Historic vote sweeps NDP to victory in Alberta

Historic vote sweeps NDP to victory in Alberta

Issue analysis: what was behind the first sea change in Alberta politics in 44 years?


May 6, 2015 – Most polls projected a historic upset in the Alberta election, with a province-wide Angus Reid Institute poll illustrating some of the key features of this new political landscape.

Many pre-election polls showed the New Democratic Party in a very strong position. Indeed, the Angus Reid Institute’s own findings indicated a substantial lead for the Alberta NDP, with two-in-five (41%) saying they were most likely to support the party on election day, far ahead of the Wildrose Party (28%) and the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (22%).

So, what’s happened? The dynamic in Alberta was driven by different elements: the mood of the province, the electorate’s appraisal of its leadership options and the issues resonating in this contest.

Angus Reid Institute

The mood of the province

The majority of Albertans were unhappy with the direction of the province and felt that the time had come to change the party holding the levers of power. Within this atmosphere the NDP managed to impress voters the most.

Half (48%) reported an improved opinion of the party and leader since the campaign started, fully four times the one-in-ten (12%) who said they were turned off by the NDP during this campaign. By contrast, Jim Prentice and the PC campaign received a negative appraisal: 52 per cent of Albertans said their opinion had worsened during the campaign, versus only six per cent who said it had improved, a ratio of more than 8:1. Brian Jean and Wildrose received a split verdict (21% improved, 22% worse, 57% unchanged).

Fully two-in-three (69%) identified with the sentiment “it’s time for a change in government – the Alberta Progressive Conservatives under Jim Prentice should be replaced by a different party”.

Leadership

NDP leader Rachel Notley impressed many Alberta voters and was the most popular party leader among survey respondents. Voters appeared to have soured on PC leader and Premier Jim Prentice, and held a split opinion concerning Wildrose leader Brian Jean. When asked if they would be better or worse off if a given party leader were to win the election, well over half (58%) said they would be better off with Notley, while two-in-five (38%) thought the same of Jean, and just one-in-ten (12%) of Prentice. Additional results found that:

  • Six-in-ten Albertans (62%) had a favourable opinion of Notley, versus 25 per cent unfavourable. PC leader Jim Prentice received almost the inverse verdict: 63 per cent reported an unfavourable view of him, versus 27 per cent favourable. Respondents were split when it comes to Jean: 41 per cent favourable, 39 per cent unfavourable. Liberal leader David Swann also scored negative overall (See detailed tables at the end of this release).
  • Notley also won hands down on “best premier” – chosen by 37 per cent of respondents overall, twice the number selecting the incumbent Prentice (19%), and nearly three times those choosing Jean (13%).

Breaking down the issues

Though Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi referred to this Alberta election as the “Seinfeld Campaign” (one will note Seinfeld was famously a “show about nothing”), Albertans had little trouble identifying neither the issues that concern them, nor the parties/leaders most able to grapple with them.

The three most important:

  • Health Care (46%)
  • The Deficit and Government Spending (37%)
  • The Economy and Job Creation (34%)

On the first, the NDP had an overwhelming advantage (NDP 37%, Wildrose 15%, PC 9%). On deficits and government spending (specifically cutting government waste), Wildrose was seen as strongest (Wildrose 29%, NDP 22%, PC 8%).

But the surprise was the third issue – the economy and job creation – where the NDP was seen as most effective player (NDP 27%, Wildrose 19%, PC 19%). The only issue on which the Alberta PC party lead was the management of the oil and gas sector (PC 24%, NDP 20%, Wildrose 18%).

Angus Reid Institute

Voter preference versus predictions

Though most polling firms pointed to a significant lead for Notley and the NDP heading into election day, Albertans themselves still predicted a PC victory.

When asked who they thought would win the election, 39 per cent of respondents chose the Conservatives, compared to 30 per cent who named the NDP and just eight per cent who chose the Wildrose. When voters considered the contest in their own riding, the Wildrose party was expected to perform much better. In this scenario, one-third (32%) chose the Conservatives to win, while one-fifth (23%) said the NDP or Wildrose (22%).

Click here for full report including tables and methodology

Image Credit: Don Voaklander