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Voter uncertainty pointing to unpredictable, ‘volatile’ federal election: poll

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As major parties head into their second week of campaigning for the 2021 federal election, new polling suggests that the Liberals may have already “stumbled out of the starting block” despite their lead over the others.

According to the most recent polling from Ipsos, which was done exclusively for Global News, signs are now pointing to a “volatile” election day that could easily be swayed one or the other despite a Liberal lead of at least five points over the Conservatives, which they have held since the spring.

“I would describe Canadian public opinion for the first time in a long time, showing some movement and some potential for volatility, so all sorts of mixed motivations,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs.

Read more: Liberals maintain lead as election begins, but face tough road to majority: poll

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The poll found that at least three in 10 Canadians say they don’t know who’s going to win the election, while only 45 per cent of those polled were certain of their vote choice. At least 13 per cent of the country’s eligible voters remain undecided so far, according to the results.

“Layer on this the unpredictability of turnout in a pandemic election, strategic voting and other motivations, and this election has the potential to present a few surprises to Canadians and pollsters alike,” reads the poll.

That unpredictability, according to Bricker, comes down to several factors.

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Most Canadians are generally satisfied with the Trudeau government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but are increasingly unsure of where things stand heading into the future.

Bricker also pointed to many Canadians not being too happy with the election being called and said that a majority of voters don’t think that Canada should even be having one in the first place.

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“There’s some potential that they could take that out on the party that called the election — the Liberal Party,” he said.

The polling also found advantages held by some parties in several areas of the election.

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The NDP had the upper hand when it came to voters that may have or have already decided to switch their vote since the last election. The poll found that 20 per cent of Canadians said they weren’t voting for the same party they voted for in 2019.

Almost four out of 10 NDP voters polled said that they voted for a different party last time around. In comparison, two out of 10 Conservative voters and just nine per cent of Liberal voters were found to have been recruited from opposition ranks.

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Previous polling by Ipsos in June also found that the NDP were a clear second-choice favourite for those wanting to switch their vote. Bricker said there is a lot of potential for them to grow in this election.

Read more: Trudeau seen as best pick for PM, but faces trust issues as election ramps up: poll

In terms of strategic voting, the Liberals look to be at an advantage themselves.

Polling data revealed that roughly one in three Canadians are voting for a party not because they like it the best, but because they are either trying to “prevent something from happening” or to make a statement.

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“So strategic voting for the Liberal Party mainly to stop the Conservative Party,” said Bricker. “But we’re also seeing that there’s a lot of conservatives who are voting conservative because they want to stop the Liberal Party.”

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Almost two in ten Canadians are “trying to make sure another party doesn’t win,” about one in eight are planning to make a protest vote to “express their disgust with all of the other parties” and over one out of three Canadians say that they don’t really like any of the parties in this election.

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The Tories are traditionally expected to receive a ballot-box bonus due to them being the party favoured by the 55 and older group, which have the highest turnout rates — though recent polling data revealed that the party did not possess that advantage this time around.

Lastly, when it came to either voter turnout or the parties’ plans for the country’s future, no specific leader held an advantage — a finding that Bricker said only added further to the uncertainty and volatility of the election.

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“When it comes to what the actual outcome is going to be, interestingly enough, Canadians say that they’d like to see a majority government come out of this. But by the same token, they feel that that there might potentially be the need to change parties,” said Bricker.

“And for the first time, as I said before, in a long time, we see volatility in Canadian politics.”

For this survey, a sample of n = 2,001 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. A sample of n = 1,501 was interviewed online, via the Ipsos I-Say panel and non-panel sources, and respondents earn a nominal incentive for their participation. A sample of n = 500 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed by live-interview telephone interviewers by landline and cellphone, using random-digit dialing. Quotas and weighting were employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos polls which include non-probability sampling is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians been polled. 

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