Most Alberta voters plan to cast a ballot, poll shows

Three quarters of Albertans plan to vote in the spring election and six in ten say it will come down to the issues, according to a new poll done for CBC News.

But voter turnout has declined in recent Alberta elections, pollster notes

Almost six in ten Albertans (56 per cent) say issues will determine who gets their vote in the coming provincial election, according to a new poll done for CBC News.

And nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of people surveyed say they intend to vote in the expected spring vote, despite a dismal 40 per cent turnout in the last provincial election in 2008.

But pollster Bruce Cameron of Return on Insight (ROI), who designed the poll,  believes many people overstated their intention to vote. 

"Voting is viewed a duty," he said.

Voter turnout, in fact, dropped twenty per cent in Alberta over the last twenty years.

Political Scientist David Taras says there's an abdication of responsibility for politics by a whole younger generation. (Mount Royal University)

Yet 53 per cent of eligible voters marked a ballot in the Calgary municipal campaign that propelled Naheed Nenshi to the mayor’s chair. 

Mark Gross voted in that election in 2010, but opted not to vote in last May’s federal election.

"I remember thinking I very much dislike federal politicians in the last federal election. I really didn't feel that any of the parties were speaking to me," the 30-year-old told CBC News. 

The transplanted Quebecer says he cares deeply about politics, having come of age politically during the 1995 sovereignty referendum in the province.

Unlike the recent federal election, Nenshi’s campaign of so-called ‘complete sentences’ captured Gross’ attention.

"I connected with him," he says.

And Gross attributes part of that connection to Nenshi’s sophisticated use of social media.

"I was excited. It had been long time since I was engaged by a politician ... so it was exciting to feel like you support a candidate."

Political scientist David Taras calls on-again-off-again young voters such as Gross ‘peek-a-boo’ citizens. 

"There is something very deep going on. There's an abdication of responsibility for politics by a whole younger generation," says Taras.

"They're open to the world. They're very liberal. In many ways, it's an outstanding generation and then on the other hand for elections or great public events, they don't show up. They don't see that part of the peek-a-boo," he adds.

Only 20 per cent of Albertans think the local candidate is the most important factor in choosing who to vote for, according to the ROI poll.

And even a smaller amount — just 14 per cent of voters — identified a politician's performance as a key factor in deciding how to vote.

Gross says he’ll wait to see if he votes in the coming provincial election. He says the politician who appears "authentic" may get his vote.

ROI’s poll for CBC News surveyed 803 adult Albertans from Jan. 25 to 31. It is considered accurate +/-3.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.