A poll that surveyed nearly 1,000 Albertans earlier this month found the United Conservative Party have a large lead over the NDP and would win if an election was held today.
The Mainstreet Research poll has the UCP with 56 per cent support among decided and leaning voters, which translates to a 28-point lead over the governing NDP (27 per cent).
“The UCP, led by Jason Kenney, has a substantial lead over the governing NDP and interestingly enough, they also lead among every single demographic that’s out there, which was a surprise,” Mainstreet Research vice president Joseph Angolano said.
The lead largely comes from Calgary (30 points) and the rest of Alberta (46 points) while Edmonton remains competitive for both parties.
“The good news for the NDP is the election is not being held today,” Angolano said. “They have a lot of time to turn this around. That’s going to be the challenge for them going forward up until the election next year.
“When there’s an election on the horizon, we find voters behave very differently.”
The poll had the Alberta Party in third with seven per cent, closely followed by the Alberta Liberals with 6.7 per cent and the Greens with 3.1 per cent.
“Although we have two budgets and countless other events that could impact these numbers, not least of which could be the result of the Alberta Party leadership, these numbers should concern Rachel Notley and the governing NDP,” Mainstreet president Quito Maggi said in a news release. “They will have their work cut out for them to make up this deficit.”
The survey was done between Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 — before several high-profile candidates announced they would be running for Alberta Party leadership.
Former UCP member Rick Fraser announced his intention to run on Jan. 8 and former Edmonton mayor and health minister Stephen Mandel threw his hat in the ring on Jan. 10.
Calgary lawyer Kara Levis is also seeking leadership of the party.
Angolano said announcing a leader could help boost the Alberta Party numbers.
“When we go into the field with this sort of thing, we do put the interim leader as the party choice,” he explained. “When a permanent leader is announced… it usually has an effect, positively, for the party, but not always. Federally, that as not been the case.
“It could have an effect… a potential uptick for the Alberta Party, absolutely.”
Mainstreet surveyed 956 residents of Alberta aged 18 and over. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.11 per cent and is accurate 19 times out of 20.
MacEwan University political scientist Chaldeans Mensah said the results could come from a combination of the conservatives uniting and the public losing faith in the NDP.
“Polls are a snapshot in time. However, I think this indicates to us that this experiment of uniting the two conservative parties appears to be bearing fruit.
“This is a warning shot to the NDP to calibrate some of their policies and some of their approaches.
“The premier has to go out a lot more. We are missing the personality of the premier. Notley was instrumental in the last election,” Mensah said.
He believes the Alberta Party and the Liberals are much more problematic for the NDP than the UCP.
“The NDP has a lot of work to do in terms of convincing progressive voters to stick with the NDP. Right now, the Alberta Party and the Liberals are siphoning off some votes in the cities away from the NDP,” Mensah said.
Still, a lot can change in 18 months.
“Campaigns matter,” Angolano stressed. “Elections matter.”