Concern about the budget deficit and Muskrat Falls up from last year.
By David Coletto
Yesterday we released new polling data that showed the provincial government’s approval rating at 22% and a close three-way horse race for party support. Today, we release additional findings from the survey of 600 eligible voters in Newfoundland and Labrador on top issues and economic perceptions.
• The economy and jobs remains the top issue to more NL residents. Unprompted, one in three said the economy or jobs (35%) was the top issue facing Newfoundland and Labrador, largely unchanged from last November. The budget deficit or government debt (15%), the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project (14%), and health care (8%) rounded out the top four.
• Mentions of the budget deficit and Muskrat Falls are both up 12 points since last November, the last time we conducted a province-wide survey.
• Men and women were almost equally as likely to mention jobs and the economy as the top issue. However, men were more likely to mention the budget deficit (19%) while women were more likely to mention health care (11%) as the top issue.
• Among those who voted Liberal in 2015, 43% mentioned jobs and the economy as the top issue, 18% mentioned the budget deficit, while 12% mentioned Muskrat Falls.
• Muskrat Falls was a particularly important issue for past NDP voters. 36% ranked it as the top issue followed by jobs and the economy (20%) and taxes (11%).
• For PC voters, jobs and the economy topped the list (37%), followed by Muskrat Falls (13%), and the budget deficit (11%).
• 78% of NL residents believe the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador is in poor or very poor condition while only 20% describing it positively (3% very good, 17% good). In comparison, in a recent national survey we conducted, 50% of Canadians described the economy as being good or very good while 50% described it as poor or very poor. So the mood in NL about the economy is decidedly worse than Canadians in other provinces.
• Perceptions about the current NL economy are consistent across the province (low of 17% good/very good in St. John’s/Avalon to 23% in east/central NL).
• Perceptions are also similar across party vote in the last provincial election. 77% of Liberal voters describe the economy as poor or very poor, like the 82% of PC voters and 83% of NDP voters who feel negatively about the economy.
• Not only do most feel the economy is in rough shape today, few (20%) believe the economy will get much better over the next 12 months. More think things will stay about the same as now while 35% think the economy will get worse over the next year.
One year into his term, Premier Dwight Ball is facing some strong headwinds as he manages a weak economy and its impact on the province’s finances. Jobs and the economy remain the top issues for most residents but concerns about the budget deficit and the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project have grown considerably since last year. Most think the economy is in a difficult position and few think things will improve over the next year suggesting that the mood is unlikely to improve unless people start to feel improvements in their own financial position or in the economic conditions where they live.
Most governments would have a difficult time governing when perceptions about the economy and direction of the province are as negative as we currently see them in Newfoundland and Labrador. But the Liberals and Premier Ball have the added hurdle of trying to lead when many in the province dislike the Premier personally and disapprove of his work thus far. The next election is still over three years away so there is time to mend the government’s reputation. Doing so will require a mix of honesty, openness, and patience on the part of both the public and Premier Ball.
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.
The data was statistically weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched 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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