Geek looking at data


Voter Segments to Watch on Election Night

May 25, 2018, 03:26 PM by Rupen Seoni
Take a look at the key voter segments that may sway the outcome of the upcoming Ontario election. Part two of our 2018 Ontario election blog series.


Missed part one of Rupen's 2018 Ontario elections blog series? Find it here.

Every vote counts, but some votes count more than others. If you live in an area that traditionally favours one political party, then in most elections voting against that trend will have less sway on the outcome than a vote in a riding with no clear defined political affiliation.

While voter support drifts between parties in every election—we would never see a change in power otherwise—it’s well established that each party has a core base of support votes the same way in every election. For this reason, political parties wanting to get the most out of their campaign will focus more of their attention and resources on those individuals and ridings where voters are likely to be receptive to their message.

This information can be helpful to voters, too. By knowing more about the voting preferences of a riding, voters make more strategic decisions on how to cast their ballot. But looking at past election results alone doesn’t tell you the full story. You can’t simply decide a voter is Liberal or a Conservative because of how they voted in the last election. To get a better sense of voter political leanings you need to consider all of their behaviours and social values along with voting histories before you can start to really understand who voters are.

PRIZM5, the comprehensive segmentation system we developed here at Environics Analytics, does just that. It segments Canadian households into one of 68 groups, according to shared values, socio-economic status and behaviours and more. Through this lens party preference patterns start to emerge. We distill this down to seven manageable groups that cover off voting preference and demographic patterns.

With this approach we can quickly see voting patterns and measure how much they’ve shifted between elections and that gives us an opportunity to understand which voters are driving the change. This is especially important since, for the first time, Elections Ontario will be releasing poll-level results by party in real time.

So who are the key voter segments? Three of the seven clearly and consistently had a preference for one of the main parties—and their names obviously reference that (Red Core, Blue Ontario and Orange Heartland). While the remaining four segments all voted Liberal in 2014, the results were not as decisive. In each of these groups another party was pretty close behind the Liberals or there was regional strength for another party which could indicate the potential for changes in allegiance this time. In one of the segments, it was effectively a three-way split.

Keep in mind that these party preference patterns hold provincially, but there external factors that can throw a wrench into our analysis. For instance, regional voting preferences mean that the same segment may tend to favour a different party depending on which region we are looking at. “Star” candidates can be another wildcard that can draw voters to support a different part. But these factors seldom affect more than a handful of ridings.

Here is a thumbnail sketch of the key voter segments to watch in this election:

Red Core
red code

Who are they: 
Average-income, culturally diverse, middle-aged families with white-collar and service jobs.

Where are they: City and suburban melting-pot neighbourhoods in the GTA, Ottawa and SouthwesternOntario.

Voter turnout: Average.

Vote split 2014: Liberal 46%, PC 28%, NDP 20%.

What to watch for: Do they want change? If so, which of the other parties will they vote for?


Blue Ontario
blue ontario

Who are they: 
Older singles and couples with average incomes from trade and service occupations.

Where are they: Smaller cities and rural areas across Ontario.

Voter turnout: High.

Vote split 2014: Liberal 29%, PC 40%, NDP 22%.

What to watch for: They are unlikely to change allegiance, but will the NDP become their “second choice”this time around? The NDP was already the second choice in the North.


Orange Heartland
orange heartland

Who are they: 
Singles and small families with modest incomes working in blue-collar and service jobs.

Where are they: Industrial cities in Southern Ontario and mining towns in the North.

Voter turnout: Low.

Vote split 2014: Liberal 28%, PC 26%, NDP 37%.

What to watch for: Will their turnout surge with NDP fortunes?


Urban Affluence
urban affluence

Where are they: 
Leafy pockets of affluence in the GTA and Ottawa.

Who are they: Large families with high incomes in white-collar occupations.

Voter turnout: Very high.

Vote split 2014: Liberal 45%, PC 37%, NDP 13%.

What to watch for: If they want change, will they shift to PC or will the NDP pick up share? They weren’t predisposed to the NDP in 2014.


Young & Urban
yound and urban

Who are they: 
Young singles and couples in white-collar and service jobs living mostly in apartments.

Where are they: Central-city enclaves of youth in the GTA, Ottawa and Southwest.

Voter turnout: Very low.

Vote split 2014: Liberal 43%, PC 17%, NDP 31%.

What to watch for: Will they turn out in bigger numbers? Will the NDP do better here?


Multicultural Families
multicultural families

Who are they: 
Mostly large, Chinese andSouth Asian, well-educated families living in suburban enclaves.

Where are they: GTA suburbs known for very high concentrations of Chinese and South Asian residents.

Voter turnout: Very low.

Vote split 2014: Liberal 46%, PC 26%, NDP 22%.

What to watch for: All parties have been vying for their support. Where will it go? In 2014, South Asiansegments voted Liberal with NDP in second; Chinese segments voted Liberal with PC in second.


Boomer Battleground
Boomer Battleground

Who are they: 
Boomer (and older) singles and couples with college and trades diplomas on modest incomes.

Where are they: Established suburbs of cities outside of the GTA and Ottawa.

Voter turnout: Average.

Vote split 2014: Liberal 34%, PC 29%, NDP 29%.

What to watch for: This group voted Liberal on balance in 2014, but regionally they voted NDP in the Southwest and PC in Central Ontario and Ottawa. They are a group that could shift allegiances slightly and swing some ridings.



What PRIZM5 segment do you belong to?

Rupen Seoni is Senior Vice President and Practice Leader at Environics Analytics. He provided commentary on voter segments and demographics in CTV’s federal election coverage and will be part of CTV’s provincial election night coverage on June 7. This is the second in a series of blogs leading up to the provincial election that will look at voter segments their party preferences and key ridings.