Alberta NDP has not seen popularity boost following Nenshi victory: poll

Click to play video: 'Nenshi aims to transform Alberta NDP, faces challenge in divided Calgary'
Nenshi aims to transform Alberta NDP, faces challenge in divided Calgary
WATCH: Newly minted Alberta NDP leader Naheed Nenshi spent his first official day on the job filling prominent roles in his party caucus. and while the former Calgary mayor says he's in no rush to find a seat in the legislature, he has plenty of work to do to unify an expanded party. Sarah Offin reports – Jun 24, 2024

New data suggests the Alberta NDP has not experienced any boost in support following last month’s leadership vote in which former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi won the role in a landslide victory.

Abacus Data surveyed 1,000 Albertans from June 25 to 28 to explore public opinion about provincial politics, days after Nenshi won his leadership bid.

It found 40 per cent of those surveyed currently intend to vote for the NDP, while 54 per cent currently plan to vote for the United Conservatives.

“Compared to our last survey in March 2024, the UCP’s support is down 1, while the NDP’s support remains unchanged,” the pollster said.

“Since the 2023 provincial election, the NDP has seen a decline of 4-points, whereas the UCP has experienced a 1-point increase. Overall, Nenshi’s victory has not had a noticeable impact on voting intentions in the province.”

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Almost 73,000 party members cast ballots in the June leadership race, where Nenshi defeated running mates Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, Sarah Hoffman and Kathleen Ganley.

Lisa Young, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary, said parties typically experience what’s known as a “convention bounce” when a new leader is named.

“There’s no sign of that bounce in the Abacus polling,” she told 630 CHED’s Shaye Ganam.

When asked about their preferred premier, 56 per cent of those surveyed favoured Smith, while 44 per cent indicated they preferred Nenshi. Residents in Calgary and Edmonton are evenly split between the two.

Since Nenshi’s victory, Abacus suggests the NDP has become slightly more popular in Calgary, but its lead in Edmonton has been reduced by 11 percentage points over the UCP.

Young said the party’s increase in support from Calgary isn’t surprising given Nenshi’s history with the city, but the decrease in support coming from Edmonton is interesting.

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“I’ve always thought of the support for the NDP in Edmonton as being very much about the party and not tied so closely to Rachel Notley, but perhaps that’s wrong,” she said.

“So I thought that was interesting, but it might be related to one of the other findings in the Abacus poll.”

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Many survey respondents indicated they knew nothing about Nenshi, which Young believes speaks to a need for Nenshi to introduce himself to people in Edmonton and rural Alberta.

Young said it’s important to note that rural Alberta is essentially categorized as anything other than Edmonton and Calgary.

“There’s Lethbridge, there’s Red Deer, there’s Fort Mac, so there are some fairly large places that, in some ways, have more in common with suburban Calgary or suburban Edmonton than they do with truly rural Alberta,” she said.

“If they’re going to win seats outside of Calgary and Edmonton, that’s where it’s going to be.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta NDP announces Naheed Nenshi as new leader'
Alberta NDP announces Naheed Nenshi as new leader

During the leadership race, Nenshi campaigned on the possibility of the Alberta NDP cutting ties with the federal NDP.

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In a March interview, he said the provincial ties to the federal party are “remnants of a party that wasn’t confident” and a party that hadn’t “grown up yet.”

“Now, this party is confident and a modern force and I don’t think we need that anymore,” Nenshi said.

“The costs of allying with people who we don’t control, whose values and ethics may not line up with us, greatly outweigh the benefits.”

When survey respondents were asked if the Alberta NDP should split from the federal party, 49 per cent indicated they would support it, while 21 per cent said they would oppose the move.

“This shows a significant portion of Albertans favour more autonomy for the provincial party,” the pollster said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta NDP leadership race sees former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi victorious'
Alberta NDP leadership race sees former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi victorious

Young said there’s an argument to be made for the provincial NDP to leave its federal counterpart but noted it’s hard to say what the federal NDP will look like three years from now.

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Some Albertans may vote against the Alberta NDP because the UCP government has referred to federal leader Jagmeet Singh as the boss of former provincial leader Rachel Notley, she said.

Young said that statement isn’t true.

“That isn’t what is meant by the two parties being federated in the way that they are, but it certainly did attach itself in some ways and maybe was part of the reason that some Albertans wouldn’t vote for the Alberta NDP,” she said.

“Nenshi has made it pretty clear that he wants to move in some direction there.

“It’s probably going to be some sort of a compromise that they come up with where, when somebody joins the Alberta NDP, they can choose whether to also join the federal NDP at the same time instead of it being automatic.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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