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The top election issue is ...

The biggest election issue isn't the Peel Watershed, Whitehorse's housing crisis or the state of the economy. Instead, it's integrity and trust.

The biggest election issue isn’t the Peel Watershed, Whitehorse’s housing crisis or the state of the economy.

Instead, it’s integrity and trust.

That’s what Donna Larsen heard when DataPath Systems conducted its latest poll and asked respondents, in an open-ended question, to name their most pressing election issue.

The result surprised her. An earlier portion of the poll probed respondents’ thoughts on 11 issues, but trust wasn’t on the list.

“So much of it comes back to: who in my riding do I trust to take care of the Yukon?” said Larsen.

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“And I think ‘take care of’ gets defined by some people as environmental, and some people as economic and social, and some people as a combination of all those things. But it’s who do I trust? Who do I think is going to be honest?”

Voters looking for a snapshot of the territory’s popular vote will be disappointed for now. That information wasn’t pursued in the small, internet-based survey. DataPath will release its popular vote estimate on the Friday before the October 11 election.

For 11 issues, respondents were asked to name the party they trusted. The NDP came up on top for six: social issues, housing, drugs and alcohol abuse, land and trail use, education and protecting the Peel Watershed.

The Yukon Party was trusted to manage the economy, employment and overall government management.

The NDP and Yukon Party were tied on cutting a better deal with Ottawa to keep more mining royalties.

The Liberals didn’t rank number-one on any issues, according to the poll. Therein lies the challenge of running a centrist campaign, said Larsen: by trying to own all issues, they may end up owning none.

“If you have a party going, ‘We stand for the economy and the environment,’ people are going to say, ‘How do I trust you’ll actually accomplish that? Gaining trust in the middle is a little harder than saying, ‘I stand strongly for this, and you can trust me on that,’” said Larsen.

No party is doing a “fantastic” job getting its message across to voters, said Larsen. The New Democrats are seen by 48 per cent of respondents as providing a clear message, followed by the Yukon Party at 35 per cent and the Liberals at 32 per cent.

The Liberal and NDP pledges to protect four-fifths of the Peel Watershed stood out as the most popular election promise, with 65 per cent of respondents supporting the policy.

Improved services for Yukoners struggling with drug and alcohol addiction - promised, to varying degrees, by all parties - garnered support from 62 per cent of respondents.

A plan to build supportive housing for hardcore alcoholics, backed by the NDP and Liberals, won support from 58 per cent of respondents.

And promises to offer incentives to developers to encourage more affordable housing was popular with 60 per cent of respondents.

Between 12 to 20 per cent of respondents said that all parties were the same, depending on the issue. Women were more likely to say so than men.

The dominance of social issues over economic ones shouldn’t be a surprise, said Larsen. “That always happens with the economy is going well.”

The NDP have “made a real move” in improved voter satisfaction, clarity of message and trust, compared to past results, said Larsen. The party’s high satisfaction score grew to 20 per cent, from 13 per cent in July.

The Yukon Party’s satisfaction score climbed to 30 per cent, from 26 per cent. And the Liberals lagged behind, at 14 per cent, up 10 per cent.

But don’t rule the Liberals out, said Larsen.

Only half of respondents had decided how to vote, with 32 per cent leaning in one direction and 17 per cent mostly undecided.

That means it could be anyone’s race.

“It’s close,” said Larsen. “It think it’s going to be a really interesting election.”

The web-based survey was conducted with 274 respondents - 198 Whitehorse residents and 76 rural residents - between September 22 and 26.

Usually, DataPath bolsters online surveys with randomized telephone calls. But it didn’t this case, because “we’re not predicting an election,” said Larsen. “We’re putting out big-picture ideas.”

Canadian pollsters aren’t allowed to assign margins of error and confidence rates to online surveys, according to new rules passed by their industry association.

The polling industry is in a time of flux. Their assumption that everyone has a landline no longer holds, but some worry online polls are skewed.

Until those fears are put to rest, the accuracy of online polls will be in doubt, although Larsen reckons the online survey is “probably better than phone.”

Respondents in DataPath’s online pool were originally contacted by a randomized telephone call. Respondents are later picked from the pool to participate in online surveys.

Contact John Thompson at