Calgary

Why some undecided voters are still undecided

It's been a few days since Albertans got to see the major party leaders duke it out on live t.v., but without a knockout punch some voters are still deciding who they're going to vote for.

Polls suggest as many as one in five of us are still undecided, a pool of votes that is still up for grabs

Members of the CBC election focus group say they are still undecided heading into the final week of the provincial election campaign. From left; Jeff Lasher of Edmonton, Danielle Low of Lethbridge and Stephen Carlton of Calgary. (Submitted)

It's been a few days since Albertans got a chance to see the major party leaders duke it out on live TV, but without a knockout punch some voters are still deciding who they're going to vote for just eight days before the provincial election.

Stephen Carlton is one of 30 Albertans taking part in a CBC election focus group. The 56 year old underemployed oil and gas consultant heaped praise on UCP leader Jason Kenney for showing what he described as "empathy," during the leaders' debate. 

"It also seemed to me that he was human in this debate, he was sweating a little bit," Carlton said half-jokingly.

He says Kenney showed "a little bit of emotion and a little bit of empathy."  

"I think he came off better than my expectations of how he was going to come up," said Carlton. 

But that doesn't mean Carlton is set to throw his support behind the two year old party. For him, it comes down to who is best candidate in his riding (Calgary-Edgemont), regardless of which banner that candidate is carrying.

"It's important for me to know what each of the individual candidates are like," said Carlton.  And that is still a work in progress.

"I'm still very much sitting on the fence"

Another undecided voter is Jeff Lasher, a 33 year old loans officer from Edmonton. 

He voted for the NDP in 2015, but he doesn't know yet which party will get his support next week.

"I'm still very much sitting on the fence," he said. 

An issue for him is which party will be able to provide the most job security and stability for people working in the oilpatch. 

The industry now provides half of the Lasher family's income and he wants to make sure he supports the party that best supports the industry.

"Our livelihood could very well sit with whether there is going to be government support in that industry and how highly touted the UCP has been in terms of wanting to promote and protect that industry."

"That's what's causing me to be in the undecided category right now," Lasher said. 

Lasher and Carlton are part of a group of Albertans that make up as many as one in five voters who still don't know which way they're going to vote.

According to a poll published by Research Co. last week and posted on the CBC's poll tracker, 22 per cent of those asked were undecided. 

Debate may have muddied the waters

John Santos, with Janet Brown Opinion Research, says while the April 4 leaders' debate may have lacked a few sharp jabs and uppercuts, it may opened some voters' eyes to the fact that there are other parties to consider — including the Alberta Liberals and the Alberta Party.

He says Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel told the audience (and voters) that his party is a viable option and they don't have to simply choose between either the UCP or the NDP. 

Santos says while Mandel didn't offer a lot of policy detail, "he did try and stay above the negativity that Notley and Kenney were lobbing at each other." 

He says the Liberals' David Khan pointed out his experience working with indigenous groups related to resource development and touted his party's economic policies.

Santos describes the undecided voters as moderates who are neither left nor right on fiscal issues but are socially progressive.

Undecided up grabs

"That's a group of undecided voters that are up for grabs," said Santos.

He says there's another group of voters that leans conservative on economic issues but are not conservative at all on social issues.

"I think these people, they're disappointed with Rachel Notley's record on the economy, but they look at Jason Kenney and say 'I'm not sure," he said. 

Santos sees that as an opportunity for the Alberta Liberals and Alberta Party to pick up some votes.

"These fiscal conservatives and social progressives are not buying what Rachel Notley is selling and they're looking to park their vote somewhere else or just stay home."

But Santos says there's only a handful of seats at play for the third and fourth parties — but there is an opportunity for them to make some gains.

Danielle Low, also a member of the CBC focus group, seems to agree with Santos.

"The one person who kind of surprised me was Stephen Mandel," said Low. 

The part-time teacher from Lethbridge — who voted NDP in 2015 — was hoping to get more information about the Alberta Party's policies during the debate.

But she's left the door open to at least considering an alternative. 


Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at bryan.labby@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.

About the Author

Bryan Labby

Enterprise reporter

Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at bryan.labby@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.