Health care is the top election issue on voters’ minds, according to an in-depth poll completed by Corporate Research Associates (CRA) exclusively for The Telegram.
Beginning Thursday, The Telegram has been rolling out the results of the wide-ranging poll — which had a large sample size of 800. Look for more detail about the results in The Weekend Telegram.
The poll was conducted between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points with a confidence level of 95 per cent.
Health care was cited by 31 per cent of the respondents as the top issue. The respondents were not given issues to pick from by the pollsters, so their replies reflect what’s on the top of their minds.
CRA president and CEO Don Mills said the results don’t mean just 31 per cent of the respondents feel health care is important — it may rank on others’ lists, but may not be top priority.
But health outdistances Muskrat Falls by almost three times the response.
“The health care issue is important because it skews older, and older people tend to vote more than younger people, so that is the advantage that goes with that issue,” Mills said.
He also noted the Newfoundland and Labrador poll is unique in that economy and jobs are not the priority issues they are in the rest of the Atlantic region — five per cent of poll respondents named job creation/unemployment as a top issue; likewise the economy.
That speaks to how well the economy is doing in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mills said.
In fact, only 12 per cent of respondents reported earning less than $25,000. Some 22 per cent reported earning between $25,000 and $50,000; 36 per cent between $50,000 and $100,000; and 22 per cent more than $100,000. Six per cent wouldn’t say and two per cent had no answer.
Education registers with some seven per cent of respondents, while the fishery was tops for just three per cent of respondents.
Only one per cent mentioned provincial debt as the top issue. Another one per cent identified housing as the top issue. The same percentage of respondents named taxes, pensions, child care and energy/power resources as top issues.
Seniors and their care was named the top priority by two per cent of the respondents; likewise road and highways, as well as the cost of energy and gas.
Tory Leader and Premier Kathy Dunderdale said she mostly hears about infrastructure going door to door.
“Roads are important to people. Most of the main roads now are in pretty good repair and we’re starting to do municipal roads with the different councils and so on. But there’s still a fair amount of work that needs to get done in our secondary roads system, so people want to talk about that,” she told a Telegram reporter on her campaign bus.
But Dunderdale said people want to talk about health care, too.
“That’s extremely important to people and they have a lot of good things to say about the services that are being delivered now,” she said.
“We’re just leaving Lewisporte now, for example, and there’s, I think, five family practitioners operating out of a private building in disrepair. Nobody seems to be terribly concerned about it other than the patients. And so they’re asking if there’s another way that we can work together with the community and with the family doctors and so on to resolve that issue, so things are more comfortable and professional and all of those kinds of things.”
Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward said health care is a perennial priority.
He said the reason he tends to talk more about issues like Muskrat Falls and the fishery is because they affect the economy, and by extension, the provincial treasury.
He said without a strong economy, the government cannot put more money into health care.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said the issues she’s heard about most on the campaign trail are affordable housing and health care.
“Health, which includes home care and long-term care,” she added during a phone interview from Labrador.
Michael said another issue that’s come up time and time again is affordable child care and early childhood education.
“Those are three biggies,” she said.
with files from Steve Bartlett,
James McLeod and Dave Bartlett