Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Manitoba NDP extends lead

After Alberta's mindbogglingly long 41-year old PC dynasty, the government that has ruled the longest in Canada is Manitoba's: the New Democrats have been in power since 1999. Though things remain relatively close in this virtual two-party province, the NDP is still in a strong position despite 13 years in office.
Probe Research was last in the field June 6-29, and since then the New Democrats picked up one point to hit 45% support. That gave them a seven-point lead over the Progressive Conservatives, who were down two points to 38%.

The Liberals were down two points to 11% while the other parties (in this case, primarily the Greens) were up three points to 6%.

Aside from the doubling in support for the other parties, none of these shifts were statistically significant. But the numbers are not heading in the right direction for new PC leader Brian Pallister.

The NDP lead is magnified by their dominance in Winnipeg, where most of the province's seats are located. The New Democrats led with 52% in the city, followed by the Tories at 32% and the Liberals at 11%, representing a drop of five points. In the rest of Manitoba, the Progressive Conservatives dropped seven points to 46% and were trailed by the NDP at 35%, the Liberals at 10%, and other parties at 9% (a gain of six points).

The New Democrats also lead among both men and women and in all age groups and income brackets. The only demographic with a PC advantage (and that edge is only by two points) is among Manitobans with a high school education or less. The NDP leads among those with college or university degrees.

With this advantage in almost every segment of the Manitoban population, and particularly with their wide lead in Winnipeg, the New Democrats would cruise to another majority victory if an election were held today.
In fact, because of the way the vote splits between the city and the rest of the province, the NDP's seven point lead is overkill. The party could easily win even if they trailed the Progressive Conservatives province-wide by a few points. This gives them a tremendous advantage in any election. As Winnipeg goes, so does the Manitoba legislature.

And with these numbers, the NDP would win 37 seats to 18 for the Tories and two for the Liberals, almost unchanged from the current breakdown. The NDP would sweep the north and win 25 of the 31 seats in the capital, while the Tories would win 14 of 22 seats in southern Manitoba.

Unlike in most provinces, though, both the Premier and the opposition leader have positive approval ratings. 
Greg Selinger's are actually quite outstanding for a sitting premier: he has the approval of 50% of Manitobans, compared to 29% who disapprove of him.

Pallister still has to become better known by Manitobans, as almost half of respondents were not sure of what they thought of him. But 33% said they approved and only 19% disapproved, an almost identical proportion to Selinger's numbers when the undecideds are removed.

Liberal leader Jon Gerrard, who is on his way out but will only be replaced in October 2013, had a more mixed result. While 33% approved of Gerrard, 35% disapproved and another 32% were not sure. But Gerrard has led the party since 1998 and has represented his riding since 1999. So far, no big names are lining up to replace him. The prospects of a Liberal revival in Manitoba, then, seem quite low.

And that makes the challenge Pallister faces all the more difficult. Though his party would undoubtedly also lose some of their supporters to a revived Manitoba Liberal Party, historically the NDP has been hit hardest by stronger Liberal numbers. Pallister needs to whittle down NDP support in Winnipeg if he is to win, and if the Liberals continue to slide in the province his chances of doing that will slide as well.