NewsTop Stories

New poll overwhelmingly supports modernization of alcohol sales in Ontario, including private stores

A new independent poll of Ontario residents shows wide-ranging support for the modernization of alcohol sales in Ontario.

The Abacus poll, conducted in early January, shows a growing appetite from Ontarians for more flexibility on how they buy alcohol, where they buy alcohol and when they can buy alcohol with strong, overwhelming support for private stores across the province.

The survey, which was not paid for by any organization, found broad support for liberalizing alcohol sales. Despite widespread satisfaction with the LCBO, most Ontarians support expanding grocery sales to include spirits, allowing convenience stores to sell wine and beer, and allowing private wine shops to open across the province, the survey concluded.

For context:

  • Four in ten Ontario adults drink alcohol at least once per week;
  • 24% say they do not drink alcohol at all;
  • Another 37% drink alcohol less than once a week;
  • Men and older Ontarians are more likely to consume alcohol frequently
  • There is little variation across provincial party support;
  • Consumption habits are highly correlated to support for liberalizing alcohol sales in Ontario;
  • Most Ontarians have shopped at the LCBO and a large portion has bought beer or wine from a grocery store;
  • 40% shop at the LCBO regularly or occasionally;
  • 1 in 5 Ontarians say they buy wine or beer at grocery stores regularly or occasionally.

CEO of Abacus, David Coletto, had this say about the poll:

“In a very short period of time, many Ontarians have taken advantage of the wine and beer now available in many grocery stores across the province,” he wrote. “Despite limited selection, there’s already wide take-up of the channel as a source for alcohol.”

The survey found that Ontarians are also mostly satisfied with their experience at the LCBO. Satisfaction with the LCBO is particularly high with its selection, overall shopping experience, and the staff available to help customers. Most also say they are satisfied with the selection of new and interesting products and even the price.

Those surveyed for the poll also had similar feelings about shopping for wine and beer at grocery stores. Most Ontarians who have purchased those products at a grocery store report being generally satisfied with all aspects of the experience, although the intensity of satisfaction is more muted than with the LCBO suggesting there may be a desire from consumers for more choice and a better experience within grocery stores, Coletto noted.

Reaction to ideas to liberalize
alcohol sales in Ontario

Abacus wanted to gauge support (or opposition) to a number of ideas being floated by the Ontario government and stakeholders to liberalize alcohol sales in the province. For all ideas, a majority of respondents either strongly support or support the idea demonstrating broad acceptance and support for liberalizing alcohol sales.

For example:

  • Two in three support the provincial government’s decision to extend the hours the LCBO and private alcohol retailers can sell alcohol in the province;
  • Six in 10 Ontarians would support adding spirits onto grocery store shelves along with beer and wine with strong support four points higher than those who strongly oppose the idea;
  • Support for allowing grocery retailers to add spirits to their shelves crosses all age groups (although younger Ontarians are more supportive) and party supporters;
  • Most Ontarians would also support allowing private, specialty wine shops to open in Ontario. That idea found the broadest support with 3 in 4 supportive and only 8% strongly opposed.

Although more divisive, one in two Ontarians (51%) support expanding alcohol sales into convenience stores with support highest among Ontarians under 45, regular consumers of alcohol, and among PC and Liberal party voters, the survey noted.

The upshot

Coletto noted that as the Ford government consults with stakeholders and the public on its plan for liberalizing alcohol sales in Ontario, our research finds broad support for many forms of liberalizing alcohol sales:

  • Expanded hours
  • Expanded selection at grocery
  • Extending beer and wine sales to convenience stores;
  • And allowing specialty wine shops to open are supported by at least a majority of Ontarians, and in some cases, large majorities.

It was noted that younger Ontarians and men are particularly keen to see more liberalization but support is broad across all demographic, regional, and political groups.

Concluded Coletto: “It seems that this is a policy idea with legs as consumers seek more choice, customization, and competition in the province’s alcohol market.”


The survey was conducted online with 800 Ontarians aged 18 and over from January 11 to 14, 2019. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Ontario’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

About Abacus Data

It is the only research and strategy firm that helps organizations respond to the disruptive risks and opportunities in a world where demographics and technology are changing more quickly than ever.

It is an innovative, fast-growing public opinion and marketing research consultancy.

It uses the latest technology, sound science, and deep experience to generate top-flight research-based advice to our clients. We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and exceptional value.

Note: Information and graphics provided by Abacus