Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wildrose momentum continues

Another poll has been added to the pile, and it shows that Wildrose's momentum from the first week of the campaign has carried over to the second. Danielle Smith's party is now projected to win a comfortable majority of seats.

Since the projection of 1 April, Wildrose has picked up eight seats and 3.5 points, and is now projected to win 52 seats and 40.8% of the vote. This puts them well ahead of the Progressive Conservatives, who have dropped eight seats to 28 and 1.6 points to 32.1% of the vote.

The polls are also tightening up, reducing the projected ranges of the two parties. Wildrose is now on track to win between 39.1% and 42.5% of the vote, compared to the 33.3% to 41.3% of 1 April. The Tories are now down to between 30.6% and 33.6% support.

The Liberals have also taken a step backwards, dropping 2.1 points to 12% of the vote. They could dip as low as 9.5%, or as high as 14.5%, based on the degree of volatility in their polling. The New Democrats are up 0.2 points to 11.3% of the vote. Both the Liberals and the New Democrats are unchanged at three and four seats, respectively.

The most consequential shift in support has taken place in Calgary, where Wildrose is up 1.7 points to 44.7% support. They are now projected to win 25 seats, up four from the last projection. The Tories have dropped 0.9 points to only 30.6% in the city, and are projected to hold on to only two seats (though they could win as many as eight). The Liberals dropped 2.2 points to 11.9%.

In Edmonton, Wildrose has stolen 2.4 points from the Tories, and now trails the PCs by a narrow margin: 29.3% to 32.1%. The Liberals are up 0.5 points to 18.7%, while the New Democrats are down 0.4 points in the provincial capital to 16.1%.

And in the rest of the province, Wildrose has picked up four points and three seats. They sit at 46.7% of the vote in this region and are projected to win 21 seats. The Tories are down one point to 33.2%, while the Liberals have fallen 3.5 points to only 6%. The New Democrats sit comfortably in third with 11.9% of the vote, a gain of 2.3 points.
As the polls have begun to align, the degree of uncertainty has decreased. This means that Wildrose is now projected to win outright, without their ranges overlapping with that of the Tories. Wildrose should win between 42 and 66 seats at these levels of support, putting them almost entirely in majority territory. The Tories should win between 16 and 41 seats, suggesting that, if an election were held today, they would have no chance of winning it.

The New Democrats are projected to win between two and seven seats, while the Liberal high range has dropped to six seats from 10. The NDP, then, has the inside track on becoming the third party in the legislature.

With Wildrose gaining so much support between now and the 2008 election, the projection model has a few quirks. As Wildrose took only a small portion of the vote in the last election, their gains are amplified in ridings where the party has done moderately well in that election and in by-elections since. Floor-crossers are also seeing their numbers inflated. As the model uses a manner of proportional swing, this is what can happen. That's why Wildrose can be projected to win 70.5% of the vote in Airdrie and 86.1% in Cardston-Rocky View. Will Wildrose actually get that high of the vote share in these two ridings? Probably not, but what can be taken from this is that the Wildrose candidates are very likely to win.

But anyone who says that huge increases of support from one election to the next make it impossible to accurately project a party's performance is wrong. Individual oddities can occur, however. In the 2011 federal election, and with the correct province-wide vote numbers in Quebec, the projection model would have pegged NDP support in Outremont at 76.4%, rather than the 56.4% that Thomas Mulcair actually got. This occurred because NDP support in Quebec grew by leaps and bounds since 2008 but Outremont was already a strong NDP riding. On the other hand, even these exceptional cases can be quite accurate. Gatineau was a good NDP riding in 2008, and so the party would have been projected to take 65.8% of the vote in 2011. That might have seemed high in what had previously been a close race, but in the end the NDP took 61.8% of the vote in the riding.

Province-wide, and again with the right vote numbers, the model would have given the NDP 60 seats in Quebec. They actually won 59. This shows that, even when a party goes from zero to 60 in one election, a proportional swing model can cope.

The poll from ThinkHQ is very welcome, as it confirms the findings of the three polls taken shortly after the election was called. Consistency is good, especially since ThinkHQ uses an online panel, as opposed to the IVR method used by the other three firms. That gives a mix of methodologies showing the same results.

Since ThinkHQ's last poll, Wildrose is up 10 points while the Tories are down six points, to 43% and 30%, respectively. After Abacus, this is the second consecutive poll putting the margin between the two parties at 13 points. The regional results also jive with everything else we've seen, namely a run-away lead by Wildrose in Calgary and outside the two main cities, and a very tight race in Edmonton.

The Wildrose balloon has not deflated yet, and if the campaign continues in the manner that it has so far it is unlikely to deflate before election day. Danielle Smith has terrific personal numbers, with an approval rating of 56% to only 32% disapproving, a far better result than Alison Redford's 48% to 43% spread. Redford's disapproval rating has been on a steady increase since she became leader, while Smith's approval rating has inched up slowly in every ThinkHQ poll since December. Leadership drives election results, and right now Smith has both hands on the wheel.


  1. As the polls continue to come into alignment, this is looking more and more like one of those (very) occasional elections when Alberta decides it has had enough of its previous governing party and consigns it to the scrap-heap of history. Just like Social Credit, and the United Farmers before them, it looks like Alberta has finally decided to do away with the PCs.

  2. Regarding those extreme projections, look at the federal results in Alberta. 8 ridings (6 rural and 2 in Calgary) had CPC vote totals over 75%. Having a party win multiple seats with overwhelming dominance isn't unheard of, or even uncommon.

    1. The Tories had a much larger lead federally in Alberta than the Wild Rose do provincially though...

      Eric - This may be relevant to your interests (

      In university we used it for transportation planning models, and I've seen political science professors use it for this sort of thing in papers before...

      It wouldn't make that that much of a difference if you're just trying to predict who wins a riding though. It deviates from the proportional swing mainly at the margins.

  3. Eric,

    You have given the WAP 21 seats in the rest of Alberta. While their popular support (47.5%) would indicate this a likely outcome I wonder if you are being optomistic since, the effectiveness of the Wild Rose "ground game" is unknown? I spoke to someone who worked on the Alberta Alliance campaign in 2008 and they said this is where they fell short; identifying and getting thier vote to the polls, especially in rural Alberta.

    Is there any realistic way to quantify a "ground game" or perhaps incumbency?


    1. Ground game only matters when an election is close.

      When a party has this much momentum and positive intensity the ground game spontaneously creates itself in an organic way.

    2. Kensingtonian,

      These things are actually being taken into account. Incumbency is one of the factors used in every riding, and the polls are adjusted according to this "ground game" factor - i.e., larger parties in the legislature have tended to out-perform the polls, likely because of fundraising and better organization.

      In other words, if these factors weren't included I would have Wildrose winning even more seats.


      I wouldn't discount Wildrose's resources...

    4. The other point is that while WR may be a new party, it's not as if they're starting from scratch like, say, the NDP in Quebec. There no shortage of conservative (small-C) elements in Alberta which they can look to for volunteers, support, etc.. It's no coincidence, for example, that their campaign is being managed by Tom Flanagan.

    5. Kensigntonian, if the Orange Wave in Quebec proved anything, it is that in a wave election the ground game (or absence thereof) is a relatively minor limiting factor. It will only be a real factor if Wild Rose loses any seat by a small number of votes.

    6. Eric,

      Thank you very much for your reply. I will review your methodology to gain a better understanding.


  4. I just don't see the numbers staying like this for a long time. The WR has peaked and this is the honeymoon period when many voters jumped over to the WR as an alternative to the PCs, without really knowing what they support. I just can't see Alberta going through with the WR in the longterm.

    It reminds me like how the CAQ dominated the polls in Quebec this summer before people really understood what they were about. Now that the WR is on top, they're getting a lot more critism from all parties, and I expect this to be reflected in the polling data next week.

    Also, I'm interested to see how the leadership debate changes things.

    1. The election is in 2 and half weeks! There's really not much more to see.

      After the televised debates the PC's are going to decline further because Alison will have a former Tory hammering her about healthcare and Danielle Smith looking hotter and more confident in regards to everything else.

      At this point the PC's will be lucky to be the official opposition.

    2. Wildrose achillies heel: unvetted candidates. After D Smith and a few former PC MLAs, who do they have?

      Thanks Daveberta!

      That's what we'll be talking about next week.

  5. David in Calgary04 April, 2012 17:09

    The ground game as I see it in Calgary is quite striking. There are many more Wildrose signs on people's lawns than PC (a sign of committed voters). In public areas they are basically even (a sign of each parties' overall fundraising efforts). I haven't seen any NDP signs to date and very few Liberal signs.

    1. Lots of Liberal signs in Kensington. I went out walking the other day and I counted 9 Liberal signs 0 PC, 0 WR, 0 NDP

    2. David in Calgary05 April, 2012 09:33

      It's also worth noting the Liberals are polling around 12% vs. the 30% they received in the 2008 election.

  6. Got to 5 Ave and 37 Street NW. Head east along 5th or 6th Ave to 10 Street NW. For fun do some side trips into Westmount and Sunnyside, or up the hill to Crescent Heights along 12th or 13th Ave.

    1. I've been door knocking in this riding and the response is terrific.
      The atmosphere is different this time since real change is a possiblity.
      Voting for David Swann because he's a nice guy who likes green issues isn't going to cut it.
      After his failed leadership of the Liberals people will want someone capable.
      In other words, old signs or not...I trust Eric's stats.

    2. Hello Friendly G. Of course you’re noticing a difference from last time. In 2008 WR got 6% - 2 dozen more votes than the Greens. You’ve tripled or quadrupled your numbers this time and are challenging the PCs for second place. Good job! Take out those PC voters! Knock yourself out. Thanks so much.

      PS. When you’re on the doorstep do you explain to the folks what your “family friendly” agenda is all about?

    3. It's David Swann I want to get rid of in Mountain View, not necessarily "the Liberals". I don't actually live in the riding, but that's where I do most of my volunteering, so I could be wrong, but in my opinion people are eager to vote for a real party that is capable of getting rid of the PC's. We have former Liberal voters working for us, who in the past voted Liberal simply because there was no one else.
      This would explain Eric's stats for Mountain View, especially in light of the 2008 results.

      As for the family friendly agenda? Not sure what you mean. People are mostly concerned with finances and corruption.

  7. Given the numbers, have you entertained the possibility (however remote) of Liberal and NDP voters switching allegiances and voting for the PCs in an effort to thwart the Wildrose? Centre-left voters in Alberta have been known at times to vote strategically for the candidate whom they consider to be the most progressive - particularly if they felt that splitting the vote could result in a candidate that they did not feel represented them. How would your projections look if you gave some weight (not too high of course since statistically the probability of this happening is low) to this factor in your model?

    1. The WRA are not much different from Tories. It makes no sense for Liberals and Tories, Alberta Party supporters, or Evergreens to switch to them. But for those interested in voting strategically for the progressive with the best chance of defeating both Tories and WRA, check out

    2. The reason I ask this is because Redford won the PC leadership on a policy oriented to progressives. Her victory has been largely attributed to her promises to fund education and healthcare - platforms which are both dear to progressives. Furthermore, the Wildrose, in my opinion, poses an existential threat to labour unions (the various provincial employees' unions being the biggest ones in the province) and labour regulations in general. While the Tories can hardly be considered to be labour-friendly, their current leader seems to be the most progressive leader that they've had since Peter Lougheed. Would it not be in the interests of progressives to preserve the status quo (at least for now) rather than allow a party that is even more toxic to progressive interests attain power?

    3. I know three left leaning voters that are voting PC this election. They don't really want to but they like the Wild Rose party less than they like the PCs. One actually has worked on federal and provincial campaigns for the NDP.

    4. Jolo,

      That's what I am seeing take place. Any thoughts on this Eric? By the way, I'm a huge fan or yours (although intensely private as you can tell!). Please keep up the good work. Your insight and analysis are invaluable.

    5. Thanks!

      I'm not sure, we'll have to see what happens in the coming weeks. It might be too early to expect progressives to jump ship en masse.

  8. signs on private lawns dont necessarily mean committed voters - some of my friends are having trouble this election with parties putting signs on their lawn without permission (heheh) and a sign on a private lawn could be 1,2,8 or 0 votes on election day at that home. Whos to know and whos to say???

  9. How the surge of Wild Rose in Alberta, the Conservatives in BC and The Sask party in Sask, along with the CPC dominating Ontario can be misinterpretted as anything other than the Centre shifting to the right is beyond me.

    The big government, nanny state concept, big unions, huge no-discussable increases to medicare, public servcie jobs and education is not the centre anymore.

    The centre will no longer put up with just throwing money at it and trusting the elite politburo to do the best job of looking their best interests.

    The quick recovery from the recession in such a short time has re-established the bona-fides of capitalism.

    Unemployment today (7.2%) is lower than the best than the socialist utopia under Trudeau and later Chretien could provide. The average Unemployment rate for the 12 year most recent Liberal rule (Chretien/Martin) was 8.1%

    1. It's easy to create low unemployment when you are sitting on a massive lake of oil and natural gas. You also give away your ideological blinders when you talk about a "socialist utopia".

      You are ignoring the fact that what is happening in Alberta is the periodic change of name of the governing right-wing party. Just as Social Credit gave way to the PCs, the PCs are now giving way to the WRP. In Saskatchewan, the NDP and its internal divisions have been the author of their own demise. In BC, the Conservatives are at best 20% back of the NDP, and are actually dividing the right-wing vote.

    2. 7.2% unemployment today isn't the average unemployment under Harper though, Retired. You're comparing apples to oranges.

      Chretien-Martin took unemployment from 11.4% in 1993 down to 6.3% in 2006. Harper's taken it from 6.3% to 7.2%. Obviously Harper didn't create the recession so I'm not going to pretend it's his fault that it increased, but I think a fair reading of the facts shows Harper as maintaining the status quo that was established under Chretien Martin.

      Do you view the Saskatchewan Party is that far right? I personally view them as pretty much comparable to the BC Liberals - solidly centre right but hardly extreme. Don't get me wrong, I like the Saskatchewan Party a lot, I just don't see them as a seismic shift to the right. Same goes for the Wildrose - the PCs moved to the centre, and this is just a reversion to the Klein days.

      I'm not saying there hasn't been a shift to the right, but I'd argue it happened moreso in the early-mid nineties, with the emergence of the Reform Party and the Liberal Party's shift to the right.

    3. Saskatchewan had a stagnant economy for 40 years while sitting on an argubly even bigger pile of resource wealth. Clearly the two are not inexorably linked.

    4. Further to your point Ira, most of the job gains this month were in Quebec and Ontario. Hardly oil based economies there.

      I suspect in the long run those two provinces will struggle to maintain that sort of job growth though, given the size of their provincial debts...

    5. Retired in BC:

      The rise of the BC Conservatives has little to do with ideology or a shifting of the political centre. It is a direct consequence of the HST and the communications failures of the Liberal party. Other than the elimination of the carbon tax there is little overly or obviously rightwing about the BCCP's platform.

      Secondly, I think you are cherry picking your examples. Yes, the Saskatchewan party was re-elected with a larger majority but, Saskatchewan has failed to re-elect a government for multiple terms only once, that of James Anderson in 1934. So rather than a shift the 2011 election is an example of the continuity of the current paradigm in that province. You also fail to mention the re-election of the Liberal Government in Ontario in an election that saw a 6% jump for the NDP and a re-elected NDP government in Manitoba. So, I think further study and data is needed before one can conclude the political centre is shifting right in Canada.

      Finally, we must examine unemployment; before the "Great Recession" Canada's unemployment rate was roughly 6% (Fall 2008). It peaked in late Spring-Summer 2009 at roughly 8.8%. Today it is 7.2%. So, after 2 and a half years we still have a higher unemployment rate than whent he recession began, hardly a quick recovery!

    6. 10.4

      The above is the Canadian Unemployment rate under (Jobs, jobs, jobs) Chretien 1994 -2003. Average 8.4% Over the same time period the USA UE rate averaged 5.1%

      Harper UE rate 6.9 % US UE over the Harper years 7.1%

      Over the last 3 years is the only time in the last 50 years that the Canadian UE rate is lower than the American rate. Harper in Canada --- Obama in the US of A.

  10. For all you Albetans, or those who know its voters well, could you speculate whether the news story I read this morning about Smith keeping mum on rumours she'll allow public officials to refuse to perform gay marriages or abortions will affect the WR. Will it hurt, help, or make no difference whatsoever.
    And Retired, just wait awhile, this is Canada. Things shift left, they shift right. The centre is always the same, they just tend to vote one side or the other depending how they feel that election. As for BC, the Conservatives aren't growing at all. They're just shifting parties, as they do every couple decades or so.

    1. Smith is a libertarian.

      Nobody fears that she will outlaw abortion or gay marriage.

      Frankly i'm amazed anyone is opposed to a conscience clause.

      So long as it doesn't interfere with people's services (ie. there's one judge in the town and he doesn't do gay marriage) then it shouldn't be a problem.

      If somebody doesn't want to do it then one of their co-workers can handle it.

    2. Pinkobme:

      Firstly, the Charter of Rights applies to the federal and provincial governments. Legally a provincial employee, such as a JP, could not refuse to perform a gay marriage without being subject to discipline. What form that discipline would take would be up to the minister but, I think the unhappy couple would have a pretty good civil case against the Government.

      As for abortions those oppossed to the procedure are unlikely to have received the training necessary to perform it. However, it is important to remember that Canada does not have an abortion law, the former law being struck on constitutional grounds due to its uneven application. The result being that Canada has no laws governing the subject. Failure by a province to provide abortions would be a violation of the Canada Health Act. A WildRose Government could very well allow doctors of conscience not to perform abortions so long as it allowed women access to the procedure so as not to violate the Canada Health Act.

      As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in Alberta I would say that this particular WR stance will make zero difference. It may strengthen the WildRose base, but I doubt it will attract votes. It has been my experience that social conservatives are a fringe group in Alberta (like everywhere else in Canada). The only exception being some (most rural) ridings include groupings of religious communities such as Mennonites. In these areas social conservatives may be a plurality even a majority of residents.

    3. The reason the Courts are oppossed to a conscience clause is because discrimination is discrimination. A conscience clause surreptitously tries to distract and disguise that discrimination.

      Where does it end? Could a teacher under a conscience clause refuse to teach a black student because of conscience?

      Secondly, in regards to your third paragraph you forget the emotional toll a refusal would bring regardless of the convenience or ability for another officer to perform the procedure.

    4. Yeah from my understanding of things Smith is a social libertarian - that being said the religious right is definitely onside and an active part of the membership of the WA - so if they do win - it will be interesting to see how she will balance party interests on these issues with public opinion

    5. Klein mused openly about deregulating marraige entirely to end the debate over gay marriage.

      I'd love it if Smith would pick up Ralph's ball and actually do that. That would send a huge libertarian message to social authoritarians at both ends of the political spectrum: "Your petty squabbles are beneath the concern of government."

    6. Ira,

      Marriage is governed under federal law. Provinces solemnise marriages. Basically, the feds write the law, and decide who may enter into marriage but, provinces determine who is allowed to perform the ceremony and how to register (ie. marriage licences).

      From a federal perspective "deregulation" (striking the law from the statute books) would allow cousins to marry or brothers and sisters or perhaps inter-species marriage.

      From a provincial perspective "deregulation" could allow for anybody to perform a marriage ceremony, not only liscenced officiants or celebrants. Or discard the need to obtain a marriage licence or change the allotted time needed for the publication of banns. Alternatively, deregulation could mean that marriages simply do not exist in Alberta, but, such an outcome would conflict with a number of provincial and federal acts, for instance the income tax act, and would likely be ultra vires (outside provincial jurisdiction).

  11. "In Saskatchewan, the NDP and its internal divisions have been the author of their own demise."

    The Sask NDP has shot itself in both feet to be sure,.... but you don't win 65% on E day, and have the highest approval rating in the country (70%) simply because (one) of your opponents made a couple missteps.

  12. "You are ignoring the fact that what is happening in Alberta is the periodic change of name of the governing right-wing party."

    The party might be a right wing one, but the leader is not.

    Redford is the classic CINO. Conservative in name only. Elected to the leadership in part by a membership drive run through the "Bastion of conservatism" the teachers union. bought and paid for in the months that followed with a cool 100 million.

    A few days ago she suggested that Smith's plan to give money back to the taxpayers (20% of any surplus) would just cause them to waste it. (luckily she stopped short of calling it beer and popcorn money).

    Rolling in royalty money, one of the richest jurisdictions in the western world right now, Redford ( and stelmach) haven't produced a balanced budget since back before he was elected.

    A week ago, She actually went so far as to suggest Alberta isn't good enough to bring elite's from east out here... good enough culturally. Would you win in Quebec or Ontario by suggesting that Alberta or the US was waaayyy better??

    She is running a big city/metropolitan campaign from the left. There is dozens of missteps as far as Albertan's are concerned. And if she continues, she will be lucky if she forms the opposition with the default support from the brand she is trying to change.

  13. Hey Eric,

    Quick question: yesterday Premier Redford made a remark when asked about the polls that I found interesting. She said that her party does its own polling, shared internally and that it revealed a much closer result. Furthermore, she noted that a significant number of people responding confirmed that they were "waiting for more info. before deciding."

    Is this something that parties really do, or is the Premier simply deflecting this bad news? As someone "on the ground" I have noticed quite a few people saying that they've been "parking" votes for pollsters (out of anger for the incumbent), but won't actually vote WRP on election day on account of the party being an unknown commodity.

    Thoughts on this? Is this simply wishful thinking?

    1. Yes, parties do their own polling. Their leaders often say that they are doing better in their internal polls when they are doing badly in the public polls, and they often say the race is closer when they are doing very well in the public polls. So, take Alison Redford's comments as you like.

      The undecideds seem to be around 20%, which is not unusual at this stage of the campaign.

      My model takes incumbency into account, as well as abstractly taking into account the "ground game". It is unlikely that the gap between the Tories and Wildrose is significantly narrower than I have it.

  14. I know number of PC members who will vote Wildrose.

    So why are they PC? Business, plain and simple. They are afraid to even talk publicly against them for fear of retribution. One is a PC board member in the local riding.

    Sad that "democracy" is beholden to hints of corruption. If Wildrose wins, PC party will disintegrate as these silent supporters make themselves public.

    The interesting thing is, none are available to work on the PC campaign. You know, they are out of town, on holidays, etc. etc.

  15. I have family in Stelmach's riding that went to school w/him etc. My uncle & cousin are trying to actually "shame" me into voting PC yet again. Incredible. I'm even considering skipping an Easter tradition to avoid them over this. If a party stalwart like my uncle is resorting to this, it really doesn't bode well for the PCs at all, at all.

  16. Eric,

    Can low voter turnout affect polling numbers or seat projections?

    1. Possibly, but in unpredictable ways. One assumes that those who don't turnout also tend not to respond to polls, however.

    2. Even worse on the predictability, it isn't just dropping out and not voting that is a problem for predicting.

      Turnout last time was only 46% ( I think). With the buzz around this year, it could go a long ways up.

    3. Barcs,

      Wikipedia (admittedly not the most reliable source) list turnout at 40.59% for the 2008 election.


COMMENT MODERATION POLICY - Please be respectful when commenting. If choosing to remain anonymous, please sign your comment with some sort of pseudonym to avoid confusion. Please do not use any derogatory terms for fellow commenters, parties, or politicians. Inflammatory and overly partisan comments will not be posted. PLEASE KEEP DISCUSSION ON TOPIC.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.