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Alberta Politics: Wildrose Leads PCs by 17

Wildrose Expands Lead over PCs.

Wildrose Dominant in Calgary and Outside Metro Regions; PCs Lead in Edmonton

A new survey from Abacus Data conducted for the Sun News Network finds that heading into Thursday’s party leader debate the Wildrose Party holds a comfortable 17-point lead over the incumbent Progressive Conservative Party.

Province-wide, the Wildrose Party has the support of 46% of decided voters (up three), followed by the PCs at 29% (down two), the NDP at 12% (up one) and the Liberals at 10% (down two).  Thirteen percent of respondents said they were undecided even after being asked if they are leaning to one party.

Regional Breakdown

The Wildrose Party continues to have a commanding lead in Calgary with 55% of decided voters saying they plan to vote Wildrose (up 8) compared with 25% for the PCs (down 2), 12% for the Liberals (down 2), and 6% for the NDP (down three).  The Tories have increased their lead slightly in Edmonton with the Tories at 38% (up 3) followed by the Wildrose Party at 31% (down 2) and the NDP and Liberals trailing at 19% (up 3) and 11% (down 2) respectively.

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 remains more competitive between the Tories and the Wildrose Party but caution should be exercised about making conclusions about these sub-regions due to small sample sizes.

Male Voters Are Wildrose Bedrock

The Wildrose Party has a commanding lead among male voters.  Over one in two decided male voters (53%) say they plan to vote Wildrose compared with 25% for the PC Party.  Among women, the Wildrose Party continues to lead 39% to 33% over the PCs.

Party Leadership

Respondents were also asked to rate their impression of each of the four main party leaders.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith’s personal numbers continue to trend upwards with 41% of respondents (up 4) saying they have a favourable impression of her compared with 27% (up 4) who view her unfavourably.  Since early March, the percentage of respondents who were unsure about their impression of Smith has dropped by 7-points from 15% to 8%.

Premier Alison Redford was viewed favourably by 30% of Albertans (no change) while 33% had an unfavourable impression of the PC Leader (up two points).  Three in ten were indifferent towards her while 7% said they were unsure.

Both Raj Sherman and Brian Mason were viewed less favourably with more voters having a neutral opinion of both.

Net Favourability (favourable – unfavourable)

PC Leader Alison Redford           -3
WRA Leader Danielle Smith       +14
ALP Leader Raj Sherman            -12
NDP Leader Brian Mason            -10

Alison Redford is slightly more popular than her party at the moment.  The problem for the Tories is that as the campaign goes on, Danielle Smith is becoming increasing popular and the attacks on her and Wildrose are significantly not hurting her personal popularity.

Direction of the PC Government

Overall, six in ten Albertans surveyed (61%) believed that the PC Government in Alberta is headed on the wrong track (up 4 points since last week) while 37% believed the PC Government was headed in the right direction (down four points).

Management of the Oil Sands

The Wildrose Party has taken the lead on who Albertans trust most to manage the oil sands.  Over three in ten Albertans (34%) said they would trust Wildrose to manage the oil sands the most, followed by the PCs at 29%, none of the above at 16%, 10% for the NDP, and 8% for the Liberals.

Bottom Line

Heading into the leaders debate on Thursday, Wildrose continues to be well positioned to win the April 23rd provincial election.  Their support is holding strong in Calgary and in regions outside of Alberta’s two major urban centres.  While the Tories have expanded their lead in Edmonton somewhat, their growth in the provincial capital is off-set by large deficits in seat-rich Calgary and south and central Alberta.

Danielle Smith is the most popular leader in the province and weekly tracking has found here personal favourability numbers have improved from one week to the next.  Wildrose has solid support among men, is maintaining a small lead among women, and is well ahead among middle-aged voters.

One of the most striking findings is the size of the shift away from the PC Party.  A full 57% of respondents who voted PC in 2008 now say they are planning to vote Wildrose on April 23.  Only 37% of the original Tory voter base remains and the growth among past Liberal and NDP voters has not come close to making up the difference.

Even with an aggressive attempt at motivating strategic voters, the PCs face a massive challenging in closing the gap and winning the election.  Unless the leaders debate fundamentally changes the psyche of Alberta voters, Albertans are likely to wake up on April 23 with a new government in Edmonton.

Abacus Data also released results of an online survey conducted between April 5 and 10 that examined the state of the political party brands, the party leaders, and election issues in more detail.  Check out Sun News and the Calgary and Edmonton Sun newspapers for more details this weekend.  The details will be posted here Saturday morning.

Methodology

From April 9 to 11, 2012, Abacus Data conducted a provincial survey of 900 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 third 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 900 is + 3.3%, 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.