B.C. heading towards NDP-Conservative election showdown, poll suggests

Click to play video: 'BC Conservatives gaining traction says poll'
BC Conservatives gaining traction says poll
There's a political party in this province moving in on the NDP, and it's not the current opposition. A new poll shows the BC Conservatives are gaining supporters, leaving the BC United way behind. Richard Zussman reports. – May 21, 2024

British Columbia’s ruling New Democrats continue to hold a double-digit lead, with the upstart BC Conservatives cementing their place as the primary challenger ahead of October’s election, according to a new poll.

The survey from Vancouver-based Research Co. shows 42 per cent of respondents would back the BC NDP in the upcoming vote, followed by 32 per cent for the BC Conservatives. BC United, a year after rebranding from the BC Liberals, was tied with the BC Green Party at 12 per cent.

“The election we thought was going to be a foregone conclusion a year ago is now a very competitive race,” Research Co. president Mario Canseco said.

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Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West sets record straight about his political future

“There was a moment when you essentially had the Conservatives and BC United tied, now that’s no longer the case, there is a 20 point gap between them. And this certainly suggests that if the Conservatives continue to connect with the electorate the election could be significantly more competitive than the last one we had back in 2020.”

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B.C. Premier and NDP Leader David Eby, however, continues to hold a 54 per cent approval rating, which Canseco said suggests he is connecting emotionally with voters.

Rustad, by contrast, holds a 32 per cent approval rating, suggesting he has work to do if he hopes to sit in the premier’s office, he said.

Conservatives picking up youth support

According to the poll, John Rustad’s BC Conservatives are making major inroads among younger voters.

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Among decided voters, 39 per cent of respondents aged 18-34 said they would vote Conservatives, compared to 34 per cent for the NDP, 16 per cent for the BC Greens and nine per cent for BC United.

Canseco said that’s a major shift for a demographic that once solidly supported the NDP.

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He suggested that the province’s housing crisis, which has left many young people cynical about ever owning a home, may be a key factor.

“Part of the reason for that situation is a sense of dissatisfaction, ‘This is going to take too long, I can’t wait three or four years for housing to come to my community,'” Canseco said.

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BC United holds election rally amid low polling numbers

He added that if the Conservatives can make a convincing pitch to young people that his party has an answer for the crisis, it “could be trouble for the NDP.”

By contrast, David Eby’s NDP now leads solidly among older voters, with 50-per cent support among those over the age of 55.

“This has essentially become the establishment party, the safe option,” he said.

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“This is a demographic that was solidly BC Liberal from 2001 to 2017, and now they are looking at the NDP and saying, ‘I may not like everything that is happening, but I don’t see an alternative out there that is going to be better.'”

United in trouble

The latest polling suggests that despite being the leader of the official Opposition, BC United Leader Kevin Falcon has his work cut out for him with just five months to go before the election.

“I think we can safely say the rebrand has not been successful,” Canseco said.

According to the poll, just over one third (35 per cent) of voters who cast a ballot for the BC Liberals in the 2020 election plan to stick with BC United this time around

Canseco said parties would typically hope to see retention rates near 80 per cent or at least above 65, calling 35 per cent “exceedingly low.”

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He credited brand confusion, leadership style and the appearance of a new, credible alternative with the erosion of BC United’s support.

Click to play video: 'BC NDP, BC United reveal plans to tackle B.C.’s housing crisis'
BC NDP, BC United reveal plans to tackle B.C.’s housing crisis

Low polling numbers could further reinforce the party’s challenges, he said, by making it harder for Falcon to attract high-quality candidates such as popular municipal politicians.

The quality of candidates, he said, may prove decisive in the battle for the right flank of B.C. politics.

BC United has the benefit of 15 well-known incumbent candidates, while the BC Conservatives have already taken fire over comments posted online by some of its more socially-conservative candidates. In one case, it announced and then dropped a candidate in the same day over anti-vaccine comments.

Canseco said BC United may be able to make up ground by pitching its roster as more qualified than the alternative.

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British Columbians will next go to the polls for a provincial election on Oct. 19, 2024.

The Research Co. poll was conducted online between May 13 and May 15, 2024, among 800 adults in British Columbia, and weighted according to census figures. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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