Alberta election: UCP has slight lead over NDP but leaders in dead heat, Ipsos poll finds

Click to play video: 'Political analyst Jason Ribeiro comments on day 1 of 2023 Alberta Election'
Political analyst Jason Ribeiro comments on day 1 of 2023 Alberta Election
Political Analyst Jason Ribeiro joins Global News Hour at 6 to discuss the first day of the 2023 Alberta Election. – May 1, 2023

While some Albertans have already decided who they are supporting in the provincial election, it appears the vote will come down to who can win over more people in Calgary.

A poll for Global News conducted by market research company Ipsos in the past few days shows that overall, the United Conservative Party has a four-point lead over the Alberta NDP among decided and leaning Alberta voters in the lead-up to May 29 election day.

“A slight lead for the UCP at this point, but everything we see makes perfect sense for what you would expect,” said Kyle Braid, senior vice president of public affairs at Ipsos.

Political analyst Jason Ribeiro said a small lead for the UCP does not surprise him, adding Danielle Smith has done a lot of work to make herself more palatable to the voters since becoming leader of the party in October 2022.

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“This is very different than those first few weeks where we saw her put her foot in her mouth a number of times, incoherent policies. Now, they’ve been very clearly gearing up for an election,” Ribeiro said.

“It does highlight how close this election is going to be, despite the rhetoric for the last several months about change, about the incompetence of the current government. The NDP still have some work to do,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Ipsos poll predicts very tight Alberta election'
Ipsos poll predicts very tight Alberta election

While there are multiple parties registered with Elections Alberta, only the United Conservative Party and Alberta NDP realistically have a chance to form the next government.

The UCP is doing best with men, older Albertans and those living outside Calgary and Edmonton, the poll found.

The NDP is doing best with women, younger voters and Edmonton voters.

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The two parties share the support of Albertans 35 to 54 years old: 47 per cent for the UCP versus 46 per cent for the NDP.

Ribeiro said he isn’t surprised to find Albertans are at odds.

“We’re a highly divided province at this point. We’re divided around geographical lines, ideological lines.”

Calgary the true Battle of Alberta contender

As has been the case in past elections, the NDP is maintaining support in the province’s capital city while the UCP is doing the same in rural Alberta.

The NDP is up by 11 points in Edmonton (52 per cent NDP vs. 41 per cent UCP), while the UCP dominates with a 27-point lead in the rest of Alberta (59 per cent UCP vs. 32 per cent NDP).

The race is very close in Calgary, with the leading parties in a statistical tie: 47 per cent NDP vs. 45 per cent UCP.

“It’s essentially a dead heat at this point,” Braid said.

“So it looks like a lot of attention is going to be paid to Calgary as we go through the next the next 28 days.”

The battle for seats in Calgary will be competitive, with both parties sharing roughly equal support.

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“The only path to victory for the NDP comes through those narrow, narrow, close contests in the city of Calgary. It seems like all the close races that they have to win are in Calgary,” Braid said.

The poll also found when it comes to party loyalty, more voters have made up their minds to support the NDP no matter what, compared to the UCP.

“Sixty-one per cent of New Democrat voters say they’re absolutely certain they’re going to end up voting that way on election day. (It’s) a little less solid for the UCP at this point, with 52 per cent of their voters saying that they’re absolutely certain to support that party,” Braid said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta election: Ridings to watch in battleground Calgary'
Alberta election: Ridings to watch in battleground Calgary

New election, similar faces: Leader tied for support

There are no new high-profile faces in this election: NDP Leader Rachel Notley has been premier of Alberta before (2015 to 2019) and Danielle Smith unsuccessfully ran for the job as leader of the Wildrose in 2012.

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“This is not looking like it’s going to be an election about leadership. They are tied in terms of best premier numbers,” Braid said.

The poll found it’s a dead heat: currently, 35 per cent of Albertans choose Smith and an identical 35 per cent choose Notley.

Barry Morishita, leader of the Alberta Party, is a distant third choice with four per cent and an additional 26 per cent of Albertans are undecided as to which party leader would make the best premier.

“When we look at a range of leadership characteristics, they’re very close to each other on most characteristics,” Braid said of Smith and Notley.

“I think it’s a case where these are not new personalities to Albertans. They know these leaders very well. This is not an election where you’ve got a new leader who can come in and either wow people or turn them off.”

Ribeiro said he is surprised Notley is not doing better than a competitor who has not been given a mandate by Alberta voters before.

“At this point in time, you know, Danielle Smith has done enough potentially to soften some of those rougher edges in the last few weeks in terms of the public presentation she’s putting forward as the current premier and potentially future premier of the province of Alberta,” Ribeiro said.

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Click to play video: 'Decision Alberta: The races to watch for in 2023 election campaign'
Decision Alberta: The races to watch for in 2023 election campaign

Time for change?

The poll found Albertans are also open to change.

Half believe it’s time for another political party to take over and run the province. About one-third — 34 per cent — believe the UCP government has done a good job and deserves re-election, while 16 per cent are undecided.

Political analyst Jason Ribeiro said the numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise, with the UCP having undergone a fair bit of change while in power.

“You’ve swapped out a leader and those leaders couldn’t be more contradictory in terms of their views of what the United Conservative Party stands for,” he said when comparing the views of former leader Jason Kenney and current leader Smith.

Ribeiro said it comes down to what kind of change Albertans want, adding each party is going to lean into different rhetoric.

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“You have Smith and even frankly, Jason Kenney, still relying on change from the federal government as the main narrative that they use to justify the existence of the UCP and why this party was formed,” he said.

“Whereas Rachel Notley, the NDP, is very traditionally, ‘We need a new government and the government has had their time. We are that change.'”

“What kind of forward progress has the UCP brought? That’s going to be the discussion around kitchen tables for the next 30 days.”

Ipsos said the change numbers are very similar to the start of the 2019 campaign that saw the UCP defeat the incumbent NDP in a landslide, when it was 52 per cent time for change and 31 per cent deserve re-election. Braid said half of voters being open to change is not a particularly high number.

“We’ve seen other provincial elections and federal elections in Canada where that number can be over 60 per cent, but it is enough to shake things up if those who decide it’s the time for change also believe that Rachel Notley and the NDP is the right change to make,” Braid said.

“Sometimes we see in elections the desire for change — but people reject the change that’s on offer.

“That’s what a campaign is about, making it so that the NDP has a chance to make the case for change.”

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Click to play video: '2023 Alberta election officially underway'
2023 Alberta election officially underway

The Global/Ipsos poll was conducted between April 26 and 30. For the survey, a sample of 1,200 Alberta eligible voters was interviewed: 800 online and 400 through a mix of cell and landline phone surveys. Ipsos said the data was weighted by age, gender, region and education to reflect the Alberta population, according to Census figures. The results are accurate to within ±3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all eligible voters been polled. Some questions were based only on the sample of 800 online respondents and are accurate to within ±3.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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