surveys show big-tent tories and ideologically polarized opposition.

A new survey released in the National Post by Forum Research Inc. shows Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives with 38% province-wide support and the opposition Wildrose Party sitting at 29%. This survey shows the Liberals at 14%, New Democratic Party at 13%, and the Alberta Party with 3% province-wide support.

Danielle Smith Wildrose Alberta leader

Danielle Smith

Surveys conducted by Environics, Angus Reid, and Lethbridge College in the final months of 2011 tell a different story, showing the Tories with a commanding lead placing more than 20% ahead of the opposition parties. Finding different results, the Forum survey shows the PCs up one-percent from a previous survey conducted by the same firm in December 2011 and the Wildrose up six points in the same period of time. I will wait to see whether other surveys begin to show similar results before I begin to believe that the PCs and Wildrose are this close in electoral support.

It is important to remember that surveys and polls are snapshots of where a population is at an exact moment in time. They are helpful at detecting trends, but as all political watchers should remember – campaigns matter – and Albertans will have an opportunity to see their political parties in full electoral action in the coming months.

Ed Stelmach

Ed Stelmach

Without Premier Ed Stelmach as their lightening-rod in Calgary perpetually unhappy oil company community, the Wildrose Party appears to have lost the steam from the high point they sat at in mid-2010. In response, they are trying their best to cast Premier Alison Redford as a flip-flopper and have come out strong with negative advertising aimed at the Tories. There is plenty to criticize in the Tory record book, but the relentless angry and outrageous attacks lend little suggestion that the Wildrose Party would be a very pleasant crew if they ever form government.

As I said in the National Post, there are not many people talking about the Wildrose Party forming government these days – except Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith. Ms. Smith appears to be doing very little to manage the expectations of her party’s core activists, many whom are still wearing the [wild]rose coloured glasses they donned when the their party hit the peak of its meteoric rise in 2010.

Alison Redford

Alison Redford

Not properly managing expectations can be a politically deadly mistake. While the political environment was different, the most appropriate example may be the Alberta Liberal experience following the infamous 1993 election. With early polls showing a meteoric rise in the polls for the long-outcast Liberal Party, leader Laurence Decore had pumped expectations of forming government so-high that when his party only formed Official Opposition, he faced open revolt from his caucus and defections to the Tories. The Liberals have not come close to this high-point since.

I also point to the quick rise and fall of Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day or Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, who both filled their supporters minds with great expectations of electoral glory, only to disappoint when the votes were counted.

What results of the Forum survey and other surveys suggest to me is that the PCs remain Alberta’s big-tent political party – one that both blue conservatives and moderate liberals are comfortable joining – and that the opposition is increasingly polarizing to the political left and right.

The rise of the conservative Wildrose Party to what may become the default opposition and the increase in support for the social democratic NDP may leave a difficult space for the moderate opposition parties that want to occupy the political centre – the Liberal and the Alberta Party.

18 thoughts on “surveys show big-tent tories and ideologically polarized opposition.

  1. Dave

    Disappointing Dave that you continue to berate Wildrose for being “angry” over government corruption.

    Should we smile and say “Ahh, it’s ok, go ahead and steal, lie and cheat your way back into office”?

    Reply
  2. Spectator

    The above Wildrose commenter only proves the point made in the post: that Party’s default position on anything is to be mean and enraged. With any luck, the Wildrose Party’s existence will be, in the words of Hobbes, “nasty, brutish, and short.”

    Reply
  3. Dave Roberts

    The PC’s very likely received the classic post leadership race poll bump. There is nothing nefarious in Forum’s poll.

    Reply
  4. Brock Harrison

    Part of the reason why we’ve been stuck with 40 years of the same political party in power is because nobody has really bothered to try and beat them.

    The connection you draw between Decore’s terrific showing in 1993 and the Liberals disappointing performance since is poorly argued and, frankly, makes no sense.

    The PCs have benefited from a demoralized and bankrupt opposition for the last 20 years.

    It won’t be the case this time. If to you that means not properly “managing expectations,” so be it.

    To us, it means competing. And democracy will be better for it.

    Reply
  5. Armchair Genius

    Dave, the next election is about right vs. wrong. What is the most balanced, sensible political camp that is NOT socially or fiscally extreme? That would be the ALP. Most Tory voters don’t know it, but ideologically speaking, in the very truest and strictest sense, they are actually Liberals! They are however, an entrenched in their thinking that will have to be challenged. The avg. AB is the thickest creed on earth. It will be hard to shake notions loose from skulls this thick, but with time, most voters, will being to look elsewhere to vote, whether its WR or ALP. Either way, a different vote is the first step to making a change here. Change takes time. AB’s have to realize that free markets also apply to voting, there is choice. The existing entrenchments have brought graft, electoral manipulation and unethical campaign financing to a new low never seen before, in almost any part of the world. For the sake of transparency and democracy, everybody really has to thank ALL opposition parties for their hardwork. The rest is upto the voters to wake up and challenge their own entrenched pre-conceived notions.

    Reply
  6. Brandon

    Armchair Genius said:

    “They are however, an entrenched in their thinking that will have to be challenged. The avg. AB is the thickest creed on earth. It will be hard to shake notions loose from skulls this thick, but with time, most voters, will being to look elsewhere to vote, whether its WR or ALP.”

    I think you have demonstrated perfectly the biggest fault in the ALP, and why they have not succeeded. When you blame Albertans, not yourselves, for your failure to succeed, you have a problem.

    Reply
  7. Armchair Genius

    Brandon, sorry but you are wrong. The entrenched voting style is a sign of being politically unaware and dense. Look at how Americans voting Bush Jr. twice. Are you going to tell me the voters were wise? Most Canadians, including you would agree with that. Its not so different in AB. It is entirely possible to reach the voters, but they will have to step out of their entrenched notions. They have to look at the balance sheet and ask where have the billions gone? With the second largest energy reserve in the world, why do we still have debt?

    These are simple questions that the avg voter who votes the same way never cares to ask. So I am sorry, but I humbly disagree, its not the fault of the Liberals, they have only tried to bring accountability here. Yes you can fault them for being divided to be more effective.

    I reserve the right as an armchair genius for blaming the voters for being ignorant and policitally unaware, sorry but voters have to take resonsibility for the way they vote. They can’t keep crying foul and keep voting the same way. How are the opposition parties to blame for any of this?

    Reply
  8. Armchair Genius

    If the voters are not to share any blame at all, please provide a scapegoat that is appropriate to your sensibilities.

    Reply
  9. ruralgal

    if you are in the hinter land there is a great deal of talk about making a stronger Alberta by utilizing a tool in democracy called a strong opposition. Whomever is in power and whomever is in Opposition – it does make for a better government. A govt that has had the power that the current one does starts to show its age – mostly on slippage – it does things cause it can – so slippage occurs: wildly escalating public service salaries, property rights denied, over build of transmission lines, getting donations from sources that they shouldn’t- and it really does not matter what label such a govt wears- it happens – ie federal liberals.

    Reply
  10. Armchair Genius

    U hit the nail on the head ruralgal. Entrenchments get so deep after 40 yrs, that one people will realize the boat is old and creaky and people will want renewal and change and rebalancing. This is the year 2012, the year for political cleaning out and rebalancing. People are starved for truth. Its time we got all of our friends, loved ones and associates and tell them to vote, vote big and vote differently and so on. The same Peter Lougheed moment, where he beat the entrenched Socreds, that very same moment has resurfaced and its time ALL Albertans seize it and follow through on their fudiciary duty to vote and vote for something different and let go of their entrenched notions. The time has come for true change.

    Reply
  11. Michael Dawe

    My gut feeling, from actively campaigning in the so-called hinterland, is that the Redford Tories may have support that looks a mile wide, but is also only an inch deep. There is a lot of serious unease about the Conservatives. For many people, it would not take much to quickly return them to their viewpoints of last year.
    I recall a Saskatchewan provincial election when the pollsters and the urban pundits had the N.D.P. incumbent government comfortably ahead, but election night turned into a squeaker – almost everyone other than the Saskatchewan Party missed what was going on outside the cities.
    Might not happen in Alberta, but a reminder that pundits and pollsters can miss a lot.

    Reply
  12. ruralgal

    It is hard for the WR people to declare as many sit on councils, either MD or town or city councils – they sit on school boasrds etc – unfortunately they also understand that they need to work with the current MLA’s and govt – retribution can be severe! So silence probably will reign until the best poll of all – called an election. I agree with the above comment – a mile wide and an inch deep!

    Reply
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  15. Esmé Comfort

    You are one smart cookie on that expectations insight. And I agree with Michael Dawe, “pundits and pollsters can miss a lot.” I also agree with ruralgal; all of us who have had to deal with the provincial government have experienced the painful consequences of perceived disloyalty. It may take a while, as in decades, to dislodge the PCs. Can you say 50th anniversary? It is disturbing that the PCs and the Alberta government are synonymous in many people’s mind. I want a strong opposition at the very least.

    Reply
  16. ruralgal

    did anyone read about what happened at the Airdrie Council meeting which resulted in an open letter to the Premier about the bad behavior of one MLA – swearing and disrupting = apparently a pretty bad one – so much for the tour listening to the folks – what a potty mouth on Liepert. Shows what happens when challenged. So this is one council that may be in the doodoo.

    Reply

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