Friday, November 15, 2013

Ball set to take over leading NL Liberals

Liberals in Newfoundland and Labrador will be choosing their new leader this weekend. The man or woman they select will take over a party that is leading by a wide margin in the polls less than two years before the next provincial election.

A new survey conducted by MQO Research for NTV between Oct. 22-26 and surveying 400 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by telephone found the Liberals well in front with 52.1% support among decided voters (margin of error of the entire sample is 4.9%, among the decided sample it is 6%). The governing Progressive Conservatives placed second with 28.7%, while the New Democrats dropped to 17.9% support. Other parties garnered 1.3%, while 32.3% of the entire sample was undecided, said they would not vote or would not respond to this particular question.

The numbers for the PCs seem in line with recent polls, part of a worrying trend for Kathy Dunderdale's government. The Liberals have been trending upwards for some time, but the NDP's score is the worst they have registered in any public poll since before the 2011 election. This is certainly a problem for them, but whether they have suffered a lasting blow remains to be seen. This poll was conducted in the midst of a leadership crisis in the party, when its MHAs demanded a test of Lorraine Michael's leadership. The crisis seems to have passed for the time being.

With these levels of support, the Liberals would easily form a majority government with 30 seats, compared to 13 for the Progressive Conservatives and just five for the New Democrats. The Liberals would win almost all of their seats west of St. John's, while the PCs and NDP would take most of their seats in and around the provincial capital.

The poll showed that Dwight Ball was the favourite candidate of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians among those in the race for the Liberal Party leadership:

Dwight Ball: 27.8%
Cathy Bennett: 21.8%
Paul Antle: 18.7%
Danny Dumaresque: 6.2%
Jim Bennett: 3.2%

The leftover proportion was undecided. The poll also suggested that Ball, Antle, and Cathy Bennett were all capable of defeating the Dunderdale government, as they bettered her on who would make the best premier. Jim Bennett and Dumaresque placed third, behind Dunderdale and Michael when they were inserted into the question.

Antle did better than either Ball or Bennett with 33% support against 32% for Ball and 30% for Bennett when stacked up against the other two party leaders.

But what does ThreeHundredEight's leadership endorsement rankings say? This system worked quite well in the federal leadership race for the Liberal Party. If we apply the same system, but swap the value of provincial and federal politicians, we see that Dwight Ball is the overwhelming favourite to win.
Ball leads in the endorsement rankings with 61.7% of all points awarded (at least according to the best of my scouring of the Wikipedia page for this race and the websites of each of the leadership candidates). Antle finishes second with 24.4% of the endorsement points, followed by Cathy Bennett at 7%, Danny Dumaresque at 4.5% and Jim Bennett at 2.5%.

Update (16/11/13): An intrepid reader alerted me that John Efford was a former MP as well as MHA, so his value (and the points for Dumaresque) have been increased from yesterday's post.

Based on Cathy Bennett's support in the MQO poll and the opinion of one of the journalists in Newfoundland and Labrador I quizzed on the race, she is likely to perform better than 7.1% of the leadership vote this weekend. But it seems very likely that Ball will come out on top, with Antle in second place.

(If I have missed any endorsements, please let me know and I will update this post.)

Update (17/11/13): In the first round of voting, the order of the candidates matched the leadership rankings, but as expected Cathy Bennett performed much better than 7%. The results were: Ball 44.4%, Antle 27.5%, C. Bennett 22.7%, Dumaresque 2.7%, J. Bennett 2.7%. The second ballot results were: Ball 47%, Antle 29.1%, C. Bennett 23.9%. The final ballot results were Ball 59%, Antle 41%. 

If Dwight Ball does win the leadership race, it seems unlikely that the party's support will change in the short term as a result. The Liberals started their uptick in the spring, and at that point the Corporate Research Associates were showing Ball polling ahead of Dunderdale on the leadership question. Surveys by Angus-Reid have shown strong approval ratings for Ball as well, with the latest poll putting him at 57% approval to just 23% disapproval. Compared to Michael's result of 63% approval to 22% disapproval and Dunderdale's woeful 20% approval and 73% disapproval in the early September poll, Ball seems well positioned to take over the Liberals.