UCP maintains support of voters who won election, NDP competitive amid leadership race: poll

EDITOR’S NOTE: CBC News commissioned this public opinion research in April, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the United Conservative Party’s victory in last May’s general election. The poll offers insight into how Albertans feel about Danielle Smith’s UCP government and the opposition NDP.

As with all surveys, this one provides a snapshot in time.

This analysis is one of a series of articles from this research. More stories will follow.

Nearly a year after Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party defeated Rachel Notley’s Alberta New Democrats, a new poll suggests Smith’s party is largely clinging to the support that brought it to power.

The random survey of 1,200 Albertans was commissioned by CBC News and conducted by Trend Research, based in Edmonton, under the direction of Janet Brown Opinion Research between May 1 and 15.

Since the NDP does not currently have a permanent leader, the poll focused on what the total vote available to the UCP and NDP was. That is a figure that adds up the number of voters with a high or certain probability of considering voting for a party.

It determined that figure to be 48 per cent for the UCP and 45 per cent for the NDP.

In the 2023 elections, the UCP won with 52.6 percent of the vote.

The results are good news for the UCP, said pollster Janet Brown.

“When you exclude people from my survey who didn’t express an opinion, who aren’t really sure, I would say it looks like the UCP has maintained the support it had in the last election,” Brown said.

Pensions, police, power.

Since Albertans re-elected the UCP to form a majority government, the party has embarked on an ambitious legislative agenda.

Several issues that Smith sidelined during his leadership campaign are back in the spotlight, including the possibility of introducing an Alberta-only pension plan and establishing a provincial police force.

Other proposals have also made headlines, including the government’s planned legislation on gender policies for children and youth, the much-debated Sovereignty Act and, most recently, Bill 20, proposed legislation that would make the province exercise more power over municipalities.

The government has also taken the first steps in its plans to restructure Alberta Health Services and has sought to restructure Alberta’s electricity market.

Although the pace has been rapid and the policies often contentious, new polls suggest the government’s approach has not had much impact on that support.

A woman with blonde hair and glasses smiles in front of a television showing a map of Calgary.
Janet Brown is a Calgary-based pollster. Brown said she doesn’t expect the numbers to change much immediately once she appoints a permanent NDP leader. (CBC)

However, more Albertans still disapprove of the ruling UCP than approve of him, at a rate of 52 per cent to 44 per cent, polls suggest.

“They proposed a lot of legislation that Albertans still don’t know how they should interpret,” Brown said.

“The disapproval is stronger than the approval right now. But I think what this shows is that this can be a divisive government and the prime minister can be a divisive prime minister. But she still has her support base.”

There is also good news in the poll for New Democrats, Brown noted.

“The NDP remains very competitive, even though it does not have a new leader. I think the data says that voters are eagerly watching the NDP leadership race, and they are watching the NDP become a competitive party again. force in Alberta politics,” he said.

Brown said he doesn’t expect the numbers to change much immediately once a permanent NDP leader is named, since most people answering the question probably imagine the party is led by presumptive front-runner Naheed Nenshi.

People stand on a stage in front of a colorful circle.
Alberta NDP leadership candidates take the stage during a leadership debate in Calgary on May 11. The results of the leadership race will be announced on June 22. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Smith ‘quite polarizing’

The survey also asked respondents how they would rate the job Smith does as prime minister, on a scale of zero to 10.

Smith earned an overall average approval rating of 4.5 out of 10 from respondents. Thirty-five per cent of people said they were impressed with the prime minister, giving her a rating of seven or more out of 10.

40 per cent gave the prime minister a low rating of zero to three, while another 22 per cent gave her a rating between four and six. In Calgary, Smith had an average rating of 4.3, up from 3.8 just before the last election.

Another question asked respondents to think back to the time of the last provincial election, in May 2023. The survey asked whether Smith was doing better, worse or about the same as they expected at the time.

Forty percent of respondents said Smith was doing about the same as they expected, 33 percent said he had done worse, and 23 percent said he had done better.

“When I look at these numbers, what I see is a leader who is quite polarizing. She has a strong base of people who like her, and she has a strong base of people who don’t like her,” Brown said.

Although support for the government has held up to this point, the next three years could become more challenging once the NDP elects its permanent leader, said Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University.

“Smith is not popular overall, but he wasn’t popular in May 2023 and he was still able to achieve a majority victory because the NDP was just as unpopular, in some ways,” Bratt said.

“When we look at the approval ratings, they’re just seen as one party. But that’s not what an election is, an election is a contrast. And that’s the contrast the NDP will have to make.”

CBC News’ random survey of 1,200 Albertans was conducted using a hybrid method between May 1 and 15 by Edmonton-based Trend Research, under the direction of Janet Brown Opinion Research. The sample is representative of regional, age and gender factors. The margin of error is +/- 2.8 percentage points, 19 out of 20 times. For subsets, the margin of error is greater.

The survey used a hybrid methodology that involved contacting respondents by phone and giving them the option to complete the survey then, at another more convenient time, or receive an email link and complete the survey online. Trend Research contacted people using a random list of numbers, made up of 40 percent landlines and 60 percent mobile phone numbers. Telephone numbers were dialed up to five times at five different times of the day before another telephone number was added to the sample. The response rate among valid numbers (i.e., residential and personal) was 11.7 percent.