Alberta Politics: UCP ahead of NDP by 15-points. Naheed Nenshi is the most well-known and well-liked NDP leadership candidate.

From March 14 to 21, 2024, Abacus Data conducted a survey of 1,000 Alberta adults exploring several topics as part of our regular national omnibus surveys.

This is the first time we have fielded one of our public surveys in Alberta since Rachel Notley announced she was stepping down as NDP leader, triggering a leadership election. This survey was also completed prior to the announcement on Tuesday morning by NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi that she is dropping out of the NDP leadership race and endorsing Naheed Nenshi.

In this report, we share results of the core political opinion questions, a bit of a deep-dive on impressions of the provincial government led by Danielle Smith, and a look at how Albertans feel about the NDP leadership candidates and how they perform in hypothetical match-ups with Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party.

The UCP holds a 15-point lead over the Alberta NDP

If a provincial election were held today, 55% of committed Alberta adults would vote UCP while 40% would vote Alberta NDP. 2% would vote for the Alberta Party while 2% would vote for another party. Since our last survey in October 2023, the UCP is down 1 while the NDP is unchanged.

Since the 2023 provincial election, the NDP is down 4 while the UCP is up 2.

Regionally, the UCP is ahead by 8 in Calgary (52% to 44%) and 38 in other communities outside Calgary and Edmonton-proper. In Edmonton, the Alberta NDP is ahead by 11 (53% to 42%).

The UCP lead by 22 among men, 7 among women and holds a commanding 39-point lead among Albertans aged 60+. Among those under 45 the two parties are basically tied.

When it comes to how Albertans feel about the performance of the Danielle Smith government, 32% approve while 38% disapprove. In Calgary, the Smith government’s net approval is -13, in Edmonton it is -20, and in the rest of the province it is +11.

Impressions of the two main party leaders are fairly similar. 38% of Albertans have a positive impression of Premier Smith while 40% have a negative impression for a net score of -1. NDP Leader Rachel Notley has a net score of -12, with 31% viewing her positively and 43% negatively.

How do Albertans feel about the provincial government?

Respondents were asked to choose phrases or words that describe the Smith government. We asked the same question to our national sample about the Trudeau government and to a large sample in Ontario about the provincial government led by Danielle Smith. We will share results of those results in the coming days.

In Alberta, views of the Smith government are mixed but generally more positive than how people feel about the Ford government in Ontario or the Trudeau government federally.

More than half of Albertans feel the Smith government is “clear on what it wants Alberta to be” rather than “unclear on what it wants Alberta to be”. Half thinks the government is “focused” while 33% think it is “distracted”. More feel it is “effective” than “ineffective” and about equal numbers feels the government is “focused on the right priorities” rather than “focused on the wrong priorities”.

34% describe the government as “unifying” while 42% think it is “divisive” and 43% describes it as “proactive”, more than feel it is “reactive”.

Overall, for a government that has taken on some controversial issues, these results suggest it is seen positively and in the right frame with a sizeable portion of the population.

But we also asked respondents whether they feel the provincial government is sufficiently focused on or addressing several key issues. Areas where most Albertans want to see the government more focused include “managing the cost of living” (60%) and “improving the healthcare system” (58). Another 52% think it could be more focused on “keeping your taxes as low as possible”.

In contrast, the provincial government is more likely to be seen as sufficiently focused on “standing up for Alberta” (49%) and “growing the Alberta economy” (37%).

One area where there’s more neutral views is on climate change. 38% of Albertans feel the provincial government could be more focused on it, 28% think it is moderately or highly focused on it, while 34% are either neutral or unsure about it.

These results suggest that so far, the Smith government has done a pretty good job managing expectations and signalling to its coalition that it’s sufficiently handling the top issues people report are important to them.

The Alberta NDP Leadership Race

In this survey, we also asked several questions regarding the Alberta NDP leadership election.

We started by assessing the impressions people have of the six candidates running to be Alberta NDP leader. A few things stand out:

1 Naheed Nenshi is by far the most well known of the candidates. 74% of Albertans had an impression of Mr. Nenshi, significantly higher than Sarah Hoffman (49%), Kathleen Ganley (60%), Rakhi Pancholi (39%), Hil McGowan (39%), or Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse (37%).

2. Naheed Nenshi is also the only candidate who has a clear net positive impression. 31% of Albertans have a positive view of him compared with 23% who have a negative view for a net score of +8. Kathleen Ganley is the only other candidate with a net positive, but just barely at +1.

3. Nenshi’s net scores are +14 in Calgary, +9 in Edmonton, and -1 in the rest of the province. Sarah Hoffman’s net scores are +2 in Edmonton, -6 in Calgary, and -3 in the rest of the province. Note, only 42% of Albertans outside the two largest cities have an impression of Ms. Hoffman.

And so apart from Mr. Nenshi, none of the other leadership candidates are household names (they rarely are in leadership races) and Mr. Nenshi has a substantial advantage when it comes to name recognition and favourability.

Now, we also tested five of the candidate in hypothetical matchups with Danielle Smith and the UCP.

From that exercise we learned a few things:

None of the leadership candidates perform as well as Rachel Notley as part of our main ballot question although Naheed Nenshi performs better than anyone else. This is likely more about his name recognition than any ability to attract Albertans who wouldn’t otherwise vote NDP – except in Calgary.

When we look at the regional dynamics, a few things stand out. In Edmonton, no one performs as well as Rachel Notley currently does. The main ballot question has the NDP ahead by 11. In all of the hypotheticals, that gap drops considerable.

In Calgary, Nenshi performs best, turning an 8 point UCP lead into a statistical tie. None of the other candidates perform better than Rachel Notley currently in Calgary.

Outside of Edmonton and Calgary, Nenshi performance as well as Notley but with all other possible NDP leaders the UCP lead grows.

Finally, another way to look at the potential impact of each NDP leadership candidate to shake up vote intentions to see how much of NDP support they retain and how much support they attract from other parties.

Naheed Nenshi does the best at attracting new supporters and retaining more of the current NDP support base. Sarah Hoffman retains more of the NDP base than other candidates, except for Nenshi, but attracts slightly less UCP and other party supporters than Nenshi. All the other candidates hold 2 in 3 current NDP supporters or less and attract few UCP candidates.

But the big takeaway is how little UCP support is attracted to any of the candidates at the moment demonstrating the level of polarization in Alberta at the moment.

It is also worth noting that given Nenshi name recognition advantage, this comparison isn’t a perfect measure of potential opportunity or risk for the other candidates but it does clearly show how challenging it will be for any of these candidates, if elected leader, to grow the NDP support base. Nenshi likely has the best chance and right now is the lower risk at losing existing NDP support.

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The Upshot

According to Abacus Data CEO David Coletto: “In reflecting on the findings of our recent survey, it’s clear that Premier Danielle Smith’s position in Alberta politics remains robust ten months into her mandate.

Retaining the support garnered in the last election, her government appears not only to have maintained its winning coalition but also enjoys a reasonably favourable approval rating amidst challenging economic conditions. This standing is especially notable when compared to incumbents in other provinces.

The Smith government is perceived as having a distinct mission and vision, demonstrating effectiveness in its undertakings, and maintaining focus on what many Albertans deem the right priorities, despite criticisms around certain initiatives like the Alberta Pension Plan and on-going disputes with Ottawa – which Albertans recognize as an area the government has focused a lot on.

The Alberta NDP leadership race introduces an intriguing dynamic, particularly with Naheed Nenshi’s advantage on name recognition and favourability among the candidates. His recent endorsement by former leadership candidate and NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi, coupled with claims of a significant increase in party membership, underscores his potential to translate personal brand into political capital. This development is crucial in leadership contests, where the ability to mobilize new members can decisively tilt the scales. Nenshi’s profile offers the Alberta NDP a formidable asset in its leadership transition, highlighting the strategic importance of both visibility and organizational support in such contests.

However, the broader challenge for the Alberta NDP, and indeed for any leader emerging from its ongoing leadership race, lies in positioning the party as a credible and appealing alternative to the United Conservative Party under Danielle Smith. Despite a leadership race that has garnered national attention, the ultimate electoral test will be in persuading UCP supporters to change their preferences. More akin to convincing cola drinkers to stop drinking cola than switching from Pepsi to Coke.

Premier Smith’s brand, characterized by having a clear vision and a focus on priority issues for Albertans, sets a high bar. The evolving political landscape in Alberta, shaped by both individual leadership qualities and collective party dynamics, continues to be a compelling study in contrasts and possibilities.”


The survey was conducted with 1,000 Alberta adults from March 16 to 21, 2024. 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 Canada’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:


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