Monday, May 4, 2015

Alberta NDP maintaining lead

21h10 Update - Final (?) poll of the campaign confirms NDP lead, Notley advantage

What could be the last poll of the campaign was out this evening, from Insights West. Like the other polls, it gives the NDP a very comfortable lead over Wildrose and the PCs, though it does suggest the race in Calgary could be close enough to force some tight contests. But what is most revealing may be the leadership numbers.

Insights West was last in the field between March 27-30, so before the campaign began. That doesn't make it useful from a trends perspective.

The poll gave the NDP 42% support, with Wildrose trailing at 27% and the PCs at 23%. This falls well into line with the other polls we have seen (below).

the poll awarded 4% to the Liberals, 3% to the Alberta Party, and 2% to other parties. A total of 9% of the sample was undecided.

As the poll was conducted online, no margin of error applies. See the link above for full details on the questions asked.

The NDP led in all three regions of the province. In Edmonton, it had 58% support to 16% for both the PCs and Wildrose.

In Calgary, the NDP had 35% support, against 30% for Wildrose and 27% for the PCs. Of the three polls released since yesterday, this is the best one for both the Tories and Wildrose here.

In the rest of the province, the NDP had 35% with Wildrose at 32% and the PCs at 25%.

Fully 82% of respondents agreed it was time for a change of government, while just 35% agreed that they would be upset if the NDP won.

This makes the current climate very different from the 2012 Alberta or 2013 B.C. elections. Rachel Notley is much more popular than either Danielle Smith or Adrian Dix were in those campaigns.

Insights West found that Notley's approval rating was an astounding 62%, with just 21% of Albertans disapproving of her. Apart from Jim Prentice, she scored the lowest on the number of 'unsures'.

Prentice had an approval rating of just 25%, and he was the only leader with a majority disapproval rating (63%).

The other leaders had mixed ratings, with Brian Jean posting a 35% to 40% split, David Swann having an approval rating of 33% to 36% disapproval, and Greg Clark splitting the question 20% to 23%. A majority of Albertans did not have an opinion about the Alberta Party leader.

And just like other polls have shown, opinion has deeply soured on Prentice. Just 6% of Albertans said their opinion of him had improved during the campaign, compared to 52% who said it worsened. By contrast, 52% of Albertans said their opinion of Notley improved, while just 11% said it worsened. These are very consistent numbers with what we've seen from ThinkHQ and Léger last week.

Notley beat Prentice by a wide margin on being the better leader on health care, the environment, education, crime, housing and poverty, and government accountability. She was narrowly ahead, 28% to 24%, on the economy and jobs, and narrowly behind, 23% to 27%, on energy and pipelines. This is a little asterisk to keep in mind tomorrow night.

But on who would make the best premier, Notley scored 37% to just 18% for Prentice and 13% for Jean. Christy Clark and Alison Redford did not trail so far, nor were their approval ratings as low as Prentice's, the day before their victories.

16h18 Update - EKOS poll still shows NDP in front, lead growing

EKOS, in the field as recently as yesterday, adds to the trend of the Alberta New Democrats holding their own and, seemingly, in little danger of a last minute slide.

EKOS's previous poll was last in the field between April 25 and 29.

Since that survey, the NDP has picked up 2.1 points to move further into the lead with 44.3% support. Wildrose was up 2.7 points to 24%, while the PCs were down 0.6 points to 22.5%.

All margin of error shifts, but certainly arguing against a softening of NDP support and a rebound by the Tories. They are almost 22 points behind the NDP. How plausible is it really to still consider this a three-way race? We wouldn't in any other election.

The Liberals were down 0.7 points to 5.6%, while the Alberta Party was down 2.4 points to 2.2%. Interestingly for them, their support dwindled to almost nothing everywhere but Calgary, where their leader Greg Clark does have a shot (the projection currently awards his party a seat).

In battleground Calgary (sarcasm), the New Democrats were up to 40.5%, followed by the PCs, down to 22.3%, and Wildrose, down to 22.2%.

The NDP slipped slightly in Edmonton to 58.6%, followed by the PCs at 18.8% and Wildrose, which jumped to 17.7%.

In the rest of the province, the NDP was up to 35.5%, followed by Wildrose at 31.1% and the PCs at 25.9%. Both parties were up slightly as well.

These regional numbers are very similar to what Forum found in its May 2 poll below.

09h53 Update - Alberta NDP maintaing lead

One of the biggest polling issues with the 2012 Alberta election campaign is that too many pollsters dropped out of the field too early. We'll never know if they would have captured anything different had firms like Léger, ThinkHQ, or Abacus Data stayed in the field over that final weekend.

Luckily, it seems that some pollsters are not going to make the same mistake this time. The last round of polls dropped out of the field on Wednesday, leaving Albertans almost week to mull things over. The new round of polls has continued in the field throughout the weekend, and might even include some interviews from today.

Two post-April 29 poll have already been published or are on their way. One, conducted by Forum Research and published yesterday on the Edmonton Journal website, was in the field on Saturday. The other is forthcoming from EKOS Research. Frank Graves hinted at his numbers yesterday on Twitter, and they showed the NDP's lead growing - not shrinking.

Forum was last in the field on April 23, when it was the first mainstream pollster to see the NDP moving into majority territory.

The NDP led in this new poll with 42%, up four points from the previous survey. Wildrose was down one point to 24%, while the Progressive Conservatives were up one point to 21%.

The Liberals were down two points to 5%, while the Alberta Party was down one, also to 5%.

Another 3% said they would vote for another party (down two points).

None of these shifts were outside the margin of error, though the results look a lot like the polls we saw last week.

The numbers argue forcefully that the NDP's lead is going nowhere. There was much speculation that the round of polls published on Thursday and Friday showing the NDP in majority territory would have an effect on people's voting intentions. Instead, it seems to have had no effect. If the PCs were going to stage a comeback, we'd see it somewhere in the trends. Trailing by 21 points is not something that can be overcome in a matter of days. Even Wildrose's lead in 2012 was just eight points, on average, in the final week.

The New Democrats led in the poll in Edmonton with 55%, followed by the Tories at 19% and the Wildrose at 13%. These numbers were mostly unchanged.

The NDP was also ahead in Calgary, moving up to 37%. They were followed by Wildrose at 26% and the PCs at 21%, both of which were stagnant. Even Calgary might not turn out to be the three-way race many people are expecting.

And the NDP also led in northern Alberta, with 38% to 30% for Wildrose and 24% for the PCs, and central Alberta, with 32% to 29% for Wildrose and 27% for the PCs.

Wildrose led only in southern Alberta, with 42% to 37% for the NDP and 16% for the PCs.

Again, we'll have to wait and see what happens on Tuesday. But a lot of the prognosticators saying that the NDP doesn't have the map to win a majority government are ignoring these sorts of numbers. In this poll (which admittedly has small regional samples, but which is in line with others) the NDP has at least 32% outside of the two main cities and is ahead by double-digits in Calgary. If those numbers hold, then they most certainly have the math to win a majority government. These things can happen - would anyone really have considered the NDP a lock to win all of conservative Quebec City's ridings in the last federal election? If the NDP can win Quebec City, it can win Calgary.

Friday, May 1, 2015

An NDP majority in Alberta?

Yesterday was poll day in Alberta. First Return on Insight and Léger reported in the morning, then ThinkHQ surprised everyone with some new numbers. EKOS put their poll out in the early afternoon, and finally Ipsos Reid weighed in. Add this morning's Mainstreet poll, and we've seen six surveys in the last 24 hours.

While that would normally be unusual enough, as each poll landed the skepticism people had that the New Democrats were leading in Alberta was chipped away. Of those six polls, not a single one gave the NDP less than 37% support, and only one put the gap between the New Democrats and the second place party in single digits. The others showed a lead for the NDP of between 11 and 19 points. In Alberta.

The projection has now lurched from a largely minority situation between either the NDP or Wildrose to a likely majority victory for the New Democrats. The party leads with a projected 42% of the vote, enough to win them between 43 and 58 seats. Their minimum seat haul is projected to be 25 seats - which would count as a historic best.

Wildrose is narrowly in second with 26% and between 16 and 28 seats, while the Progressive Conservatives stand at 25% and between five and 23 seats.

The Liberals, with two to three seats and 5% of the vote, bring up the rear.

Yes, these are shocking numbers. But a few things should be kept in mind.

First, a lot of the seats the NDP needs to win to get to majority status are marginal. Seven of the 52 seats projected to go to the NDP are projected with less than 60% confidence - a toss-up. We cannot discount the importance of incumbency, and the potential for a snap-back as Albertans consider the prospects of an NDP majority (they could, of course, also like the idea).

Second, the NDP is projected to take slightly more than the average of the most recent six polls because of the projected over-estimation of the Liberal vote (as well as for the Alberta Party). This is due to the number of candidates these parties are fielding. The polls are averaging 7.6% support for the Liberals, which the projection reduces to 4.7%. They are averaging 4.7% for the other parties, including the Alberta Party, which the projection reduces to 2.7%.

As the New Democrats are topping the polls, and those extra votes are distributed proportionally, they get the lion's share. But the polls back this up. The second choice preference for Liberals and supporters of the Alberta Party is the NDP by a wide margin.

We'll see what the weekend and Monday has in store for final polls. It will be very interesting to see if these trends continue, or if they shift. If they do not shift, the NDP could still have problems overcoming their incumbency disadvantage and a lack of a ground game outside Edmonton and a handful of other ridings. However, the NDP didn't have any trouble with that in Quebec in 2011. Is this a wave election?

The tide is definitely shifting in the four polls released since yesterday morning.

Only Mainstreet was a returnee to the field, and showed a remarkable swing to the New Democrats. From 31% in the immediate aftermath of the debate, the NDP jumped to 44%. Wildrose fell six points to 26%, while the Tories were down five points to 21%.

Overall, the polls were very consistent. The NDP was between 37% and 42% in the three polls done over several days between April 25 and April 29. Three of the four polls had Wildrose at either 26% to 27%, while the PCs were in a tight range of between 20% and 24%.

That is a great deal of agreement for such an oddball election. We also have different methodologies at play here, with EKOS and Mainstreet using IVR and ThinkHQ and Ipsos Reid using both live-callers and the internet. Return on Insight used just live-callers, while Léger used their online panel.

And when we take into account the margins of error (assuming a probabilistic sample for argument's sake), we see there is even more agreement.

With the exception of the Mainstreet poll, which is the newest, a range of between 38% and 41% fits within the margin of error of all of the polls. They all top out at 41% or higher.

There is less agreement for Wildrose and the PCs, but the numbers are nevertheless consistent: mid-20s for Wildrose, low-to-mid-20s for the Tories.

The polls also saw eye-to-eye at the regional level, capturing some startling results.

The New Democrats, of course, led in every poll in Edmonton, with the PCs running second and Wildrose third. Looking at all six, the NDP ranged between 53% and 73%, the Tories between 16% and 22%, and Wildrose between 7% and 17%.

Most surprising is Calgary, though. I have read a great deal of skepticism surrounding the NDP's chances in the city, but the polls really can't back that up. The NDP finished in first place in the city in four of the six polls, and in second in the remaining two. They ranged between 25% and 35% (only one poll had them lower than 29%), compared to 23% to 33% for the Tories and 24% to 28% for Wildrose.

The New Democrats also led in four of the six polls in the rest of Alberta, with the PCs finishing third in five of the six. The NDP ranged between 32% and 39%, Wildrose between 28% and 33%, and the PCs between 22% and 35% (and only one poll had the PCs higher than 23%, which is disastrous for the party).

ThinkHQ, which had a more detailed breakdown for the area outside of Calgary and Edmonton, put the NDP ahead in northern Alberta, Wildrose ahead in central Alberta, and the two parties neck-and-neck in southern Alberta. The PCs weren't competitive anywhere.

Despite all of this, Ipsos found that 50% of Albertans still think the Tories will win, with just 21% thinking the NDP will win. Mainstreet, slightly newer, found it more of a split: 32% thinking the PCs will win and 29% giving the nod to the NDP. It would be interesting to see how that might change in the coming days.

And what effect might it have? It could be exaggerated. ThinkHQ found more Albertans concerned about a PC victory than either a Wildrose or NDP win.

By the election, there will have been five full days of campaigning between the most recent poll and the vote. That makes for a lot of time for opinion to shift. It shifted in that amount of time in 2012, so hopefully we won't be left in the dark again. Because something is happening in Alberta - and missing a whole week of it could be a big mistake for the pollsters.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Alberta NDP leads beyond a reasonable doubt

Political observers are starting to come around to the idea that the New Democrats might actually have a shot at winning, and that the 43-year-old Progressive Conservative dynasty might actually come to an end. But old habits die hard and everyone has been burned before, so you won't get much more than a 'might' out of anyone.

Two new polls make it very, very hard to argue that the New Democrats have anything but a comfortable lead in the Alberta provincial election.

The projection agrees, and has now bumped the NDP up to 39% support from 35% post-debate. Their seat haul hasn't changed much (they may be running up against their ceiling), with a range of between 28 and 47. Their range was 26 to 45 seats before.

The main shift has been between the PCs and the Wildrose, who have switched positions. The Tories are up four points to 29%, and could win between 17 and 45 seats (up from five to 31). That is a dramatic shift, and does now make a PC minority victory plausible. But it would require the NDP to come down a bit to the benefit of the Tories.

Wildrose has fallen sharply, by seven points to 25%. They are now projected to win between 11 and 22 seats, down from a range of 25 to 42 seats.

The New Democrats made their biggest gain in the 'rest of Alberta', going from 28% to 32% in the projection. The Tories were also up in the region, by six points to 32%, while Wildrose plummeted 10 points to 32%. It is a very close race in the heterogeneous region outside of the two main cities.

Not so in Edmonton, where the numbers have held steady. The NDP is ahead there with 57% to 21% for the PCs and 15% for Wildrose.

In Calgary, the Tories picked up three points to move into a narrow lead with 33%, followed by the NDP at 29% (+1) and Wildrose at 27% (-4).

The two new polls out this morning are from firms that have not stepped into the campaign just yet. That makes it impossible to look at trends, but gives as some extra data points to compare to the numbers we've been from others.

The Return on Insight poll for the CBC showed the NDP leading very comfortably with 38%, followed by the Tories at 24% and Wildrose at 21%.

The Léger poll for the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal also put the NDP at 38%, with the PCs at 30% and Wildrose at 24%.

That both polls put the NDP at 38% shows that the party is indeed making some very significant inroads. Forum Research also had the NDP that high around the debate, while an EKOS poll that is forthcoming today will also show similar levels of support for the party.

The two polls also show the PCs moving into second place and Wildrose dropping into third, which is an interesting development. It certainly makes for a photo-finish. The PCs do seem to be rebounding. Whereas before Wildrose and the NDP appeared to be squeezing out the PCs, these new trends suggest that there could be a coalescing of an anti-NDP vote (in practice if not necessarily in motivation) that could boost the PCs by election day.

But it will still be a hard slog. The Léger poll found one-third of respondents choosing Rachel Notley as the best person to be premier, with Jim Prentice at only 24%. Brian Jean, at 11%, seems to be falling out of contention.

The population hasn't soured on him as much as they have on Prentice, however. Léger found that just 10% say their opinion of Prentice has improved over this campaign, compared to 51% who say it has worsened. Jean, by comparison, has a 17% to 26% split on the question. For Notley, 47% of Albertans say their opinion has improved, and just 9% say it has worsened. As long as the NDP can get their voters out, it doesn't seem like they are at considerable risk of shedding support in the final days of the campaign. It could come down to, then, what happens with the PCs and Wildrose.

The two polls also painted a broadly similar portrait of the regional breakdown, particularly in Edmonton. The NDP had 56% in the Léger poll, 57% in the RoI poll. For the Tories, that was 21% and 19%, respectively, and 16% and 11% for Wildrose.

Calgary was a close race for both pollsters, with the Tories in first (32% to 33%), the NDP in second (25% to 30%), and Wildrose in third (24% to 26%).

There was a bigger discrepancy in the rest of Alberta. RoI had the NDP at 34%, Wildrose at 28%, and the PCs at 22%. Léger, by comparison, had the PCs at 35%, the NDP at 30%, and Wildrose at 29%. The point of contention was primarily in terms of PC support - and that could mean a lot of seats.

The Return on Insight poll, for example, would result in about 44 seats for the NDP, 22 for the PCs, and 18 for Wildrose. That puts the NDP just above the majority mark, primarily due to the PCs' poor showing outside of Calgary and Edmonton.

The Léger poll, though, would give the PCs 41 seats, the NDP 35 seats, and Wildrose nine seats, pointing to a Tory minority. This is primarily due to the strong performance of the PCs outside of Edmonton and Calgary.

This demonstrates the problem the NDP might have on election night. Their vote is not nearly as well distributed as it could be, and they might fall short of winning the most seats even if they are up on the Tories by as many as eight points. The seat result on Tuesday night could be very counter-intuitive.