Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gap narrows, but Wildrose still in control

Since the weekend, two polls have been released indicating that the margin between Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives has shrunk to seven points in Alberta's provincial voting intentions. That means that, though Wildrose is still on track to win a majority government, the race has tightened up.

Since Apr. 13, the projection that incorporated all pre-debate polling, Wildrose has dropped 2.2 points and now sits at a projected 39.7% of the vote. The Tories have picked up 2.1 points and are now at 35.3%, their highest level of support since Mar. 29.

This reduces the gap between the two parties to 4.4 points. That is certainly less than the seven points forecast by the two recent polls, so now is a good time to remind readers that the vote projection model includes an adjustment that increases or decreases projected vote share. This adjustment is based on where a party sits in the legislature, and so indirectly incorporates a whole slew of intangibles: organization, enthusiasm, fundraising, and incumbency. Past federal and provincial elections have indicated that there is some relationship between polls over- or under-estimating a party's support and the position of that party in the legislature at dissolution: bigger parties tend to be under-estimated, smaller parties are over-estimated.

The New Democrats have moved into third with a gain 0.2 points. They now have a projected 11% support, just ahead of the Liberals at 10.8% (-0.3).

This tightening of the race means that the Tories have picked up nine seats in the projection since the debate, all at the expense of Wildrose. Danielle Smith's party is now projected to win 47 seats against 36 for the PCs and four for the NDP (unchanged).

The two new polls disagree with one another strongly at the regional level, but less so province-wide. The result is that Wildrose is projected to take between 36.7% and 42.7% of the vote, compared to a range of 31.8% to 38.8% for the PCs. The two parties overlap one another once again.

The NDP range has moved ahead of the Liberals, as the NDP would take between 9% and 13% of the vote if an election were held today, while the Liberals would only take between 9.5% and 11.9%.
Though the likely seat ranges for the Liberals and NDP remain unchanged, the Wildrose range has stretched downwards. They are projected to win between 27 and 74 seats, while the Progressive Conservatives can win between nine and 58 seats. This gives both parties the chance of forming a majority government, though the votes would have to swing heavily in the PCs' favour for them to win it.

Calgary vote projections
The biggest shift in support has taken place in Calgary, where Wildrose dropped 3.3 points and seven seats to 44.5% and 19 seats. The Tories picked up 4.3 points (thus, it would appear, stealing votes from the left as well as the right), and is now projected to take 34.8% of the vote in the city, as well as eight seats.

The Liberals are down 0.6 points to 11%, while the New Democrats are down 1.1 points to only 6.1% in the city.

The ranges are widest here, however, as the Tories could conceivably take between 24.8% and 44.8% of the vote in the city, giving them between zero and 19 seats. Wildrose, meanwhile, could take between 37.5% and 51.5% of the vote, giving them between eight and 27 seats. The race in the city is quite difficult to pin down at this stage.

Edmonton is a little clearer - but only a little. The Tories are up 0.3 points to 39%, while Wildrose is down 0.9 points to 26.4%. The New Democrats are virtually unchanged, down 0.1 point to 16.3%, while the Liberals are up 0.3 points to 14.2%. The Alberta Party has picked up 0.3 points and stands at 2.6% support. This all adds up to 20 seats for the Tories, five for Wildrose, and four for the New Democrats.

But with the recent polls disagreeing on who leads in the provincial capital, the ranges for the Tories and Wildrose now overlap: 32% to 46% for the PCs and 19.1% to 33.7% for Wildrose. This means between eight and 26 seats for the Tories and between one and 18 seats for Wildrose. The NDP, meanwhile, could win as much as 19.9% of the vote and seven seats, while the Liberals could take 18.2% of the vote and three seats.

In the rest of the province, things are more clear cut. Wildrose is down 2.9 points to 47.3% and two seats to 23, while the Tories are up 0.2 points to 30.9% and two seats to eight. The New Democrats are up 2.4 points to 10.4%, while the Liberals are up 0.2 points to 7.4%. The ranges put Wildrose support at between 43.2% and 51.4% (18-29 seats) and the Tories at between 27.8% and 34% (1-13 seats), meaning we can definitively say that Wildrose is ahead outside the two cities.

The Return on Insight poll done for the CBC puts Wildrose at 43% to 36% for the Tories, with the Liberals at 11% and the NDP at 9%. It is impossible to really look at trends with this survey, however, as RoI was last in the field at the end of January. But contrary to virtually every single poll out in this campaign, RoI puts the Tories ahead in Calgary and Wildrose ahead in Edmonton.

Forum is a little more conventional, but also shows that seven point gap. They have Wildrose at 40%, down three points since Apr. 9, and the Tories at 33%, up two points. The NDP is up one to 12% and the Liberals are unchanged at 10%. Like other polls, they show the comfortable Wildrose and Tory leads in Calgary and Edmonton, respectively.

While it is difficult to figure out what is going on in the two main cities (though it is safe to say that Forum is probably closer to the mark), it does appear that the margin between the two parties is closing. Will it close fast enough for the Tories? The next few days will tell us - and as the headlines aren't exactly positive for Wildrose at the moment, things could move quickly.


  1. I just read that all the poll indicators after the debate gave WR the win (+12%) and higher than the PC on all other measures including likability (-6% for PC +6% for WR) etc.

    I agree with you that the next couple of polls should show us what the result on the 23rd should look like.

    1. Yes, the debate was very good for Wildrose. It puts this week into an interesting context - had Redford done a better job on Thursday night the news from this week would likely sink the Wildrose campaign very quickly. Instead, they may be somewhat resistant.

    2. Yes, my interpretation of this is that the early Wildrose momentum wasn't sustainable, and their support was always going to dwindle somewhat.

      Smith and Redford's relative debate performance has likely mitigated that regression to some degree.

  2. The only thing these polls confirm is how inpatient I will be for the actual results.

  3. Although it is my gut feeling and obviously unscientific..the bloopers of the past day or so(the religeon and race issues)I do not think will seriously affect the momentum of the Wildrose except slightly... in the urban vote most likely. I think this partly because the two campaigners in question have been pretty quick to reiterate what they said and in one case actually apologise. As well Danielle Smith is neither apologising for their comments nor is she backing away from taking the heat for it either. My feeling is this will put her and her party in good stead with the voter. Alberta...often being portrayed by much of the country as extremist and redneck by the rest of the country and used to it...internally is less susceptible to the usual machinations of fear politics I think. As well...the appetite for change here can never be underestimated.

  4. It strikes me as inevitable that this close to the finish line... in a race as heated and dramatic as this one clearly is...that things would tighten up and the final results less and less clear...polling or no polling. Especially in this province where elections have been boring for generations.

    Truth be told although I think up until recently the media has done ok covering the election in a fair manner I have noticed a slight change in coverage of the race as we near the end. I get the sense that there is a lot of nervousness in editorial meetings and that seems to be more obvious in the last few days. It must be acknowledged that most of the head offices of our major mainstream media outlets have their head offices based east of the Alberta border.

    1. I have to disagree with you on the media. I have found them to be very biased on both sides. The reporters are doing very little leg work in actually developing the story from both sides. Too many rumours and fear-mongering with little actually substance. They have the chance to educate the masses and instead of reporting the story, some of them are becoming the story. That is an issue.

  5. This is not a criticism of Eric...or 308.com in the least. Quite frankly...I think he operates the best polling aggregator on the net...and he is not a pollster nor claims to be. He just works with the numbers he has.

    Having said that I think polling has hit a brick wall. It has not quite caught up with changing demographics or new technology yet...though I am sure they are working on it. Quite frankly the only thing the pollsters got right the last federal election was the order of the parties...and that was very close to the end. But nobody got right the sea change that would occur.

    My gut feeling is in Alberta there will be a minority government...either PC or WR. But one thing is sure...Alberta politics will never be the same again.

    1. Thanks for the kind words.

      Yes, it does seem like pollsters face a lot of challenges nowadays, but I don't think it is all that bad. The polls were actually pretty good in the 2011 federal election when it came to Liberals and NDP. The results in Quebec, for example, were excellent. The problem was the Conservative vote, particularly in places like B.C. and Ontario.

      Provincially in the fall, the polls were not too bad in Ontario or Saskatchewan. They had some trouble in P.E.I. and Newfoundland, but were dead-on in Manitoba.

      The question is, then, whether polls in this Alberta election will be more like those in Manitoba or in the federal election? The adjustments I apply are an attempt to get things right, so we shall see.

    2. Great site Eric!
      I would agree with the post that foresees a WR or PC minority. If the election were a few days ago or even today WR would win a majority for sure, but from my vantage point here in Edmonton it appears there are a just a few too many remaining news cycles to be able to 'run out the clock' effectively (meaning too much time for people to digest news, change their minds, vote strategically, etc.), especially in light of recent WR candidate controversies. My sense is gap will narrow to around 2 points or so by election day and then it will depend on turnout.

  6. Eric,

    I'm a frequent visitor to your blog. Overall, a job well done. I have some thoughts I posted to my own blog rregarding your most recent prediction for Alberta. Feel free to check it out and see how accurate or inaccurate I am. My take on this election is that the NDP will play a more significant role in the results than people assume given the possibility of four way splits in many ridings.


  7. Hi Eric:

    I am a daily visitor to your blog and am always impressed with your work. I posted my thoughts regarding your number crunching of the Alberta 2012 election which I invite you and other readers to visit and comment on. My main point is that the NDP may be playing a greater role in this election given the four way splits happening - especially in traditionally non-NDP areas.

    Is this far-fetched given the volatility of the electorate?


    1. The ndp are a non factor in Alberta period. There are 2 or 3 Areas clustered by universities where the are competitive. In the real world outside academia socialism doesn't pay for itself.

    2. I long for the day where a Alberta conservative can make a statement without using the words liberal, fiberal or socialism as scare words/rhetoric. I guess they can pay for their own roads, healthcare, education and internet lol

    3. so that aside Dino, most ridings in Alberta do not have enough NDP base even with conservative splits. In past elections NDP has been second in many conservative ridings with 10-15%.. I struggle to think of many where they were 2nd or 3rd with above 20%. The electorate may seem volitaile this time around but voting patterns are probably the most uniform/entrenched than anywhere else in the country.
      The 1 federal NDP held in Alberta took several elections and a star candidate to coalize the anti-cpc vote in a riding that marries middle class and university neighbourhoods with upper class suburbia

    4. Dan:

      Thanks for your response. I was going to respond to Don simposon but thre's little point in trying to reason with those who rely on parroting right-wing talking points.

      Your points are very valid. In fact, if you look at my posting at my blog:


      you will note that a majority of the ridings have NDP support in the single digits. But look at WEST YELLOWHEAD and LETHBRIDGE-WEST. They made the top 10 list and have registering more that 20% of the vote. This doesn't mean that it's a slam dunk for an NDP win but that it won't be a sure thing for anyone.

      I guess we'll all find out on Monday.

    5. Yes we can pay for our own roads, healthcare, education, and internet. Just like we already pay for our food, entertainment, and INTERNET!

      I dont understand why people need to have money stolen from them for things they have to pay for anyway to get anywhere in life. The markets do work when you let them work.

    6. juvanya:

      You forgot to finish off your comment with the questions:

      "Are there no orphanages? Are there no workhouses?"

      Do you expect people to pay for their own education, health care, police services, fire services, snow removal from their streets in the winter, etc. ?

      Set aside the talking points from the Ron Paul presidential campaign (and Wildrose, for that matter) and address the issues that matter.

      I can say more but I want to leave you with this point to ponder: there is a causal relationship between progressive taxation and robust economic growth. It's in the history books. Read up on the FDR New Deal and Bill Clinton's successful budget policies.

    7. juvanya - I doubt most people who complain about socialist governments have the money to live completely off the grid without any help from anyone for anything- what percentage of people in this world would have that kind of money? Farmers in Alberta are actually a moderate bunch, but the vocal ones who complain about "big brother" coming down on them are always the first ones to line up and complain about not getting enough bailouts... Oil riggers who make WAYYY more than the avg Albertan who dont want to pay for any services but will gladly exploit them when a recession hits (and somehow they didn't save any money while making 6 figures)

      Bureaucracy is in any type of government - but can be more visible in a socialist one. Bureaucracy is what youre really complaining about, even though this false argument has been engrained and perpetuated in Alberta for generations now.

    8. Dino- I read your blog and I can speak a bit about Lethbridge West - I've run there locally and federally (not provinically) but it is getting on in years (10-15) since i've lived and voted there but know some of the past NDP candidates personally.

      Lethrbidge West has a mostly residential middle-upper class suburb feel that contains the University of Lethbridge and many elementary/junior high schools. Most of the voting base are young families and U of L students (many of whom will have left for the summer already). Lethbridge is unique that it has a very large Mormon population (close to 50%) and evangelical christians but the city and university has grown significantly as people move for school/work opportunities so it is quite an interesting blend and LW generally feels like a red tory type riding closer to Calgary-Varsity (U of C) than NDP's Edmonton Strathcona (U of A).

      Name can still mean alot in Lethbridge too. The former Lethbridge East MLA won for Liberals as a popular former professor who was more Tory than a portion of Tory MLA's! It was then held by former Alderman now incumbent Bridget Pastoor for Liberals in the previous couple of elections but she crossed the floor last November to PC's. I ran against her for that alderman position and think highly of her.. I dont get the fit with the PC's but think she can still carry the vote.

      Lethbridge West has an incumbent former alderman running against a perennial local/provincial candidate for Liberals. I'd say the NDP have run some really well received candidates who get alot of respect (alot more than translated into votes).

      My best guess is I think the PC vote splits with the WRP there, but then alot of that former Liberal support will go to PCs to block the WRP. For the Liberals they have always treated the support there as nice to have but dont actively do anything with it in between elections. It's always tough in that area being a candidate (lib or NDP) because you still hear tired rhetoric like you see here - they still talk about Trudeau and NEP like it's an F word and the NDP candidate has to always hear about how NDP govts screwed up BC and Ontario provincially.

  8. Can it be a Wildrose or PC minority propped up by the NDP? Now that would be entertaining to watch.

  9. For those who think a minority government is likely, I have made a table that shows IF the WR wins or ties, the number of combinations of seat wins is only 2, IF the LIB and ND only get the 4 seats that Eric predicts. The number of combinations is not much more for higher seat counts for the LIB and ND.

    PC+WR 83 82 81 80 79
    LB+ND 4 5 6 7 8
    43-40 43-39 43-38 43-37 43-36
    42-41 42-40 42-39 42-38 42-37
    41-41 41-40 41-39 41-38
    40-40 40-39

    A majority either way is a lot more likely than minority if ND and LB are held to only 4 seats.

    1. My table of numbers didn't format very well, sorry. What they say is that with 4 seats that are not WR or PC then only 2 combinations are available if WR wins or ties. 5 - 3, 6 - 3, 7 - 4, 8 - 4 (first number is # of LB and ND seats and second number is # combinations what create minority government with a WR win or tie).

    2. I wish more people would understand this. You hear so much talk that "it's going to be close, so therefore will probably be a minority". Well, you can only have a minority if a third party wins enough seats to make a difference where the top two parties are separated by a knife edge. The likelihood of PC and WR being separated by less than four seats is extremely small.

    3. There's a reason why Alberta has never elected a minority government. It's been remarkably politically homogenous over its history (and still is), and there isn't ever a third party that holds a significant stake in the legislature.

    4. More to the point, the likelihood of a PC minority government propped by the NDP or the Liberals, even if they had more than 4 seats is essentially nil, since at that point it's a safe bet that a good chunk of the PC caucus would cross the floor and sit in a Wildrose majority government - anyone see, say, a Ted Morton taking directons from the NDP?. Heck, that's a fair bet even if the NDP/Liberals didn't prop up a PC minority.

      At this point, anything short of a Wildrose collapse, will probably result in Wildrose government, one way or the other.

    5. @Carl,
      I'll have to agree with you. I think Redford is finished if she gets anything less than a majority.
      She's essentially been running this campaign on ideas that many, many people in her party hate, and were likely "holding their noses" because they didn't think WR could get in.
      Morton is an obvious example, but there are others. Of course, I don't know any of these people, but I think it's pretty safe to say that a good chunk of the PC candidates, knowing what they know now, would have jumped ship for WR.

    6. Test,

      And even with a majority, defections might be a real problem. Typically, when you're in the government, crossing the floor means you lose all the perks of power. So the government, no matter how inept has leverage over its backbencers.

      In this case, with a slim enough PC majority, a parcel of PC MLAs could cross the floor and keep all the perks of power - in fact, for backbenchers they might well be able to parley themselves a cabinet posts in a WR government. It's not often that members of the party in power are given the opportunity to (a) jump ship to a party that has policies closer to their own beliefs and (b) stay on the government side of the house. Not a good situation for the PCs to be in.

    7. Carl,

      I have a hard time believing MLAs from a party with a majority, even a slim one, would cross the floor. With a slim majority more of them would be cabinet ministers, parliamentary secretaries, etc. I think we'd see another election (ugh) before that would happen, but that's just my guess.

      Whatever the result I think politics in Alberta will be polarized for some time to come as whoever wins might barely get 40% of popular support.

    8. Anonymous

      You can't have your entire caucus in cabinet, and who wants to be the parliamentary secretary for amateur sports (for example) if another party (with similar, if not preferable ideological leanings) is offering up a cushy minister position.

      Moreover, I think Test is probably right that there is a significant chunk of the Tory caucus who, had they known that WR had a chance of forming a majority government, might have preferred to run with them than with Redford. I mean, the practical reality is that there isn't a heck of a lot of ideological ground between the WR and its supporters and certain segments of the PC party - with Ted Morton being an example.

    9. Carl,

      Yes, I'd grant you that, there isn't a large difference between certain PC segments and WR. Some of them probably stuck around thinking the PCs would win easily. Even if the PCs win (it would be a bare majority, if that) a lot will depend on the composition of their MLAs and how big this 'Ted Morton' wing of the party is and whether they'd stay.

      Very interesting times ahead...

    10. Wildrose Supporter (Former PC Supporter)19 April, 2012 17:02


      I'm "test" from above. Used that handle to try out the new way of posting.

      2 news items today to help WR:

      1. Gary Mar apparently just re-appointed representative to Asia.

      2. Preston Manning wrote an open letter more or less supporting WR.

      Go Wildrose!
      Kick the Bums out!

      Interesting times indeed.

    11. I heard about Gary Mar - the worst part about the story (at least the version I read) was that the appointment was made a couple weeks ago and she claims she didn't know about it. At best, it makes her look incompetent. The "I don't know what my own government is doing in relation to politically sensitive things" defense is a bit of a loser.

    12. hi Carl heres the coles notes on the Mar situation

      Mar loses to Redford in leadership - He was former Klien era tory MLA who was a patronage appt to Washington b4 leadership.

      When Redford wins leadership she appoints Mar to Hong Kong (same job different place). Before election news comes out Mar's people hosted a fundraiser to pay off his leadership campaign debts with first wave invitiations listing his job title making it look like a conflict of interest.

      When comes to light Redford suspends his position and incorrectly refers it to ethics body who only has mandate over politicians not public servants. She then refers it to correct body and now a matter for them to decide.

      She has made a couple statements in the election how she is taking action against old party corruption etc using Mar as an example.. but apparently according to media today the public servant investigating authority already investigated and reinstated him days/couple weeks ago.

      For what its worth - inside the civil service at the highest levels in Alberta ie. Deputy Ministers/ Assistant Deputy Ministers... my experience has been that most of them are quite political and lifelong PC members or friends.

    13. Wildrose Supporter - It would make sense that Manning would support the WRP as his former strategists are Danielle Smith's current ones

  10. Hi Eric,

    What are the polls indicating for some of the traditionally strong Liberal seats, specifically for ridings such as Calgary - Mountain View (David Swann's riding), Edmonton - Riverview (Kevin Taft's old riding) and Edmonton - Meadowlark (Raj Sherman's riding)? Which party does your projection give these seats to? Secondly, how do the polls add up for the riding of West Yellowhead where Glenn Taylor of the Alberta Party was expected to run a competitive campaign? Again, which party have you projected to win that riding? I suspect with the uncertainty in the polls that the Liberals, NDP and possibly the Alberta Party might end up playing a more pivotal role than currently indicated in your projection. Any thoughts on this?

    As always, I love the work that you're doing. Thanks and please keep it up!

    1. You can take a look at the riding projections by clicking on the "Alberta Riding Projections" at the top of the page.

      Yes, any number of outcomes are possible on Apr. 23. This is a very difficult election to project for many reasons!

    2. But you're trying your hardest to project a Wildrose win. Anything to help your right-wing buddies, right?

    3. It is gratifying to know that I can be called left-wing in one election, and right-wing in the next. I guess I'm doing my job correctly.

    4. Not only that, but apparently your projections help swing elections! :)

    5. Didn't you hear? My projections goaded the Liberals into bringing down the Conservative government in 2011. I also made the media write the NDP off (because, apparently, at 16% nationally the NDP should have been gaining seats, rather than losing them).

      I am not making these accusations up - they were actually published on the NP website during the federal campaign!

    6. Well its good to see youre having an influence despite running this on a blogspot.

      Ive had no problems with your projections. Just make sure you dont sell out like Nate Silver did. His stuff was great until he went to the NYT.

    7. I think he still does great work. I like being independent, but we all have to pay the bills.

    8. He does, but there seems to be a definite change in how he does things and what gets picked. The NY Times has an agenda (not necessarily a left wing agenda) and he seems to be sucked into it.

  11. I noticed you updated your projections a bit today and that the Wildrose and the PC's are now given a margin of error statistically tied. Will you be posting a written summary of the changes in the next day or so? I would be very interested to read your assesment of what seems to be happening.

  12. Do you think the polls are overstating WRA? Or perhaps understating? I fear they might be overstating. Then again, people may answer more PC (politically correct ;) ) on the phone...

  13. There is one factor no one has mentioned yet. A lot of the municipal and county officials have good reason to hope for a PC win.

    Their fear is once the WR is in power they will release the names of the municipal officials who were contributing taxpayer dollars to the PC party.

    All the government will tell us is that there were 17 municipalities convicted.

    I hope their day of reckoning comes Monday.


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