Two new polls suggest that the Saskatchewan Party's position is improving as the province's election campaign continues into its second week.
The CBC Saskatchewan Poll Tracker now pegs the Saskatchewan Party to hold the lead with 56.1 per cent support, a gain of just under three points since last week's update. The New Democrats have slipped about two points to 32.7 per cent, while the Liberals and Greens trail with 7.3 and 3.2 per cent support, respectively.
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If an election were held today, this would likely deliver between 44 and 50 seats to the Saskatchewan Party, with the New Democrats taking between 11 and 17. This is a slight increase for Brad Wall's party since last week.
The new polls, conducted earlier this week, were published on Wednesday and Thursday and showed results with similarities, but some differences, too:
- The poll by Insightrix Research gave the Saskatchewan Party the lead with 61 per cent support, with the NDP at 29 per cent, the Liberals at 6 per cent, and the Greens and Progressive Conservatives at 2 per cent apiece. Compared to a previously unpublished Insightrix poll conducted a week earlier, this represented a gain of four points for the Saskatchewan Party.
- The poll by Mainstreet Research for Postmedia had the Saskatchewan Party ahead with 53 per cent, followed by the NDP at 35 per cent, the Liberals at 8 per cent, and the Greens at 4 per cent. Compared to Mainstreet's survey from a week before, the Saskatchewan Party was up two points and the NDP down two points.
The shifts in support in the Mainstreet poll were not statistically significant, but the positive trend line for the Saskatchewan Party matched the one in the Insightrix poll.
Nevertheless, after showing some growth last week, the New Democrats still remain in a better position than they were before the campaign began.
But the disparity between the two polls — one showing a margin of 32 points between the two parties and the other pegging the gap at 18 points — is difficult to explain. The primary culprit seems to be the very different results in the rural parts of the province. Insightrix suggests the Saskatchewan Party has about 67 per cent support in the region, while Mainstreet puts the party at 54 per cent. The NDP's support stood at 22 and 32 per cent in the two polls.
This difference could have an impact on the identity of the potential winner in as many as five seats. But with the Saskatchewan Party currently projected to have an edge of 33 seats over the New Democrats, the practical impact is minimal.
A close race in Regina, or not?
Last week, the Mainstreet poll suggested the race was getting tight in Regina, putting the two major parties in a tie. Insightrix agrees, giving the Saskatchewan Party a narrow one-point edge over Cam Broten's New Democrats at 44 to 43 per cent.
However, Mainstreet's latest poll puts the gap between the two parties now at nine points, 48 to 39 per cent. This shift was the main reason behind the widening gap it recorded provincewide between the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP.
The two polls agreed on the state of the race in Saskatoon, however, where the Saskatchewan Party remains favoured.
The numbers held steady in Mainstreet's poll at 55 per cent for Wall's party and 39 per cent for Broten's. Insightrix put the two parties at 56 and 34 per cent, respectively.
Social media's impact
The Mainstreet poll found that the kind of offensive remarks on social media that have already cost the NDP four candidates has an impact on voters.
According to the survey, 59 per cent of respondents said that offensive remarks on social media would make them less likely to vote for a candidate, while just 23 per cent said it would have no effect. In addition, 72 per cent of Saskatchewanians said that it was very or somewhat important for a candidate not to have made embarrassing or offensive remarks on social media.
In the end, though, what matters most is the party and its leader. Insightrix found that 73 per cent of respondents agreed that party policy and a party's stance on issues had a great deal of impact on their vote. Just over half said the leader of the party had the same effect. The local MLA, however, had a great deal of impact for just 24 per cent of voters in Saskatchewan.
But in some close races — and the Poll Tracker estimates that as many as 14 ridings could be decided by 10 points or less — even that could make the difference between winning and losing.
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The poll by Insightrix Research was conducted between March 14 and 16, 2016, interviewing 801 eligible voters in Saskatchewan via the Internet. A probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
The poll by Mainstreet Research was conducted for Postmedia on March 15, 2016, interviewing 1,577 eligible voters in Saskatchewan via interactive voice response. A probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.