Political support for Alberta's Progressive Conservative party is dropping at a dramatic pace with a majority of respondents in a new opinion poll disapproving of Premier Ed Stelmach's leadership.
If an election were held today, the Tories would still lead with 30 per cent support, followed by the Wildrose Alliance with 22 per cent, according to the survey conducted by Return On Insight, a strategic research consulting company.
The Alberta Liberals would place third with 18 per cent support, followed by the Alberta NDP with nine per cent, and the Green Party of Alberta — which was deregistered as a provincial political party in July — with four per cent.
'Much of the disenchantment rests with the perceived lack of leadership by Premier Ed Stelmach.' —Bruce Cameron, pollster
About one in eight Albertans, or 12 per cent, said they were undecided, while five per cent mentioned other parties.
The survey of 802 Albertans was done between Oct. 2-7 by phone using a random dialing sample. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Among decided voters, the Tories received only 34 per cent support, compared to 64 per cent in January 2007, the poll found.
"The historic dominance of the PC party in Alberta is being threatened by a newly emerging three-way split in voter support between the PCs, the Liberals, who are holding onto their core voters, and the Wildrose Alliance, who are benefiting directly from the collapse in PC loyalty," said Bruce Cameron, the pollster behind Return On Insight.
Fifty-seven per cent — almost six in 10 Albertans — disapprove of Stelmach's performance. In comparison, Liberal Leader David Swann received a disapproval rating of 43 per cent.
Tories in freefall
"The party is in a virtual freefall in terms of public support and confidence," said Cameron, who said he is not a member of a provincial party.
"The difficult economic situation and the resulting budget deficits no doubt played a role in this decline, but much of the disenchantment rests with the perceived lack of leadership by Premier Ed Stelmach."
The Tories won 72 of 83 provincial seats in the March 2008 election, but the Wildrose Alliance captured Calgary-Glenmore — held by the Conservatives for 40 years — in a September byelection.
Paul Hinman, the Wildrose Alliance's only MLA, was sworn in on Wednesday.
Stelmach faces a mandatory party leadership review on Nov. 7, while the Wildrose Alliance chooses a new leader on Saturday.
The premier will be addressing Albertans about the recession in a televised speech on Wednesday evening, followed by a fundraising dinner for the party in Red Deer.