Liberal lead shrinks as Tories gain, CRA poll says
New Brunswickers head to the polls on Monday
Liberal Leader Brian Gallant is clinging to a nine-point lead ahead of Monday's provincial election as the Progressive Conservatives have managed to chip away at the lead.
The Corporate Research Associates poll had the Liberals with the support of 45 per cent of decided voters followed by the Progressive Conservatives with 36 per cent and the NDP with 11 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Green Party had six per cent and the People's Alliance had two per cent.
Don Mills, the chairman of Corporate Research Associates, said on Twitter his poll shows the Tory support is coming at the expense of the expense of the NDP.
"There has been a bit of change in support for a couple of the parties that has benefited the PCs over the last couple of weeks of the campaign," he said.
"As people get nearer to the actual vote, it looks like they are returning to the traditional parties that tend to govern New Brunswick."
Mills said the nine-point Liberal lead is not "insurmountable" for the Tories, but he said "it is still a big gap with only three days left in the campaign."
Mills also said his poll suggests the Liberals have a strong lead over the other parties in northern New Brunswick. He said the support levels are "very close" in southern New Brunswick.
CRA's telephone survey polled 485 people between Sept. 15 and 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error for decided voters is 5.4 percentage points.
The number of undecided voters climbed to 18 per cent in the latest survey from 14 per cent in August.
Mills said the drop in support for the NDP is likely a result of people returning to their traditional parties.
"The NDP tend to do better in between elections and when it comes time to vote for the NDP, people tend to back off," Mills said.
This is a real fight to the finish compared to what I think had been the very simple narrative for months that this was going to be a cake walk.- J.P. Lewis, UNB
The latest poll shows a tightening from CRA's previous survey that was released on Sept. 2.
In that previous poll, the Liberals were selected by 48 per cent of decided voters as their preferred party, followed by the Tories at 29 per cent, the NDP at 17 per cent, the Green Party at four per cent and the People's Alliance at two per cent.
J.P. Lewis, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, said the poll shows there is tremendous volatility in the electorate even at this late stage in the campaign.
"This is a real fight to the finish compared to what I think had been the very simple narrative for months that this was going to be a cake walk." Lewis said.
"But sometimes campaigns matter."
Lewis said the Liberals may need to revise their campaign strategy for the final weekend.
He said some ridings that may have been considered safe seats when the gap was 19 percentage points may now need more attention.
"Now those gains that you thought were safe, you might have to battle out on the ground a bit more," Lewis said.
Alward's support rises
The CRA poll also found that Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward's personal support has also increased compared to its previous survey.
Gallant is still picked by 32 per cent of respondents as the best person to be premier, down from 35 per cent in August.
But Alward saw his support climb to 27 per cent, up from 22 per cent during the same time period.
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy saw his personal support fall to seven per cent from 11 per cent, while Green Party Leader David Coon saw his appeal rise to six per cent from five per cent.
People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin remained at two per cent.
Mills said the drop in Cardy's personal approval is likely another example of supporters returning to the Tories and Liberals.
According to UNB's Lewis, the NDP leader has likely abandoned hopes of forming the next government or substantially raising the party's percentage of the popular vote.
Lewis said Cardy's focus must now be on getting at least a few seats in the legislature.
"At this point, you worry more about winning a couple of seats than where your popular vote ends up. You need to get in the legislature," he said.
"You don’t want to let it slip below the 2010 numbers, but you really want someone in the legislature."
The NDP received 10.3 per cent of the popular vote in 2010, but failed to elect any MLAs. The NDP has been without a seat in the legislature since Elizabeth Weir resigned in 2005.
New Brunswickers head to the polls on Monday.
When the legislature dissolved prior to the election, the Tories had 41 seats, the Liberals had 13 and there was one Independent.