Majority of British Columbians Say Rising Gas Prices are Affecting Them Negatively, Many are Making Changes in Their Daily Lives as a Result

With the average price of gas in BC reaching record levels, a majority of British Columbians say rising prices are having a negative impact on them personally, and many have adjusted their driving and spending habits to compensate for the hit to their pocket books, a new Insights West poll has found.

Vancouver, BC – In the online survey of a representative sample of 810 British Columbians, 9-in-10 residents (89%) believe the increase in gas prices in the province is a serious problem, including a majority (54%) who consider it to be “very serious”. Further, two-thirds of residents (67%) indicate increased gas prices are having a negative impact on them personally, including 30% who feel the impact has been “very negative”. This rather somber picture is shared across all regions, and among all population groups.

When asked their views on what the future holds for gas prices in the province, the population is fairly evenly split. While most British Columbians (43%) believe that the current rise in gas prices represents a permanent change in how much they pay for a litre of gas that will last indefinitely, 37% think this is only a temporary fluctuation in the price of gas, and that prices will drop again at some point in the near future; the rest (20%) are unsure. Those most likely to see higher gas prices as a permanent change include men, British Columbians under 55 years of age, and Metro Vancouver residents.

The time horizon for speculating about changes in the price of gas seems to confirm that many British Columbians see a continued rise in prices in the short term; 70% believe that one month from now gas prices will be higher than they are currently, though most (52%) say “a little higher”. However, over a longer 6-month period British Columbians are not optimistic that gas prices will level off or drop; a sizeable proportion (44%) think gas prices will be higher six months from now compared to the current level while 32% believe they will be lower.

How high do British Columbians think gas prices will go over the summer? Overall, a solid majority (57%) believe the high in gas prices will be above the current average of $1.59 per litre. This includes 17% who think the price will go above $1.85 per litre. By comparison, just 17% believe the high price for gas will be below the current average price, and 26% think it will remain in the $1.56 to $1.65 range. British Columbians 18-34 years of age and Metro Vancouver residents are those most likely to believe the high in gas prices will be above current levels over the summer.

How are British Columbians dealing with rising gas prices? The Insights West survey reveals that many British Columbians have already made changes in the things they do in their day-to-day lives. Most particularly, they are adjusting how they get around. For example, close to half of the BC public (47%) say they have reduced the number of times they use their vehicle, another 38% are not driving as far, one-in-five (21%) say they’ve changed their summer vacation plans, and 15% claim to be taking public transit more often. Further, many BC residents have also altered their spending habits. A third (32%) have shifted their spending from things like food and entertainment to cover the costs of increased fuel prices. A quarter (24%) simply purchase less gas each time they go to a gas station, while 19% have gone across the border to the U.S. to buy cheaper gas. In a nod to the growing push for alternative energy use, close to one-in-five British Columbians (18%) say they have thought about buying an all-electric or hybrid vehicle to replace the one they currently use. Politically speaking, elected officials may be off the hook for the time being, as very few British Columbians (3%) say they have contacted their MP or MLA to voice their concerns about increased gas prices.

Generally speaking, people in the province who have already made changes in their daily lives in reaction to rising gas prices tend to be under 55 years of age or live on Vancouver Island and in the Rest of BC outside the southwest part of the province. The age differences are particularly salient when it comes to shifts in spending habits. For example, those under 55 are more likely than their older counterparts to have purchased less gas when they do visit a gas station, and they have also spent less on food and entertainment to compensate for rising gas prices. Regionally, Vancouver Island residents and those living in the Rest of BC outside the Lower Mainland are more likely to have reduced how much they drive and be spending less in other areas to cover the cost of gas.

When asked to think into the future, and whether they would be any more likely or less likely than normal to engage in each of these behaviours as a result of rising gas prices, significant numbers of British Columbians register a “more likely” response in all cases. For example, in terms of driving their vehicle, 61% say they would be more likely to reduce the number of times they use their vehicle, 58% would reduce the distance they drive, 38% would change their summer vacation plans, and 27% would take public transit more often. Future spending habits are also part of the way British Columbians plan to cope with rising gas prices. Half (49%) say they would be more likely to spend less on other things to cover the costs of rising gas prices; a third (33%) would go to the US for their gas; 34% say they would be more likely to purchase less gas each time they go to the gas station. A third (32%) would be more likely to replace their current vehicle with an all-electric or hybrid car. BC MPs or MLAs may also get more of an earful from their constituents in the future should rising gas prices continue; 27% of British Columbians say they would be more likely to do so.

When asked to consider a number of possible reasons for the rise in gas prices, British Columbians point fingers in a number of directions. For example, they are as likely to say government taxes (60%) are having “a lot of impact” in causing gas prices to rise as to assign blame on oil companies seeking to make higher profits (57%) or on the lack of a big enough oil refinery in BC, making us dependent on more costly foreign oil (53%). Further, more than two-in-five BC residents (43%) believe that uncertainty over whether or not the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion gets built is having “a lot of impact” on rising gas prices in the province. Related to this, 34% think the lack of enough pipeline space to get Alberta oil to the BC market is having a big impact while 23% place a lot of blame on current bottlenecks in the railway transportation network, preventing enough oil from getting to BC. More broadly, many British Columbians see other factors at play in driving up gas prices; 33% consider the low Canadian dollar to be having a lot of impact, when oil is priced in US dollars; 28% consider increased demand for gas by consumers to be having a lot of impact and businesses as we enter the summer period; and 17% say a shortage of gas supplies globally is having a lot of impact on rising gas prices.

Across the province, it is notable that Metro Vancouver residents and people living in the rest of BC outside the southwestern part of the province share similar views about the multiple factors at play in the causes of rising gas prices. Notably, they are more likely than those living on Vancouver Island to point fingers at government taxes, uncertainty over Kinder Morgan, and the lack of adequate oil and gas infrastructure (e.g. pipelines, refineries, rail transportation).

“British Columbians are really feeling the impact of rising gas prices and they don’t seem to believe things are going to change any time soon, which has resulted in changing behaviour around driving,” says Insights West President, Steve Mossop. “Given all the controversy around the Kinder Morgan pipeline—it seems that the perceived linkage between the opposition to pipelines and the increase in gas prices could be the primary reason for the increase in public support of the pipeline in our last poll.”

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 May 18 to 23, 2018, among a representative sample of 810 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 +/- 3.4 percentage points. Click here to view the detailed data tabulations.

The Angus Reid Forum is comprised of over 30,000 Canadians who share their opinions on a variety of political, economic, social and other issues while earning the opportunity to get paid and win great prizes. If you’re interested in joining, please register at angusreidforum.com.

For further information, please contact:

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