VICTORIA -- The B.C. New Democrats continue to hold a comfortable lead in opinion polls as the election enters its final stretch before general voting day, according to the Angus Reid Institute.

A recent survey conducted by the research group found that – among voters who have already decided on their party, or who have already cast an advanced ballot – 49 per cent say they support the NDP, 33 per cent say they are planning to vote for the Liberals and 14 per cent intend to vote for the Green Party. An additional five per cent say they will be voting for “another party.”

The province’s only televised debate seems to have had a minimal impact on general opinions of each party, with many survey respondents saying that they thought NDP Leader John Horgan performed the best in the debate.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents said that Horgan performed the best, followed by Green Leader Sonia Furstenau with 23 per cent and lastly Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson with 15 per cent. Another 20 per cent did not think that any individual leader clearly performed better than others, while an additional 13 per cent said they were unsure.

Opinion swings

Since campaigning for the election began, the Angus Reid Institute says that public opinion of the BC Green Party and Sonia Furstenau has risen the most compared to the other two major parties.

The institute’s “net momentum score,” which calculates how many percentage points public opinion has improved for a party since the election campaign began and then subtracts percentage points based on how opinion has worsened, found that the Green Party is the only political party to have improved its standing since September.

The Greens increased 18 percentage points, while the NDP lost 12 percentage points. The Liberals declined approximately 19 percentage points, according to Angus Reid.

Overall, among voters who have already decided on their party, most say that they are casting their ballot based on dislike of a different party, rather than support of their own.

Angus Reid says that 48 per cent of decided voters “really like that party and what it stands for” while 52 per cent simply “dislike the other options more.”

“As British Columbians weigh in on the only televised debate in the BC election campaign, the latest public opinion survey from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute suggests the story of a play in three acts,” said the institute in a release Friday.

“The first, a frontrunner with the most to lose who appears to have emerged unscathed after an unsteady performance on a key question. The second, a political underdog who did not find a much-needed breakthrough with voters. And finally, a relatively unknown candidate whose introduction to the electorate is resulting in personal admiration, but crucially, no surge in vote intention,” said Angus Reid.