The economy is by far the most important issue in the Ontario election for users of Vote Compass, the CBC’s online voter engagement tool, according to preliminary results.

The economy, jobs or taxes were cited in about 41 per cent of all responses to the question, "What issue is most important to you in this election?"

Since its launch last week, more than 45,000 people have taken part in Vote Compass, which asks a series of questions about public policy issues and compares a user's responses to the positions of the four main political parties in the Ontario election campaign.

Respondents are also invited to list the issue most important to them in this election. In the campaign's first week, 18.6 per cent of responses included words deemed to be synonymous with economy, 11.4 per cent with jobs and 10.9 per cent with taxes.

Health care was the second-most frequent answer, at 11.6 per cent of respondents. Rounding out the top 10 issues:

  • Accountability (8.9 per cent).
  • Education (8.7 per cent).
  • Energy (6.4 per cent).
  • Transit and infrastructure (5.7 per cent).
  • Environment (4.9 per cent).
  • Social justice/inequality (3.2 per cent).

"Accountability ranks quite high," said Cliff van der Linden, founder and CEO of Vox Pop Labs, which created Vote Compass. "I think it reflects where people's preoccupations are in this campaign."

Jobs, economy fuel debate in early days of campaign

Vox Pop Labs broke out results for "economy," "jobs" and "taxes" separately to match the distinctions made by party leaders in the current campaign.

"These are discrete items in and of themselves," notes van der Linden, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Toronto. "We're trying to reflect the public discourse."

The results appear to reflect much of the early focus of the campaign. Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak has made his Million Jobs Plan the central plank of his party's platform.

In rolling out the PC platform Wednesday, Hudak said job creation is "at the core of every decision I make." He has assailed Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals for not having a jobs plan. But Hudak is also vowing to trim 100,000 jobs from the public sector, prompting Wynne to call the PC jobs policy a "pink slip plan."

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath on Thursday repeated a campaign promise to increase minimum wage to $12 an hour and cut taxes for small business. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The New Democrats are proposing a 10 per cent tax credit for businesses that create new jobs.

The Vote Compass importance results can be further broken down into various demographic categories.

For example, among voters who intend to vote for the Progressive Conservatives, the economy was listed as the top issue by 27.9 per cent of the respondents, followed by Liberal voters (13.6 per cent), NDP voters (11.4 per cent) and the Green Party (6.7 per cent).

Nearly 24 per cent of male respondents rated the economy as the most important election issue, while about 13.3 per cent of women rated it as the top issue.

About 22 per cent of respondents who earn more than $100,000 a year rated the economy as the top issue, while about 17 per cent of those who earn less than $60,000 a year rated it as most important issue of the campaign.

The findings are based on 25,389 respondents to Vote Compass between May 7 and May 13, 2014. Though Vote Compass is not a poll, respondent data are weighted using the latest population estimates from Statistics Canada to approximate a representative sample of the Ontario population.

Developed by a team of political scientists from Vox Pop Labs, Vote Compass is an educational tool developed exclusively in Canada for CBC News.

Mobile users, view the charts here.