Survey says: economy, climate change and cost of living top issues for Sask. voters

Saskatchewan voters say the economy, climate change and the cost of living are their three biggest concerns in the upcoming federal election.

The data comes from a recent poll conducted by the University of Saskatchewan's Social Science Research Laboratory and commissioned by CBC and Postmedia.

The poll was conducted over the phone this month and surveyed 400 random residents in Saskatchewan. Voters were also asked about which party they would be supporting. The margin of error on this poll is +/- 4.9 per cent 19 times out of 20.

The Conservative Party of Canada received the most support out of decided voters with 41 per cent indicating the CPC as their preference going into the election.

The New Democratic Party was a distant second with 11 per cent; the Green Party of Canada was third with eight per cent and the Liberal Party of Canada came in fourth at five per cent. However, 23 per cent of respondents said they were undecided.

The poll can be "very valuable" because it surveys Sask. people specifically, according to Loleen Berdahl, the department head of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

"When there is polling done during an election it's on a national sample. Saskatchewan gets very little representation."

Berdahl said national polls typically lump Sask. and Manitoba together, which does not capture either province fairly because of their differences.

Economy, climate change most important: poll

The first question asked in the poll was "what is the most important issue to you in the upcoming federal election?"

The economy was cited as the top choice with 13.5 per cent, climate change was second at 11 per cent and the cost of living was the third most frequent choice with eight per cent.

There were 16 issues to choose from, but respondents could also write-in a separate issue.

Of the respondents, 34.5 per cent wrote in an answer that was not specified. The top three selections were:

  • The oil industry and pipelines (23 votes).
  • Environment (22 votes).
  • Electoral reform (15 votes).

Each received more votes than health care, education and immigration, among others.

"We see a lot of emphasis on climate change and the environment. On the other hand economy, trade, cost of living — I see a strong tension between these two issues of economic concerns and environmental concerns," said Berdahl.

Conservative Party most popular according to poll

Holding 10 of 14 Sask. seats heading into the election campaign, it may come as no surprise to see the Conservative Party as the clear favourite among those polled, with 41 per cent support.

The support by percentage:

  • NDP – 11 per cent.
  • Green Party – eight per cent.
  • Liberal – five per cent.
  • People's Party of Canada – one per cent.
  • Undecided – 22 per cent.
Todd Korol/Reuters

Berdahl said the support for the Conservatives "wasn't surprising at all." She mentioned the Liberals' already weak support in the province could be further hampered by the ongoing controversy surrounding Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wearing blackface prior to his time in politics.

"The Liberals have some real challenges and mean this data was taken before the bombshell yesterday and that certainly will not help the Liberals in any province," Berdahl said.

The poll showed a close race for the left-leaning vote between the Green Party and NDP. 

"We're seeing almost a competition for the left of the political spectrum and how people will work with that when it actually comes time to vote will be quite interesting."

86% say no to Sask. separation 

Voters were asked a third question: "should Saskatchewan separate and form an independent country?"

Eighty-six per cent of respondents replied "no," while 8.7 per cent responded "yes."

When broken down by age and gender, the poll found men aged 35-54 were more likely to support an independent Saskatchewan when compared to other age and gender categories.  

Berdahl said the bluntness of the question caused people "to think hard" about whether they wanted Saskatchewan to be separated from Canada.

"I think that Saskatchewan residents feel a strong affinity to Canada. They might not be happy with a number of things but they understand there is a very huge advantage to our province being part of Canada."