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Success in B.C. battle for centre-right vote may be defined by age, says polling

The BC Conservatives are polling significantly better among B.C. voters aged 18-34.
B.C.'s next general election is scheduled for Oct. 19

With just under nine months to go before the next provincial election, B.C. residents are still primarily worried about housing, poverty and homelessness. 

It is the most important issue facing the province for 39 per cent of British Columbians (unchanged since September 2023), followed by health care (22 per cent, unchanged), the economy and jobs (17 per cent, up five points), crime and public safety (five per cent, down one point) and the environment (four per cent, down two points).

At least two in five British Columbians aged 18 to 34 and aged 35 to 54 (45 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively) select housing, poverty and homelessness as their main priority. The results are more nuanced among their counterparts aged 55 and over, where 35 per cent select health care as the main challenge.

When it comes to casting ballots, the level of undecided voters fell from 18 per cent in September to 13 per cent this month. The brand confusion that was supposedly affecting one opposition party and benefiting another appears to have died down. The governing BC NDP remains in first place among decided voters at 46 per cent (down two points), followed by the Conservative Party of BC (25 per cent, up six points), BC United (17 per cent, down three points), the BC Green Party (11 per cent, down one point) and other parties and independent candidates (two per cent, up one point).

The NDP are clearly ahead in Metro Vancouver (47 per cent) and Vancouver Island (52 per cent) and hold a 10-point advantage over the Conservatives in Southern B.C. (37 per cent compared to 27 per cent). The race is closer in the Fraser Valley (39 per cent to 32 per cent in favour of the New Democrats) and is a statistical tie in Northern B.C. (40 per cent for the Conservatives, 39 per cent for the NDP).

BC United begins the election year in a perilous position, with low support in the former BC Liberal strongholds of the Fraser Valley (21 per cent) and Southern B.C. (17 per cent). Only 41 per cent of British Columbians who voted for the BC Liberals in the pandemic election of 2020 under Andrew Wilkinson – the weakest showing for the party in any provincial democratic process – are staying with BC United in 2024. Practically the same proportion of previous BC Liberal voters (38 per cent) say they will vote for the BC Conservatives if an election were held today.

For the BC Greens, the current numbers are also problematic. The party has only won seats in Vancouver Island, where it currently stands at 17 per cent, practically tied with the BC Conservatives (16 per cent) and BC United (15 per cent). In addition, fewer than one in 20 British Columbians currently cite the environment as their main concern.

The approval rating for Premier David Eby stands at 53 per cent this month (up one point). The three main opposition leaders remain significantly behind: BC Greens’ Sonia Furstenau at 34 per cent (down two points), BC Conservatives’ John Rustad at 32 per cent (up seven points) and BC United’s Kevin Falcon at 31 per cent (up two points).

While more than half of British Columbians (54 per cent, up three points) say they would “definitely” or “probably” consider casting a ballot for the BC NDP, the proportions are lower for the BC Conservatives (41 per cent, up four points), the BC Greens (34 per cent, down one point) and BC United (33 per cent, up one point). 

Success in the battle for the centre-right vote may ultimately be defined by age. The polling is significantly better for the BC Conservatives among voters aged 18 to 34 (52 per cent) than for BC United (35 per cent). On the voting question, BC United is doing better among voters aged 55 and over (27 per cent, with the BC Conservatives at 19 per cent). This partly explains why health care – the main issue for the province’s oldest adults – has been the focus of BC United’s statements in recent days. 

The notion of a pre-election merger between BC United and the Conservatives is backed by 32 per cent of British Columbians (unchanged). Those who plan to vote for BC United in 2024 are more supportive of a deal (56 per cent) than those who intend to cast a ballot for the BC Conservatives (48 per cent). 

The current B.C. political scenario recalls recent elections in two Canadian provinces. When opposition parties are unable to reach 30 per cent – as was the case in 2022 in Ontario and Quebec – the sentiment for change, big or small, has clearly failed to bring voters under one credible alternative to the party in power. The next months will be crucial for the BC Conservatives and BC United in their efforts to become that voice. 

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from Jan. 22-24, 2024 among 800 adults in B.C. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in B.C. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.