Monday, March 3, 2014

Steep drop in support for Redford and Alberta Tories

New numbers from a Léger poll for the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal show the Alberta Progressive Conservatives suffering a significant drop in support since the fall. But that is nothing compared to the fall in approval ratings experienced by Premier Alison Redford.

Léger was last in the field in mid-October, when the Tories and Wildrose were in a very tight race. But since then, the PCs have dropped by six points to just 25%, while Wildrose has increased by five points to 38%. These shifts would be statistically significant with a probabilistic sample of this size (the poll was done online, however).

The Liberals were down two points to 16%, while the New Democrats were up one point to 15%. Support for the Alberta Party stood at 3%, while 2% of Albertans said they would vote for another party. Of the entire sample, 24% was undecided.

These are horrible numbers for the Progressive Conservatives. They have now dropped in four consecutive Léger polls going back to January 2013, when the party was at 40% support. The score of 25% is the worst the Tories have managed in any poll since November 2009. Wildrose has been the major beneficiary, though it should be pointed out that since April 2013 the party has been polling in a relatively tight band of between 33% and 38% support.

The Tories dropped primarily in Edmonton, where they were down seven points to just 19% support. Wildrose was up seven points to 29%, followed by the NDP at 27%. The Liberals, down six points, were tied with the PCs for third with 19% support.

In Calgary, Wildrose led with 41%, while the Tories were down to 28% and the Liberals were steady at 18%. The NDP had 7% support in the city.

In the rest of Alberta, Wildrose increased to 44% and the Tories dropped to 29%, expanding the gap between the two parties by 10 more points. The Liberals and NDP were at 12% and 10%, respectively.

Due to a very inefficient vote in the two major cities, the PCs would be reduced to third party status with these levels of support. Wildrose would win a majority with 58 seats, virtually sweeping Calgary and the rural parts of the province. The Liberals would win 11 seats, 10 of them in the two main cities, while the NDP would win nine seats, almost all of them in Edmonton. The Tories would be reduced to just nine seats as well, generally divided between the three regions of Alberta.

(Yes, we all remember the results in 2012. But the model performed well when the actual numbers were plugged into it - in other words, if Léger's poll matched an election's results exactly, these seat estimates would turn out to be quite close to the actual result. A two-seat margin between the Liberals and PCs/NDP, however, is hardly decisive.)

The major problem for the Progressive Conservatives appears to be Redford herself. Her approval rating (Léger last inquired about this in September 2013) dropped 12 points to just 20%, among the worst numbers put up by a sitting Alberta premier in recent memory. Her disapproval rating was up 12 points to 64%, and just 35% of PC voters from 2012 said they approved of her performance. That is ghastly.

Danielle Smith of Wildrose had an approval rating of 39%, with her disapproval rating dropping four points to 33%. Among Wildrose voters, her approval rating was 85%.

Raj Sherman of the Liberals had an approval/disapproval rating of 29% to 28%, with Brian Mason of the NDP enjoying a 32% to 23% split (the best net rating of the four leaders). Among their 2012 voters, Sherman's approval rating was 68% and Mason's was 78%.

But Redford is not less popular than her party (among decided respondents, her approval rating was 24%) so it is unclear if her resignation would change things. It is clear, however, that she is a big reason for the dramatic decline in support for her party over the last year. In a little more than 12 months, she has lost almost two out of every five supporters. And the timing is certainly bad, as Smith and Wildrose move more towards the centre-right. Unless Redford can somehow turn things around, or if she is replaced by someone that can give the Tories new life (difficult after 43 years in office), the stars may be aligning for a change of government at the next election. And then, one assumes, we can expect several decades of Wildrose dominance. That is just Alberta's way.

32 comments:

  1. I think pollsters polling Alberta need to start asking questions about how committed supporters are to the party they are supporting. In the last Alberta election it seems like small, but significant, chunks of both Liberal and NDP supporters moved to the PCs at the very last minute to avoid a Wildrose win, and a large chunk of Wildrose supporters seem to have moved as well. If pollsters had been asking questions to determine how committed the supporters were, that might have helped with seeing the eventual outcome coming, or at least being aware that a swing of such incredible magnitude was coming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that is a good suggestion TS. Alberta also has very low turnout provincially and federally. 57% turnout in 2012 (an almost 50% increase from 2008 when turnout was 40%). I think the drop in the Wildrose support between the last polls and election day is likely attributable to a weak WR ground game and get out the vote effort and the bump in PC support the result of a well honed ground game.

      Delete
    2. Keep in mind, also, that the 2012 election happened immediately following a long-weekend in which only one pollster was active. And that pollster (Angus Reid) did capture the beginnings of that swing.

      It's not that the polls were wrong - it's that the voter intention changed quickly at the end of the campaign.

      Delete
  2. Absolutely. Though it might not be too useful this far out from an election.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By the way, Eric, I'm four chapters into Tapping Into the Pulse. As a New Democrat it's hard to re-live the polling collapse of last year, but I wanted to let you know that I think you've done an excellent job with the book.

      Delete
  3. I'm not convinced that the Wildrose party is likely to form a new dynasty. There's a few reasons I think that:
    1 - Many WRP voters are not terribly committed to the party, just see it as the most viable party with which to park their "time for a change" vote with. I'd be surprised if centrist voters keep supporting a far right party once they're had a term or two of "change."
    2 - The WRP aren't really a change in dynasty. They're mostly made up of former PCs that felt that party was drifting too far left. Many of the faces that will form cabinet are familiar old faces, and it won't turn out to be as much of a change as their voters were hoping.
    3 - Redford's popularity problem largely stems from making nobody happy. In the last election a centre/centre-left coalition emerged to keep her in power. Instead of catering to this new coalition, she's spent the time since the election trying to woo back the right-wing vote by slashing programs. People in the centrist coalition would be much more forgiving of a $45k trip to South Africa if it wasn't the same year that funding had been reduced for universities, and the perpetual refrain of "no money for urban priorities like LRT."
    4 - The WRP are further right than the PCs, and I don't see that that's actually the direction that Alberta voters are moving. Certainly, the under-representation of urban voters pushes the seat count further to the right, but there's a good reason why Alberta has super popular centrist mayors, and an extremely unpopular right-wing premier: it's because the urban electorate would rather see programs they care about funded, even if it means higher taxes. The WRP will not make this segment of the electorate happy, even if they're getting votes from them right now just because people are fed up with the PCs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The old canard that rural Alberta voters are overrepresented just isn't true. As of the last census, Calgary and Edmonton proper (not their metro areas) had 52.4% of the province's people and 50.6% of provincial seats.

      Delete
    2. Metro Edmonton and Calgary account for 65% of Alberta's population which is roughly their seat total in the 87 seat Legislature. Still something is very odd if Metro Edmonton has 2 more seats than Metro Calgary especially since metro Calgary has 100,000 more people.

      Alberta politics writ large has a problem with graft as Redford's expensive plane trips demonstrate. Redford did nothing illegal or morally wrong (she worked with Mandela) but, it leaves the perception of using the public's money as her own (she could have taken a much cheaper flight from South Africa but didn't want to wait 2 hours for the PM).

      As someone who has dealt with the Alberta Government in the past my opinion is that there exists a parallel civil service within the PC party. If you want something done go to PC conventions and talk with the local PC M.L.A. or candidate. If one goes through "official channels" it will take much longer and the chance of success less certain.

      I somewhat disagree urban Albertans are willing to pay more tax. Property taxes in Calgary and Edmonton are very low compared to other major Canadian cities (I would argue this is the reason not lack of provincial funding Edmonton can not afford additional LRT lines). Edmonton does not plow their streets in Winter because of the cost! It seems to me urban Albertans are just as averse to taxation as Alberta in general.

      Delete
    3. Yah, definitely think this is more of a corrupt-not corrupt spectrum than a left-right spectrum. Also a competent-incompetent spectrum. The Wildrose are only up by 4% actually - the PCs are bleeding as much on the left as they are on the right.

      Delete
    4. Regarding Wildrose not being a change in dynasty - wasn't that also largely true of the swing from Socred to Tory in 1971?

      Delete
    5. The cost of plowing the roads in Edmonton is prohibitive. Edmonton is a large, sprawling city, with long hard winters and very few thaws. Plowing the snow there would cost a ton of money, and with the city's limited topography away from the river valley plowing would have less benefit than it would in a city like Calgary (which is quite hilly, by comparison).

      Delete
    6. Typical Edmontonian trying to argue against a service that's essential in every other part of Canada.

      Delete
    7. Ira,

      Edmontonians have designed a high cost city due to sprawl, I have nothing charitable to say about the place. It is completely their own choice. Calgary does plow their roads very effectively as do other Canadian cities that have cold Winters, though perhaps not as cold or long as Edmonton. Edmonton could plow the roads but, don't want to pay the requisite taxes as a result their roads are worn away every Winter by gravel creating large pot holes and dangerous driving conditions year round, not to mention the high cost of road repair and the traffic congestion that ensues as the building season is very short. Edmontonians choose money over safety in my opinion and that is their loss.

      Delete
    8. According to the Wikipedia pages, Ottawa has winters about as cold as Edmonton, and we get much more snow. We manage to plow the roads (more or less...).

      Delete
    9. "More or less" is pretty much right and then you go up the Valley !!

      Delete
    10. Those centrist (or leftist) mayors aren't new. Before Nenshi, Calgary had Bronconnier. And before Bronco, there was Duerr. Calgary's been electing centrist mayors for decades. Even Ralph was arguably a centrist mayor (my father certainly thought he was, which is why he didn't support Ralph for the Tory leadership).

      Delete
  4. Which seat do you see going Liberal in the "rest of Alberta?" One of the ones in Lethbridge?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think its extremely, extreme difficult to try to accurately poll Alberta politics. I live in Alberta. Albertans are a fickle bunch, and are very much an unpredictable electorate, in the way of trying to predict how they will vote just prior to an election. For instance, in 2012, all the polls coming out showed that the Wildrose would absolutley crush the PC'.s This didn't happen. Wildrose swept southern Alberta and barely gained a foothold in the city of Calgary.

    And in 1993, it was also predicted with almost certainty that Ralph Klein would lose to Decore's Liberals. The LIberals, too their credit did extremley well in Edmonton and parts of Calgary, winning 32 seats(still the largest opposition caucus formed in Alberta history). But the LIberals came up short and The PC's only lost a few seats.

    Everyone underestimates both how fickle the electorate is; as well as Albertans loyalty to the PC dynasty even when the government's polling numbers plummet.

    Moreover, though I am not a PC voter and never will be. It is amazing to see how the PC party is able to, over and over again, reinvent itself in time for the next election. If Premier Redford is unable to turn her fortunes around, she might just find herself tossed a year from now, in time for a new leader to be chosen, take the helm, take on the Wildrose in the next election and have a good chance of winning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would say that Albertans represent the least fickle electorate in the country... How many parties have been in power there since 1971? In fact, your examples support that assessment - very time someone thinks Albertans might opt for another party, they fall back on the Old Guard.

      Delete
  6. The reason that Metro Edmonton has more seats than Metro Calgary is because there are about half a dozen seats where a small portion of those seat could be be considered on the fringe of Metro Edmonton, but much of the territory of those ridings are a long way away from downtown Edmonton. Also Saint Albert and Ft. Saskatchewan are part of Metro Edmonton.

    These kind of ridings will help decide who wins the next election.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The census Metro Edmonton area incorporates all adjacent communities and counties (and has 100,000 fewer people than Calgary's CMA but, 2 more seats). To include communities that border the outer edge of the Edmonton census metropolitan area (CMA) is very suspicious, if not down right bizarre. I suspect it has more to do with the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry than any objective rendering of urban or metro area. Edmontonians are still slightly bitter that Cow Town surpassed them as the largest city in Alberta. Hopefully, Edmontonians can take comfort that both their and Calgary's NHL teams are equally bad.

      Delete
  7. Quebec election campaign begins

    Election next month

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pauline Marois triggers April 7 election today

      Delete
  8. This sounds about right... I was one of those folk who ordinarily doesn't vote PC but did last time on the strength of what I thought were Alison Redford's centrist credentials and a desire to keep Wildrose out of power. I now regret that decision... since then Redford has done little except pander to the right-flank of her party, antagonize unions, and irritate people with episodes like the Mandela funeral expenditure.

    If I were a betting man I'd bet that fairly broad coalition that delivered electoral victory to her last election isn't going to come out for her again.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What is the base reason of most of the in-coming migration to Alberta??

    These are mainly people who are weary of over-taxing Nanny regimes in their home provinces and can't believe how relatively well-run Alberta is.

    They will join the established base that will always vote for smaller government and less taxation.

    Let Nieshi raise the property taxes to 80% of the property taxes of Winnipeg and he would have the same approval rating as Redford.

    In a report produced for the Real Property Association of Canada the taxes paid on $1000 of residential assessment

    Winnipeg 12.73
    Halifax 12.22
    Ottawa 12.21
    Montreal 9.75
    Toronto 7.71
    Edmonton 7.68
    Calgary 6.17
    Vancouver 4.05



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nobody moves to Alberta because of low taxes! People migrate to obtain a job or family reasons. Alberta's economy is about 90% oil and gas related to the US market and I note the "low taxes" have not produced a diversified economy as one would hope to achieve. The migration we see in Alberta is almost all related to the ability to find work which in turn is primarily driven by oil and gas development. While it is true Alberta has very low royalty rates royalties in an economic sense are better described as "rent" not a tax.

      Secondly, as we see in your chart above, Alberta does not have the lowest taxes in Canada, they are middle of the pack. In terms of income tax Alberta's 10% flat tax rate is higher than most people pay in both Ontario and British Columbia. In other words unless a single person in Alberta makes $80,000+ per year they pay more tax in Alberta than they would in Ontario or BC so, most Albertans would be better off if they lived in Ontario or BC since, average provincial income is $78,000.

      Having spent much time in Alberta over the last 5 years I do not think the Province is particularly well run. The Mazankowski Cardiac Centre sat vacant for a couple years because they could not afford the equipment to "populate" the hospital. Who spends half a billion to build a hospital but, forgets to budget for equipment? As I have mentioned before Edmonton can not afford to plow their roads in Winter or build needed LRT lines. This tells me that the mill rate (property tax) is too low to sustain Edmonton and Edmontonians will be forced either to cut services, raise property taxes or forgo needed infrastructure or go into debt.

      Delete
    2. That part that I find amusing is that the so called socialist mayor of Calgary actually can basically double the property tax ... the ones that he directly controls, to reach the same level as Ottawa.

      What the heck does the city of Ottawa do with the extra tax revenue?


      My point is that there never has been a socialist mayor in Calgary and never will.

      Delete
    3. Alberta votes the same way most oil+gas petro-states do, these days. Texas or Wyoming, for example.

      How that vote is? It's more than slightly complicated. People usually stereotype it as right-wing, but that's not really accurate. It tends to have a strong "social credit" tendency too.

      This is not the same dynamic which happens in states and provinces which aren't petro-states.

      Delete
  10. What did the study look like for the two St. Albert ridings?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One can estimate the mill rate simply by dividing house price by taxes paid. This will not be exact but, if you do it 3 or 4 times then average the results you should have a reasonably accurate picture.

      Delete

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.