With less than a week to go, Manitoba's election remains Brian Pallister's to lose

The Manitoba Poll Tracker suggests Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservatives are on track for another majority government.

The polls have been few and far between, but they point to an advantage for the Progressive Conservatives

Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservatives are leading by a wide margin in the polls ahead of next week's Manitoba election. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

With under a week to go in Manitoba's provincial election campaign, the vote remains Brian Pallister's to lose — suggesting that the PC leader's gamble to send Manitobans to the polls a year early could pay off.

According to the CBC's Manitoba Poll Tracker — an aggregation of all publicly available polling data — the Progressive Conservatives hold a significant lead over Wab Kinew's New Democrats, with 43.6 per cent support compared to 30.9 per cent.

The Liberals under Dougald Lamont trail in third with 14.5 per cent, while James Beddome's Greens stand at 8.9 per cent.

The Poll Tracker estimates that if these levels of support are replicated on the Sept. 10 election day, the PCs would likely win between 28 and 41 of the province's 57 seats. That puts them almost entirely over the 29-seat threshold required for a majority government.

The best guess is that the PCs would win around 37 seats, only three seats fewer than the party won in 2016.

The NDP would win between 10 and 27 seats (or 17 as the best guess) and the Liberals between two and five. The Greens are also in the running to win a seat.

One caveat with these numbers from the Poll Tracker, however: polling in this Manitoba election campaign has been relatively light. Only two polls have been published since last week's leaders' debate, and the latest was out of the field before the Labour Day weekend. (A Mainstreet poll was also conducted earlier in August.)

Nevertheless, those two surveys — conducted by Probe Research for the Winnipeg Free Press/CTV and by Research Co. — suggest Pallister is heading into the final stretch in a strong position.

PC edge in Winnipeg

Both polls gave his party a double-digit lead over the New Democrats. Most significantly, they also put the PCs ahead of the NDP in Winnipeg.

The size of that lead varies a great deal, with Probe putting the gap at just one percentage point and Research Co. putting them ahead by 10. But it is impossible to imagine an NDP victory if the party is unable to win in Winnipeg — Probe even put the PCs either tied with or ahead of the NDP in every part of the city, with the exception of the downtown core.

The Poll Tracker estimates the gap in Winnipeg to be about four points for the PCs. The party is also ahead by 28 points in the rest of the province — where the PCs are likely to win some 20 seats, putting them most of the way toward a majority government.

That's not to say that Pallister is popular. But the polls suggest he is popular enough to win an election, particularly when voters report mixed views about Kinew. Both Probe and Research Co. put Pallister's approval rating at 40 per cent, with between 47 and 54 per cent of respondents disapproving of the PC leader. 

But Kinew's numbers were not much better. Probe put his approval at 41 per cent, against 43 per cent disapproval, while Research Co. suggested the divide was 33 per cent approval to 46 per cent disapproval. At best, it's a wash for Kinew — he doesn't appear to be boosting the NDP against an unpopular incumbent.

Research Co. shows Pallister is preferred over Kinew on the three top election issues as identified by poll respondents: health care, crime and the economy.

Liberals, Greens not gaining steam

Neither the Liberals nor the Greens have gathered much momentum, according to these polls. The Liberals have maintained their support somewhere in the mid-teens over the last few months, just about even with where they were in 2016.

The Greens have scored either eight or 10 per cent in the three latest polls published during this campaign — a number they may struggle to match on election night as they are not running a full slate of candidates. In 2016, when the Greens had a candidate in only about half of Manitoba's ridings, the party was generally polling around seven to nine per cent. On election night, they ended up with just five per cent.

There will be more polling published between now and election day. The Manitoba Poll Tracker will compile and aggregate those numbers, as it did in 2016. The last set of results will provide some more clues as to whether Pallister's gamble will truly pay off on Tuesday.


Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.


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