Economy and jobs top voters' concerns: Poll

A worker is pictured at a Toronto condominium construction site. (REUTERS)

A worker is pictured at a Toronto condominium construction site. (REUTERS)

Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

TORONTO - Ontarians are thinking about jobs and the economy heading into the last three weeks of the provincial election campaign, an Abacus Data poll has found.

“This is an example of how the campaign has really focused most people on a few issues and that clearly jobs and the economy is increasingly looking like the key ballot issue for this election,” Abacus Data CEO David Coletto said Thursday.

The pollster said 33% of Ontarians identified this issue as their top concern, followed by honesty and accountability, the provincial deficit and debt and health care.

While the Ontario Progressive Conservatives may have had a strong hand in setting the agenda, they don’t appear to be benefiting, Coletto said.

When asked which of the major political parties would be best at handling the issue of jobs and the economy, more people picked the Liberals than either the PCs or NDP.

“The fact that jobs and the economy is first is not surprising, but it is surprising that the Liberals still do best on it,” Coletto said.

“These results start to explain why our first poll, the first numbers we released, are the way they are (and) why this election is tied or very close to being tied.”

The Liberals and Tories are in a dead heat with 33% support among committed voters, while Andrea Horwath’s NDP is at 26% support.

Ontarians were also asked which party they thought could best manage the economy in general and the Liberals, Tories and NDP all did well, he said.

Voters who believe the province is in good shape, as Torontonians tend to, are more likely to vote Liberal, he said.

Residents of southwestern Ontario and northern Ontario have a more negative view of the province’s economic well-being, and those areas are not Liberal strongholds, he said.

On deficit and debt, Hudak is the runaway leader with 59% of those polled saying he would be best to manage that issue.

When voters were asked about the Ontario Liberal budget, released by Premier Kathleen Wynne on May 1, most knew little to nothing about it.

Those people who did have knowledge of the budget were less likely to view it favourably, Coletto said.

The poll also appears to shoot down a key Liberal position that most NDP supporters wanted Horwath to support the budget.

“This is not necessarily the golden ticket for the government,” Coletto said of the budget. “When we asked people who voted NDP last time what they think about the budget, only 13% of them approved.”

Abacus Data asked people about their hydro bills and 78% said they had gone up in the past year — 42% said up “a lot.”

But, so far, Ontarians remain skeptical about whether any party will manage the electricity system well, Coletto said.

Seven percent of those polled selected hydro bills as their top issue, but that number could rise, he said.

Abacus Data polled 2,000 eligible voters online between May 14-16 and the results are considered accurate within 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.


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