Support for Manitoba PCs drops during pandemic, poll suggests

Manitoba’s governing Progressive Conservatives have lost support from people in the province over the last three months, and are now in a statistical tie with the province’s New Democratic Party, a new poll suggests.

3 months into pandemic, Conservatives statistically tied with NDP: Probe Research poll

A new Probe Research poll suggests that Manitoba's governing party has lost support from Manitobans in the last three months. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Manitoba's governing Progressive Conservatives have lost support from people in the province over the last three months, and are now in a statistical tie with the New Democratic Party, a new poll suggests.

The Probe Research poll asked those surveyed which party's candidate they would vote for if an election were held tomorrow and how they would rate Premier Brian Pallister and his party's response to the pandemic.

Support for the PCs among Manitoba voters who are either leaning toward a certain party or who have already decided who they would mark their ballot for dropped five points (down to 38 per cent) compared to the last Probe Research poll done in March.

In an interview on Saturday, Mary Agnes Welch, a partner of the market research firm, was surprised the Tories are down, especially in Winnipeg, where it is typically crucial to win suburban ridings that can swing the vote to form government.

"That is what's happened in this round of polling, is that the premier's numbers have dropped, you know, quite significantly in the city, and that's a red flag. That is danger zone," she said.

Meanwhile, more than one-third of Manitobans (or 36 per cent) would now back the provincial NDP — a three per cent jump since March.

The poll suggests the NDP leads over the PCs in most areas of seat-dense Winnipeg (with 44 per cent support compared to 25 per cent), with the exception of the southeast part of the city, where the two parties are statistically tied.

Support for the Manitoba Liberal Party went up four percent (to 18 per cent) since the last poll, while support for the Green Party went down one percent (to 14 per cent). In Winnipeg, the Liberals have 21 per cent support and the Greens have 8 per cent, the poll suggests.

Fourteen per cent of Manitoba voters surveyed are still undecided, the poll suggests.

Public weighs in on Manitoba's COVID-19 response

More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents strongly or somewhat approve of the Manitoba government's efforts to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, with rural Manitobans, people over age 55 and non-Indigenous people most likely to praise the response.

On the other hand, six in 10 (61 per cent) approve of the government's response to the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus, with a much sharper divide between residents in Winnipeg and those living outside the province's capital. Winnipeggers are less likely to approve of the government's work on this front, the poll suggests.

Welch said one of the reasons is Pallister and his governing party have been focused on keeping costs low and the provincial budget in check by not opening up the province's bank accounts to redistribute the wealth.

"This would be the time we would expect our provincial government to be a little looser with the purse strings, and the premier has stubbornly refused to do that," she said.

The poll suggests there are critical differences of opinion depending on party preference. The majority of those who would vote for the NDP or Liberals approve of the government's response to public health, but only one-third (33 per cent) of NDP supporters and one-half (51 per cent) of Liberal supporters give high marks.

About nine in 10 PC supporters praised the way their preferred party dealt with public health and economics.

A new poll suggests support for Premier Brian Pallister, pictured in front of his Progressive Conservatives' party banner at an Aug 28, 2019 election campaign announcement in Winnipeg, has dropped since the beginning of the pandemic. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Prof. Royce Koop, who heads the University of Manitoba's political studies department, expects to see popularity drop when a government turns to austerity measures and threatens to make bigger cuts than it actually makes.

"The question wasn't whether or not they were going to lose popularity, it was how bad the loss was going to be, and this poll seems to demonstrate that it's quite substantial," he said.

Koop said the government has a plenty of time to bounce back and "open up the taps" given the next election is years away.

The Probe Research survey, which was conducted for the Winnipeg Free Press, surveyed a random and representative sampling of 1,000 adults living in Manitoba between June 2 and June 11. In addition, 221 randomly recruited Probe Research panel members were included in the general population adult sampling.

With that sample, the poll says with 95 per cent certainty the results are within +/- 3.1 percentage points of what they would have been had Manitoba's entire adult population been surveyed.

The poll used modified random digit dialing and included landline and mobile numbers. A live-voice operator randomly recruited people by telephone, inviting them to take the survey through a secure online questionnaire.

Minor statistical weighing was applied to the sample to make sure age and gender characteristics properly reflect known attributes of the province's population.

With files from Caitlyn Gowriluk and Sam Samson


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