Smith and the UCP lag Notley and the NDP, new poll suggests


Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party (UCP) and its newly minted leader are lagging their main rivals in both vote intention and approval rating, according to new research from a communications and public relations firm. 

Navigator Ltd. released polling done in the first days of Danielle Smith’s tenure as UCP leader but before her first week as premier really kicked off. 

The data, collected Oct. 7-11, shows that the Albertans surveyed preferred Rachel Notley’s New Democrats to Smith’s party — 53 per cent of the current vote intention to 38 per cent, respectively.

The Alberta Party was a distant third, barely on the board with four per cent. Other parties made up five per cent collectively. Another poll conducted in a similar time frame by Leger placed support at 44 per cent for the NDP and 42 for the UCP.

The research indicates the UCP hasn’t seen a surge in support following the exit of Jason Kenney. Smith also isn’t enjoying any honeymoon period thus far. The poll showed only 22 per cent of people had a positive impression of her, compared with 47 per cent for Notley. 

“Not only are the NDP beneficiary to some of what’s going on and transpired in the last year with the UCP, our polling has clearly indicated that the infighting within the caucus of the UCP really had a significant drag on support for the party,” said Jason Hatcher, a managing principal with Navigator. 

“I think if that’s something that she can get the party singing from the same song book and demonstrate unity, I think that will really help that number.”

Of the 1,002 people surveyed, 82 per cent were aware of the Sovereignty Act — Smith’s proposal that could see Alberta refuse to adhere to any federal legislation or court rulings it deemed to be against provincial interests — but half were either strongly or somewhat opposed. Support was stronger in rural areas and lowest in Edmonton, with Calgary almost exactly in between. 

It also found people said they trusted Notley much more when it came to economic leadership abilities. That’s a departure from political trends in Alberta that typically see a strong economic message associated more with the UCP.

A University of Calgary professor said the two parties seem to be going in opposite directions.

“What we saw was an upward trend in assessments of the competence of the NDP to handle a whole bunch of issues, most notably health care, but also the economy. And a smaller but still present downward trend in assessment of competence of the UCP. So that, I think, is good news for the NDP and bad news for the UCP,” said Lisa Young, a political scientist at the university. 

Young and Hatcher said that with seven months until the next provincial election, approval ratings and vote intention are still very fluid. This round of polling was completed before the premier clarified her remarks about people who were not vaccinated being the most discriminated against group in her lifetime and before controversy over past comments she’d made about Russia’s war in Ukraine

Health care and affordability ranked as the top two issues among the respondents, followed by standing up against the federal government, other economic issues like job creation, and climate change. 

“This is basically a two-horse race, and it’s going to be between two leaders and two big personalities, frankly, who are well known in the province. Seven months is a long runway,” Hatcher said.

The survey of Albertans 18 and older and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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