Leadership ratings and vote-switching

Two more polls have been released: Leger/Post Media and Forum Research/QMI. The former is a pre-election baseline (similar to the Ipsos and Think HQ polls released on Monday), and the latter was in the field on Monday evening. The Leger poll has similar numbers to the Ipsos one, so we can safely say the Wildrose are either tied with or slightly ahead of the PCs. The Forum poll is the outlier, as it has the Wildrose up by 10 points, which has not happened since Angus Reid said that in January 2010. That said, Forum did conduct theirs on Monday evening, whereas the other companies polled last week, so Forum may be the correct poll, as far as the horse race currently stands. However, enough people will discuss polling on the macro level today, so I want to discuss something else: leadership ratings and vote-switching. I use data from Leger, which can be found in the detailed tables in their press release.

I wrote earlier that Alison Redford and Danielle Smith are both intelligent and articulate leaders, but that the latter is more likeable, whereas the former is kind of mean. As it turns out, despite Smith’s charm, she is ranked below Redford on the question, “Who do you think would make the best premier?” The margin is thin, but if the PCs have difficulty building momentum, you expect them to personalize the election as a battle between Redford and Smith, not the PCs and Wildrose. What the ‘ballot question’ (i.e. what people reduce their vote decision down to) will be on April 23 will play a large part in determining who will be the premier: will Albertans vote for who they like, or who they think is the best leader? As an aside, I would not be surprised if the PCs have a series of “Danielle Smith: NOT a leader” ads in the hopper, especially since they have already used the second line from that ad (“NOT worth the risk.”) If these numbers  persist through the weekend, the PCs could ‘go negative’ as early as the start of next week.

Best premier:

Alison Redford 33%
Danielle Smith 28%
Raj Sherman 10%
Brian Mason 9%
Glenn Taylor 2%

The other set of numbers I want to mention are on vote switching from 2008 choices.

Vote switching from 2008 (decided voters)

2012 vote 2008 vote
PC 53%  – 17% 6%
WRP 42% 87% 14% 14%
ALP 3%  – 53% 6%
NDP 1% 9% 11% 63%

Loyalty amongst Wildrose and NDP supporters is the highest. That is expected, given that parties farther out from the centre tend to have more committed followers. It is also expected that the PCs have bled the most to the Wildrose. While the PCs stealing a big chunk away of support from the Liberals is interesting, it is not new. I am intrigued, however, by the 14% of Liberal supporters who have switched to the Wildrose. These voters are probably more motivated out of disenchantment with the government, rather than sharing ideological sympathies with the Liberals, and these voters probably switched after the Wildrose’s surge in Fall 2009, which was when the Wildrose became the de-facto opposition party. Even more intriguing are the 14% of NDP voters who are now with the Wildrose, though, given the even wider gulf between the NDP and Wildrose, I suspect this migration has similar motivations to the Liberal one. Finally, 11% of Liberal supporters in 2008 have moved to the NDP, showing that the Liberals are besieged on both sides.

Everyone is talking about the momentous nature of this election. Regardless of who the victor is, some degree of realignment of traditional political support patterns in Alberta will have happened. The nature and extent of that realignment will depend on the result. Expect vote switching to be discussed much much more both during the campaign and in the post-election analysis. This election will be one for the books.


About jbsantos
Polling, politics, PR and outdoor pursuits.

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