May 30, 2016

Canadians Hungry for Electoral Reform
70% of Canadians believe it’s time for online voting

A new poll by NRG Research Group and Peak Communicators reveals that there is an appetite for changes to the Canadian federal election system.

Seventy percent of respondents nationwide felt that online voting should be an option for Canadians to vote in federal elections. Interestingly, the level of support for online voting is consistent across age groups as well as between men and women. Regionally, Ontario and Atlantic Canada show the strongest support for implementing online voting.

Canadians were given descriptions of the current “first-past-the-post” electoral system, along with three potential alternatives: Mixed Member Proportional, Pure Proportional Representation and Ranked or Preferential Voting. Only one-quarter of Canadians find the current system the most appealing. Meanwhile, nearly the same proportion (23%) prefer a Mixed Member Proportional system where some representatives are elected based on a first-past-the-post system and some are elected on a proportional representation basis. Two in ten (19%) chose Pure Proportional representation (where votes are cast for political parties rather than a specific representative in the voter’s region) as their preferred option. Ranked or Preferential Voting, a system allowing voters to rank their voting choices in order of preference, was the choice of 14%.

“Even though there were a range of views about the best type of voting system, it is clear that most Canadians are open to moving away from First-Past-the-Post,” says Andrew Enns, President of NRG Research Group.

There were interesting demographic differences in electoral system preferences. The group most in favour of keeping the status quo was men over the age of 55, while women under 35 were particularly likely to show interest in alternative voting options. Residents of BC, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada were more likely than those in any other region to select Preferential Voting; those in Ontario and Quebec were also more likely than those in other regions (particularly BC and Saskatchewan) to opt for Mixed Member Proportional. Interestingly, both BC and Ontario have held referenda within the past decade on alternative electoral systems (BC on Single Transferable Vote, a form of Preferential Voting; and Ontario on Mixed-Member Proportional).

“It is noteworthy that two in three respondents say there should be a referendum on whatever changes to the voting system are ultimately put forward,” said Enns. A full 67% of Canadians said that the final decision over which electoral system to implement should be up to the people, via a national referendum. Only 17% felt that Parliament should be able to decide without a referendum. Respondents in Quebec (22%) and men (21%) – particularly men aged 55 and older (24%) – are more likely than their counterpoints to leave the decision to Parliament.

When given the choice, more Canadians felt that voting should remain voluntary (57%) than become mandatory (34%). Canadians under 35 (40%) are more likely than those 35 and older to support mandatory voting; BC residents (43%) are notably more in support of mandatory voting than those in other parts of the country.

These results are from a provincially-representative Canada-wide study of 1,000 online respondents conducted by NRG Research Group on May 25th and 26th, 2016*. The poll was conducted in English and French. Results were weighted to reflect the actual age and gender distribution in each region. Margin of error is not provided for online polls or other non-probability samples.



Andrew Enns