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Will Hudak’s hard-right turn help create a two-way race?

With this morning’s pledge to cut 100,000 jobs from Ontario’s broader public sector, Tim Hudak erased any doubt about his willingness to campaign strongly from the right in this campaign.

That merits another quick dive into that research from Innovative Research Group I was on about in my last post.

Let’s start with the polling company this week asking its online panel of 1,000 Ontarians whether it agreed or disagreed that “It’s time for a change in the Ontario government.” Here’s what it found:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

The fact that  57 per cent want change (and only 20 per cent don’t) is bad news for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, and good news for the other two parties. But have a look, as well, at what respondents said when asked if they agreed or disagreed that “I am afraid of what Tim Hudak and the PCs might do if they form government”:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

So if this research is correct, most Ontarians want change from Ms. Wynne; most are also afraid of the guy likeliest to replace her.

At first glance, that would seem bad news for both of them, and good news for Andrea Horwath. And maybe it will turn out that way. But it’s not quite that simple.

The Tories’ strategy in this campaign, as evidenced by the sharp right turn they just took, is less about winning over new admirers than about mobilizing their supporters to come out and vote. Innovative Research’s data suggests that coming into today’s announcement, at least, about 30 per cent of voters with an opinion on Mr. Hudak weren’t scared of him. So the Tories’ popular support will probably stay somewhere in the thirties, as most horse-race polls have indicated, and if that party is gambling right its base will be more motivated to come out and vote than supporters of the Liberals or New Democrats.

The Liberals’ strategy, meanwhile, revolves around convincing centre-left voters that they’re the only alternative to the Tories. And the responses to another of this survey’s questions suggests there are still a lot of people willing to vote for Ms. Wynne’s party, if not thrilled by the prospect. Here’s what the panel said when asked if they agreed or disagreed that “After the past few years, I am so angry at the Ontario Liberals, I will never vote for them again”:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

Okay, one more of these, and then  I promise I’ll stop for now. Here’s what respondents said when asked it they agreed or disagreed that “This election is really a two-horse race, only the Liberals and the Conservatives have a real chance of forming government:

SOURCE: Innovative Research Group

The Liberals’ current challenge is to get even more people into the affirmative on that last question. Today’s announcement by Mr. Hudak gives them a pivotal opportunity to do that, so it will be very interesting to see how they try to take advantage of it.

Depending on how much success the Liberals have with that, it could be trouble not only for the NDP, but also for a PC Party that probably needs some left-of-centre vote-splitting to be able to take enough seats to win power.


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Filed under: Ontario Election

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