Canadians Divided on Changing the Federal Electoral System

A plurality supports a move to Party-List Proportional Representation, while the Single Transferable Vote system evenly splits the population.

Vancouver, BC – As the federal electoral campaign continues, Canadians hold differing views on whether to change the way the members of the House of Commons are elected, a new Insights West Canada-wide poll has found.

The online survey of a representative national sample asked Canadians to rate four different ideas that could be implemented for future elections.

Party-List Proportional Representation

Under this system, contending parties make lists of candidates to be elected, and seats get allocated to each party in accordance with the number of total votes the party receives. Many democracies—including Finland, Israel and Spain—rely on this system to elect the members of their legislatures.

In the past, representatives from the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Green Party have expressed their support for implementing proportional representation in Canada.

Across the country, 41% of residents agree to a move to Party-List Proportional Representation, while 34% are opposed. One-in-four Canadians (25%) are undecided.

Quebecers (49%) and Canadians aged 35-to-54 (44%) are more likely to agree with electing the members of the House of Commons through Party-List Proportional Representation.

There are sizeable differences across party lines. While many Canadians who voted for the NDP (52%) and the Greens (48%) in the 2011 federal election are in favour of a change, two-in-five Conservatives (42%) and Liberals (40%) reject it.

“Canadians are far from reaching a consensus on proportional representation,” says Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs, at Insights West. “Supporters of the parties that would conceivably have the most to gain from this modification tend to favour a change, while those who have done well under the current First-Past-The-Post system are more likely to endorse the status quo.”

Single Transferable Vote

A change to the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system would mean that votes are initially allocated to a voter’s most preferred candidate, and as the count proceeds and candidates are either elected or eliminated, it is transferred to other candidates in accordance to the voter’s stated preferences.

Two separate referenda to implement STV in British Columbia failed in 2005 and 2009, and voters in the United Kingdom also rejected a similar idea in 2011.

Canadians are evenly split on whether STV should be enacted for elections to the House of Commons, with 37% agreeing with its implementation and 37% disagreeing.

British Columbians (49%), Canadians aged 18-to-34 (42%) and Liberal Party voters in 2011 (46%) are more likely to support a move to STV. Conversely, Albertans (43%), Canadians over the age of 55 (45%) and those who voted Conservative in the last federal election (47%) give the idea a thumbs-down.

Mandatory Voting

In several countries—including Australia, Belgium and Peru—voting is mandatory. Eligible voters who do not cast a ballot can be subject to a fine or community service. Half of Canadians (50%) disagree with implementing a similar guideline in Canadian federal elections, but two-in-five (41%) support the idea.

Support for mandatory voting is highest in British Columbia (48%), among Canadians aged 18-to-34 (44%), and among those who voted for the Liberal Party (48%) and the Green Party (47%) in the last federal election.

Diaspora Constituency

Several countries—including France, Italy and Portugal—allow expatriates to cast ballots in national elections. However, instead of allowing these voters to participate in the riding where they last held residence, certain seats in the legislature are elected exclusively by citizens who do not reside in the country.

Canadians are not particularly open to this idea. Only 27% are in favour of allowing a seat in the House of Commons to be elected by Canadians who live abroad, while a majority (52%) disagrees.

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British Columbians (56%) and Ontarians (55%) are more likely to reject the notion of a “diaspora constituency,” along with 63 per cent of Canadians over the age of 55, and 66% of Conservative Party voters in 2011.

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from August 19 to August 20, 2015, among a representative sample of 1,006 Canadian adults. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points. Click here to view the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Mario Canseco
Vice President, Public Affairs, Insights West
778-929-0490
mariocanseco@insightswest.com