VICTORIA -- A new poll suggests Premier John Horgan’s NDP government is enjoying a surge in popularity as health care and COVID-19 become some of the top issues affecting British Columbians.

It’s almost unthinkable — that in real estate-obsessed B.C. - something else would be top of mind. Yet Research Co. polled 800 residents - a representative sample - and found housing-related concerns dropping.

Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., pointed out there is a difference in concerns by age group. Those aged 35 to 54 were more likely to rank COVID-19 as a big concern because they were worried about kids in school and the economy. Those over 55 were more likely to rank health care as a big concern, partly because the novel coronavirus is more likely to have severe impacts for that population.

University of Fraser Valley political science professor Hamish Telford also noted how many young people were likely to report housing as a top concern. He told CTV News he wasn’t surprised.

"The economic impact of the COVID pandemic has disproportionately hit young people, it's been young people who have lost their jobs or have lost hours, and now we have a lot of young people who are worried about paying their rent," he said.

Political fortune?

The same survey indicates Horgan’s approval rating is at 73 per cent while Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson is at 48 per cent and Green interim leader Adam Olsen at 49 per cent.

Canseco said a big part of this is Horgan and the NDP’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in British Columbia.

"That leadership that John Horgan is showing, it's also knowing when to step aside, knowing when to let Adrian, knowing when to let Dr. Bonnie Henry speak​,” said Canseco.​

With the next provincial election scheduled for Fall 2021, it’s too early to know whether the NDP will be able to hold on to their political popularity.

Telford said the NDP would need to show progress on the economic front and warned voters could become impatient.

Canseco echoed that sentiment adding it might be easier for the Liberals to rely on their economic track record to appeal to those worried about recovery.

However, there’s another issue in terms of capitalizing on that momentum for an election more than a year away.

"In COVID times - that’s an eternity," added Telford.

The power of women

The data also showed a difference around gender. About 37 per cent of women polled said they support the NDP. The Liberals are at 22 per cent.

"If it was not for that gender gap, the Liberals could well be doing a lot better, and maybe even doing better than the NDP," added Telford.

Canseco also pointed out that several of those considered "old guard" in the Liberal party won’t be seeking re-election. He acknowledged that could attract new voters.

"When some of the people who are deserving of the reputation that the BC Liberals have right now, particularly with women and young voters when some of those people retire, it might actually be easier for Andrew Wilkinson to establish that connection with voters, but we're still a few months away from that.”

The online poll was conducted from May 23 to 25 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in B.C.