A new poll suggests that support for the Manitoba Liberals is fragile and dropping, but it is the Progressive Conservatives, and not the New Democrats, who stand to benefit most.
The Mainstreet/Postmedia survey, published Thursday morning, shows the PCs holding the lead with 50 per cent support among decided and leaning voters, compared to 24 per cent for the New Democrats, 17 per cent for the Liberals, and 9 per cent for the Greens.
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Among all respondents, 22 per cent reported they were undecided, unchanged from Mainstreet's previous poll of March 29.
Voter support, however, has shifted significantly.
Brian Pallister's PCs picked up five points from that earlier poll. The Liberals have shed seven points — virtually all of it in Winnipeg, and almost all of it going to the Tories.
In the provincial capital, the PCs were ahead with 46 per cent support against 29 per cent for the New Democrats and 16 per cent for Rana Bokhari's Liberals. The Tories have gained six points in the city since March 29. The Liberals dropped nine points.
There was less movement in the rest of the province, where the Progressive Conservatives hold a wide lead. The PCs were pegged at 55 per cent support outside of Winnipeg, trailed by the Liberals at 20 per cent and the New Democrats at 16 per cent. None of the variations here since Mainstreet's last poll were outside of the margin of error.
Liberals have least committed supporters
The poll hinted that more changes in voting intentions could be in store as the campaign enters its final stages.
(We might also see some significant differences from the polls on election day, as about a tenth of Manitobans will not have a Liberal name on the ballot, and half will not have the opportunity to vote for the Greens. That potentially orphans five to seven points' worth of support that is currently parked with these parties.)
The Progressive Conservatives have the most committed supporters, with 83 per cent of them calling their support of the party 'strong'. Only 63 per cent of Manitobans intending to vote for the New Democrats said the same thing, while that dropped to 51 per cent among Liberals.
If the Liberals retain only their 'strong' supporters on voting day, they could find themselves with almost the same level of support that they had in 2011 when they won a single seat.
NDP struggling to woo voters
The prospect of a further slide in Liberal support might seem like good news for the NDP. But the poll suggests that Greg Selinger's party is unlikely to gain disproportionately from a Liberal drop.
One-third of Liberal voters said they were not sure what their second choice would be, but 30 per cent selected the Progressive Conservatives and 26 per cent chose the NDP. In other words, the Tories are likely to gain as much as the NDP does if the Liberals lose any more support.
The PCs and NDP are unlikely to swap many voters, however. The poll found that a majority of New Democrats and a big plurality of Tories said the Liberals were their second choice. That does give some hope to Bokhari that her party could gather up some of the fence-sitters on the NDP and PC sides.
But the momentum at this stage of the campaign seems to be clearly running against the Liberals. This is the second consecutive poll from Mainstreet that shows a drop of Liberal support in Winnipeg, where the party has its best chances of winning seats.
The narrative going into this election was that the New Democrats needed to see the Liberals off if they were to have any hope of holding on to power. But with the PCs benefiting most from this latest Liberal slide, this poll indicates the conventional wisdom may not be so wise after all.
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The poll by Mainstreet Research was conducted for Postmedia on April 5, 2016, interviewing 1,844 adult Manitobans via interactive voice response. A probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.