How Ontario Voted: A Provincial “Exit Poll”.

While most voters pointed out that it was “time for change”, the two main opposition leaders never gained on the “Best Premier” question.

Vancouver, BC [June 8, 2022] – The Progressive Conservative Party will form a majority government once again in Ontario, after all the votes from the 2022 provincial election have been tallied. An “exit poll” conducted by Research Co. provides an opportunity to look at why the sentiment for change that was expressed by most voters never materialized.

In our final poll of the campaign, Premier and Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Doug Ford had a significant advantage over his main rivals on the “Best Premier” question. While 37% of Ontarians favoured Ford for the province’s top job, the rating was decidedly lower for Official Opposition and Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Andrea Horwath (21%) and Ontario Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca (19%).

The election’s outcome does not suggest an extraordinary rekindling of voters with Ford and the Progressive Conservatives, but rather a failure from the two opposition parties to entice voters. In 2018, right before Ford’s victory and the end of the tenure of Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals, more than three-in-four voters in Ontario (77%) thought a new premier was needed.

In our survey of Ontarians who cast a ballot in the 2022 provincial election, 64% of respondents told us that it was “time for a change of government” in the province. The desire to make Ford a one-term premier encompassed enormous proportions of Ontarians who voted for the NDP (95%) and the Liberals (88%) this year.

Still, when Ontario voters were asked to point out their main motivation for supporting a particular party in 2022, more than two-in-five (44%) mentioned ideas and policies. This indicator is more powerful for New Democrats (48%) and Liberals (47%) than for Progressive Conservatives (40%).

On the other hand, one-in-four Ontario voters (25%) say their ballot was cast primarily on account of the party’s leader. This time, the two opposition parties lag. While 31% of Progressive Conservatives thought of the leader more than anything, the numbers drop to 21% among those who supported either the New Democrats or the Liberals.

Across Ontario, only 9% of voters said they were thinking of a desire for change when casting their ballot. This indicator usually rises in provincewide elections when incumbents are unpopular. Even among New Democrats and Liberals, the number of voters who actively yearned for a new government was small (14% and 12% respectively).

One of the biggest hindrances that centre-left supporters may point to is the electoral system. In spite of endless discussions about “strategic voting”—with some pointing to predictions in an attempt to lure voters to one party or another—only 45% of Ontarians said they cast their ballot strategically: voting for the candidate in their riding who had the best chance of defeating a party they dislike, even if the candidate they voted for was not their first preference. As expected, “strategic voting” was significantly more favoured by voters aged 18-to-34 (62%) than among their counterparts aged 35-to-54 (47%) and aged 55 and over (33%).

But even if “strategic voting” failed to deliver change, many Ontarians would be happy with proportional representation in provincial elections. Across the province, 58% of voters like this idea. There is no generation gap on this question, with similar proportions of voters aged 18-to-34 (58%), aged 35-to-54 (59%) and aged 55 and over (57%) welcoming a new system. As expected, those who cast ballots for the New Democrats (70%) and Liberals (64%) are more enthused about the prospect of electoral reform than those who voted for the Progressive Conservatives (53%).

Ontario voters are not entirely convinced on enacting a merger of the two centre-left parties. Just under two-in-five Ontario voters (39%) would welcome this idea, but this number includes majorities of those who cast ballots for the Liberals (58%) and the New Democrats (57%). Progressive Conservative voters, who envisioned their party coasting to a win, are significantly more skeptical: only 23% would like to see a united “Liberal Democrat” party in 2026.

Even with a majority mandate, and with severe tasks ahead for the opposition, there is a sense of dismay from voters. Practically four-in-five (79%) say they would like to see better people serving as leaders of Ontario’s main political parties. On this question, significant majorities of supporters of the New Democrats (87%), Liberals (83%) and Progressive Conservatives (72%) think these political organizations owe them better options, individually and collectively.

Find our data tables here. 

Methodology: Results are based on an online study conducted on June 1 and June 2, 2022, among 500 Ontario adults who voted in the 2022 provincial election. The margin of error — which measures sample variability — is +/- 4.4 percentage points for the sample of decided voters, nineteen times out of twenty.