Yes means no; HST referendum confusion could change outcome
A narrow majority of decided B.C. voters still want to scrap the Harmonized Sales Tax, according to a new poll, but referendum confusion could factor in the levy's fate.
The poll, released Sunday by Ipsos Reid, shows 44 per cent of respondents in favour of removing the HST and bringing back the government sales tax and provincial sales tax.
Thirty-eight per cent want to keep the HST, while the remaining 18 per cent are either undecided or don't intend to vote in the mail-in referendum on the tax.
The poll also suggests many voters are confused by the phrasing of the referendum question, which asks voters: "Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST and reinstating the PST in conjunction with the GST?"
That means opponents of the tax will be voting "yes," while supporters must vote "no."
Before being shown the actual question, 22 per cent of respondents incorrectly believed a "yes" vote would result in keeping the HST. Another 23 per cent were unsure.
Even after reading the referendum question, eight per cent misinterpreted how to respond and seven per cent were unsure.
Ipsos found that voters who wanted to keep the HST were more likely to misinterpret the question than those who wanted to scrap it.
Previous poll results don't compare
A previous poll conducted on May 26 and 27 found a slim majority of decided voters in favour of keeping the tax, though Ipsos says the structure of that survey skewed the results.
The poll was taken in the wake of government-announced changes to the HST, including the decision to decrease the tax to 10 per cent by 2014, and respondents were informed about the changes before questioning began.
Forty-two per cent said they were in favour of keeping the tax while 40 per cent still wanted to remove it.
Another Ipsos poll, conducted from May 9-13, does bear comparison. It found 52 per cent of respondents in favour of axing the HST and 36 per cent wanting to keep it –- suggesting support for the HST has grown over the past month while opposition shrunk.
For the latest poll, Ipsos surveyed 1,117 adult British Columbians online between June 8 and 10, 2011.
The company claims a margin of error of +/- 3.0 per cent, 19 times out of 20.