Alberta Politics: UCP takes the lead as many Reluctant UCPers come home
February 9, 2023
At the end of last year, I shared our first deep dive into the Alberta political opinion environment in the lead-up to this year’s provincial election. That survey found the NDP leading the UCP by 9 points among decided voters with 25% undecided overall. Our latest survey – conducted from February 1 to 6 – finds a shift in views and intended behaviour.
Here are the key takeaways from this research:
1. The UCP has taken the lead over the NDP province-wide and now has a marginal two-point lead among decided voters 47% to 45%. Those undecided in their vote intention dropped 9 points since early December. This is much more of a gain for the UCP than a loss for the NDP as the NDP’s vote share when undecideds are included hasn’t changed from December.
2. In December, 22% of past UCP voters were undecided when asked who they would vote for. Today, that’s 12%. Almost all of them that made up their mind now say they would back the UCP again.
3. Calgary remains the battleground and education is a strong predictor of vote. The NDP is well ahead in Edmonton while the UCP is well ahead outside of the province’s two largest cities. In Calgary, the NDP has a marginal two-point lead over the UCP. It remains deadlocked in Calgary. The NDP leads among those with a university degree while the UCP is well ahead among those with other educational attainment levels.
4. The overall mood of the province has improved. Today 1 in 3 think the province is headed in the right direction (still not great) but up 7 points since December.
5. The top issues remain the cost of living, healthcare, the economy, taxes, and housing. UCP supporters are more likely to rate the cost of living, the economy, taxes, and standing up for Alberta against the federal government as top issues than NDP supporters. NDP supporters are more likely to rate healthcare, housing, and climate change as top issues.
6. When we ask people which party they trust most on several issues, the UCP has a big advantage on defending oil and gas workers, standing up to Ottawa, keeping taxes low, managing the economy, and attracting business to the province. The NDP has an advantage on healthcare, climate change, and reducing inequality.
7. Impressions of Danielle Smith have improved since December. Today, 37% have a positive view of the Premier while 41% have a negative view for a net rating of -4. In December, her rating was -12.
For Rachel Notley, her negatives are up slightly, but more people continue to have a positive view of the NDP leader than a negative view. Her net favourable rating is +6, down from +10 in December.
8. Those who think Danielle Smith has been a better or similar premier to Jason Kenney has increased. Today, 50% of Albertans feel that Danielle Smith has been better or about the same as Jason Kenney, up 9 points since December. Among past UCP voters, those feeling she’s been better than Kenney is up 5-points to 44%. 23% of past UCP voters feel she has been worse then Kenney.
9. In the last report, I identified a key segment of the electorate called Reluctant UCPers. They are folks who voted UCP in 2019 but now say they are undecided or would vote for another party. Back in December, that group represented 16% of the electorate. Today, it’s down to 13%. Local UCPers – those who voted UCP in 2019 and support the party today – is up 5 points to 32%.
In a short period of time, Danielle Smith and the UCP have successfully and positively shifted public opinion in Alberta. More people view Danielle Smith positively and the 9-point gap in vote intention that we measured in December has been entirely erased. The environment remains competitive however and the election outcome is far from certain. Calgary remains the battleground where this election will likely be won or lost.
The survey data clearly points to the impact that issue framing and salience will have on voting behaviour. If the next election is fundamentally about economic management, taxes, or standing up to Ottawa – the UCP is in a stronger position to capitalize on those issues. If, however, healthcare is the dominant issue – the NDP is much better positioned to win. This might explain why Danielle Smith chose not to pick a fight with Justin Trudeau while in Ottawa this week for the healthcare talks. Instead, she would be wise to focus on economic competitiveness, taxes, and being seen as the best able to stand up for Alberta’s interests.
As of now, Danielle Smith appears less risky than she did to many in December. The UCP’s effort to rebuild its landslide-creating coalition is bearing fruit. There are still plenty of Reluctant UCPers to convert, but they are much closer to locking in re-election than appeared when we last measured opinions in December.
The survey was conducted with 1,000 Alberta adults from February 1 to 6, 2023. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.
The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.
The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Alberta’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.
This survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc.
Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here: https://canadianresearchinsightscouncil.ca/standards/
ABOUT DAVID COLETTO
David Coletto is CEO and a founding partner of Abacus Data a full-service market research and strategy firm based in Ottawa and Toronto. With over a decade and a half of experience in the industry, David and his partners founded Abacus 12 years ago and since then David has become one of Canada’s most respected social researchers regularly commenting on politics, the labour market, and consumer behaviour.
He earned a PhD in Political Science from the University of Calgary in 2010 and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University. He is the host and producer of inFocus with David Coletto a podcast that explores the intersection of public opinion, politics, public policy, and consumer behaviour.
ABOUT ABACUS DATA
We are the only research and strategy firm that helps organizations respond to the disruptive risks and opportunities in a world where demographics and technology are changing more quickly than ever.
We are an innovative, fast-growing public opinion and marketing research consultancy. We use the latest technology, sound science, and deep experience to generate top-flight research-based advice to our clients. We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail, and exceptional value.
We were one of the most accurate pollsters conducting research during the 2021 Canadian election following up on our outstanding record in 2019.
Contact us with any questions.
Find out more about how we can help your organization by downloading our corporate profile and service offering.