Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Alberta Tories flirting with minority

Two more polls were released today for the Alberta election campaign, and both indicate that the race between the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose is on.

The margin between the Tories and Wildrose has now shrunk to only 1.4 points, according to ThreeHundredEight.com's projection. The PCs still lead with 36.6%, but are trailed very closely by Wildrose, who now stand at 35.2%. That is a slip of 2.2 points for the Tories and a gain of three points for Wildrose.

But with these new surveys the polling volatility has increased, as they are starting to tell different stories. Léger's poll puts the margin at almost four points with the PCs ahead, while Forum puts Wildrose 10 points up on the Tories. Forum's poll is the only poll so far conducted after the election call, but it was also in the field on only one day, which can disproportionately swing the mood of the electorate depending on what was in the news.

Because of this degree of uncertainty, the ranges have widened to between 33% and 40% for the Tories and between 31% and 39% for Wildrose. In other words, it is possible that Danielle Smith's party is indeed ahead.

The Progressive Conservatives are still projected to win a majority with 47 seats, but that is down eight from only yesterday and three seats more than the bare minimum for a majority government. Wildrose is projected to win 35, but due to polling volatility it is possible that Wildrose could win a majority if an election were held today. Their ranges run the full gamut of between 16 and 62 seats. Hopefully the polls will tighten up a little before election day.

The Liberals and New Democrats have each taken a step backwards, with the Liberals dropping 0.5 points to 13% and the NDP dropping 0.9 points to 11.1%.

Regionally, Wildrose has gained two points in Calgary (they now lead with 39.8%), 4.4 points in Edmonton (they sit second at 26.2%), and six points in the rest of Alberta (they lead with 41.6%).  The Tories have dropped 0.9 points in Edmonton to hit 37.4%, and are also down 1.9 points in Calgary (to 34.7%) and 4.7 points in the rest of Alberta (to 36.5%).

The Liberals dropped 1.4 points in Edmonton and now sit in third with 16.9%, while the New Democrats were down 1.6 points in the provincial capital to 15.3%.

Forum's poll, however, puts Wildrose ahead in every party of the province - including Edmonton. Forum was last in the field on 13 February, and since then Wildrose has gained 11 points and is leading in this survey with 41%.

The Progressive Conservatives are down six points to 31%, the Liberals are down two points to 12%, the NDP is down two points to 11%, and the Alberta Party is steady at 2% support.

Since that mid-February poll, Wildrose has made double-digit gains almost everywhere: 11 points in Calgary, Edmonton, and southern Alberta, and nine points in northern Alberta. There is hardly a race whatsoever in Calgary, while the party is doing very well outside the two main centres. The Tories are still competitive in this poll in Edmonton, but to be down in the one part of the province that gives them an inherent advantage over Wildrose is absolutely disastrous for Alison Redford.

We'll need to see if other post-writ polls confirm this state of affairs. If they do, then the Tories are in grave danger of losing this election.
Léger's poll, which was taken before the election was called and at around the same time as yesterday's polls from ThinkHQ and Ipsos-Reid, shows the Progressive Conservatives at 37.4%, almost four points ahead of Wildrose, who sit at 33.6%.

Léger was last in the field 13-18 January, and since then the Tories have lost about 16 points, a huge drop in support. That Léger poll had disagreed with some other surveys showing a closer race, but now Léger is well within what others have recorded.

Wildrose has gained 18 points since mid-January, while the Liberals are up one and the NDP is down two.

Here, we see a close race in Calgary and the rural parts of the province, and the Tories well ahead in Edmonton with Wildrose in second. This is what the other pre-writ surveys indicated.

Have things changed so drastically in the course of only a few days? It is too early to tell. What is certain is that the Progressive Conservatives definitely have a fight on their hands. But Wildrose may have peaked too early - if Albertans see that Danielle Smith might become the next Premier, we could see supporters of the Liberals and NDP flock to the more centrist PCs under Alison Redford. Or, if Albertans decide that 41 years is enough of one-party rule, this may be the first sign that Wildrose is on track for a landslide.

32 comments:

  1. As an aside, Alberta's rural ridings are vastly overrepresented, and this produces election results that favour parties on the right. There ought to be a redistribution of MLAs so that Edmonton and Calgary have their fair share. Eric, would you be able to put up some numbers that speak to this?

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    1. That may be true, although I understand that the PCs recently redistributed the ridings to better reflect the changes in population in recent years, so that rural Alberta is much less overrepresented than it once was. (see Colby Cosh's post on this http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/03/28/ba-a-a-attle-for-the-alberta-voter/#more-248726)

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    2. Some back of the envelope calculations regarding urban seats in Alberta.

      Ab population: 3.7 million

      Calgary: 1.2 million=32% provincial total

      Dedmonton: 1.1 million= 30% " "

      In the last election there were 83 seats. Calgary had 23 while Edmonton had 18. In true rep. by pop. Calgary would have 27 and Edmonton 25. A difference of 11 seats from their current allotment.

      It should be noted the Legislature was expanded to 87 seats for 2012 but, I do not know where the extra four seats have been allocated.

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    3. Urban ridings being under-represented is true in every single province in the country, both federally and provincially.

      It's because they grow faster, see, and no one ever awards them seats based on *projected* growth, so they are *always* playing catch-up.

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    4. "should be noted the Legislature was expanded to 87 seats for 2012 but, I do not know where the extra four seats have been allocated."

      2 went to calgary, 1 went to edmonton. In fairness, the new allocation makes for much fewer disparities in riding sizes. And, of coruse, riding population isn't the only criteria for choosing riding (i.e., you can't have geographically enormous rural ridings which can't be effectively represented by a single MP).

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    5. Redistribution also changed some other ridings. Airdrie-Chestermere, for instance, has been split into the urban Airdrie riding, and the urban-rural Chestermere-Rockyview riding.

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    6. Derek, your figures are very misleading, if not outright dishonest. You count the entire "census metropolitan region" for the populations of Calgary and Edmonton, but then only include the ridings in the cities proper!

      In reality, according to the 2006 census, Calgary has 30.0% of Alberta’s population, while Edmonton has 22.2%, for a combined total of 52.2%.

      Under the pre-2012 boundaries, Calgary had 27.7% of the seats and Edmonton had 21.7%, for total of 49.4%. So while the big cities are underrepresented, it's not by very much.

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    7. Invisible,

      As I stated it was a back of the envelope calculation.

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    8. That's fine, but when you start with completely wrong population figures (especially for Edmonton), you get completely wrong results.

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  2. While it's true that taking the lead this early could hurt Wildrose by giving the other parties time to adapt their messages, I don't see Danielle Smith actually frightening the leftists into backing Redford.

    Because Smith isn't scary. Usually the thing that frightens leftist voters is social conservatism, and Wildrose isn't that. Note the opposite positions Redford and Smith took in response tot he Ontario court ruling effectively legalising brothels. Smith supported the court, because the prohibition on brothels is a limit on both individual freedom and on economic activity.

    Danielle Smith has staked out a hardcore libertarian position for her party (she made it fairly clear that was her intent during the leadership race), but a libertarian position isn't the thing about which leftists typically monger fear.

    I think this election will be won or lost on debate performance. If Smith embarrasses herself in the debate, or appears unable to defend her positions or effectively attack Redford, then she'll look like an ineffective leader and Albertans will turn to the safe option in Alison Redford. If Smith looks competent, though, I think this is her election to lose.

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  3. Got a feeling this thing is going to swing back and forth like mad up till election day.

    You're almost in MOE territory right now. I suggest we wait and see how the public actually votes ?

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    1. You're right, I'll just shut down my website then.

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    2. If you had little "thumbs up" on your website, Eric, your last comment would get one.

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    3. @Eric,
      HA! That's pretty funny.
      Wildrose Supporter (Former PC Supporter)

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  4. Any chance you'll provide the riding by riding estimations you did for the Feds and some of the other provinces? Keep up the great work, I really enjoy your analysis.

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    1. Thanks SD, but the riding-by-riding projections are already posted. Look at the image at the top of the page that says "Alberta Riding Projections".

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    2. Sure enough, there it is. The only other comment I've got is that it would be great if you could isolate the AB Party support to the ridings where they have candidates (particularly good ones). For example, I imagine they are closer to 15% in Edmonton-Rutherford and Edmonton-Glenora. This changes the face of those races and could also swing your projections of some of the close rural ridings where you've given them 1.5-2% but they will actually get 0.

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    3. When the official candidate list is announced (mid-campaign), I'll be updating the riding projections to this effect.

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  5. Eric, can't be easy to swing back into election mode again, and I know it will be monopolizing a lot of your time. I was wondering if there was any chance of seeing something on the latest BC polling.

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    1. Unless a new Alberta poll bumps it down the priority list, I should tomorrow.

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    2. I've only seen the Mustel poll recently. Is there another one or just that?

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    3. Mustell was what I was thinking of.

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  6. I went looking through past Alberta elections to see if I could find either some close elections to examine or perhaps a trend to be seen in previous changes of government.

    Close elections aren't easy to find. The 1993 election had a gap of only 5 points between the Tories and the Liberals, but the vote distribution there was weird (the Liberals ran away with Edmonton, and the PCs ran away with everywhere else). The 1989 election that saw Premier Don Getty lose his own seat featured extreme vote-splitting between the second and third parties, so that election turned into a landslide.

    As for past changes of government, even ignoring that those all happened a really long time ago, and that there are only three of them, there's still no pattern. The Tory victory in 1971 was a close-fought election with a final vote breakdown of 46% to 41%.

    The 1935 election, which handed power to Social Credit, was absurdly one-sided, with a 31 point lead for Bible Bill's party.

    And the 1921 victory by the United Farmers saw the UFA somehow steal a majority with only 29% of the vote, compared to the 34% won by the defeated Liberals.

    So, I supposed I'm saying I've found nothing useful or informative. Close elections or changes of power are so rare in Alberta as to be nearly mythical.

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  7. AAAAAAAAAAAH!

    This is GREAT!

    Go Wildrose!
    Go Wildrose!

    Kick the bums out!
    Kick the bums out!

    40 Years is long enough!

    Wildrose Supporter (former PC Supporter)

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  8. More than a few people I know still have the long memory of Allison Redfords "intervention" by the ATA in favour of her campaign for party leader and are going to vote Wildrose purely because of it. We might be a one-party state, but only by consent. Allison Redford should not have won the leadership convention if it were legitimate.

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  9. When Alison won the leadership race, any rememants of real conservatives were thusly destroyed and taken over to Wildrose.

    The Gary Mar supporters and party organizers were shocked and disappointed that he lost.

    Basically, Redford won because of Union ties that allowed her to capture a slim majority on the second round of the second vote.

    With that, she took over an old tired and corrput party with liberal advisors and set about trying to make it fully Liberal, all the while spending tremendous amounts of money.

    This election could be a wipe out for the PC's.

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  10. I don't fault her for winning. As I understand it, she organized the teachers to put herself into office, and then rewarded them. That's just being a good politician.

    I do fault her for being a Nanny-State Liberal (or at least I disagree with her policies). I also fault her for making it illegal for Elections Alberta to publish who was breaching the political contribution rules (as per the government official who was on the Dave Rutherford show). Totally, completely ridiculous. I mean, who else are people going to bribe? The NDP? The Liberals? I'd be very surprised if it was any party other than the PCs, and they knew this when they created the gag law.

    Wildrose Supporter (Former PC Supporter)

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    1. IMHO a lot of that is the institutional rot parties often get after being in power a while. Liberal, Conservative, NDP... when assholes see your party as a means to get power and money, it gets harder and harder to keep those assholes out. And once they're in your party...

      IMHO you and others here are bang on though. This isn't "do I want Alberta to move left or right" or anything like that. It's "kick the bums out."

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  11. I'm sure you've seen this already Eric, but there's a new federal poll from Forum: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1153428--poll-new-democrats-riding-mulcair-wave?bn=1

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    1. NDP at historic high federally. Previous high was 34% in one poll while Broadbent led. I think this has more legs as even without Mulcair, dippers stayed around 30%. I think this bump is a result of Quebecers returning to the NDP. (I haven't seen the provincial breakdown from Forum yet.)

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  12. I also suspect a disgust with the CPC and the Robocalls and Ethics problems.

    Will it last though? Good question.

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  13. My recollection is that we routinely see popularity bumps like this after a new party leader is chosen. You'd expect it given all the publicity associated with a leadership convention. How often does an opposition party get 3 or 4 solid days of news coverage followed by coverage of a day-longe event?

    It never has any long-term impact. In late May/early June, 2009, there was a flurry of polls showing the newly crowned Iggy was running ahead of the Tories and an Ipsos-Reid poll in January 2007 had the Stephane Dion-lead Liberals at 37%. And my recollection is fuzzy on the point, but I seem to recall polls in late 2003 showing the Martin-led Liberals crushing the Tories.

    I doubt Thomas Mulclair is taking his party's newfound popularity too seriously.

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