By David Coletto
Our final release from the survey of 600 eligible voters we conducted for VOCM News focuses on the race to replace Paul Davis as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.
We tested the reputation of four potential leadership candidates among our survey respondents and put them in a trial ballot. The candidates we included in our survey were former deputy premier Steve Kent, former minister John Ottenheimer, lawyer Ches Crosbie, and former minister Dave Brazil.
Here are highlights of the findings:
• Steve Kent and John Ottenheimer, who both ran in the previous PC Leadership election, have the most defined images of the four candidates we tested.
• Steve Kent is viewed positively by one in four NL residents but has the highest negatives with 25% of NL residents saying they have a negative impression of him. 51% have a neutral impression of him. Among current PC Party supporters, 41% view Mr. Kent positively, 14% negatively, while 45% are neutral towards the former deputy premier.
• As the runner-up to Paul Davis in the previous PC Leadership race, John Ottenheimer would start another run at the top job with good personal numbers. Across the province, 28% have a positive impression of him compared with 12% who have a negative impression. Among PC supporters, 41% have a positive impression versus 8% who have a negative impression.
• Ches Crosbie is less known than the other two candidates but also has a net positive impression. Province-wide, 21% have a positive impression of Mr. Crosbie while 18% have a negative impression. Among PC supporters, 30% have a positive impression while 13% view him negatively.
• Former Service ML minister Dave Brazil is the least known of the four potential candidates. Three-quarters of NL residents have a neutral impression of Mr. Brazil while 10% have a positive impression and 15% view him negatively. Among PC supporters, 15% a positive impression while the same proportion view him negatively.
• When we ask respondents for their preference for PC leader among the four potential candidates, 22% would pick Steve Kent followed by 19% for John Ottenheimer, and 14% for Ches Crosbie. 3% would pick Dave Brazil and 42% are undecided.
• Among PC supporters, Steve Kent is the first choice of 35%, followed by John Ottenheimer at 24%, and Ches Crosbie at 14%. One in four PC supporters said they are undecided at this point.
The race to replace Paul Davis as PC Leader has not started yet but our first read on the potential race finds that former leadership candidates Steve Kent and John Ottenheimer are best placed with the general public and PC Party supporters at the moment.
Mr. Kent would win a hypothetical ballot against John Ottenheimer, Ches Crosbie and Dave Brazil today among PC supporters. He is generally well liked after serving as the province’s deputy premier during the Davis years.
But Mr. Ottenheimer would also bring many strengths of his own to the race if he decides to run again. He is well liked by a large portion of the PC support base and came a close second to Paul Davis in the 2014 PC leadership election.
For Mr. Crosbie, polling suggests he could be a dark horse in the race. Less defined with a substantial portion of PC supporters having positive things to say about him, Mr. Crosbie could position himself as the non-politician in the race as the PCs look to move past the Williams-Dunderdale-Davis years.
Finally, for Mr. Brazil, if he does decide to run he will need to spend much of the early days of the campaign introducing himself to PC members and the public as his public image is limited and undefined at this point – both a weakness and an opportunity.
The hybrid online/telephone survey was conducted with 604 eligible voters living in Newfoundland and Labrador. 300 interviews were conducted with a random sample of residents by telephone. 304 interviews were conducted online with panelists recruited from Leger’s research panel. The survey was completed from October 20 to 27, 2016.
The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 600 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 4.1%, 19 times out of 20.
In this report we highlight the views of current PC Party supporters. A total of 115 PC Party supporters were interviewed as part of this survey. The margin of error for his subsample is + 9.3%, 19 times out of 20.
The data was statistically weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched the population of Newfoundland and Labrador. The tables within this report detail the weighted and unweighted counts for the sample. Note the small sample sizes when reviewing results in subgroups.
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