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Great Expectations


[Ottawa – November 11, 2015] The 42nd federal election produced a result that seemed extremely unlikely at the outset of the campaign. In this brief note, we look at two fairly simple indicators of how the election was received and what perceived impacts the election will have on the country. We will look at basic satisfaction with the election and how it compares with the previous one. We will then turn from the rear view mirror to the future. What are the expectations about the future? How do citizens hope or imagine the reinstatement of progressive Canada will affect their lives and the country?

Interestingly, the overall satisfaction levels with this election are only marginally higher than in 2011. What is different is much lower the levels of dissatisfaction are this time. Unsurprisingly, Conservatives were not very happy, while Liberal supporters were ecstatic. What is really remarkable is how other party supporters rated the outcome in each of these two elections.


In 2011, the NDP reached a historic 103 seats and formed official opposition. These were heady achievements for a party which had never come close to that level of success. Yet they fell short of denying Stephen Harper his strong, stable majority. In 2015, the NDP suffered one of the biggest political pratfalls in Canadian history. They lost more than half their seats and were reduced to third party status once again. It is therefore both ironic and important that their dwindled constituency were much happier than they were with the heady achievement of 2011. This vividly illustrates a key finding.

Throughout the last four years, promiscuous progressive voters have oscillated back and forth across the NDP and the Liberals. A year before the election, it was clearly Justin Trudeau in the driver seat; then it was Tom Mulcair. Some voters would have been happy with a blend of some sort because there were two overriding objectives for progressive Canada. One was to have Mr. Harper defeated. The second was to install some form of progressive government. Affection and fealty to individual parties were subordinate to those twin objectives. That is why NDP voters were much happier with such a diminished outcome for their party. We will hazard a strong guess that Liberal voters would have also been much happier with an NDP victory instead of continued Harper rule.


If the 2011 campaign was all about inertia, 2015 was all about movement and change. Voters told us that this was an enormously high stakes election. Voter turnout provided behavioural validation of these claims.

We thought it useful to ask Canadians if and how they thought the world would be any different because of this electoral choice. The answer is that the public see this as the beginnings of a sea change, a profound shift in the very character of the country. While it is undoubtedly encouraging to note just how much confidence the country has invested in the new leader which had been in third place at the outset of the campaign. If one of the keys to success was exceeding the low expectations set by the Conservative Party, it is notable that that period has been replaced with Canada freighting Justin Trudeau with huge, quite likely unrealistic expectations. Undoubtedly, Liberals will welcome this challenge.
Results suggest that the reinstatement of a progressive government comes with large expectations about change. Notably, the expectations are highest when it comes to restoring the core values that progressive Canada had seen compromised in the Harper era. Fully two-thirds of Canadians believe that the new government will improve Canada’s reputation on the world stage (while only 18 per cent think Justin Trudeau will have a negative impact on our international standing). A similar proportion holds a positive outlook on the health of democracy which may reflect just how far basic barometers of trust in government and democracy had descended under Harper’s watch. Similar high levels of expectation are attached to moving forward on climate change. What is remarkable about these three indicators is how this newfound optimism is shared by Canadians of every region, gender, age group, and educational cohort.

Canadians are a little bit more circumspect about the impacts on the economy and their quality of life, but there is a clear plurality who thinks these areas of Canadian life will be improved. About half of Canadians are hopeful that the Liberals will strengthen and grow the economy. In terms of their personal quality of life and standard of living, a large portion of the Canadian electorate looks at the 2015 election results with more of a “just business as usual” attitude in this area.

Results here are more split along party lines, with pessimism focussed among the traditionally Conservative demographics, namely Albertans and high school graduates. What is remarkable is that apart from the two clearly economic impacts, the incidence of those seeing an erosion of Canada is between 10 and 20 per cent. Justin Trudeau has the clear confidence of the country and even skeptics are well below the numbers supporting other parties.

Concluding remarks

The public receptivity to the new government is very positive but not unqualified. Recall the Liberals went from third to decisive first in an extremely dynamic and surprising election. The citizenry have yet to fully catch up with this result but it does reflect a clear public judgement rooted in values and a belief that the new government had a more compelling narrative on how to restart economic and middle class progress. The new government should savour this profound mandate while being mindful of the longer term advantage of under-promising and over-delivering.


This study draws on data from two separate surveys. The first survey was conducted using High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cell phone, as well as cell phone only households and landline only households.

The field dates for the first survey are October 20-23, 2015. In total, a random sample of 1,973 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The second survey was conducted using EKOS’ unique, hybrid online/telephone research panel, Probit. Our panel offers exhaustive coverage of the Canadian population (i.e., Internet, phone, cell phone), random recruitment (in other words, participants are recruited randomly, they do not opt themselves into our panel), and equal probability sampling. All respondents to our panel are recruited by telephone using random digit dialling and are confirmed by live interviewers. Unlike opt-in online panels, Probit supports margin of error estimates. We believe this to be the only probability-based online panel in Canada.

The field dates for the second survey are October 27-November 2, 2015. In total, a random sample of 1,227 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey (1,114 online, 113 by phone). The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, region, and educational attainment to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

Click here for the full report: Full Report (November 11, 2015)

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