Day 3 – Sun News/Abacus Data NS Election Tracking Poll – Liberals lead by 18

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According to a provincial survey of eligible voters in Nova Scotia, the NS Liberal Party leads the NDP by 18 points among committed and leaning voters, down only one point since yesterday.

Overall, 30% of eligible voters said they plan or have voted for the Liberal Party (down 1), followed by the NDP at 18% (unchanged), the PCs at 17% (up 3), and the Green Party at 1%.  Twenty-nine percent of eligible voters say they are still undecided (down 3) while 6% of respondents have already voted but refused to identify who they voted for.  All observed changes are inside the margin of error for the survey.

Among committed and leaning voters, the Liberals lead with 46% (down 2), followed by the NDP at 28% (down 2), and the PCs at 25% (up 3).  The Green Party received 1% of the vote.  Compared with yesterday’s poll, the observed change is marginal and inside the margin of error for the survey.

The percentage of respondents reporting that they have already voted has not changed all week and remains at 11% among all eligible voters.

Nova Scotia Election Outlook

The Nova Scotia election outlook today looks very similar to yesterday.  The Liberal Party still has a significant lead over Darrell Dexter and the NDP and Jamie Baillie and the PC Party among committed voters.  Stephen McNeil is still the most popular leader and jobs, the economy, and health dominate as the top issues of concern for voters.

However, the percentage of eligible voters who say they are undecided continues to decline from 35% on Wednesday to 29% today (down six points since tracking began).

But in this release, we report on a noticeable shift in top issue and party alignment.

Earlier this week, the Liberal Party had a clear advantage among voters who said that jobs and the economy and health care were the most important issues facing the province.

When we include last night’s tracking into the previous two day’s data, we find the Liberal advantage on those two issues is gone.  In fact, the NDP has taken a small marginal lead on best party to handle health care (among those who reported health care as their top issue).

Furthermore, there remains a large number of voters who are undecided about which party can best handle the two most important issues.

The NDP attacks on the Liberal Party’s health care record may be starting to work.

However, the shift in perceptions on issues has not yet translated into changes in vote attention, especially for the NDP.  The slight rise in PC support may only be a statistical phenomenon at this point.  But we will continue to watch whether PC Leader Jamie Baillie, as opposed to Darrell Dexter, continues to be the main beneficiary of the NDP attacks on Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil.

Another challenge for Darrell Dexter in the closing days of the campaign is that 52% of respondents who voted NDP in 2009 don’t believe he deserves to be re-elected.  However, this does not mean that former NDP supporters will not vote NDP.  We have seen in past elections that many voters in provinces that re-elected incumbent governments did not think that the party deserved to be re-elected but the alternatives were perceived to be just as undeserving.  This explains the NDP’s attempts to raise doubts about Stephen McNeil and the Liberal Party’s credibility – especially on issues around health care and the economy – the top two issues of the campaign.

Provincial Vote Intention

Overall, 30% of eligible voters said they plan or have voted for the Liberal Party (down 1), followed by the NDP at 18% (unchanged), the PCs at 17% (up 3), and the Green Party at 1%.  Twenty-nine percent of eligible voters say they are still undecided (down 3) while 6% of respondents have already voted but refused to identify who they voted for.  All observed changes are inside the margin of error for the survey.

Among committed and leaning voters, the Liberals lead with 46% (down 2), followed by the NDP at 28% (down 2), and the PCs at 25% (up 3).  The Green Party received 1% of the vote.  Compared with yesterday’s poll, the observed change is marginal and inside the margin of error for the survey.

Slide1

Subgroup Analysis

Regionally, the NS Liberals are strongest outside of Halifax, where they hold a majority of support in the North (55%) and the South Shore/Annapolis Valley (52%).

The race in Halifax Regional Municipality is much closer with the Liberals and NDP statistically tied (Liberals 41%, NDP 39%).  In Cape Breton, the PCs have a small marginal lead over the Liberals but readers should note the small sample size in the region and its associated high margin of error.

The  Liberal Party continues to lead among all demographic groups but the race has tightened somewhat among those aged 60 and over.

Among committed voters who voted NDP in 2009, 46% say they will vote NDP while  39% plan to vote Liberal.  Among all previous NDP voters, 19% are still undecided.

Does Dexter Deserve Re-Election?

A considerable majority of eligible voters in Nova Scotia continue to believe it is time for a change in the province while less the one in four eligible voters (22%) believe Darrell Dexter and the NDP deserve to be re-elected.

We have seen very little change in these numbers over the last four days of polling.

The challenge for Dexter in the closing days of the campaign is that 52% of respondents who voted NDP in 2009 don’t believe he deserves to be re-elected.  This does not mean that former NDP supporters will not vote NDP however.  We have seen in past elections that many voters in provinces that re-elected incumbent governments did not think that the party deserved to be re-elected but the alternatives were perceived to be just as undeserving.  This explains the NDP’s attempts to raise doubts about Stephen McNeil and the Liberal Party’s credibility – especially on issues around health care and the economy – the top two issues of the campaign.

Top Issue and Best Party to Manage Issue

Jobs and the economy, health care, education and taxes remain the most important issues facing Nova Scotia according to eligible voters in Nova Scotia.   These numbers have not moved at all throughout the final week of the campaign.

But we have seen a noticeable shift in which party voters who care about each issue think can best handle it.

Earlier this week, the Liberal Party had a clear advantage among voters who said that jobs and the economy and health care were the most important issues facing the province.

When we include last night’s tracking into the previous two day’s data, we find the Liberal advantage on those two issues is gone.  In fact, the NDP has taken a small marginal lead on best party to handle health care (among those who reported health care as their top issue).

Furthermore, there remains a large number of voters who are undecided about which party can best handle the two most important issues.

Slide2

While the Liberal Party has lost its advantage among those who believe jobs and the economy are the top issues facing the province, the party still has a substantial lead among all eligible voters when they are asked which party they believe would be best able to handle the economic situation in Nova Scotia best.   Thirty-two percent of eligible voters selected the Liberal Party, followed by 19% who selected the PC Party and 18% who selected the NDP.  Twenty-three percent of respondents were unsure.

These numbers are largely unchanged from yesterday’s poll however the percentage of undecided respondents has drop seven points over the course of the week.

Best Premier

There was little change in perceptions about which party leader would make the best premier.

When respondents were asked which party leader they believed would make the best Premier, the results again mirrored the vote intention question.  Thirty-one percent of respondents selected Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil while 19% selected incumbent Premier and NDP Leader Darrell Dexter.  PC Leader Jamie Baillie was third at 17% among all eligible voters while 31% were unsure.

Slide3

Overall Party Leader Impressions

When it comes to overall impressions of the main party leaders in Nova Scotia, our tracking finds that Stephen McNeil’s personal numbers have not changed at all.  A slight majority still have a positive impression of the Liberal Leader.

Our tracking has found a slight improvement in PC Leader Jamie Baillie’s numbers with a five point increase in the percentage of eligible voters who view him positively.  He now has a net +10 positive impression.

Darrell Dexter remains a polarizing figure with 36% of eligible voters having a positive impression of the NDP leader while 47% have a negative impression.

Slide4

Likely Election Winner

Finally, respondents were asked which political party they believed would ultimately win the Nova Scotia provincial election.  A majority of voters continue to believe (54%) that the Liberal Party will win the election, while only 12% felt the NDP will win.

Methodology

The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted October 1 to October 3, 2013 among a provincial sample of 650 eligible voters in Nova Scotia.  Interviews were conducted in English and 6,116 telephone numbers were dialed.   Each evening up to and including Sunday October 6 (except for Friday evening), 200 to 250 interviews will be conducted with a random sample of eligible voters in Nova Scotia.   The results of the poll will be released on Battleground with David Akin on the Sun News Network each evening at 7pm AT / 6pm ET.

Likely voters were identified by creating a six-point scale based on seven questions about a respondents interest in politics, their intention to vote, whether they have voted already, and the attention they have paid to the election campaign. 

The data was statistically weighted according to the 2011 Census according to age, region, gender, and education.  The margin of error for this survey is + 3.9%, 19 times out of 20.  Note, the margin of error in subgroups with small sample sizes is much larger.

The survey was commissioned by the Sun News Network.  For more information about the poll’s methodology or the results, please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or at 613-232-2806.

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.  He’s an avid road cyclist.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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