Nenshi has big lead over closest contender in Calgary's mayoral race, new Forum poll suggests

A new poll by Forum Research puts incumbent mayoral candidate Naheed Nenshi ahead of challenger Bill Smith by 17 points — a major departure from results put out so far by another polling firm.

Researchers 'felt compelled' to release Calgary-specific data from larger project ahead of municipal election

Mayoral candidates, from left, Naheed Nenshi, Andre Chabot and Bill Smith. (CBC)

A new poll by Forum Research puts Calgary's incumbent mayoral candidate Naheed Nenshi ahead of challenger Bill Smith by 17 points — a major departure from results put out so far by another polling firm.

"In contrast to what the other polls are saying, I think our data are showing [Nenshi] has a pretty decent chance come election day," said Michael McGregor, a professor of politics and public administration at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Nenshi, who was first elected mayor in 2010, and then re-elected in 2013, is the first Muslim mayor of a large North American city.

The Forum poll was different from typical political polls, in that it asked more questions and was conducted over a longer period of time, offering a less precise snapshot in time of voting intentions just before an election.

Ryerson, the University of Calgary and numerous other universities across the country commissioned the survey as part of a larger project looking at municipal governments in eight cities across Canada.

McGregor said group members decided to release the Calgary-specific data now because they felt it was relevant to the city's public discourse ahead of Monday's municipal election.

Earlier Friday, Mainstreet Research released the third and final of three polls commissioned over the past few weeks by the company that owns the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald.

All three of those polls showed Smith leading Nenshi.

"There's been a few of us that have been a bit surprised by the results of some other polls, and we did not set out to conduct a poll in Calgary. We're doing a project for other reasons," McGregor said.

"But polls are important, right? So we thought, well, we have some data. Why not share it?"

Among respondents who plan to vote, the Forum poll found 49.8 per cent support Nenshi compared with 33 per cent who support Smith.

Andre Chabot had 4.1 per cent support while 12.5 per cent of respondents were undecided.

Results of a Calgary poll conducted by Forum Research for a group of Canadian universities as part of a larger project on municipal governments across the country. (The Canadian Municipal Election Study)

McGregor noted Nenshi's leads are largest among young voters and female voters, results which "are more in line with what I would expect."

"Part of the reason we felt compelled to release some of these results is we understand the power of polls," he said.

"Polls don't just describe what's going on; they can affect what's going on.... We know this affects all sorts of behaviour including strategic voting or turnout."

The poll was conducted between Sept. 28 and Oct. 12.

Respondents were recruited by phone through random digit dialing, and the survey, itself, was conducted online, with a sample size of 843 randomly selected Calgary voters.

The data was statistically weighted by age and gender, and the results are considered accurate within 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

"We really want to make sure that electors in Calgary have as much information as possible because this is important," McGregor said.

"I'm not going to go out there and say, perhaps like some other people have said, that this is how the election is going to be. I will say that this is, I think, a good indication of how the electorate feels about the candidates."