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Latest Alberta poll shows Redford Conservatives with commanding lead

Alberta Premier Alison Redford, Dave Cournoyer Photo, used with permission

As predicted more than once in this space, a methodologically trustworthy public opinion poll has now been published that shows the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Alison Redford with the support of more than 50 per cent of the province's committed voters.

As argued here, even before the poll by Leger Marketing was reported in the Alberta media yesterday, numbers like this indicate the Redford Tories are on their way to another significant majority, as long as present trends continue.

A strong case can be made that the results of the Leger poll are much more likely to be a true reflection of current voter intentions in Alberta than a group of polls touted by Wildrose Party strategists and supporters that show the Conservatives near historic lows for support and Wildrose support brushing 30 per cent.

The Leger poll of 900 Albertans selected by random digit dialing, conducted by telephone between Jan. 13 and Jan. 18, yielded the following results for decided voters:

Progressive Conservatives – 53 per cent
Wildrose Party – 16 per cent
New Democratic Party – 13 per cent
Alberta Liberal Party – 11 per cent
Alberta Party – 2 per cent

Leger says the poll has a margin of error of 3.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The poll also indicates that 11 per cent of all voters were undecided.

Leger's question -- "if a provincial election were held today, for which political party would you be most likely to vote?" -- associated the party leader's name with each party in the list the questioner read. For example, "Glenn Taylor's Alberta Party" or "Danielle Smith's Wildrose Party."

These results reinforce a number of conclusions that have been argued before in Alberta Diary:

-    That the Alberta PCs have returned to historic levels of popularity since they selected Redford as their leader and premie

-    That Wildrose support has not improved significantly since long-time Tory supporters began returning to the Conservatives after former premier Ed Stelmach announced his intention to resign a year ag

-    That Alberta Liberal Party support continues to sag under the leadership of former Conservative Raj Sherma

-    That the Alberta Party has never managed to get on Albertans' political radar screens, and that what little support they had is evaporating as an election grows closer

The big question, as Leger Alberta Vice-President Ian Large was quoted asking by the Calgary Herald, "is who is going to be No. 2? Who is going to be the Opposition?"

It has been argued here that despite the Wildrose Party's No. 2 position in popular support, the NDP is more likely to form the official Opposition because splits in voter support in the Edmonton area where it is strong are more likely to favour it than the splits in the Calgary area where Wildrose support is strong by Tory support is overwhelming.

I would not be so bold as to suggest these Leger results support that argument -- at least not yet, until Leger provides a complete breakdown of its regional results. However, nor do they rule it out -- so that's my position, and I'm stickin' to it until persuasive evidence shows otherwise.

We now see the very interesting phenomenon of recent polls of Alberta voters' intentions sorting themselves into two groups, one that says the Tories have the support of about half of all voters and one that puts Tory support at 40 per cent or lower and indicates a corresponding boost in Wildrose support.

Which to believe?

Well, the three most recent polls that show strong Tory support -- Citizen Society Research Lab, Environics and Leger -- all used methodology considered to be sound by professional pollsters, telephoned questions over several days.

The three most recent polls that showed the Conservatives weaker and the Wildrose stronger -- two by Forum Research and one by ThinkHQ Public Affairs -- used methodology not considered to be as reliable, automated demon-dialers over a single evening in the case of Forum and a self-selecting on-line panel in the case of ThinkHQ.

This is not a guarantee that the polls in the first group got it right, or the polls in the second group didn't, but it leads a fair observer to such a conclusion. Certainly, back in 2008, online polls did not have a particularly good record for reliably predicting Alberta provincial election results.

Other conclusions from the Leger poll:

-    Satisfaction with the performance of Redford's government is very strong, at about 70 per cen

-    Redford leads dramatically among the number of Albertan who thought she "would make the best premier for Alberta" -- 32 per cent, versus 14 per cent for Smith, 7 per cent for NDP Leader Brian Mason and 6 per cent for Liberal Leader Raj Sherman

-    Two thirds of Alberta voters indicated their voting choice will not be affected by recent allegations of illegal donations made to the PC Party.

The mainstream media, of course, may soon forget the results of this poll because it does not favour the "horserace on the right scenario."

Some journalists, like Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid are sticking manfully to the journalistic dream of a right-wing slugfest. Things "will change the minute a campaign starts," Braid promised yesterday. "With Tom Flanagan running the show, the Wildrose campaign will likely be focused, smart and extremely tough."

True enough, with "Firewall" Flanagan at the helm, the Wildrose campaign is indeed likely to be tough -- spelled D-I-R-T-Y, as we have already seen -- but I don't doubt the Redford Conservatives have a few dirty tricks of their own up their sleeves.

Anything can happen in politics, of course, so don't bet the house and the Hawaiian holiday on any outcome until election day is a little closer!

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

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