Indecision reigns as N.B. vote nears: poll
Last Updated: Monday, September 20, 2010 | 9:49 AM ET
Nearly half of New Brunswick voters say they're still uncertain which party they will support in the Sept. 27 provincial election, the largest poll conducted to date suggests.
In a survey jointly commissioned by CBC News and the francophone daily newspaper L'Acadie Nouvelle, 1,005 New Brunswickers were interviewed late last week on their voting intentions.
Among the total poll sample, the largest group — 40 per cent — said they haven't decided who will get their vote. That number swamped the 24 per cent who said they have decided to vote for David Alward's Progressive Conservative Party and the 19 per cent who say they intend to vote for Shawn Graham's Liberal Party.
Rounding out the survey, five per cent of respondents said they intend to vote for the NDP, three per cent for the Green Party and one per cent for other candidates.
One per cent said they do not intend to vote, and six per cent refused to disclose their choice.
When the undecided voters are excluded from the sample, the PCs have a 10-percentage-point lead with 47 per cent, against the Liberals' 37 per cent support. The NDP has nine per cent support, and the Green Party five per cent. The smaller sample size increases the poll's margin of error.
CRA asked voters who have not made up their mind what parties they were leaning toward voting for in the Sept. 27 election.
When decided and leaning voters are combined, the Tories hold a 44 per cent to 38 per cent lead over the Liberals. The NDP stands at 11 per cent, and the Greens have six per cent support.
Don Desserud, a political science professor at University of New Brunswick Saint John, said the number of people calling themselves undecided is now higher than it was at the start of the campaign, which rarely happens.
"We've had the debates, people have seen the signs, the platforms are out and the TV commercials have been on," he said Sunday. "I'm very surprised to see the undecided this high this late."
The large number of people calling themselves undecided is more than double the figure pollsters were recording at the same point in the 2006 election. In that contest, three separate polls conducted within 10 days of the vote put the number of undecided voters between 14 and 19 per cent.
Virtual dead heats
The last two New Brunswick provincial elections have been virtual dead heats, with Liberals and Conservatives finishing within one percentage point of each other in the popular vote.
The poll raises the possibility of any number of outcomes this time, and Desserud says the poll contains worrying news for all five parties contesting the election.
"It's obvious to me they [voters] are angry with one party — the Liberal Party, the government party, which is almost always the case in an election — but they're not warming up to the others," he said.
"They haven't found their champion or a place they feel comfortable. They don't seem to like their choices. To me it raises the very real possibility many of these people will decide not to vote at all."
Leaders more popular than parties
The poll was more definite on voter preferences for party leaders, where all five men proved to be more popular than their parties.
David Alward was named the preferred choice for premier by 30 per cent, followed closely Shawn Graham at 28 per cent — a result well within the poll's margin of error. Well back were the NDP's Roger Duguay at nine per cent and the Green Party's Jack MacDougall at six per cent.
Kris Austin, the leader of the newly formed People's Alliance of New Brunswick, was the preferred choice as premier by two per cent of those surveyed, even though the party itself registers no support. Fourteen per cent said they were undecided.
The survey was conducted by Corporate Research Associates between Sept. 15 and 18 with 1,005 New Brunswick voters. The results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.