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‘Hold your nose and vote’: How undecided Canadian voters made up their minds

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Many Canadians didn’t decide who to vote for in the federal election until quite late in the game — and when they did, nearly half voted for a candidate because they “simply disliked the alternatives more.”

That’s according to a survey released by Angus Reid Friday, which looked specifically at Canadians who were undecided voters as election day approached. The findings indicate that 23 per cent of undecided voters didn’t know who they would vote for until election day itself.

Of undecided voters, 52 per cent voted for the candidate and party they liked, but 48 per cent voted based on who they disliked the least, the survey noted.

“This was a hold your nose and vote election, there’s no doubt about it,” Shachi Kurl, the executive director of Angus Reid, told Global News.

READ MORE: Tories won the popular vote but the Liberals will govern. Here’s why

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The survey also found that nearly half of “soft voters,” or those who were uncertain of their decision, ended up voting strategically for the Liberal Party. Forty-five per cent of those voters cast a ballot for the Liberals, 25 per cent chose the Conservatives, 18 per cent voted for the News Democrats and six per cent decided on the Green party.

More than half of unsure voters, at 56 per cent, ended up voting in accordance with their initial choice. NDP supporters were least likely to have decided early in the campaign who they would vote for (and stuck to that decision), at 48 per cent. Conservative voters, at 66 per cent, and Liberal voters, at 64 per cent, were most likely to stick to their initial party.

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Kurl explained that the left-of-centre vote, meaning for parties such as the NDP, is a “notoriously shifting vote.”

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“A lot of people may have wanted to vote NDP,” Kurl said, but ultimately decided to vote for another party.

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An Ipsos poll conducted on election day also found that many Canadians were unsure of who to choose in the federal election. According to the poll, 16 per cent of voters made up their minds during the last week of the campaign — and seven per cent decided while at the voting station.

That poll also found that Liberals benefited the most from late deciders — 35 per cent decided to vote Liberal, 24 per cent decided for vote for the Tories, and 23 per cent for the NDP.

“Clearly, the Liberals won the last-minute undecideds and vote switchers, which likely explains why they did a little better than expected,” Sean Simpson from Ipsos explained.

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“Essentially, they were able to counter the Tory turnout ballot-box bonus with a bump in late-minute deciders who went red.”

READ MORE: NDP’s Jagmeet Singh calls for electoral reform, says system is ‘broken’

The Ipsos poll also found that strategic voting played a part in the election, with 26 per cent of Canadians saying they voted to ensure that another party did not win. Thirty-six per cent of them voted for the Liberals, 27 for Tories, 20 per cent for NDP and 15 per cent for the Bloc Québécois.

“In other words, the anti-Conservative vote consolidated around the Liberals, and likely explains why the NDP had a bad night,” Simpson said. “For those whose primary goal was to stop the Tories, they voted for the Grits.”

Stephanie Plante, the executive director of the International Commission of Jurists, Canada, explained to Global News that Liberals have historically benefited from strategic voting in Canada.

“The Liberals have always kind of been known as the ‘hold your nose’ party, or the vanilla option,” Plante said.

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She noted other parties often have more “defined ideas” that can lead voters to feel more strongly against them, citing the NDP’s pharmacare as an example.

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The Liberals, who also promised pharmacare, made more broad statements and fewer specific promises, Plante noted.

“That has literally been the Liberal Party since the ’70s. It’s kind of their M.O. and it’s worked generally well,” she said.

“It’s like, ‘I can put up with these guys or girls another few years because, you know, they’re not seen as bold or visionary or risky.”

The Angus Reid survey was conducted from Oct. 21-22, among a representative randomized sample of 1,587 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. These results carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey of 9,437 Canadians conducted on Oct. 21. The results were weighted to better reflect the composition of the adult Canadian population, according to census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus 1.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.