Manitoba Decides 2023 –Three Things We’re Watching

Manitobans will elect a new provincial government on October 3. Our most recent poll shows a statistical tie between the governing Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats, so we expect a very close race.
Here are three things we'll be keeping an eye on as the campaign begins:

The Gender Chasm

Graph showing NDP and PC party support among women from March 2022 to June 2023
Graph showing NDP and PC party support among men from March 2022 to June 2023

The NDP had been leading in Probe’s polling for the past three years, with a significant chunk of that support coming from women. The NDP continues to be much more popular among women. However, its lead has shrunk in the past six months, while support for the PCs has been steadily increasing among men. To win, the NDP needs to widen that gender gap again – especially among women living in suburban Winnipeg, the key battleground in this election.

Graph showing party support for PC, NDP and Liberals outside of Winnipeg from March 2022 to June 2023

The NDP has held a massive lead over the PCs in Winnipeg during the past three years. If the party is to win government for the first time since 2016, it will only happen if it can flip the suburban seats in northeast, southeast and west Winnipeg it held back when it regularly won majority governments.

But that won’t be quite enough. To form government, the NDP also needs to pick up a bit more support outside the Perimeter – in places like Selkirk, Brandon, Dauphin and Dawson Trail. With the exception of the North, there has been little support for the NDP outside the provincial capital during the past decade. Our most recent polling suggests that the NDP is performing better outside Winnipeg than it has in the past two elections. However, to make a real breakthrough, NDP support needs to move into the mid-30 per cent range outside Winnipeg.

The Major Issues – Especially Crime and Public Safety

Graph showing top election issues in Manitoba from March 2022 to June 2023

When we look at issues currently on the public’s mind, crime and public safety top the list. This may benefit the PCs, as Conservative parties here and elsewhere are generally seen as most credible on law-and-order issues, especially when they are advancing “tough-on-crime” positions. But gender is clearly also at play here. Women tend to express a far greater focus on addressing crime-related issues such as addictions, poverty and homelessness than is the case among men. This may help to shape provincial voting preferences when tough on crime messages are wedged against “root causes" arguments. Meanwhile, the state and capacity of our health care system – which was an existential concern during the COVID-19 pandemic and something the NDP has emphasized repeatedly during the past three years – remains a key issue today, although it is now lower down the list of immediate concerns.

We expect to look more closely at how Manitobans feel about these issues and which party they think will do the best job of addressing these concerns as the election unfolds.