By David Coletto & Tim Powers
Earlier this year, we released polling that found Newfoundland and Labrador residents were feeling quite anxious about the future of the province. Almost half felt that life in the province has become worse over the past 10 years; about half described things in the province as pretty bad or horrible, and only one in four residents were optimistic that things will get better over the next 10 years.
This month, we wanted to take a deeper look at political attitudes in the province in the wake of allegations of bullying and harassment within the provincial Liberal caucus and cabinet.
Here’s what we found:
#1: MOST RESIDENTS HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING NEWS ABOUT ALLEGATIONS OF BULLYING AND HARASSMENT WITHIN THE LIBERAL CABINET AND CAUCUS AT LEAST SOMEWHAT CLOSELY.
65% report following news of the allegations at least somewhat closely with about one in four following it very closely. More striking is that only 8% haven’t heard anything about it. Unlike other issues that often don’t get outside the political bubble in St. John’s, this issue has wide awareness, even among younger people in the province.
#2: ALMOST ALL THINK THE ALLEGATIONS ARE TRUE ALTHOUGH ABOUT HALF THINK THEY ARE LIKELY TO BE EXAGGERATED.
91% of residents think the allegations of bullying and harassment in the Liberal caucus and cabinet are likely to be true but 44% think they are likely exaggerated. Only 2% think the allegations are likely to be false.
#3: DESPITE CRITICISM, MOST THINK PREMIER BALL HAS HANDLED THE SITUATION AT LEAST ACCEPTABLY.
51% think he has done a good or acceptable job handling the situation while 36% think he has done a poor or very poor job. Notably, those who are following the issues more closely are just as likely to think Mr. Ball has handled the issue at least acceptably.
#4: GIVEN THE RELATIVELY POSITIVE EVALUATIONS OF THE PREMIER’S PERFORMANCE, ONLY 33% THINK HE SHOULD STEP DOWN AS PREMIER AND LIBERAL LEADER.
When we ask whether the Premier should step down, 33% say yes while 47% say no. Another 21% said they were not sure. Those following the issue closely are no more likely to think he should resign. Troubling however for the Liberals, 27% of those who voted Liberal in the past provincial election think he should step down.
#5: DWIGHT BALL HAS THE MOST NEGATIVE IMPRESSIONS BUT HE’S ALSO THE MOST WELL KNOWN. BOTH CHES CROSBIE AND GERRY ROGERS ARE LARGELY UNKNOWN.
Over four in ten residents have a negative impression of Mr. Ball while 24% view him positively. A majority of residents have either a neutral or don’t have an impression of both PC Leader Ches Crosbie and NDP Leader Gerry Rogers.
#6: IF AN ELECTION WAS HELD TODAY, THE PCs WOULD HAVE A SLIGHT LEAD OVER THE LIBERALS BUT OVER FOUR IN TEN ARE UNDECIDED.
Forty-one percent of respondents said they are undecided about who they would vote for if an election was held today in the province. That’s down 7 from January but still quite high in our experience polling in jurisdictions across Canada.
The PCs led by Ches Crosbie have the support of 24% of residents statistically tied with the Liberals at 22%. The NDP is in third at 13%.
When we look at only decided voters, the PCs would get 40% followed by the Liberals at 38%, and the NDP at 22%. This represents a 6-point increase for the Tories and a 3-point drop for the Liberals.
Liberal support is stronger in Labrador and western Newfoundland while the Tories are stronger on the Avalon Peninsula and in east and central Newfoundland. We also find that PC support is consistent across age groups while the NDP does better among younger residents and the Liberals do better among older ones.
#7: MOST FEEL THE PROVINCE IS HEADED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
A majority of residents think the province is headed in the wrong direction while only one in four think it’s headed in the right direction. Most troubling for the incumbent Liberals is that almost a majority (48%) of those who voted Liberal in 2014 think the province is off on the wrong track.
#8: BUDGET DEFICIT & FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE MAKE THE MOST ANXIOUS. INFRASTRUCTURE AND GOOD JOBS ALSO SEEN AS MAJOR PROBLEMS.
When we ask residents to diagnosis the problems facing Newfoundland and Labrador, majorities point to the provincial deficit and finances and future opportunities for young people in the province as “very big problems”. In fact, except for the quality of schools, at least four in ten residents felt that all issues were very big problems.
While the allegations of harassment in the Liberal caucus have received broad attention from the public, their impact on the political fortunes of the Liberal Party and Premier Ball specifically remain uncertain.
Most still think the province is headed in the wrong direction and concern about the budget deficit remains high but the Liberals remain competitive with the PCs largely because so many residents are undecided about how they would vote.
Mr. Ball’s negatives are high but not as high as we see among incumbents in other provinces and right now his rivals are largely unknown.
More time will be needed to really understand the impact of the allegations on the political system but there doesn’t appear to be a lot of public pressure on Mr. Ball to resign. But with one in five unsure, that could change in time.
Our hybrid telephone/web survey was conducted with 800 Newfoundland and Labrador adults between May 18 to 27, 2018. 500 interviews were conducted online with panelists recruited from LegerWeb’s panel. Another 300 interviews were conducted randomly by telephone using both mobile phones and landlines.
The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 800 is +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.
The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Newfoundland and Labrador’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.