New Democrats, by contrast, have improved their fortunes – though falling short of the “orange surge” their federal cousins enjoyed last May according to CTV News/Globe and Mail/CP24/Nanos Research opinion polling carried out through the weekend.
Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats enjoy their highest level of support since the early 1990s, the only time they have held power in Ontario, with 25.7 per cent of those polled saying they would vote for the party. NDP support was about 16 per cent six weeks ago.
Among the three contenders, Ms. Horwath is the only leader who has improved both by voters’ impressions of her and in support for the party, Mr. Nanos said in an interview.
“It’s pretty clear that there’s actually a trend in favour of the New Democrats,” he said.
The latest Nanos poll is consistent with earlier ones, showing the Liberals and Conservatives separated by less than the poll’s margin of error, neither of them with the level support expected to form a majority government. Of those surveyed, 35.9 per cent said they would vote Liberal, compared with 36.4 per cent for the Tories.
Of the total surveyed, just 9.6 per cent were undecided.
Mr. McGuinty is campaigning for a third term as the leader best positioned to manage the province during uncertain economic times. He is doing so at a time when concerns about jobs and the economy have grown among voter concerns. Over the course of the campaign, the economy has supplanted health care as the No. 1 issue for voters.
The Nanos Research poll also shows that the pocketbook issues both Mr. Hudak and Ms. Horwath have campaigned on appear to resonate with Ontarians. Asked to identify their energy priorities, 41.5 per cent of those surveyed said managing the cost of energy.
The Tory and New Democrat leaders have both criticized Mr. McGuinty for policies that have caused electricity prices to climb dramatically, including introducing the harmonized sales tax.
But the Liberals were statistically tied with the Tories on which party voters trust the most to manage the province’s energy policies: 31 per cent named the Liberals and 29.2 per cent, the Tories.
Nanos Research conducted a three-day rolling sample comprised of 900 telephone interviews, beginning last Friday.
The latest numbers from the weekend suggest that the Liberals, who have promised to reduce post-secondary tuition fees by 30 per cent, may be winning over younger voters – but not enough to offset support they are losing among older Ontarians.
Mr. Hudak’s Tories, meanwhile, appear to be making inroads late in the campaign among women voters – a group whose support has traditionally eluded the party.
The results of the survey are considered accurate within 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.