UCP and NDP tied as Alberta voters sour on government direction, poll suggests

A year and a half after forming government, the United Conservative Party (UCP) finds itself in unfamiliar territory — tied with Alberta's NDP Opposition, according to a new poll.

Angus Reid Institute poll suggests former UCP support is being siphoned by alternative choices

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley and Premier Jason Kenney would find themselves tied heading into an election were it to be held shortly from today, according to the result of a new Angus Reid Institute poll. (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press)

Nearly a year and a half after forming government, the United Conservative Party (UCP) finds itself in unfamiliar territory — tied with Alberta's NDP Opposition, according to a new poll.

The poll by the Angus Reid Institute, which surveyed Alberta adults between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1, found that 38 per cent of those surveyed said they would support the UCP "were an election to be held tomorrow" — the same percentage who said they would support the NDP.

For the UCP, that's a drop in support of 17 percentage points from its performance in the election last year.

"This is an indication that Albertans are not feeling entirely impressed with the job that the UCP government, the [Jason] Kenney government, has been doing," said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.

"[Voters are] prepared to start looking elsewhere were an election to be held in a short period of time from now."

The UCP crushed the NDP in the April 2019 election, taking 63 of Alberta's 87 seats and 55 per cent of the popular vote. But the new poll suggests some of the UCP's support is starting to bleed to other parties.

Among voters surveyed, nine per cent indicated they would support the centre-right Alberta Party, while seven per cent said they planned to support the Independence Party of Alberta. Eight per cent indicated support for other parties.

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While 30 per cent of the UCP's former support has been lost to other parties, the poll suggests the NDP has held on to 96 per cent of its support from 2019.

"What we see is a continuing rock-solid level of support for the Opposition NDP, and what that does is put both parties in a tie at the moment," Kurl said.

"The saving grace right now for the Kenney government, is that there is a lot of miles and a lot of journey to go before Albertans face another election."

The UCP continues to have the support of a majority of voters aged 55 and over, but trails among younger voters, the poll suggests.

"Most notably, 55 per cent of 35- to 54-year-olds voted for the UCP in April of last year, compared to just 35 per cent who now express this intention," the institute said in its release.

The poll shows the NDP with 38 per cent of the voter intention among this age group.

Among 18 to 34 year olds, the NDP leads by a wide margin, with 47 per cent support compared to 29 per cent for the UCP.

There's also a big gender split in vote intention. 

Men continue to prefer the UCP by a wide margin — 41 per cent compared to 29 per cent for the NDP — while women are significantly more likely to support the NDP — 47 per cent versus 35 per cent for the UCP.

A CBC News-Road Ahead poll conducted in late May suggested 46 per cent of Albertans said they would vote for the UCP, while 36 per cent said they would vote for the NDP — numbers that mirrored a similar survey in March.

However, a May Research Co. survey suggested 56 per cent of those canvassed said the province would be better off without Kenney in charge.

The Angus Reid Institute said its online survey was conducted among a representative randomized sample of 599 Alberta adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Government handling of issues

Months into the pandemic, the Alberta government has found itself juggling precarious back-to-school plans, a still unstable economic recovery and a protracted dispute with local doctors.

The new poll from the Angus Reid Institute suggests Albertans largely remain skeptical about the success of those initiatives.

Among issues surveyed, 56 per cent of Albertans think their provincial government has done a "good job" handling COVID-19, compared to 77 per cent of Canadians from other provinces.

The poll also suggests the majority of Albertans disapprove of how the province has performed in regards to health care. Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro and the province's doctors have been involved in a bitter months-long dispute over pay.

Thirty-six per cent of Albertans approve of the government's performance on health care, compared to 52 per cent of Canadians from other provinces.

Albertans also feel less positively about how public education is being handled compared to the rest of Canada, with 35 per cent approving compared to 45 per cent nationwide.

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The poll also suggests 38 per cent feel the government has done a good job handling the economy, as the province tracks toward ending the current fiscal year with the largest deficit in its history.

But despite the myriad challenges facing the provincial government, Kurl cautioned that the UCP is still relatively early into its mandate — and governments frequently do struggle, particularly early on.

"Jason Kenney is a seasoned, experienced politician," Kurl said. "But I think if we just take a snapshot of where voters are right now, where Albertans are right now, they're in a place where they're not exactly enthralled with the job that this UCP government has been doing."