Poll Position, Part I

Since this poll was published last week, most interested parties probably already know about it. But there’s still a few of pertinent points to be gleaned out.

  1. Getting Kelly Lamrock out of the education portfolio, replacing him with a far less stubborn minister, Roland Hache,  and reversing (for the most part) cuts to school support staff seems to have pulled Graham’s Liberals out of an almost-certain death spiral. The premier’s chair has to be a little more comfortable considering this is the first quarterly poll since March 2008 which has not seen a drop in Liberal support. The party, though, needs, not only to better define its vision and its path to self-sufficiency, it also needs no make itself likable again – Graham’s government has alienated quite a few voters over the last three years, and will need to expand its base over the next 9 months to feel comfortable during the election campaign.
  2. David Alward and the PCs can oppose all they want, and good on them for doing so. Their health critic, Margaret Ann Blaney, has been far more visible on the doctors’ wage freeze controversy than Health Minister Mary Schryer, and the party as a whole has vehemently fought most of the changes and cuts carried out by the government. The problem they have – and that many New  Brunswickers have with the Progressive Conservative Party – is that they don’t seem to have any answers, they don’t seem to have a plan. Nobody really expects that cutting taxes deeper and not cutting services at all (it’s an oversimplification, but not by much) will help New Brunswick get through the recession any better.  The PCs have been spending the summer going across the province, supposedly finding out from New Brunswickers hat their priorities are. It remains to be seen if these priorities will be well reflected when the party releases its policy this fall.
  3. Good golly, are things looking up for the NDP. While I’ll explain in a minute why their 22% support isn’t really 22% support, and also while the NDP reached these lofty heights between elections under Elizabeth Weir’s leadership, this poll marks a full recovery for a party which achieved barely 5% of the vote in the last election. If these numbers hold until the election campaign, the NDP has a very good chance of returning to the legislature with one or two seats. And if the new NDP government in Nova Scotia runs a tight (and popular) ship for the next 12 months, things should only continue to look up for the NDP in this province.
  4. For me, though, the most important number in these polls is the percentage of undecided voters: 43%. That number is not reflected in the much-publicized percentages, mainly because undecided votes usually split close enough to the figures for decided voters that it hardly makes much of a difference. Then, however, you get elections like this province had in 1999. At the election call, Camille Theriault’s Liberals had a huge lead over the Bernard Lord’s reeling PC’s, but there were still a large number of undecided voters. Lord thoroughly dominated the stagnant Liberals, the undecided vote practically all broke in the PCs’ favour, and the Tories romped to their greatest electoral success ever. With that in mind, here’s my breakdown of the poll, with the undecided voters factored in. All possible errors in math are my own, but the numbers should work out.

Party……………………………..% of decided vote………………………% of all polled

Liberals……………………………………41………………………………………23.37

PCs………………………………………….35………………………………………19.95

NDP…………………………………………22………………………………………12.54

Undecided…………………………………0………………………………………..43

These numbers really speak to bedrock support, the kind of political support that likely won’t wane before the next election. Any party that wants to win the next election will have to take at least half of that undecided number. It’ll be a treat to see how these numbers move in three months.

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