Well, that's one strategy for establishing your polling credibility: If you come up with a poll that other pollsters, bloggers and the usual complainers dismiss as an outlier, do another one that says the same thing.
That's what Forum Research Inc. of Toronto did yesterday, publishing a poll of Alberta voters' intentions that shows the Alberta Progressive Conservatives under Premier Alison Redford unchanged from its survey last month at 38 per cent committed support.
Yesterday's Forum poll also showed the far-right Wildrose Party up a startling six points to 29 per cent, leading the National Post newspaper, to which the poll results were provided first, to trumpet: "Alberta's Wildrose Alliance poised to take official opposition status in spring vote: poll." (It's nice to know it's not just me that still instinctively calls them the Wildrose Alliance; but then, I still call the Harper Cons the Reform Party.)
Regardless of that, Forum's latest survey of 1,077 Albertans who indicated they were over 18, which was done over the telephone on Jan. 17 using automated Press-Pound-if-You're-Undecided type technology, showed Alberta's other parties spread out behind in positions not dissimilar to those where they were in the company's Dec. 14, 2011, poll that aroused a certain amount of scoffing among the usual suspects, this one included.
To wit: Alberta Liberals 14 per cent (up from 12 per cent), Alberta NDP 13 per cent (unchanged) and Alberta Party 3 per cent (down from 6).
This latest Forum poll result suggests to this blogger two likely possibilities:
1) Forum got it right and was simply the first to pick up on a dramatic developing trend of growing support for the Wildrose Party that appeared in December.
2) There's something wrong with Forum's sample that is producing wildly different results from those of most other polling companies, which have put support for Redford and the Conservatives at around 50 per cent or better.
If these latest Forum poll results are accurate, they signify a very serious turn for the worse for the Redford Conservatives. If they are accurate, as noted here the last time Forum came up with numbers like these, they would mean that Conservatives are close to their historic low for support, and moreover that they are no better off under Redford than they were under Premier Ed Stelmach.
In addition, Forum's results would indicate that Redford is not experiencing any sort of honeymoon with voters. Indeed, Forum states in material accompanying its results that more Albertans approve of Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith than approve of Premier Redford.
Moreover, it would mean that Alberta voters have completely broken with their historic behaviour patterns and are not just acting in new ways, but in wildly new ways.
Well, anything's possible, one supposes, but the Conservatives sure aren't acting like a party that is in the dumper in the polls -- and you've got to think that they're polling like crazy right now. Nor does the population, if you listen to Albertans talking, sound like a group of people who are lo longer experiencing that honeymoon glow from their new premier.
"These findings show that the Progressive Conservative party is maintaining a strong base of support among Albertans," said Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff in the company's report. "Despite the strong support base, Premier Redford's approval rating remains low, while Smith and the Wildrose Party appear to be gaining some traction."
"It will be interesting," Bozinoff went on, "to see if this trend continues in the months to come." Yes indeed, it will be, and we should have an opportunity to get some insight into this very soon. There are reports that another poll of Alberta voter intentions has recently been conducted by a major national pollster, and that its results will be published shortly -- perhaps even later this week.
If that poll's results return to the pattern of most voter intention surveys before Forum entered the field late last year, it will be strong evidence that the Conservatives are on their way to another huge majority, the NDP is the most likely party to form the opposition and that something is indeed wrong with Forum's sample.
If its results show the same trend as do Forum's, well then, it's a whole new world in Alberta.
In the meantime, Forum's poll should help Smith deal with the expectations-management problem she must surely now have with her supporters, the result of persuading them for more than two years that the Wildrose Party was bound to form government whenever a vote was called.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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