It's interesting to juxtapose the results of two new polls on related but different topics that were released yesterday -- a Think HQ poll of Alberta voter intentions and an Environics poll of Albertans attitudes about taxes and public services.
If you believe them, the Think HQ numbers show support for Premier Alison Redford and her party alike falling through the floor.
Environics' results show extremely strong support among Albertans for a return to a progressive income tax, higher corporate and wealth taxes, and higher petroleum royalties.
Looking at the polls in more detail, the Think HQ survey indicates support for the far-right Wildrose Party has shot up to 38 per cent, leaving the Tories of Premier Alison Redford in the dust with the support of committed voters at only 26 per cent.
That would be a drop of 18 per cent since the PCs won a 61-seat majority on April 23.
The poll indicated the NDP had the support of 16 per cent of respondents, and the Alberta Liberals that of 13 per cent. (NDP support was concentrated in Edmonton, where it sat at 26 per cent, in a statistical tie with the Wildrose at 27.) The seatless Alberta Party posted 3-per-cent support.
According to Think HQ's analysis of the numbers, the PC election coalition that saved Redford's bacon in April is eroding from both ends of the political spectrum.
It tells something about the state of political reporting in this province that neither CTV nor the Globe and Mail bothered to report the NDP or Alberta Liberal provincial numbers in their first runs at this story.
The poll was even harsher on Premier Redford's personal popularity, indicating 58 per cent of respondents disapprove of her performance and 33 per cent approve.
By contrast, the spread of other leaders' ratings were much closer: Danielle Smith, Wildrose, 43 per cent disapprove, 46 per cent approve; Raj Sherman, Alberta Liberals, 40 per cent disapprove, 37 per cent approve; Brian Mason, NDP, 35 per cent disapprove, 40 per cent approve.
Think HQ's conclusions were based on a survey of 1,214 self-selected members of an "online research panel" between Feb. 12 and Feb. 16. The company says the poll has a margin or error of plus or minus 2.8 per cent.
Turning to the Environics numbers, 72 per cent of respondents said they favour returning to a progressive income tax and abandoning Alberta's so-called flat tax, a relic of the Ralph Klein era that is not flat at all, but blatantly favours the wealthy.
Environics said 78 of the poll's respondents favoured higher taxes on corporate taxes and taxes on high-income earners. The pollster also said 71 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that Albertans are not getting their fair share of royalty revenue.
Respondents identified several spending priorities, including creating a provincial strategy for long-term care for seniors (70 per cent in favour) and protecting publicly funded health care against for-profit health care (57 per cent).
Environics used a telephone survey of 1,014 adult Albertans from Feb. 14-24 and says the margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Now, anyone who has read this blog for long will know that I am not a fan of Think HQ's methodology and that I have more time for the polling methods used by Environics.
Since the on-line panels like Think HQ's tend to be drawn from the politically hyper-engaged, I don't entirely trust this one's conclusions. That is to say, I think it highlights an undeniable trend, but I seriously doubt Wildrose support has reached 38 per cent, or that Redford Tory support has plummeted to 26 per cent -- just yet, anyway.
If I were to guess, I'd put the support for both parties in a dead heat, probably in the low 30s. Who knows, support for the NDP might be even higher -- you have to be an eternal optimist to be an Alberta Knee-Dipper like me.
But whatever you think of Think HQ’s methods, the direction it has identified is clear -- and real.
The high level of support for public services, public programs and the taxes needed to pay for them identified by Environics are also real -- as anyone who talks to living and breathing Albertans knows.
It is said here these attitudes explain a lot about why Redford's winning coalition from last April is crumbling, at least on the left-hand side.
Both polls strongly suggest that Albertans aren't buying what Alison Redford is trying to sell. Both polls strongly suggest that plenty of Albertans are not happy about the fact she's not keeping her promises.
Given the political position most often taken by Alberta Diary, some readers will find this conclusion tendentious. Fair enough, I guess. Indeed, some non-Albertans may also find these two polls' conclusions contradictory.
Moreover, there's still plenty of time for the Redford Tories to pull their fat out of the fire again. Even the way her government handles this week’s upcoming budget on Thursday could make a big difference.
Still, it's said here that taken together the polls show the Wildrose Party's departed strategic guru, Tom Flanagan, got it right. To wit: If voters on the left abandon the Progressive Conservatives and return to their traditional political homes, the Wildrose Party has a chance to grasp the brass ring.
It's almost a shame that Dr. Flanagan, who celebrates his 69th birthday today, is not longer with his party to have his prescience acclaimed.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.