Trust No One: B.C.’s Political Leaders Fail to Impress With Personalities

With the provincial election inching closer, a new survey commissioned by VanMag shows Clark, Horgan and Weaver have some image issues to overcome.

March 28, 2017

By Jessica Barrett

Quick: which provincial party leader would you most like to have over for dinner? Who’s the most likable? How about trustworthy?

If you’re not sure, you’re in good company. The results of a pre-election survey commissioned by Vancouver magazine from Insights West show the leaders of B.C.’s main political parties are failing to make a strong impression on the public ahead of the May 9 election—or at least failing to make a positive one.

When asked which political leader they consider the most authentic, likeable, and trustworthy, the vast majority of respondents said they were “not sure.” Those who did weigh in found Green Party leader Andrew Weaver to be the most authentic (23 percent) followed by the NDP’s John Horgan (20 percent), with Premier Christy Clark bringing up the rear for the BC Liberals with only 12 percent saying they found her to be authentic.

NDP leader John Horgan may be the most likeable leader, but with only a paltry 21 percent of voters putting him at the top of the list he may be having difficulty standing out from the crowd. (Photo: BC NDP Flickr)

On likeability and trustworthiness, Horgan eked out a top ranking with 21 percent and 22 percent of respondents putting him at the top of their list for those respective qualities, while 19 percent of respondents found Weaver to be both most likable and most trustworthy. Clark, meanwhile, ranked in the middle of the pack on likability (21 percent) but lagged when it came to trustworthiness: only 13 percent of respondents said they trust the premier.

When it comes to the leader British Columbians would most like to invite into their home for dinner, the response was similarly lukewarm. Horgan again led the pack with 23 percent, followed by Weaver at 21 percent and Clark at 20 percent.

But the premier did get a robust reaction in one category: 55 percent of respondents said Clark is the leader “most likely to say anything to get elected,” followed distantly by Horgan at 18 percent, and Weaver with two percent.  Horgan, meanwhile, was seen as most likely to keep his promises to the electorate, but only with a paltry 25 percent. He was followed by Weaver, at 18 percent and Clark with 17 percent. Meanwhile a whopping 77 percent of respondents said they wished there were “better people serving as the leaders of B.C.’s main political parties.”

Premier Christy Clark may be all smiles at public events, but our poll shows that doesn’t convey honesty, trust or authenticity to prospective voters. (Photo: Flickr)

The lack of positive feelings about the party leaders may indicate voters are having a difficult time ascertaining which leaders align with their values, even if they know which party policies they agree with, said Mario Canseco, vice president of public affairs for Insights West. “There’s a lot of uncertainty, particularly looking at the fact that there are people who may have had a positive view of Christy Clark before and are having second thoughts,” he said. “Also, many people don’t know a lot about John Horgan, Andrew Weaver is also a bit of a wild card—so heading into the election, maybe you are a partisan person who supports free enterprise who was thinking of voting Liberal but you don’t like the premier that much, or you are someone who supports progressive forces but you don’t know who the leader is of either of the other two parties.”

Unlike previous election cycles, where defining issues or divisive personalities have emerged early in the game, ambivalence about the upcoming contest may create some opportunity for parties to snag supporters from their competition, said Canseco. “I think what this shows is it’s not an election like others we’ve had before, where you’re fighting over a fairly small piece of real estate,” he said. “There seems to be a lot of indecision even among people who voted for the two main parties the last time.”

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver ranks top on authenticity, but his challenge will be to hold on to that as voting day draws near. (Photo: Green Party of BC)

While retention rates for the NDP are high, at 92 percent, only 80 percent of people who voted Liberal in the last election said they were resolved to do so again. Small as it is, that gap could be a deciding factor in determining the outcome on May 9, said Canseco, especially when accounting for historical patterns that show Green supporters tend to veer toward either of the bigger parties as the election draws near. “The Greens are very convincing in the early stages of the campaign, and then their level of support tends to drop,” Canseco said.

But with more than six weeks to go until British Columbians cast their ballots, the election is still anybody’s game, Canseco cautioned. “My prediction is: there will be a government formed by the party with the most seats.”

Results are based on an online study conducted by Insights West from February 23 to February 26, 2016, among 801 adult British Columbians. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age and gender. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Find more from this survey in our 2017 election package in the May issue of Vancouver magazine.

 

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