by Angus Reid | March 21, 2019 9:30 pm
March 22, 2019 – The provincial election campaign in Alberta begins with the New Democratic Party trailing the opposition United Conservative Party by a wide margin, according to new public opinion polling data analyzed by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute and donated by Angus Reid Global Public Affairs.
During the period of fielding, respondents were asked how they would vote if the election were held tomorrow. Their answer: the UCP capturing a majority of the decided and leaning vote (56%), with the NDP receiving 31 per cent.
However, the parties find themselves in a statistical tie in Edmonton, where the NDP garners 45 per cent of vote intention and the UCP 44 per cent. The New Democrats also lead among younger Albertans (46% versus 38% for the UCP among 18-34-year-olds), while the United Conservatives lead in every other region and demographic.
Underlying these trends is a deep dissatisfaction with the Notley government’s performance over the past four years, particularly on economic issues such as management of the oil and gas industry.
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With a provincial election now less than a month away, Albertans express significant concern about economic issues. Indeed, recent national ARI polling found Alberta and its neighbour Saskatchewan to be the most anxious regions of the country when it comes to pocketbook issues.
Most pressing for Albertans is the energy sector. This concern is, perhaps, unsurprising in a province that collects billions of dollars in royalties on oil and gas projects annually and where one-in-17 workers is employed in the resource sector:
Overall, Albertans tend to be dissatisfied with the government they elected four years ago. Some six-in-ten (60%) say this, including the significant 43 per cent who are very dissatisfied:
This dissatisfaction is not evenly distributed across issues, however. More than half say the government has done a good job on protecting the environment (56%), on health care (54%), infrastructure (53%), and education (52%).
On economic issues – to which voters assign greater importance – the NDP is largely panned. Two-thirds of Albertans (66%) say the Notley government has done a poor job on the economy, and nearly as many say it has done poorly in its management of natural resources.
This latter finding may reflect dissatisfaction with the lack of new oil pipeline capacity being built in the province today, something nearly nine-in-ten Albertans described as a “crisis” when the Angus Reid Institute asked in January.
Related – Six-in-ten Canadians say lack of pipeline capacity represents a crisis in this country
Albertans also feel Notley’s government has done a poor job representing the province’s interests in negotiations with the federal government (62% say this).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of Albertans feel their province is on the wrong track. Views on this question vary significantly by age, with younger Albertans (those ages 18-34) more evenly divided, while older respondents are nearly three times more likely to say the province is on the wrong track than the right one:
In general, those who intend to vote for the NDP – as many Albertans under age 35 do – are inclined to feel the province is on the right track, while those who prefer the UCP feel the province is on the wrong track:
The UCP’s commanding lead on vote intention translates into higher approval for UCP leader Jason Kenney than for Premier Rachel Notley. That said, Notley’s 42 per cent approval rating outpaces the proportion of Albertans who say they intend to vote for her party, while Kenney’s approval rating mirror’s his party’s total support:
Demographically, Notley’s and Kenney’s approval scores are mirror images of each other. Two-thirds of men (65%) disapprove of the premier, and the same number (65%) approve of the opposition leader. Women, meanwhile, are divided on both leaders, with 50 per cent approving of Notley and 47 per cent approving of Kenney.
Younger respondents mostly approve of Notley (61%) and disapprove of Kenney (57%), while those ages 35 and older reverse the trend:
Kenney’s overall lead on approval also extends to other questions about the party leaders. Kenney is seen as best premier of Alberta (52% choose him, compared to 34% for Notley), and best to deal with each of six specific topic areas canvassed in this survey:
The leaders of each party have begun their campaigns with diverging messages. Notley has focused in recent days on the numerous scandals surrounding the UCP, while Kenney has attempted to maintain a focus on economic issues and what he calls the “job-killing policies” of the government.
Albertans’ perceptions of each leader will certainly have time to change, particularly when the two partake in televised debates in the coming weeks (dates have yet to be announced). For now, Kenney appears more well-received, though each leader has a number of negative characteristics top of mind among the electorate:
Kenney is most commonly described as ‘strong’ or ‘arrogant’ by Albertans (43%), with another four-in-ten saying that he is forward-looking (39%).
Much of the NDP’s success in the 2015 election can be attributed to its historic showing in the province’s two largest cities: Edmonton and Calgary. The NDP won every riding in Edmonton and outpaced the incumbent Progressive Conservatives in Calgary.
Replicating this success appears to be a significant challenge for Notley and the NDP. The UCP holds an 11-point advantage in Calgary, while Edmonton appears competitive, with the two parties in a statistical tie.
Perhaps equally as troubling for Notley and encouraging for Kenney is the demographic breakdown of vote intention. Albertans between the ages of 18 and 34 are the only demographic in which the NDP leads. Polls conducted prior to the 2015 election saw the NDP leading in all five of the subcategories shown in the graph that follows.
Another aspect of the 2019 election is the merging of voters from Alberta’s now defunct Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties to the new unified right leaning party. The UCP appears poised to collect nearly all of those who voted for either the Wildrose or PC parties in 2015 – roughly nine-in-ten from each – while the NDP looks to be retaining approximately seven-in-ten voters who supported it in the last election:
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