Alberta’s NDP have plummeted to third place and Premier Rachel Notley’s personal approval rating has plunged just nine months after sweeping the Progressive Conservative Party from power, according to a new poll.
A Mainstreet Research/Postmedia poll of more than 3,000 Albertans this week shows the NDP have just 27 per cent popular support among decided voters — trailing the Wildrose at 33 per cent and the PCs at 31 per cent.
Mainstreet President Quito Maggi said the NDP and the premier are apparently suffering fallout from the global collapse of oil prices that has created a gaping hole in provincial revenues.
“Now that we’re a full year plus into these historic low oil prices and the impacts on both public coffers and personal finances is being fully felt, I think a lot of the blame is being directed at the government — rightly or wrongly,” Maggi said.
“It’s just how people are reacting.”
The survey suggests that while the NDP is still strong in the provincial capital, with 48 per cent support, it has only half that in Calgary and even less support — 22 per cent — in the rest of Alberta.
The Wildrose support sits at 18 per cent in Edmonton — trailing the New Democrats and Tories — but they lead in Calgary with 32 per cent backing, and hold 38 per cent support outside the two cities.
The PCs jumped more than 10 percentage points from a low of 20 per cent in November. The Tories have only 20 per cent support in Edmonton, but drew 29 per cent in Calgary and 35 per cent in the rest of the province.
“The big story here is the return of Alberta’s PC party,” said Maggi. “There’s nothing they’ve particularly done in the last few months that stands out. This is movement based on disappointment with the NDP government.”
The Alberta Liberal Party and Alberta Party held relatively steady at five per cent support and four per cent respectively.
Notley’s approval rating has been in a free fall since the May election, dropping from more than 60 per cent to 36 per cent this week. She still has 44 per cent support in Edmonton, but only 22 per cent in Calgary and 17 per cent in the rest of Alberta.
She still has strong backing from her party with 77 per cent of NDP supporters strongly approving of her leadership (and another 21 per cent somewhat support her) but Notley’s overall disapproval rate among all Albertans is higher than her approval rate — 57 per cent to 36 per cent — for the first time.
“Those who like her, love her,” noted Maggi.
Political analyst Chaldeans Mensah said the NDP haven’t been showing the leadership people were expecting when they voted the party into power.
He said the NDP began leaking support when it pursued ideological pet projects and failed to advocate strongly for the resource sector.
“I think the Wildrose and PCs are benefiting from concerns about the NDP’s economic management,” said Mensah, an associate professor of political science at Edmonton’s MacEwan University.
“The NDP for a long time was trying to find its footing. They didn’t take hold of the economic difficulties that the province was facing. They just let circumstances overtake them.”
However, Mensah said the NDP will have a chance to take some pragmatic steps to address the crisis in the upcoming budget.
“A lot more has to be done,” he said. “We’ll see how Rachel Notley’s government handles this fiscal challenge.”
The poll also shows most Albertans — 60 per cent — support the NDP decision not to change oilsands royalties, and 56 per cent believe the NDP should offer incentives to the energy industry to promote drilling, exploration and jobs.
Mensah said the decision not to tamper with royalty rates was brilliant.
“Rachel Notley deserves credit for endorsing that position,” he said. “It reflects the pragmatic view of the importance of the resource. It’s up to her to carry on this level of popular support into other arenas.”
Maggi said despite the NDP fall in popularity and the plummeting popularity of the premier, it’s too early to write the party off.
He said opinions can change swiftly if the price of oil rebounds even partly.
“There’s a great deal of goodwill generally for this government and this premier,” he said. “I think people are seeing there is action being taken — or at least they’re hopeful conversations will lead to action.”
Mainstreet surveyed 3,092 Alberta residents through automated phone calls on Wednesday. The margin of error is about plus or minus 1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Regional margins of error are about three percentage points.
NDP drop to third place in a recent poll | Calgary Herald