Mainstreet Research Ontario Poll on Carbon Pricing

Analysis of Mainstreet Research's Ontario Carbon Pricing Poll 


A public opinion poll released by Mainstreet Research on June 12, 2017 shows little support among Ontario residents for carbon pricing - whether that be Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne's current "cap-and-trade" carbon price, or PC Leader Patrick Brown's proposed carbon tax. Axe the Carbon Tax has completed an analysis of the Mainstreet poll highlighting some of the key findings. Click here to see the poll in its entirety. 

Mainstreet polled a random sample of 2,000 Ontarians between May 23rd and May 25th, 2017. The margin of error for survey results was ± 2.19percentage points, 19 times out of 20

The poll does not bode well for either Ontario Liberal Premier Wynne's current cap-and-trade system or Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown's carbon tax proposal among respondents as a whole. The good news in the poll for Kathleen Wynne is that her cap-and-trade system is largely popular among her own Liberal voters. On the other hand, Brown's carbon tax proposal is found to be opposed by his own party's supporters, with up to a third going so far to suggest they are "less likely" to vote for their own Ontario PC Party come next election. So while the poll results find that both versions of carbon pricing are unpopular, Wynne’s version does not appear to be endangering the electoral support she has from her own Liberal party voters, while Brown’s carbon tax proposal is highly controversial and unpopular amongst his own PC Party voters. This could be a big problem for Brown.


Kathleen Wynne's "Cap-and-Trade" Carbon Tax


The poll shows that only 39% of Ontarians support (18% "strongly approve", 21% "somewhat approve") Wynne's cap-and-trade system that was introduced on January 1, 2017.  On the other hand, 54% disapprove of cap-and-trade (14% "somewhat disapprove", 40% "strongly disapprove").  The 40% of respondents who "strongly disapprove" of cap-and-trade is particularly noteworthy as it shows a large portion of Ontarians have strong negative feelings to Wynne's cap-and-trade system. 


Making matters worse for Premier Wynne: only 11% of undecided voters are "more likely" to vote Liberal as a result of the current cap-and-trade system. In contrast, 31% of undecided voters are "less likely" to vote Liberal come the next election because of the cap-and-trade system. 


While the overall numbers seem to show some consistency in the opinions of Ontarians on Wynne's cap-and-trade, a look at the numbers based on whether a respondent is a Liberal or PC supporter tells a different story altogether.  


Liberals are largely united behind Wynne's cap-and-trade system with 79% stating they either "somewhat approve" (42%) or "strongly approve" (37%) the current carbon pricing system in Ontario.  Furthermore, only 9% of Liberal voters responded that they are "less likely" to vote Liberal come the next Ontario election as a result of cap-and-trade. 


Not surprisingly, PC supporters are united against Wynne's cap-and-trade system with 84% of respondents stating they either "somewhat disapprove" (21%) or "strongly disapprove" (63%) of Ontario's current price on carbon.  




Furthermore, 71% of PC supporters are "less likely" to vote Liberal in the next Ontario election as a result of cap-and-trade, with only 4% suggesting that they would be "more likely" to vote Liberal as a result of the current carbon pricing system. 


Abolishing Kathleen Wynne's "Cap-and-Trade" Carbon Tax

The poll found that more Ontario respondents are in favour of "abolishing" Premier Wynne's cap-and-trade than are against.  48% of respondents stated they approve of abolishing cap-and-trade (36% "strongly approve", 12% "somewhat approve") as opposed to 38% who disapprove of abolishing cap-and-trade (14% "somewhat disapprove, 24% "strongly disapprove"). 



The support of Ontario respondents for "abolishing" cap-and-trade is largely driven by PC supporters, who overwhelmingly (86%) favour Patrick Brown's proposal (72% "strongly approve", 16% "somewhat approve"). The hostility of PC voters to carbon pricing suggests that Brown's decision to oppose Wynne's cap-and-trade is a good one. As we will see later on in this analysis, the poll suggests that Brown should have been content with simply opposing Wynne's cap-and-trade carbon pricing plan and leaving it at that.


Not surprisingly, Liberal voters are overwhelmingly against abolishing cap-and-trade with 76% stating they disapprove of Patrick Brown's promise (23% "somewhat disapprove", 53% "strongly disapprove"). NDP and undecided voters show less support, with 44% of NDP voters (40% "strongly approve", 4% "somewhat approve") approving of abolishing cap-and-trade, and only 30% of undecided voters (12% "strongly approve", 18% "somewhat approve") approving.


Patrick Brown's Carbon Tax


The positives in the poll results for PC Leader Patrick Brown in his proposal to abolish Premier Kathleen Wynne's cap-and-trade system are neutralized by the lack of support that Ontarians have for the PC Leader's own carbon pricing plan. Patrick Brown's carbon tax has the support of only 32% of respondents (10% "strongly approve", 22% "somewhat approve"), as opposed to 46% who disapprove of Brown's carbon tax proposal  (15% "somewhat disapprove", 31% "strongly disapprove"). Interestingly, 22% of respondents are "not sure" what to think of Patrick Brown's carbon tax - a higher number those who are "not sure" on Brown's plan to abolish Wynne's cap-and-trade system and a much larger number than those who are "not sure" on whether they approve of Wynne's cap-and-trade system. The poll did not test “awareness” of Brown’s carbon tax proposal but this 22% “unsure” number suggests that perhaps a much larger number have never even heard of Brown’s carbon tax plan.  This should concern Brown and the PCs: what if more voters – and more PC voters - were aware of his unpopular commitment to “put a price on carbon”? 


Amongst undecided voters, Patrick Brown's carbon tax proposal has the support of only 22% of respondents (5% "strongly approve", 17% "somewhat approve") as opposed to 42% of undecided voters who disapprove (6% "somewhat disapprove", 36% "strongly disapprove"). Surprisingly, more undecided voters support the current cap-and-trade system, albeit only slightly at 26% (14% "strongly approve", 12% "somewhat approve"), than Patrick Brown's proposed carbon tax that would replace cap-and-trade. 


Only 30% of Ontarians are "more likely" to vote for the PC Party at the next Ontario election due to Patrick Brown's carbon tax proposal.  While this number is higher than the 19% who are "more likely" to vote for Kathleen Wynne because of cap-and-trade, the gain appears to come at a severe cost to Brown, as 54% of PC supporters disapprove of Brown's carbon tax promise (14% "somewhat disapprove", 40% "strongly disapprove").

Comparing this figure to the small percentage of Liberal respondents (11%) who disapprove of the Liberal government's cap-and-trade system, the difference shows that while Wynne's cap-and-trade system has the support of Liberal voters, Brown's carbon tax has the opposite effect on his own PC Party supporters thus presenting a risk to Brown that puts up to 36% of his own PC Party supporters' votes and 34% of undecided votes in jeopardy.