A poll released on Friday suggests the leadership contest for the United Conservative Party (UCP) is a “two-horse race” and that Brian Jean now has a sizeable advantage.
Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University (MRU), told Global News the poll is significant because of how large the gap has become between the two top candidates.
“The thing that’s most striking,” she said, “is that Jason Kenney and Brian Jean have been running within five or 10 points of one another in all of the polls we’ve seen up until this point.”
Scroll down to read the entire poll from ThinkHQ
The ThinkHQ poll conducted on behalf of Metro Calgary, found Brian Jean would have a 19-point lead on Jason Kenney if all Albertans were to vote in the leadership race. Among “likely UCP voters” the gap between Jean and Kenney closes to 12 points.
“The difference is with Jean as leader in a general election, the margin of victory is a bit more comfortable, it’s a bit bigger than under Kenney,” ThinkHQ president Marc Henry suggested.
LISTEN: ThinkHQ suggests Brian Jean has sizeable lead over Jason Kenney ahead of UCP leadership vote
Henry said there was no way for his public affairs strategy firm to actually poll UCP members, because there isn’t an up-to-date party list, but that among Albertans who were once members of the Wildrose and PC parties, Jean and Kenney are in a “dead heat.”
“In terms of the actual party vote, I think the race is very close,” he said.
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Williams said the results of the ThinkHQ poll could make the case for Jean among undecided voters, as it appears to suggest momentum is with the former Wildrose leader.
“A party member sitting on the fence, who isn’t sure who he supports, will look at these numbers and say, ‘Who has the best chance of winning this election?’ And today, the best chance belongs to Brian Jean,” she said.
LISTEN: Lori Williams on why Brian Jean appears to be gaining momentum in the UCP leadership race
WATCH BELOW: Poll suggests UCP would win majority if Alberta held election today
The associate MRU professor suggested Kenney may have lost popularity with voters because he has, so far, failed to release a policy platform and has not taken a “strong stance” on controversial topics dogging the UCP party.
“For example, on the Pride parade,” Williams said, “Kenney said, ‘Well, I can’t come because I haven’t been invited’ and then when he got an invitation from k.d. lang, he said, ‘Well, I’ve got other commitments.’”
“He hasn’t put out his position on a number of policy issues, saying he’s waiting to hear from membership,” she added, “and I think some people are thinking he’s being evasive.”
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The poll also found that although there is no leader and the UCP’s policy platform has yet to be decided, the newly-formed political party would handily beat the NDP if an election were held today in Alberta.
“In terms of the primary objective of uniting the two parties – they’ve achieved that,” Henry said. “They’re far more electable as one entity than they are as two.”
According to the poll, a Jean-led party would get 53 per cent of the vote. With Kenney at the helm, the UCP would win by a slightly smaller margin, with 49 per cent of the vote.
“If some of the policies and investments they’ve been making over the last couple of years start to pay dividends, if the economy is in better shape, then I think they do have a chance,” she said. “Because then their credibility in terms of managing the Alberta economy will be significantly improved and it will be a real contest.”
READ the full poll from ThinkHQ below:
The poll conducted by ThinkHQ on behalf of Metro Calgary uses a representative but non-random sample of 1,136 participants. There is a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.