When the Alberta legislature isn’t in session — which, as we all know, is almost all of the time — political junkies are forced to look elsewhere for their fixes. From time to time, a polling firm comes along with a poll, which is like crack to those who follow politics. I mean, we just can’t get enough of polling. So we owe a debt of thanks to Environics for giving us something to obsess over now that the exhausted Tory government has gone home to lick its self-inflicted wounds for a few months.
The Environics poll, released Monday, has all sorts of stuff to chew on, some of it unexpected. Take, for example, support for the Conservatives.
The poll, of 1,000 Albertans, was taken at the height of the health care crisis, when every day brought new revelations of the shocking ineptitude of the governing party. The whole Raj Sherman fiasco was in full flower as well. So, one would assume that support for the Tories would be falling.
Not so. PC support was at 34 per cent, which is exactly what it was in the Environics poll of Oct. 2009… and March 2010… and April/May 2010. If we look back at the Lethbridge College poll of October, we see the Tories were at 36 per cent province-wide. Do you sense a trend?
It’s beginning to look like PC party support is settling in at a rock solid 34-36 per cent. Yes, that’s a long way from the 52.7 per cent the party got in actual votes in March 2008, but that was, and remains, a rather unexpected and unexplained freak of nature.
It’s quite amazing to me that the Tories — particularly in light of what is almost universally seen as the worst session any Tory government has had in years, if not ever — would retain so much support. It looks to me like the PCs can count on an unwavering 34-36 per cent, no matter how incompetent they are.
There is good news for the Wildrose Alliance, which is now up to 32 per cent, the highest support they have had in the last four Environics polls. That is also substantially above the 24 per cent support in the Lethbridge College poll. So, things are looking rosy for the Wildrosers, at least for now. With increased support comes increased scrutiny. With the media having anointed the Wildrose as the unofficial official opposition, they will become more of a target once the honeymoon between the media and the Wildrose ends.
The Liberals, however, can’t find much to be happy with here. They ARE the official opposition, the second largest party in the province, and the clear no. 2 in recent elections. But Environics puts their support at 19 per cent, down four per cent from April/My 2010, and down from the 20.7 per cent in the Lethbridge College poll. With a government struggling, Albertans should be looking to the traditional no. 2 party. But they’re not. Even in Edmonton, the Liberal stronghold, support fell seven per cent, to 24 per cent.
Where is the Liberal support going? It appears some may be going the New Democrats’ way, with their support at 13 per cent, their fourth consecutive increase. Their support is still fairly puny, but it’s better to be going up little by little than down little by little.
The Alberta Party didn’t even register, but I have a feeling that support is for them is bubbling beneath the surface. They just had a well attended policy conference, and constituency organizations are popping up across the province. I think they’re one charismatic leader away from becoming a factor.
Of course, polls are just snapshots. Things change, and change rapidly, in politics. But it’s beginning to look like the PC and Wildrose and duking it out for the majority support of Albertans, with everyone else left to pick up the scraps.