Although the Harper government’s proposed Fair Elections Act has garnered much criticism, only a minority of voters say they are following the issue, a new poll has found.

The Ipsos Reid poll for CTV News found that 23 per cent of respondents said they are following the debate “closely” (6 per cent “very,” 17 per cent “somewhat”), while 35 per cent said they are not following it closely and 42 per cent said they are not following the debate at all.

Despite this, it seems a vast majority of voters support some of the bill’s most controversial provisions, including the end of vouching, which allows one registered voter to vouch for another who does not have sufficient proof of his or her identity.

Eighty-seven per cent of those polled said it is “reasonable” (65 per cent said “very,” 21 per cent said “somewhat”) to “require someone to prove their identity and address before they are allowed to vote.”

Some 70 per cent of respondents said it is “acceptable” to “eliminate vouching and require voters to personally prove their identity and address before they are allowed to vote.” About 30 per cent said it is “unacceptable” to eliminate vouching.

Broken down by party, 84 per cent of Conservative supporters, 79 per cent of Bloc supporters, 67 per cent of Liberal supporters and 66 per cent of NDP voters all say vouching should be scrapped.

“Canadians don’t see this as something that is inherently unjust, unfair, or unacceptable,” John Wright, senior vice president of Ipsos Reid, told CTV News.

When asked whether some critics are correct in alleging that eliminating vouching is a scheme by the Conservatives to disenfranchise voters who typically support other parties, such as students, 61 per cent said they “disagree” (33 per cent “strongly,” 28 per cent “somewhat”) while 39 per cent said they “agree” (15 per cent “strongly,” 23 per cent “somewhat”).

Minister of State Pierre Poilievre, who is charged with ushering the bill into law, said Thursday that Canadians outside the Ottawa political bubble are embracing the reforms.

“Away from the noise around political Ottawa, everyone knows this is common sense,” he told reporters.

Canadians are divided on the question of whether the end of vouching will “unfairly take the vote away from people like students and the poor who may have a harder time proving where they live.” Some 52 per cent of respondents said they “agree” (21 per cent “strongly,” 31 per cent “somewhat”) with that statement, while 48 per cent “disagree” (21 per cent “strongly,” 28 per cent “somewhat”).

The majority of respondents, 86 per cent, said they “agree” (58 per cent “strongly,” 28 per cent “somewhat”) that “requiring voters to personally prove who they are and where they live is essential to eliminating potential fraud in our electoral system.” Fourteen per cent “disagree.”

Liberals, Conservatives tied for first time in months

Meanwhile, the same poll found that the federal Liberals and Conservatives are in a dead heat for the first time since last fall.

The two parties each had 33 per cent support, with the Liberals losing the lead they enjoyed for much of the past winter.

If an election were held tomorrow:

  • the Conservatives would receive 33 per cent support among decided voters, up four points from February;
  • the Liberals would also receive 33 per cent support, down four points;
  • the NDP would receive 24 per cent support, which is unchanged;
  • the Green Party would receive 3 per cent support, while the Bloc Quebecois would receive 6 per cent support.

Nearly two-in-ten Canadians, about 16 per cent, are undecided, the poll found.

When looking at the 56 per cent of voters who said that “nothing short of an unforeseen emergency could stop me from getting to the voting booth and casting my vote,” the Conservatives would get 34 per cent support, the Liberals 33 per cent, the NDP 24 per cent, the Bloc 5 per cent and the Greens 3 per cent.

Looking at support among decided voters by major provinces:

  • In Quebec, the Liberals have 37 per cent support, followed by the NDP at 28 per cent, the Bloc at 24 per cent and the Tories at 9 per cent.
  • In Ontario, the Conservatives have a slight lead at 36 per cent support compared to the Liberals’ 25 per cent, while the NDP are at 27 per cent support and the Green Party at 4 per cent.
  • In British Columbia, the Conservatives are way ahead at 41 per cent support, compared to 27 per cent for the NDP, 25 per cent for the Liberals and 7 per cent for the Greens.

The poll was conducted between Apr. 17 and Apr. 22 and included interviews with 1,014 respondents from Ipsos’ Canadian online panel. The results are considered accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points.