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Voters influenced by party stance, not leaders or candidates: Ipsos poll

TORONTO – Forget personality politics: When it comes to casting votes, it’s all about policies for Canadian voters, according to an Ipsos poll conducted for Global News.

And even though voters really only cast ballots for local candidates, individual MPs resonate even less.

Fifty-one per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed in the Ipsos poll, released Tuesday, say their vote is most influenced by a party’s stance on issues – up a single percentage point from a similar poll conducted in 2011.

READ MORE: How parties vet candidates, and why they sometimes miss important things

“That is why we do have a campaign right now that is focused on the economic policies, or immigration policies, or deficits. That is something that drives people to the polls,” Ipsos CEO John Wright said during an interview Tuesday.

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Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s messaging is clear: His campaign has “Proven Leadership” emblazoned on almost every campaign poster at every event. And, according to the Ipsos poll, leadership matters.

Thirty-three per cent of respondents said the party leader is the primary factor influencing their vote, and just 16 per cent said local candidates will drive their vote choice ahead of the Oct. 19 vote.

That may be for the best for the three major federal parties, all three of whom have run into problems with local candidates in the early stages of this campaign.

READ MORE: Liberals picking up momentum in Ontario, B.C., according to latest seat projections

Two Conservative candidates were dumped over the Labour Day weekend; one for making and filming prank phone calls on YouTube, and one for urinating in a client’s mug in a video aired on national television.

A Liberal candidate from Calgary had to step down after controversial tweets from her Twitter account surfaced online. The NDP candidate in Nova Scotia’s Kings-Hants riding, resigned after deleted Facebook posts with comments criticizing Israel were circulated online.

Wright said despite the recent controversies the election will come down to party leaders and their policies.

“We have seen really strong candidates in previous elections swept away and we have local people swept in based on how the national campaign goes,” Wright said. “I don’t really think the election is going to be focused on the local candidate.”

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And as party leaders continue to pound the campaign trail looking for votes, most of them are still up for grabs: Only 42 per cent of respondents absolutely certain of their vote choice, the poll found.

That isn’t unusual, however: A similar poll conducted on Election Day in 2011 found 43 per cent say they made up their mind before the campaign started. The remaining voters said they’d made up their minds at various points throughout the campaign:

  • 15 per cent before the debates,
  • 13 per cent shortly after the debates,
  • 17 per cent in the last week of the campaign and
  • 11 per cent in the voting booth on Election Day.

The Ipsos poll conducted online between Aug. 24 -26 is based on a sample of 1,000 Canadians eligible to vote. It is considered accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

*With files from James Armstrong