David Alward’s Progressive Conservatives continue to be the most popular political party in New Brunswick, despite a tightening political landscape, according to a new Corporate Research Associates poll.
Among decided voters, 38 per cent of respondents are picking Alward’s Tories as their preferred party to lead the province.
Don Mills, chairman and CEO of CRA, said the Progressive Conservatives drop of six percentage points in the last three months, is in line with what other provincial governments are facing in the Maritimes.
"Each of them are under great pressure from a very, kind of, grumpy population in each of the provinces," said Mills, "basically because of a tough economic situation and the need to do tough decisions related to their own fiscal challenges."
Meanwhile the New Democratic Party saw its support rise by five percentage points to 24 per cent.
Despite the increase in the NDP's popularity, the Liberals remained in second place with 32 per cent support, according to the CRA poll."Frankly it's interesting that we notice, right across the region, that the rise of the NDP has really taken place since the Jack Layton impact of his national party," said Mills, "Another thing we're noticing, that's quite interesting, is that there's starting to be a movement to consider third parties in a more serious way."
New Brunswick's three main political parties are now separated by 14 percentage points in a province that has not always been kind to third parties. The NDP has not had a seat in the legislative assembly since 2005.
The NDP won 10 per cent of the popular vote in the 2010 election but it still could not break through in a riding.
New Brunswick’s smaller political parties continue to draw minimal support. The Green Party registered six per cent and the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick remained at zero per cent for the third straight quarterly poll.
The number of undecided voters is 44 per cent.
Corporate Research Associates polled 400 New Brunswickers between Aug. 14 and 31. The margin of error is 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
While the Progressive Conservatives are finding themselves dipping in the polls, the Alward government’s popularity is remaining consistent.
The number of respondents who are completely or mostly satisfied with the Alward government was 47 per cent in August, a small increase from the May survey.
The number of people who are completely or mostly dissatisfied with the government dropped to 44 per cent.
The Alward government's overall support level has been below 50 per cent since February 2012. The CRA poll reported the Alward government enjoyed 57 per cent support in November 2011.
Mills said it is too early to say what that means for Alward but, "we haven't seen an incumbent government get elected without at least 50 per cent satisfaction."
The CRA poll also showed Alward’s personal popularity is starting to slip.
While he is still the most popular political leader, the number of respondents picking him as their top choice for premier sank to 33 per cent from 37 per cent.
Interim Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau was picked by 18 per cent of respondents as the best person for premier.
The Liberals are holding a leadership convention at the end of October to replace Boudreau.
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy was the preferred choice of 15 per cent of those polled.
Meanwhile, the Green Party’s interim leader, Greta Doucet, was picked by six per cent and People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin received one per cent.
By comparison, seven per cent of those polled picked none of the above as their top choice for premier and 20 per cent said they did not know.
The Green Party is electing a new leader in September.