November 9, 2018 3:17 pm

United Conservative Party holds comfortable lead heading into Alberta spring election: poll

Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party in Alberta, speaks with a reporter at the Conservative national convention in Halifax on Saturday, August 25, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

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A new poll indicates the United Conservative Party has a sizable lead over the New Democratic Party heading into next spring’s Alberta election.

The Abacus Data survey suggests the UCP has a 15-point lead among committed voters and would win a majority if an election was held at the time of the survey.

The poll — which surveyed 800 eligible voters at the end of October — suggested 48 per cent of committed voters would vote for the UCP if an election was held right now, while 33 per cent said they would vote for the current government. The Alberta and Alberta Liberal parties both received eight per cent of the vote.

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“They have united the right effectively. The NDP won in 2015 largely because the right was divided between the PC and Wildrose parties,” Abacus Data CEO David Coletto said. “They have mostly reassembled the conservative family under the new UCP banner.”

READ MORE: Latest poll shows UCP ‘would easily win’ Alberta election now

Twenty-six per cent of the respondents said they are undecided, with most of those saying they voted in the previous election, the poll suggested.

However, Abacus Data said the situation is particularly challenging for the NDP because of the limited size of its accessible voter poll. The research firm said the NDP’s accessible voter pool is 13 points smaller than the UCP’s, meaning even if the NDP was to convert all of those who would consider voting for the party, the UCP could still win if it holds onto most of its current support.

“There is an opportunity [for the NDP] but it’s very slim. Only 44 per cent of Albertans say they are open to voting NDP,” Coletto said. “So the NDP has to convert them all into supporters, get them out to vote while finding a way to dilute UCP support in some way.”

Mount Royal University political analyst Duane Bratt said Abacus Data’s poll confirms previous surveys.

“The path for victory for the NDP is getting quite slim,” Bratt said. “The TMX court case really slammed the door on Notley’s re-election chances. The polls are showing a large UCP majority with the NDP having trouble winning seats outside Edmonton proper.”

The Abacus Data survey also suggested the UCP has an even larger lead among Albertans 45 years and older, with 56 per cent of voters falling in that group saying they would vote for the current official opposition, while 32 per cent saying they would vote for the NDP.

The poll indicated the race is closer among younger Albertans, with 40 per cent of voters under 45 years old saying they would vote for the UCP, while 35 per cent say they would vote for the current government.

MacEwan University political associate professor Chaldeans Mensah said he is surprised how well the UCP is doing within certain age, gender and educational groups.

“This broad base of support bodes well for the party. As well, the level of intensity of UCP support against the governing party, is something the NDP should worry about, as it must make every effort to motivate its supporters to come out and support the party in the next election,” Mensah said.

READ MORE: Mainstreet poll suggests Alberta NDP closing approval gap with UCP

In terms of regions, the survey indicated the NDP has an eight-point lead in Edmonton, while the UCP leads by 21 points in Calgary and 42 points in communities outside of Alberta’s two largest cities. In rural Alberta, the UCP holds a 44 point lead, according to the poll.

“In my mind, NDP victory starts in the cities and among younger voters. They have to speak to those open to voting NDP and convince them that their years in government were positive, public services were preserved, the economy is growing, and the NDP has the best interests of all Albertans at heart,” Bratt said.

“The UCP has solid support base in the ridings situated in the rural and smaller communities, which could translate into stranglehold of between 35-40 seats in the UCP column off the bat, before the contest hits the major cities of the Province,” Mensah said.

READ MORE: Poll suggests summer saw Rachel Notley’s approval ratings make biggest jump since NDP elected

When it comes to the party leaders, the race is much closer. Thirty-three per cent of those who participated in the survey said they had a positive impression of Premier Rachel Notley, while 31 per cent said the same thing about UCP Leader Jason Kenney. Forty-five per cent say they have a negative impression of Notley, while 34 per cent had a negative impression of Kenney.

The research firm suggested the greatest threat to the NDP’s reign as government is not from dissatisfaction with its performance, but from a united opposition. The survey indicated only 16 per cent of those who voted for the NDP in 2015 said the government has performed worse than they expected.

While 59 per cent of those who voted NDP in the last election said they would do it again in 2019, those who said they would not vote for the NDP again have not switched their support to another party, instead saying they are undecided.

Abacus Data said the survey was conducted online with 800 Albertans aged 18 and over from Oct. 24 to Oct. 27. A random sample of panelists completed the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20. 

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