Jim Prentice

The latest version of a regular Alberta poll, which was conducted in late May, shows the Wildrose Party far in the lead with 41 per cent of committed voters.

Significantly, the arrival in the Progressive Conservative leadership race of presumed heir apparent Jim Prentice doesn’t seem to have made much difference yet to the foundering governing party’s fortunes. With only 24 per cent of committed voters, the Tories continue to lag the Wildrose Party led by Opposition leader Danielle Smith significantly, according to the online survey of 1,470 Albertans carried out between May 20 and 25 by ThinkHQ Public Affairs.

Prentice officially joined the race by submitting his nomination papers on May 16, but his intention to run was well known long before that.

The Alberta New Democrats held the loyalty of a healthy 17 per cent of the province’s committed voters, according to the results of ThinkHQ’s “Eye on Alberta” poll, a copy of which has been obtained by Alberta Diary. This is a shift of 7 per cent from the NDP’s vote share of 10 per cent on April 2012.

Given the geographic concentration of the NDP’s vote in the Alberta Capital Region around Edmonton, this suggests the New Democrats could emerge as the official opposition after the next provincial election if these patterns hold.

The Liberals held 14 per cent of the vote province-wide. The Alberta Party has the support of 3 per cent of committed voters.

These numbers are significant in that they clearly indicate all three opposition parties are holding their core support — which is not good news for the PCs under whoever emerges as their new leader, because the party only survived under Alison Redford in 2012 by persuading NDP and Liberal voters, plus many who had been contemplating casting a Wildrose ballot, to switch back to the Tory Mothership.

The ThinkHQ survey indicated the Wildrose leads in all regions of the province, often dramatically — with committed support at 44 per cent in Calgary, 32 per cent in Edmonton, 40 per cent in the north, 52 per cent in the central region and 48 per cent in the south. (In rural areas with towns and cities broken out, the Wildrose leads by 64 per cent province-wide, the poll says.)

The Tories were a distant second in all regions expect Edmonton, where the NDP is No. 2 at 27 per cent, compared with the PCs’ 17 per cent.

Likewise, the Wildrose Party leads among all age groups, and among both men and women, with the PCs a distant second in all categories except under-35s, where the NDP is second at 24 per cent to the Wildrose’s 37 per cent.

Disapproval of the government’s performance is massive, according to the survey — 74 per cent, compared with approval ratings of 18 per cent.

Throwing in the different PC leadership candidates doesn’t do much to improve the Tories’ popularity — at this point in the PC leadership contest, anyway.

While the poll indicates Prentice — the former banker, lobbyist and federal cabinet minister — still enjoys overwhelming support compared with the other candidates among committed PC voters, “Prentice as leader wouldn’t necessarily make PCs immediately viable,” said pollster Marc Harvey in his analysis.

Tying the candidates’ names to provincial vote intentions in a mock ballot for a future general election yielded the following results:

–    With Mr. Prentice as leader — Wildrose 41 per cent, PC 27 per cent, NDP 16 per cent, Liberal 13 per cent, Other 3 per cent

–    With former Calgary city councillor and infrastructure minister Ric McIver as leader — Wildrose 45 per cent, PC 20 per cent, NDP 16 per cent, Liberal 15 per cent, Other 4 per cent

–    With former labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk as leader — Wildrose 47 per cent, PC 16 per cent, NDP 16 per cent, Liberal 18 per cent, Other 4 per cent.

As for Lukaszuk’s positive impact on the potential Liberal vote … go figure!

Other interesting findings from the ThinkHQ May poll include the suggestion 64 per cent of Albertans have reached the conclusion that 43 years in power is too long for one party.

In addition, as Henry wrote in his analysis, Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock has been “a reasonably benign caretaker” for the PC Party, with the Conservative vote inching back up under his leadership from a low of 19 per cent last March, largely at the expense of the Wildrose Party.

The PC leadership race, Henry said in one of the slides in which this report was delivered, is “changing the channel” from former premier Alison Redford, “but ‘reincarnation’ (of the) PC party not assured.” He described the PC brand as “very resilient but very wounded.”

The poll also showed Smith’s job performance was approved of by 47 per cent of respondents, and disapproved of by 38 per cent. This compared to Hancock’s   approval rate of 32 per cent and disapproval rate of 37 per cent. (That was a far cry, however, from the 75-per-cent disapproval rate Ms. Redford was getting toward the end of her leadership.)

Retiring NDP leader Brian Mason had an approval rate of 39 per cent, and a disapproval rate of 34 per cent, while Liberal Leader Raj Sherman had an approval rate of 36 per cent and a disapproval rate of 39 per cent.

Of course, some caveats must accompany any report of a poll based on ThinkHQ’s online methodology.

As noted in Alberta Diary’s coverage of the last ThinkHQ poll, there is a potential for selection bias in any online panel and according to many polling experts online panels should not publish margins of error, implying more statistical validity than such a poll can really claim. ThinkHQ does regardless, saying the margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 2.6 per cent.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...