I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this election. The sustained three-way race is fascinating and begs the obvious question: Will our political landscape remain frozen, or will it begin to thaw as we move closer to Election Day? I think once the cadence of campaign ads increases and Election Day comes into clear focus it will, but it won’t be because Canadians have yet to pay attention.
The current situation evokes memories of a few years ago when I was polling for the media; the surface impression was the same: a tight three-way contest. But underneath lay something very different than what we are detecting now. It was not long after Harper’s second minority, Canadians were tired of the recent spate of elections and the opposition parties had been left battered and bruised. At the time I was measuring federal vote intentions on a weekly basis. And, as you might have guessed, there was very little movement week to week. It was a challenge to write an interesting story on pretty much the same numbers week after week (a challenge many have been facing, daily, for the past 50 days of this campaign!).
Underlying the stalemate then was indifference, apathy and even a palpable malaise. To borrow a phrase from boomer generation icon Timothy Leary, the electorate was neither tuned in nor turned on, but it had definitely dropped out.
So, what’s going on in this election? Am I seeing the same thing? Conventional wisdom might be that the lack of movement in poll numbers reflects the fact that Canadians are either turned off or have yet to turn on. We have all heard the reasons why this might be: people are disengaging from politics, the campaign is too long, the election launched as we entered the dog days of summer, people don’t think elections matter anymore, etc. And some may even point out that the widely reported “undecided voter” is short-hand for a disengaged voter.
Our results tell a different story. As part of our election series, we went to field with our H+K Perspectives research community to ask about some of these things. This is what we learned.
People are paying attention. People expect to vote. And, people are even looking forward to Election Day.
Many also think that the election matters; that the results will have an impact on their day-to-day life.
To my mind, these findings suggest that Canadians are pretty turned on by this election. Surprising? I don’t think so—it makes intuitive sense: the closeness of a contest, the extent to which its outcome is unpredictable, often draws people to it.
After all, even the most casual sports fan will sit down to watch a close game.
Up next: Emotions in Motion. My next piece will look at the range of emotions that this tight election is bringing out in Canadians.
H+K Strategies conducted a national survey on election issues. In total, we heard from 1,144 Canadians between September 11 and 16, 2015 (an associated margin of error for a sample this size would be ± 2.9%, 19 times out of 20).