Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party have a considerable lead over Rachel Notley’s NDP government leading up to this spring’s election, according to an Ipsos/Global News poll released Tuesday.
The poll — which surveyed 900 eligible Alberta voters both online and by telephone — asked questions ranging from who people would vote for if the election were held today, how certain they were and which leader might be the best to govern the province.
Overall, the majority — 53 per cent — of Albertans polled seemed ready to throw their support behind the UCP, with 35 per cent saying they’d vote for the NDP. The Liberal and Alberta parties came in with a total of seven per cent.
When it comes to voter certainty, the UCP is also ahead of the NDP, the poll shows. More than 60 per cent of the UCP supporters surveyed said they were “very certain” they’d vote for the UCP, whereas 47 per cent of the NDP voters said they were certain about their choice.
Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University, said the results of the poll are in line with numbers they’ve been seeing for about a year and a half. He added the fact that two leaders, and parties, emerged as the clear top contenders was nothing new either.
WATCH: Greg Jack from Ipsos joins Global News Morning Calgary to discuss a new poll which suggests Alberta’s UCP have a lead over the NDP leading up to the election.
“For those that think that this is a multi-party race, it’s not,” he said. “I mean you add up all the smaller parties and it doesn’t even reach double digits.”
The issues that were top of mind for those polled were primarily economy related, with 30 per cent saying jobs and employment were major issues ahead of the election. Twenty-five per cent said pipeline construction was a concern as they consider their vote and 22 per cent said they were thinking of the general economy overall.
When it comes to who could best effectively deal with those issues, the UCP has a 16-point lead — particularly when it comes to government spending and taxes.
“Albertans certainly do have more confidence in the UCP’s ability to manage some of those economic issues and those are the issues that are most important to them,” Greg Jack, vice president of public affairs at Ipsos, said.
The NDP takes the lead when it comes to social issues like health care and education, where it has an eight-point lead on both files. It also has a 10-point lead when it comes to addressing environmental issues.
Bratt said those polled likely had higher confidence in the UCP being able to bring change on issues that are somewhat out of the control of the current NDP government — like the carbon tax and pipelines — because Kenney doesn’t have the same record Notley does.
“She’s got a record of not doing and he doesn’t have that record,” Bratt said. “Basically, he is able to say I can do it and there’s no evidence to the contrary.”
The poll also showed a small majority of those surveyed feel it’s time for a change of government in the province, with 52 per cent saying it’s time for a new party and only 31 per cent saying Notley should be re-elected. Seventeen per cent were undecided.
“I think you have to look at the issues that are important to people and if you look at the numbers — jobs, oil and gas, pipelines — these are all things that are important to people, to the extent that that’s going to drive their vote,” Jack said.
“These are not areas where they are feeling they are seeing what they want to see.”
Bratt said the issues highlighted by those surveyed in the poll are at odds with what the NDP outlined in its Monday throne speech, in which the party identified education and healthcare as being among the issues most important to Albertans.
Bratt added it’s too soon to tell whether the ongoing saga regarding an RCMP investigation into the 2017 UCP leadership race will have a major impact on election day, adding that people are “voting for one thing.”
“You may be sickened by the collusion but you’re more worried about jobs and the carbon tax and the lack of a pipeline,” he said.
Regional, age differences
While overall, the poll shows the election could end in the UCP’s favour, the degree of support for the two main political parties varies depending on where in the province you ask — and how old they are.
The NDP is more competitive among younger voters polled, coming in at a statistical tie in the 18-34 age range — 38 per cent vs. 39 per cent — with the UCP.
As the age brackets get older, support grows for the UCP, with 53 per cent of those polled in the 35-54 bracket saying they’d vote UCP vs. 35 per cent who said they’d vote for the NDP. And in the 55+ age bracket, 62 per cent said they’d vote for the UCP and 32 per cent said they were leaning toward the NDP.
The race between the UCP and NDP is close if you’re in Edmonton, the poll shows, but looking at Calgary and the rest of the province, support for the NDP is lower.
Of the Edmonton residents polled, results showed a statistical tie — 44 per cent for the NDP and 43 per cent for the UCP — when it comes to which party might gain the most votes.
Moving slightly south to Calgary, 57 per cent of voters polled said they’d vote UCP and 32 per cent said they’re leaning toward the NDP.
Outside Alberta’s two biggest cities, 30 per cent of voters polled said they’d cast a ballot to see Notley re-elected, while 57 per cent said they’d vote for the UCP to win.
Bratt said that difference likely comes from the fact that Calgary was hit harder than Edmonton during the recession due to the nature of the industry in the city.
“Edmonton is much more of a public sector town,” Bratt said. “The public sector was largely protected by the NDP, Calgary is much more of a private sector town that has not been protected as much.”
Despite the dramatic difference in overall support for one party or another, Albertans polled are not so divided when it comes to which of the two party leaders are best to run the province.
In the likeability column, Notley came out with an eight-point lead over her opponent, and also gained more points for being caring, trustworthy and honest.
Kenney came out ahead when those surveyed were asked about which of the leaders were tough, and also had a four-point lead over Notley when it comes to competency.
When asked if Kenney or Notley would be the best premier, the two leaders were nearly tied.
Thirty-three per cent of those polled said they believe Kenney would be the best leader of the next provincial government, while 30 per cent said they believed Notley would be the best.
Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel came in at a distant third, with eight per cent of those polled saying they see him as the best candidate for the job. Liberal Party leader David Khan had the support of two per cent of those surveyed and 26 per cent said they were undecided.
Watch below: When it comes to economic issues, Alberta voters appear to have more confidence in the UCP to get the province on the right track, according to a new poll. Kendra Slugoski reports.
Bratt said the difference between leader and party confidence speaks to the perceived difference in the strengths of the leaders vs. their parties.
“The fact that, on the premier question, they’re pretty close but on the party, they’re not, shows that Notley is exceeding her party, Kenney is trailing his party,” he said.
The provincial election is scheduled for Tuesday, April 16.
The Ipsos poll was conducted between March 15 and 17 using both online and telephone surveys of 900 eligible Alberta voters. It is accurate to within ±3.7 percentage points, or 19 times out of 20, had all eligible voters been polled. Some questions are based on a sample of 800 respondents and are accurate to within ±4.0 percentage points, or 19 times out of 20.