Alberta Politics: Wildrose leads PC by 13

Wildrose Takes the Lead in Alberta

Wildrose Party leads by 13 over the incumbent Tories.  Wildrose and PCs tied on who is best to manage the oil sands.

A new survey from Abacus Data conducted for the Sun News Network finds that the Wildrose Party has jumped ahead of the Progressive Conservative Party and now leads by 13 percentage points.  Compared with the Sun News Network-Abacus Data poll conducted earlier in March, the Wildrose Party is up 12 percentage points among decided voters while the Tories are down six percent.  The Alberta Liberal Party and NDP are both down two points since early March.

Province-wide, the Wildrose Party has the support of 41% of decided voters, followed by the PCs at 28%, the Liberals at 16% and the NDP at 12%.

Regional Breakdown

The Wildrose Party has opened up a commanding lead in Calgary with 50% of decided voters saying they plan to vote Wildrose compared with 25% for the PCs, 15% for the Liberals, and 8% for the NDP.  In Edmonton, the race is statistically tied with the Tories at 30%, the Wildrose at 29%, the Liberals at 20%, and the NDP at 18%.

Outside of the two major cities, the Wildrose Party leads in Central Alberta including Red Deer and in the southern region of the province.  Northern Alberta is more competitive between the Tories and the Wildrose Party.

PC Advantage Among Women Disappears

The PC Party’s lead among women found in our early March survey has all but disappeared. Among decided female voters, the Wildrose are at 31%, the PCs are 30%, the Liberals are at 20%, and the NDP is at 15%.

The Wildrose Party continues to do well among men beating the Tories by 21 percentage points (WRP 48%, PC 27%, ALP 12%, NDP 10%).

Party Leadership

Respondents were also asked to rate their impression of each of the four main party leaders.  While no single party leader stood out from the pack, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith continued to be the only leader with a net positive favourable rating.

Premier Alison Redford was viewed favourably by 28% of Albertans (down one point) while 34% had an unfavourable impression of the PC Leader (up 3 points).  Three in ten were indifferent towards her while 7% said they were unsure.

Danielle Smith fared slightly better than the Premier with a 35% of Albertans having a favourable impression of her (up 4 points) and 24% viewing her unfavourably (up one point).

Both Raj Sherman and Brian Mason were viewed less favourably with more voters having a neutral opinion of both.  Both men face a challenge of getting attention in what appears to be a two-party race led by two dynamic female leaders.

Net Favourability (favourable – unfavourable)

PC Leader Alison Redford           -6
WRA Leader Danielle Smith       +11
ALP Leader Raj Sherman            -13
NDP Leader Brian Mason            -11

Direction of the PC Government

Overall, six in ten Albertans surveyed (60%) believed that the PC Government in Alberta is headed on the wrong track (up 6 points since early March) while 38% believed the PC Government was headed in the right direction (down 4 points).

Amongst the PC base, support for the PC government remains high.  Nine in ten PC Party supporters believed the PC government was headed in the right direction compared with 10% of WRP supporters, 32% of Liberal supporters, and 22% of NDP supporters.

“Since early March, the Wildrose Party has been able to attract more voters who are unhappy with the direction of the PC government,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data.

“In order for the PCs to close this gap with the Wildrose Party they have to be able to attract Liberals and New Democrats who think her government is headed in the right direction.  She hasn’t been successful at doing that as of yet.”

Management of the Oil Sands

Along with improvements in their vote intention numbers, the Wildrose Party saw an increase in the number of Albertans who said they would trust them to manage Alberta’s oil sands.

The PCs and Wildrose Party were tied with 32% of Albertans surveyed saying they trust the party to manage the oil sands.  This represents no change for the Tories by a 12 point increase for the Wildrose Alliance.  Ten percent of respondents chose the Alberta Liberals while 8% chose the NDP.

Bottom Line

The 42-year old Progressive Conservative dynasty in Alberta looks to be on the verge of collapse.  In the span of three weeks, a 5-point PC lead has evaporated and has turned into a 13-point lead for the Wildrose Party.

Allison Redford’s personal favourability numbers are down, while Danielle Smith’s are up.  The Wildrose is now running even with the Tories in Edmonton and have a big lead in Calgary.

Redford’s former strength with women has been eroded and the despite strong economic evaluations by Albertans, 60% of Albertans believe the PC government is headed in the wrong direction.

Vote intention is as much about personality as it is about issues and Danielle Smith is currently benefiting from an upswing in personal popularity among the voters she needed to reach.  She is personally popular among men, in Calgary, and among Wildrose Party supporters.

Frustration with the PC Government is not rooted in the public’s unease about the economy.  In fact, most Albertans remain quite confident about the state of the province’s economy.  Instead, multiple missteps on the part of the Redford government and the emergence of a real alternative in Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party means that voters have choices. At this point in the campaign, voters are opting for change.

There are still three weeks left in the campaign and the massive swing in vote intention since early March indicates that anything is possible in Alberta as we head towards April 23.

Abacus Data will conduct polls for the Sun News Network every week during the campaign with results released on Friday on the Sun News Network and Saturday in the Calgary Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Download the detailed tables

Methodology

From March 26 to 28, 2012, Abacus Data conducted a provincial survey of 1,036 Albertans aged 18 and over using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator.

The survey was commissioned by Sun News Network.  This is the pre-writ survey of Alberta voters.  Throughout the campaign, Abacus Data and Sun News/Sun Media will be surveying Albertans on the provincial election.

A dual landline/cell phone RDD samping frame was used in this study.

The margin of error for a sample size of 1,036 is + 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.  Note that the margin of error is higher for subgroups and caution should be used when making conclusions of data in subgroups with small sample sizes.

For more information about the survey findings, please contact Dr. David Coletto, CEO Abacus Data Inc. at (613) 884-4730 or david@abacusdata.ca