Spotless social media history 'very important' to 40% of Manitoba voters: poll

Offensive comments made on social media by political candidates could play a significant role in influencing elections, suggests polling information released by Mainstreet Research today.

Almost half of those polled support tax hike for wealthiest Manitobans

Wab Kinew, NDP candidate for Fort Rouge, has apologized for offensive past lyrics and tweets. Jamie Hall (right) resigned days after announcing his candidacy for the Liberals when misogynistic tweets he made years before surfaced. (CBC)

Think before you tweet, Facebook or register that inadvisable remark on social media — especially if you plan to have a future in politics — because it could put you in bad standing with a large chunk of Manitoba voters, a new poll suggests.

Comments made online by political candidates could play a significant role in influencing elections, March 12 polling information released Tuesday by Mainstreet Research suggests. Of the 1,764 potential voters sampled across the province, 40 per cent said the presence of embarrassing or offensive messages online is a "very important" factor in whether they would lend their support to a candidate.

The poll results in hotly contested Winnipeg also suggest social media content could be a factor in the election. Of the 862 voters polled in the city, 38 per cent said a candidate's mean or regrettable posts are a huge turnoff likely to influence how they vote. Another 25 per cent of voters on the provincial level, and 24 per cent in Winnipeg, said they would be at least "somewhat" troubled by offensive comments.

"In terms of the importance of it, about 65 per cent said that it was very important — either somewhat or very important — to them that candidates for political office not make offensive remarks on social media," Guido Maggi, president of Mainstreet Research, said Monday.

"I guess it confirms what we already thought, that this is important to people. It does affect voters and how they will vote, so it's not surprising that parties do drop their candidates, or in some cases the candidates themselves choose not to run, because they realize they've said something in their past that can be considered offensive."

Homophobic, misogynistic comments

Asked the more pointed question of how homophobic or misogynistic remarks in particular would affect their voting decisions, 57 per cent of those sampled by Mainstreet Research across the province answered such remarks would play a "very important" role in who they support.

The results come just weeks after two election candidates became embroiled in controversy after offensive, years-old tweets they made surfaced.

Jamie Hall resigned within 48 hours of announcing his candidacy in Southdale for the Liberals in early March. Tweets he made a few years ago referring to women, in one case his girlfriend, as "skanks" and "whores" were thrust into the spotlight and had the NDP calling on the Liberals to can Hall.

Days later, Wab Kinew, the NDP candidate for Fort Rouge, found himself being criticized for words he used in the past. The former CBC broadcaster and hip-hop artist used the word "fag" and referred to women in misogynistic terms in his lyrics. Problematic tweets from Kinew, in some cases almost a decade old, were also put under the microscope. 

Kinew acknowledged his past remarks in his 2015 book The Reason You Walk and has since apologized publicly again. Hall stood by his remarks about women, saying they were made in jest.

Maggi said there's no real excuse in 2016 for both parties and candidates to not be mindful of these pitfalls.

"I guess there's less leeway in this day and age where everything is chronicled and indexed and [searchable]," he said. 

"It's just a new era now where people are going to grow up in a social media environment from that young age, and I guess … the lesson is people need to be a little more careful about what they post on social media, and if they're ever going to seek political office later, maybe some self-vetting of what's on their social media accounts."

47% approve of tax hike for rich

A large chunk of voters in Winnipeg and across Manitoba also tend to be in favour of increasing tax rates for the wealthiest people in the province, the poll suggests. In Winnipeg, 49 per cent of those surveyed said they approve of a hike for the rich; 47 per cent across Manitoba also support an increase.

On March 8, the New Democrats said in a non-binding fiscal update that they will create a new tax bracket for incomes over $170,000 if they are re-elected in the April 19 provincial vote.

Mainstreet Research also asked respondents how they rank a party's stance on "cutting wasteful government spending and continuing government spending on important services." Forty-one per cent of Manitobans polled said they trust the Progressive Conservatives to rein in spending; 22 per cent have faith in the NDP; 16 per cent support the Liberals to be fiscally responsible; and three per cent went with the Green Party.

Just weeks away from the April 19 provincial election, 17 per cent of voters said they still aren't sure which party to trust with that reasonability.

Probability samples of the size in this poll carry a margin of error of +/- 2.33 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Mainstreet Research PollMobile users: View the document
Mainstreet Research Poll (PDF KB)
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With files from CBC's Meaghan Ketcheson


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