New Alberta poll: Tories way up; NDP up a little; everyone else down… So what else is new?

The Alberta Conservatives cross the North Saskatchewan and head south toward Red Deer. (Alberta political parties may not appear exactly as illustrated. But close enough, eh?)

Alberta’s political classes were abuzz last night with news of a credible new poll that shows the province’s eternal Progressive Conservative government back in the driver’s seat even before a replacement is found for retirement-bound Premier Ed Stelmach.

The results of the poll, conducted for a couple of local newspapers by Environics Research Group, also suggest that with support for both the far-right Wildrose Alliance and the Liberals imploding, and that for the NDP surfing a bit of a youth-powered Orange Wave, any of the three parties with seats in the Legislature could emerge as the Official Opposition after the next general election. The fledgling Alberta Party barely registered.

But any joy the two-MLA NDP might get from these results must be tempered by the fact that, with Conservative support at well over 50 per cent and the possibility of a three-way opposition split in many ridings high, the Tory edge is so overwhelming that the Orange Wave could easily turn into the Orange Crushed.

The poll of 900 Albertans conducted between July 15 and July 24, also sets the stage for an early fall election, since the post-Stelmach Conservatives are bound to want to take advantage of their astounding levels of support before Alberta voters get to know their new leader – whomever he or she may turn out to be.

In addition, the poll results clearly show a Trend Research poll commissioned by pollster Janet Brown and political newsletter editor Paul McLoughlin in March was on the right track. That poll was bitterly denounced by the Wildrose Alliance, which released a survey of its own four days later on which the right-wing party made the claim it was within “striking distance” of the Conservatives. Pretty clearly, unless something changes dramatically, it is not.

In other words, for all the media fantasizing these past couple of years about the Wildrose Alliance coming out of right field to prompt generational change in Alberta politics, nothing of the sort is likely to happen.

Other probable interpretations of the Environics data include:

  • Albertans are uncomfortable with and distrustful of the Wildrose Alliance’s far-right program of privatization and other doctrinaire market-fundamentalist nostrums, and will return to the safe old Conservatives unless given a strong reason not to vote for what they’re used to.
  • The Liberal brand has less and less allure for Alberta voters, notwithstanding the party’s attempt to generate interest through a leadership race in which anyone can vote, whether or not they are a party member.
  • Albertans’ dissatisfaction with the Conservative Party was really just dissatisfaction with the leadership Ed Stelmach, who failed to connect with voters.
  • It probably doesn’t matter whom the Conservatives pick as leader – if he or she runs a cautious campaign and “low bridges” it, the Tories could win an even bigger majority than they have now.
  • Even with its collapsing support, with more money in the bank for advertisements and support concentrated in Calgary, the Wildrose Alliance could still emerge as the Opposition.
  • With support concentrated around Edmonton and higher among young people, the NDP will improve its chances if it can get out the youth vote.
  • If the Alberta Party is going to make any difference, it won’t be in the next Alberta general election.

None of this is particularly good news for Opposition parties who had hoped to make big gains from sinking Tory fortunes, media companies who wanted to portray the contest with the Wildrose Alliance as a horserace, or members of the Alberta politerati who just wanted an election with a little excitement for once.

This post also appears on rabble.ca.

9 Comments on "New Alberta poll: Tories way up; NDP up a little; everyone else down… So what else is new?"

  1. Democracy equalizer says:

    Dave, its propaganda, don't believe it. WRA support is higher in Calgary and so is Liberal. Don't kidyourself, NDP's only relevancy is stealing votes from Libs. Why doesn't the so-called orange crush grow some bxlls and go after PC voters?

  2. brian brennan says:

    As you know from reading history, David, the Liberals died as the governing party in Alberta when they were toppled by the United Farmers in 1921. They haven't regained power since. That's a long time to languish in the political wilderness. At this point, they should bite the bullet, reach out to the NDS and the AP, and create a united centre-left party to bring down the ruling dynasty. Otherwise, we're going to have 40 more years of Tory rule in this province.

  3. Rick Newcombe says:

    Let the PC's believe this poll…please. Let them believe that the mess they have created for Albertan's does not matter to voters (at least not to the whopping 900 voters in this "credible" poll).

    Let's give Albertan's more credit than this poll does. Who among us will forget all the devastation of Alberta's finances through reckless pandering for political gain? Who can forget the debacle that has become healthcare? Who will forgive all the closed-door, back-room dealing that goes on with this governement? Who will forget MLA's giving themselves a 30% pay raise?

    By all means, bring on a fall election so we can put all this posturing and bad governance to rest.

  4. David J. Climenhaga says:

    In response to Rick Newcombe, I say the poll is credible because it was done by telephone and used sound methodology. A sample of 900 can usually be expected to produce reasonably accurate results, subject to the usual qualifiers. To hear the Environics poll dismissed as "propaganda," or worse as a push poll, as some WRAP supporters are alleging on Twitter, is just whistling past the graveyard. I couldn't agree more that it's disgraceful that Alberta voters are letting the Conservatives get away with the stuff they do, but I believe this poll is likely an accurate reflection of reality, and that the next election will prove me right.

    In response to Democracy Equalizer, if there's any vote stealing going on it's the other way around and, as Brian Brennan suggests, it's the Liberals who should grow the "bxlls." That said, this is still a democracy, sort of, and anyone can found a political party and put up candidates if they wish and can find the support.

    Finally, I don't know that there is much hope of co-operation between the Liberals-Alberta Partiers and the NDP, despite the similarity of many of their platform planks. Past voter behaviour in Canada suggests many NDP and Conservative supporters switch back and forth between those two parties more easily than do NDP and Liberal backers, inexplicable as that may seem. I personally think there's more hope in waiting for the final Liberal collapse, which notwithstanding the understandable disagreement of strong Liberal supporters, I believe will likely happen soon.

  5. jerrymacgp says:

    Canadian voters, unlike the commentariat, are not at all ideological, and see no contradiction between voting Conservative in one election and NDP in another, or voting for different parties at different levels of election (federal vs provincial). It is for this reason that trying to "unite the centre-left" is such a non-starter. If the NDP and the Liberals were to try and form some sort of "progressive front" or coalition, voters would simply vote conservative instead.

    What we need is to find a way for the voter's ballots to count for more, such as electoral reform. This would end so-called "vote-splitting" once and for all.

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    Interesting discussion and thank you all for your comments. I Absolutely agree with Brian that the Liberals should reach out and form a united centre left party. Of course this will not happen because unfortunately both parties are stuck in the politics of the last ice age. I also agree with David that the poll is accurate within the regular patterns. I have lived in this province since 1981 and I have no doubt the people of Alberta will accept absolutely anything the PCs do and not change their vote. This I attribute to the fact that first there is no democracy in this province and people no longer discuss or understand the advantages of a true democratic process and prefer anyone to make the decisions for them as long as there is the possibility of enough money to go to Mexico every year. Finally I absolutely agree with Jerry that electoral reform is the only way out of this impact. With proportional representation no party in Alberta would have the control on the system and many different outcomes would be possible. Unfortunately that is as possible to happen as me going to the moon because none of the parties is even talking about it. Everyone is affraid of government without majorities when that is exactly why democracy was created for.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As Albertans (and Canadians) wise up, they realize the fight is between the Cons and the Social Democrats. The other parties are side shows, or even worse, creations of the Cons to confuse the issue and bleed votes. Wild is Rose is like that too, they create a false idea that the Con machine is somehow more moderate. It is a fight, but at least things are beocming more clear. Either you want public services we own together like education, health, or you don't. Wake up Alberta, 97% of us will lose big time without fighting for these things, and others.

  8. MC says:

    Rural is as rural does… what else would you expect? In other news, sheep still say "baa".

  9. workeradvocate says:

    When you say 'there's more hope in waiting for the final Liberal collapse' provincially, we will end up with a government of PC retreads and reformatory official opponents. Will Alberta be better then?

    While you 'believe it will likely happen soon' I respectfully disagree because the lib.er.al brand was declared dead in the 70's and 90's but remains.

    and I lived through it all.

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