TORONTO — With the Liberals and Conservatives running neck and neck during the second week of the federal election campaign, new data from Nanos Research shows the Liberals are enjoying higher support among female voters while the Conservatives are by far the most popular party for male voters.
In the latest nightly tracking data for CTV News and The Globe and Mail that was released Friday, the Liberals had the most support among Canadian females, with 37.1 per cent versus 29.6 per cent among males, while the Conservatives had 26.5 per cent support among females versus a whopping 40.7 per cent among males.
“When we crunch the numbers on the ballot support, they’re very striking,” Nanos said on Friday’s edition of CTV’s Trend Line podcast. “It’s like a gender war, battle of the sexes… It’s very striking in terms of the division in our country when we look at ballot support based on gender.”
The Liberals’ current standing among male voters is a marked shift from just a few weeks earlier when they were the most popular party for that group, according to the nightly tracking data.
From May to early August, the Liberals were the party of choice among men.
Nanos said that this was likely due to the “vaccination honeymoon” the Liberals enjoyed during those three months.
“During that period, the Liberals went into majority territory and had like a 12 to 13 point advantage over the Conservatives,” he told CTVNews.ca on Thursday. “That was that was based on the perceived performance of the Liberals on the pandemic.”
As COVID-19 cases began to creep up again across the country and the threat of a fourth wave loomed large by early August, Nanos said that perception of the Liberals changed.
However, that was not true in the minds of many women, who have consistently ranked the Liberals as their most preferred party since May, according to Nanos Research.
Like the Liberals, Nanos said support for the NDP was also higher among women at 22.8 per cent, versus 16.9 per cent among men.
“What we have is, on one side of the ledger, is men, who are definitely tilting towards the Conservatives by a significant margin and then on the other side of the ledger, we have women tilting towards the progressive parties, both of the progressive parties, especially the Liberals, but also the New Democrats,” he said.
As for the Greens, the Bloc Quebecois, and the People’s Party of Canada, the Nanos’ data shows a fairly even split in support among male and female voters.
Nanos said that in his experience, the winning formula for federal parties has been to attract a lot of support from one sex and be competitive with the other.
“The winning franchise, regardless of what party that you happen to lead, would be to do well in one gender group, and then to be competitive in the other gender group,” he said.
“Right now, we have two front running parties that are doing well in one gender group, but they’re not competitive in the other, which explains why we’re deadlocked at this particular point in time in the campaign.”
According to the latest nightly tracking data, the Conservatives and Liberals are locked in a statistical tie with 33.6 per cent support and 33.4 per cent support, respectively.
They’re followed by the NDP with 19.9 per cent, the Bloc Quebecois with 5.3 per cent, the Greens with 4.6 per cent, and the People’s Party of Canada with 3.1 per cent.
Even the data for who Canadians prefer for their next prime minister is close with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at 32.4 per cent support, followed by Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole at 27.4 per cent, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh at 18.1 per cent.
Amanda Bittner, a political scientist at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L., said she’s not surprised that women appear to be leaning towards the left of the political spectrum this election.
“[It’s] totally not surprising and fits with traditional patterns here in Canada, where women tend to be more to the left than men and tend to support both parties on the left, and then also the policies that can be associated with those kinds of perspectives as well,” she told CTVNews.ca during a telephone interview on Thursday.
As for why that may be the case, Bittner said there has been a lot of research done on the topic, but there’s no actual conclusive explanation for why women prefer the left. She said some people suspect it might be related to job market changes and how women were excluded for a long time, so now they’re more in favour of policies that promote their involvement.
Bittner said there are some who believe women vote for left-leaning parties because they tend to be the primary caretakers of their families.
“Women are more supportive of things like education, things like spending on health care, things like other sort of social safety net-related policies, like childcare,” she said.
She also said that women tend to be the main users of these societal programs for their entire families.
“They understand that these are things that are really important, and therefore they prefer more government involvement in those areas,” she said.
Finally, Bittner said women tend to be more progressive on issues related to equality, such as gender, racial, and ethnic equality.
Nanos added that women tend to take a more general approach to government than men.
“You know, which party has the vision that is going to make sure that health care is there for them and their family, which is going to make sure that people who are homeless are not left behind… just a view that government can be a force for good,” he said.
NOT ONE VOTING BLOC
While there are patterns in how women versus men tend to vote in Canada, Bittner stressed there are many variations within the sexes as well.
“Not all women are to the left. Not all men are to the right,” she said.
Bittner said Canadian women shouldn’t be considered one monolithic voting bloc that always prefers the same political parties.
“There are plenty of women who vote on the right,” she said, before adding that the 2016 election in the U.S., which has similar voting patterns as Canada, can serve as an example of those variations.
“A lot of folks put the blame for Trump’s election in 2016, placed the blame squarely in the hands of white women who voted entirely differently from women of other ethnic backgrounds, other racial backgrounds, and different from Black men, Latino men, and so on,” she said.
As an example of those variations within female voting patterns, Bittner said the Conservatives have traditionally tried to appeal to certain kinds of women with their policies.
“They’ll market themselves to like the soccer mom, the hockey mom, the kind of traditional maternal role, who is doing a lot of that caretaking to try to market the kind of family value story for a lot of women, which works for many, not all, obviously,” she said.
In terms of the current election campaign, Bittner said the Conservatives may be able to pick up more female votes thanks to the more centrist position of their leader Erin O’Toole.
“He says a lot of things that have wider appeal to women in the sense that, you know, he’s identified himself as pro choice, he’s identified himself as being supportive of pride, things like that, that are different from his party’s traditional stances on these kinds of issues,” she said.
Nanos agreed that O’Toole is staking out a position as someone who is more centrist than some right-wing members of his party.
“Saying that he’s pro-choice is probably the clearest single signal that he could send that he is not necessarily a traditional social conservative,” he said.
O’Toole is building a narrative in which he’s different from previous Conservative leaders who the Liberals could characterize in unflattering ways based on their social views, Nanos said.
“Are they going to attack Erin O’Toole for advocating for mental health? Are they going to attack him for being pro-choice?” he said. “What’s clear to me is that the Conservative campaign is very carefully selecting key issues to define Erin O’Toole so that he doesn’t look like some of the previous Conservative leaders.”
A national random telephone survey (land- and cellular-line sample using live agents) of 1,200 Canadians is conducted by Nanos Research throughout the campaign over a three-day period. Each evening a new group of 400 eligible voters are interviewed. The daily tracking figures are based on a three-day rolling sample comprising 1,200 interviews. To update the tracking a new day of interviewing Is added and the oldest day dropped. The margin of error for a survey of 1,200 respondents is ± 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The respondent sample is stratified geographically and by gender. The data may be weighted by age according to data from the 2016 Canadian Census administered by Statistics Canada. Percentages reported may not add up to 100 due to rounding.