New poll gives BC NDP big lead, BC United and BC Conservatives tied for 2nd

Click to play video: 'New poll shows strong support for NDP, slumping BC United Party'
New poll shows strong support for NDP, slumping BC United Party
A new poll by Research Co. shows the NDP government holding a commanding lead in decided voter support, while the re-branded BC United party slumps. Aaron McArthur reports – Sep 26, 2023

With just over a year until the next B.C. provincial election, a new poll suggests good news for the governing BC NDP, and potential storm clouds for the official Opposition BC United.

The poll, conducted by Research Co., found David Eby’s NDP with 48 per cent support, up two points from May.

The real headline, however, appears to be a dead-heat battle for second place with BC United polling at 20 per cent and the BC Conservatives with 19 per cent support.

The BC Green party was in fourth place with 12 per cent support, down four per cent from May.

Click to play video: 'Focus: Conservatives now official party after MLA quits BC United'
Focus: Conservatives now official party after MLA quits BC United

Research Co. President Mario Canseco told Global News the poll numbers suggest BC United’s spring rebrand from their old name as the BC Liberals may not be playing out as party brass expected.

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“The rebrand was supposed to bring in new voters into the fold, essentially place BC United in a strong position to be the next government, and what we have here is completely different,” Canseco said.

“We have people who are more likely to identify with the BC Conservative brand, we have a drop in the rating for (party leader) Kevin Falcon, and essentially a lot of confusion for people who used to vote for the BC Liberals.”

In a rarely-seen outcome, the poll puts the BC NDP in first place in every region of B.C, including traditional BC United strongholds in the interior and north.

The BC Conservatives were in second place in the Fraser Valley and Northern B.C., while BC United was in second place in Southern B.C.

Click to play video: 'BC United M.L.A. defects to Conservative party'
BC United M.L.A. defects to Conservative party

University of the Fraser Valley political scientist Hamish Telford said that finding should worry both BC United and BC Conservatives, who risk splitting the vote with the NDP as beneficiaries.

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“For them that’s the worst possible thing that could happen,” he said.

“They’re competing for the same voters in the same regions and seemingly at the moment splitting that vote down the middle, which if it held up a year from now would give the NDP an even greater majority.”

The poll results appear to build on momentum by the BC Conservatives, who have not elected an MLA in the 21st century.

Former BC Liberal MLA, who was dumped from the party over social media comments questioning climate change, became party leader in March, giving the party one seat in the legislature.

In June, the party raised eyebrows when it finished in second place in a byelection to replace former premier John Horgan in Langford.

Click to play video: 'One-on-one with Kevin Falcon'
One-on-one with Kevin Falcon

And the Conservatives achieved official party status this month when BC United MLA Bruce Banman crossed the floor to join his caucus.

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BC United Leader Kevin Falcon shrugged off the poll, pointing to the 2013 provincial election when pollsters pegged the NDP with a double-digit lead.

“All the media and all the smarty pants commentators were like, ‘Oh, we know who is going to win this election.’ It was, ‘Oh, Adrien Dix is going to be premier,’ until he wasn’t and we won a majority government,” he said.

Falcon said his party had always expected the BC United rebrand to take time to get through to the public.

He remains confident BC United policies on managing the economy, reducing the cost of living and tackling street crime will be winners at the ballot box, he said.

Click to play video: 'What’s next for BC United after poor showing in byelection?'
What’s next for BC United after poor showing in byelection?

“I’ve spent my life as a mainstream conservative, I think there’s lots of opportunity to bring conservatives under the tent,” Falcon added.

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“You have to understand though most of that poll is confusion vote, they don’t recognize BC United and when they see conservative they think federal conservative.”

Telford agreed that the poll results may point to confusion among voters, adding that between elections people often blur the line between federal and provincial parties.

Rustad’s BC Conservatives, he said, may well be getting a boost from the federal Conservative Party’s current popularity.

“We do have something of a conservative movement happening in the country with the rise of Pierre Poilievre, and I think the timing of his rise is working well for BC Conservatives perhaps riding on his coattails,” he said. “But a year is a very long time in politics.”

B.C. Premier David Eby, however, argued the poll showed British Columbians aren’t interested in a conservative “race to the bottom” to “import American-style culture wars.”

Click to play video: 'BC United leader Kevin Falcon addresses crime issue'
BC United leader Kevin Falcon addresses crime issue

The BC Conservatives have campaigned on transgender issues and opposition to resources protecting sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, while BC United has targeted drug decriminalization and safe supply under the NDP in recent months.

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“We should all be making effort to bring British Columbians together, even if we disagree on key matters of policy, how to respond to the housing crisis, how to respond to health care, should it be public, should it be private — let’s have those debates,” Eby said.

“Let’s not find the ground of our elections in picking on small, marginalized communities, driving people apart. I think the polls reflect the distaste British Columbians have for that approach, frankly.”

The poll results are, of course, just one snapshot in time, and with more than 12 months until the scheduled Oct. 19, 2024 election, much could change.

Canseco noted that nearly one in five voters (18 per cent) were currently undecided, up from 10 per cent in May.

The Research Co. results were drawn from an online study conducted between Sept. 17 and Sept. 19 of 800 adult British Columbians. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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