Support to kill the harmonized sales tax is shrinking as the HST referendum draws ever-closer, but many voters still don't understand what the vote means, according to a new survey.

Fifty-six-per-cent of voters in British Columbians said they would vote ‘Yes' in the mail-in ballot to torch the tax, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

But that number has dropped significantly from a year ago, when four-in-five decided voters – a whopping 82 per cent – said they wanted to vote to scrap the controversial tax.

The yes and no sides are just now 12 points apart, meaning British Columbians are more divided than ever over the future of the HST.

"It's a much tighter race now but it's going to be difficult for the government to turn around this gap," said pollster Mario Canseco.

"There is actually very little time left to turn the tide."

The poll, which surveyed 805 randomly selected British Columbians on June 1 and 2, found that the ‘Yes' side is divided in Metro Vancouver, but pulls ahead in Vancouver Island, the Interior and B.C.'s North.

The largest animosity about the HST comes primarily from women (64 per cent), 18 to 34-year-olds (62 per cent) and people living in households with annual incomes below $50,000 (59 per cent).


The survey shows that a large number of voters still aren't quite sure about what is at stake in the referendum.

Nineteen per cent of people who said they're ready to vote ‘Yes' mistakenly think that B.C. will lower the HST to 10 per cent by 2014.

In fact, a ‘Yes' win would extinguish the HST and reinstate the provincial sales tax in conjunction with the general sales tax. If the ‘No' side wins, the province has vowed to reduce the HST by one percentage point in 2012 and then another in 2014. The move would effectively cut the tax from 12 to 10 per cent.

Also, 33 per cent of voters, and 27 per cent of those who said they'd vote ‘No,' believe that the HST will remain status quo if their side wins the referendum.

Canseco believes the way the campaign was framed before the referendum was confusing for voters.

"They kept saying ‘say no to the HST' so you always think the ‘No' side is the one you have to support to get rid of the HST. But the HST is now an actual policy so the actual way to vote for a change is vote ‘Yes,'" he said.

Canseco said the confusion can actually sway voters from one side to the other.

"[It] can actually hurt the issue because people are voting for something they don't understand," he said.

Not a big sting

The majority of British Columbians say they haven't put off making a major purchase because of the HST.

But 24 per cent say they've held off on buying something that costs more than $500, like a television. Twenty-two-per-cent said they've postponed a purchase over $5,000, such as a new car. Another 22 per cent have postponed a trip or holiday, while 16 per cent said they'd put off work with a contractor for painting, roofing or renovations.

"They seem to be waiting for the HST to be gone to pay a little bit less for them so it seems that it's affecting a lot of households," Canseco said.

Angus Reid Public Opinion claims a margin of error of +/- 3.5%