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N.S. election: Poll suggests tightening race as Liberal support drops

Click to play video: 'Sale of Owls Head to a U.S. developer becomes a major election issue' Sale of Owls Head to a U.S. developer becomes a major election issue
A rally was held in downtown Halifax to call on the province of Nova Scotia to halt the sale of 207 acres of Crown Land, known as Owls Head, to a U.S. developer who wants to build several golf courses along the Atlantic shoreline. With the provincial election set for Aug. 17, the sale of Owls Head is quickly becoming a major issue on the campaign trail. Jesse Thomas has more – Aug 7, 2021

With just under a week until election day in Nova Scotia, new research suggests the Liberals are losing support and the other two parties are catching up.

In a report Tuesday morning, Narrative Research said the gap for decided voter support has narrowed between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives.

Forty per cent of 277 decided voters polled said they would vote Liberal — a decline of 12 percentage points since May — while 31 per cent said they plan to vote Progressive Conservative. That’s seven percentage points more than in May.

A further 27 per cent say they intend to vote NDP — a big jump from the 19 per cent in May — and 35 per cent are undecided, which Narrative says is “unusually high.” The poll among decided voters has a margin of error of 5.9 percentage points.

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A new poll suggests support for the Liberals is declining while support for the Progressive Conservatives and NDP is on the rise.
A new poll suggests support for the Liberals is declining while support for the Progressive Conservatives and NDP is on the rise. Narrative Research

The report said the support for the Liberals has fallen to “its lowest point in the past year.”

“Results indicate that there has been a shift in momentum and voting intentions,” said Margaret Brigley, Narrative Research’s CEO, in a statement. “With almost a week left before the election, the question is, will that momentum continue? If so, we could potentially see a change in government.”

Area, age a factor

The report pointed out that voter intentions varied across regions.

“Across regions, Liberals and NDP are neck-and-neck among decided voters in HRM, ahead of the PCs, while the race is tight between the Liberals and PCs in the rest of mainland,” it said. “In Cape Breton, the PCs hold the lead, ahead of the Liberals.”

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Read more: From Preston to Cumberland North: 10 ridings to watch in N.S. election

It noted that gender and age also play a role. Women are more likely to vote for the Liberals, followed by the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives. Men are more likely to vote for the Progressive Conservatives, followed by the Liberals and NDP.

The Liberals and NDP are tied for support among those under the age of 35. The middle-aged population “expresses mixed opinions,” with the Liberals having a small lead, while it’s a “close race” between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives for those aged 55 and older.

Read more: Political experts say ‘fluid’ N.S. election campaign could bring surprises next week

Brigley said in her statement that voter turnout will be an important variable.

“That’s important because each party has different support by age category, and turnout traditionally increases with age,” she said. “The ground game for each of the parties will determine the outcome of the election. The lower the overall voter turnout, the greater the likelihood of an upset.”

Premier preference

While Liberal leader Iain Rankin continues to be the preferred choice for premier, Narrative’s research suggests there has been a “narrowing in the gap for leadership preference.”

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Thirty-four per cent of respondents said they would prefer Rankin as premier, down from 41 per cent in May. Meanwhile, 24 per cent said they would like to see Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston in the premier’s seat, a big jump from the 15 per cent in May.

Support for Iain Rankin as premier has dropped by 7 per cent since May, while support for Tim Houston has risen by 9 per cent.
Support for Iain Rankin as premier has dropped by 7 per cent since May, while support for Tim Houston has risen by 9 per cent. Narrative Research

Support for NDP leader Gary Burrill has risen slightly, with 17 per cent of respondents saying they would prefer him as premier, up from 13 per cent.

These numbers are drawn from a telephone survey among 540 adult Nova Scotians between July 27 and Aug. 9. The results are accurate to within 4.2 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.

Further, 61 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with the current performance of the provincial government.

While Narrative says it has never seen a government not elected when it has performance satisfaction levels over 50 per cent, Brigley noted that COVID-19 could play a role.

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“Given the unusual times, performance assessment of government is likely strongly linked to the government’s handling of the pandemic,” she said.

“This might not be as an important measure when satisfaction is not related to more broad-based performance, but rather more likely based on a single issue.”

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