Close Call on Electoral Reform: Results Hinge on Last-Minute Voters who are More in Favour of Proportional Representation

Those who have cast their votes are evenly split between adopting PR or maintaining the status quo.

Vancouver, BC – As British Columbia’s referendum on electoral reform nears completion, the latest Insights West poll finds that voters continue to be evenly divided on which system should be used to determine provincial election results.

The online survey of a representative sample of 965 British Columbians, who qualify to vote, reveals an extremely close race between keeping the current First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system and changing to a Proportional Representation (PR) voting system. Of those who have already voted, half (49%) say the province should maintain our First Past The Post system, while the other half (48%) would prefer to switch to a Proportional Representation system.

A major factor in the final referendum outcome is whether the surge of late voters will sway the race in favour of a Proportional Representation system—as late voters overwhelmingly prefer this electoral system over First Past The Post. When comparing the timelines of submissions, just over half of those who voted (53%) cast their ballots early relative to the voting window, 38% submitted their ballots in the middle of the voting window, and 9% did so at the very end. What is significant is the fact that 52% of early voters were in favour of FPTP, middle voters were split down the middle (47% FPTP vs. 49% PR), and late voters were overwhelmingly in favour of a PR system (38% FPTP vs. 61% PR). Those who hadn’t submitted their ballot at the time we polled, but intend to, are also overwhelmingly in favour of a PR system (24% FPTP vs. 41% PR) but 35% in this group still hadn’t decided.

“The closeness of this race and the timing of the ballot submissions means that the outcome is too close to call,” says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “As in many close elections, the final referendum results are clearly dependent on voter turnout. The late-stage younger voters who prefer PR are critical in this entire process—if they follow through and actually turn in their ballots, we could see this side win—but that is uncertain.”

When asked if they were aware of the Proportional Representation referendum initiative, four-in-five (80%) respondents said they were “aware and familiar” (+6 since our poll last month), including 42% who are “very familiar”. Awareness of the referendum initiative is uniform across age groups, though men (86%) are more likely to be familiar with it than women (75%).

Electoral system preferences are clearly aligned by party preference. Those who prefer changing to a PR system include those who voted for the BC New Democratic Party (NDP) or BC Green Party in the last provincial election (73% and 60%, respectively), younger residents aged 18-to-34 (60%) and those who live within the city of Vancouver (58%). BC Liberal voters (74%), residents aged 55+ (58%) and those residing outside of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island (53%) are more likely to be satisfied with the current system.

If British Columbia were to adopt a Proportional Representation voting system, most PR supporters would prefer the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system, with 44% of supporters selecting this as their 1st choice and 41% selecting it as their 2nd choice. The Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP) system and Dual Member Proportional (DMP) system received less support, with 27% and 15% of PR supporters selecting these as their top choice of Proportional Representation voting systems, respectively.

When asked how strongly in favour they are of the way they voted, 69% of those who favour Proportional Representation consider themselves “strongly in favour” of it, with 29% being “somewhat in favour” and 3% being unsure. Comparatively, when those who favour First Past The Post were asked the same question, 82% consider themselves to be “strongly in favour” of it, while 16% report being “somewhat in favour” and 2% say they are unsure.

For the first time since forming the government, the BC NDP have dipped slightly below the BC Liberals in voting intention. When asked who they would vote for if the provincial election were held today, 27% (+2) of residents say they would vote for the BC Liberal candidate in their constituency. The BC NDP are a close second, with 25% (-4) of the vote, followed by the BC Greens with 13% (+3), the BC Conservatives with 9% (=), and other parties at 2% (-1). Roughly one-in-six (16%) are not sure who they would vote for, while the remainder either prefer not to say (6%) or would not vote (1%).
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 November 29 – December 3, 2018, among a representative sample of 965 BC adults, who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. 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 +/- 3.2 percentage points. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Click here to view the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
President, Insights West
778-379-1140
stevemossop@insightswest.com