November 8, 2018 8:21 pm

‘Could go either way’: Poll finds B.C. remains split on proportional representation referendum

Voters have until Nov. 30 to mail their ballots in B.C.'s referendum on electoral reform.

Simon Little / Global News

With a crucial debate on the pros and cons of proportional representation (PR) scheduled for Thursday evening, a new poll has revealed British Columbians remain split on the issue.

B.C. is being asked to vote on whether to keep the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, or to switch to a form of PR.

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Thursday’s poll from Mainstreet Research reveals a statistical tie. If the vote were to be held immediately, it found that 50.5 per cent of voters would stick with the current FPTP system, while 49.5 per cent said they would vote for a PR system.

READ MORE: Proportional Representation for Dummies: A electoral reform referendum cheat sheet

“This is shaping up to be the closest referendum in B.C. history and its outcome is far from certain,” said Mainstreet Research president and CEO Quito Maggi in a media release.

“The referendum could go either way especially as less than one per cent of eligible voters have cast their votes so far.”

WATCH: How would a B.C. government work under proportional representation? 

Thursday’s poll results echo the split revealed in a September poll that found support for and opposition to PR evenly split, with about a third of voters undecided.

The Mainstreet poll also revealed a significant generation gap when it came to support for proportional representation.

It found that 62 per cent of respondents aged 18-34 support the switch, while the same percentage of people aged 65 and older favour keeping the current system. Voters aged 35-49 were nearly evenly split, while those aged 50-64 favoured FPTP 53.4 to 46.6 per cent.

READ MORE: Just 1 per cent of ballots have been returned so far in the B.C. electoral reform referendum

Of the three proposed systems of proportional representation, the poll found the strongest support for Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), at 44.8 per cent, followed by Rural-Urban Proportional, at 38.2 per cent.

Just 17 per cent of respondents favoured the Dual Member Proportional system.

The poll also revealed that British Columbians remain split on which provincial party they support.

WATCH: What you need to know about the proportional representation voting package

According to the poll, the Opposition BC Liberals led by Andrew Wilkinson had 33.9 per cent support among decided and leaning voters, a slight edge over John Horgan’s governing BC NDP, which was supported by 32.3 per cent of respondents.

Andrew Weaver’s BC Greens were supported by 18.2 per cent.

Horgan and Wilkinson are set to debate the merits of proportional representation on Global BC and CKNW starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Voters must return their ballots to Elections BC by Nov. 30.

The poll was conducted between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 among 963 adult British Columbians. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.15 per cent 19 times out of 20. 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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