Edmonton·Analysis

Kenney deemed winner of leaders debate, Vote Compass suggests

One political strategist says NDP Leader Rachel Notley focused too much on attacking UCP Leader Jason Kenney, and failed to convey successes of her NDP government.

A third of the 800 participants in online questionnaire identified Kenney as winner of Thursday's debate

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, left to right, Alberta Liberal Party leader David Khan, Alberta New Democrat Party leader and incumbent premier Rachel Notley and Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel greet each before the start of the 2019 Alberta Leaders Debate in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Codie McLachlan/Canadian Press)

Close to a third of Albertans felt UCP leader Jason Kenney won the leaders debate, according to the 800 people surveyed immediately following last Thursday's event.

The online questionnaire Vote Compass asked the question: "From what you saw, heard or read about the debate, who do you think won?" The 800 responses were recorded from April 4-5.   

Thirty per cent answered Jason Kenney, 23 per cent chose NDP leader Rachel Notley, 14 per cent chose Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel, and seven per cent chose Liberal leader David Khan.

The rest — about a quarter of respondents — said they didn't know.

Younger voters now a 'concern' for NDP

The NDP has been trailing in the polls behind the UCP since before the election call on April 16. Pundits and observers generally agree — the New Democrats would have to mobilize its base of young urban voters to tighten the gap.

However, in both the age categories of 18-25 and 35-54, more people felt Kenney won the debate than Notley.

With only a little more than a week left until Albertans head to the polls, political strategist Najib Jutt said the latest Vote Compass results spell trouble for the NDP.

"The NDP really struggled to talk about their accomplishments," said Jutt. "I think they are in trouble because people are just like, 'OK, enough already, can we just talk about ideas? You're not getting that through to us, so we're going to go with a guy who looks like he's going to win.'"

Focus group reactions split

CBC also checked in with members of its focus group immediately following the debate, and found their reactions split.

Some felt Notley overplayed her hand in attacking Kenney.

Jonathan Schonewille — a 37-year-old life insurance broker from Edmonton — called the approach "deplorable."

"I felt that it was really pathetic of Notley to use the word extremism so many times," said Schonewille. "If anyone is extreme, it's Notley for using that word, and everything associated with it, so many times during this debate."

Another focus group member, Cassandra Breton, said she was pleasantly surprised when Kenney switched to a more amicable tone at one point. For the 23-year-old environmental officer in Edmonton, it was the most memorable moment of the debate.

"Near the end when Jason switches gears a bit," said Breton. "When talking about education and comments on the good job Rachel has done instead of attacking."

A few participants said they were impressed with the leader of the Alberta Party Stephen Mandel.

"I was surprised with Mandel's passion," said Peter Mills, 69, a retired agrometeorologist from the northern Alberta town of Beaverlodge.

"On education, while most were arguing about where the money went, Mandel actually threw out the idea of increased numbers of EAs and was the one who raised the issue of post secondary."

Methodologies

Focus group:

Throughout the upcoming election cycle, we will be exploring the issues and concerns that matter to Albertans through a number of focus groups conducted together with Janet Brown Opinion Research. 30 Albertans, from across the political spectrum and around the province, are participating.

Vote Compass:

Developed by a team of social and statistical scientists from Vox Pop Labs, Vote Compass is a civic engagement application offered in Canada exclusively by CBC News. The findings above are based on 803 respondents who participated in Vote Compass from April 4 to April 5.

Unlike opinion polls, respondents to Vote Compass are not randomly selected. Vote Compass data have been weighted by geography, gender, age, educational attainment, occupation, religion, religiosity and civic engagement to ensure the sample's composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to census data and other population estimates.

Click here to find the detailed methodology.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Falice Chin

Executive Producer, CBC Ottawa

Falice Chin is the executive producer of news at CBC Ottawa. Before moving to the capital, she worked as the senior producer of the Cost of Living -- CBC Radio's national business and economics show based in Calgary. Her international work has appeared in the Financial Times, the National Post, Zacks Investment Research, mergermarket and elsewhere. falice.chin@cbc.ca

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