17 February 2011

From 61% to 44% since August: NTV poll shows Tory support slides further

For those who have lived by the provincial government’s polling as proof of how popular the governing Conservatives have been, the most recent provincial public opinion polls offer no comfort.

An NTV/Telelink poll released Wednesday [link to NTV report] shows support for the governing provincial Conservatives is currently at 44.3% with 37.9% undecided.

NTV is reporting those figures as being not much different from the last provincial government poll in November, but that’s not the case.

A straight comparison – using the Telelink approach – shows that support for the province’s Tories is down from 51.8% in the CRA poll.  Undecideds in the Corporate Research Associates poll conducted last November stood at 31% on the party support question.

Danny Williams didn’t announce his resignation until the end of CRA’s polling period and it is unlikely his departure significantly changed the poll results.  in other words, undecideds in November increased despite the fact Williams was still the premier at the time CRA conducted the poll.

And in case you missed the point,  support for the province’s Tories has plummeted in the past six months from 61.8% to 44.3%. 

While CRA polling has some very serious credibility problems, Telelink has been notoriously more accurate by comparison.  Their September 2007 poll nailed the Conservative share of eligible voters smack on the money. CRA was 20 percentage points off.  For those counting, CRA was out by something like 32 percent, not the margin of error cited in the poll at the time.  Telelink also got within seven percentage points of the undecided/will not vote (31% polled versus 38) while CRA was basically OTL (18% polled versus 38% actual)

What’s going on?  You can get a good sense of this by looking at the undecideds. Over the past 20 years or so, local polls tend to see a change in “undecideds” when people are unhappy with the incumbent party. They may not be so disgruntled that they switch to the major opposition party;  they may not see the opposition as a viable alternative at that moment.

In this survey, NTV/Telelink did something CRA never does:  they probed the undecideds and asked them which way they might be leaning.  The Tory number climbed but the undecideds were still around 25% according to the NTV report.

That’s still pretty high and it cannot be very encouraging for the Tories.

In Newfoundland and Labrador politics, there are cadres of dedicated party voters.  They turn out and vote the same way pretty well every time.  But the biggest chunk of voters are swing voters.  They are not ideological or overly wrapped up in one party affiliation or another and they are the prize for any party wanting power. When polling in the province changes significantly, odds are the swing voters are swinging. [new sentence added for clarity]

For those who accept CRA polls, you’d have to be worried about the change that showed up last November. This most recent change happened under Danny, the supposedly invincible. he’s gone and the slide is still there. Now the decided party support for the Tories is down again by about 18 percentage points.

Now look at the vote results in the by-elections off the Avalon since 2007. In Humber West, Tory support dropped about 24%, the largest percentage since 2003.  The Liberal vote climbed by a comparable percentage for a combined swing of 45%. That’s in the heart of the Tories’ west coast base.

Remember Danny Williams’ comments right before the by-election about how good Tories have been to the entire west coast?  Yeah, well here’s the payback on that investment.  In the Straits, they rejected the Tory candidate altogether and the Tories retaliated or appear to have retaliated with the air ambulance move.  That couldn’t have helped their overall position on the peninsula.

And in case you are wondering, the swing in Humber West was larger than the 2011 swing in the Straits and St. Barbe that heralded the rise of Danny Williams.

Take Humber West as the example of a trend.  Even when the Tories win, it’s getting pretty clear that they are losing some of their voters.  Some may be core Tories who are getting getting complacent.  Some might be Tories who are just tired of the internal war with their federal cousins.  More likely, they are losing independent or swing voters owing to nothing more radical than fatigue. 

Now consider that in the face of this fairly obvious weakening of Tory support, their most recent decision is to play all-defence with virtually no change in the fundamental direction of the party.  Premier Kathy Dunderdale told reporters in Corner Brook that there’s no change in the overall make-up of her administration until sometime after the fall election.

A defensive game might win.

However, that strategy depends very much on what the Liberals do.  it smacks of the same sort of conventional wisdom slash complacency that led them to count on Danny being around for another one and then some.  Shit happens, as they say.

If the Tories can hold it together, keep a lid on internal fractures, avoid making any controversial decisions, spend like drunken sailors and run a Humber West-style hide ‘em if ya got ‘em campaign, they might  hang on to most of the seats they currently hold.  

That assumes, though, that the Liberals just stumble their way along as they did in 2007.  If the Liberals shift their direction just a bit a lot can change.  Solid local candidates, for example, can make local races competitive in districts outside the metro St. John’s region.  There are plenty of districts that went barely blue in 2007 and there are undoubtedly plenty of polls within districts that reverted – as in Terra Nova – to their former, Liberal voting patterns. It doesn’t take much to swing a poll or a district as the Tories and those familiar with the province’s long electoral history should know.

In the current political environment, small changes can produce disproportionate results. There’s more than enough time between now and October for one change or a combination of changes to produce the sort of political upheavals that happened in the last week of November and the first week of December last year.

2011 could be one of the most interesting political years in Newfoundland and Labrador history.

- srbp -


Wm. Murphy said...

Interesting Post Ed...Interesting because of the amount of ink that you gave to CRA. This was about the Telelink poll by the way.
It is very intersting because of your past comments concerning how CRA conducts their polls...In fact, you are on record saying "Bond papers has contended for some time that CRA polls are wildly inaccurate measures of public opinion"

Quite interesting when you go to great lengths discussing the Telilink poll and how it compares and differs with the CRA polls. why would you do that when your contention is that CRA is wildly inaccuarte??

What is also intersting is that you never shared the actual Telilink numbers on where the undecided numbers were leaning if they were to vote.

Maybe you forgot to let us know. If you like I can share the number. It is quite telling, don't you think?

Wm. Murphy said...

Might as well share the actual numbers from the Telelink Poll.

Sometimes I find that partisan assesments tend to confuse and hide the warts. We wouldn't want to do that....

Prov Voters Intentions

44% P.C.
13% Lib

Undecided Voters


Where Undecided Voters are leaning

52.9% P.C
17.% Lib

Choice of Leaders

Dunderdale 65%
Jones 11.5%

Satisifcation with the Gov't

83% satisfied

There you go folks and apologies to the Liberal fundraising cttee for putting this out there!

Brad Cabana said...

A Good analysis on this Ed (I know you don't need me to tell you that). The ground has shifted predictably under the feet of the PC's. I do believe the PC's are around the 40-45% range provincially. This government was obviously based around Danny Williams, and the anchor has been cut. Now the good ship PC is drifting toward the rocks with Ms Dunderdale at the helm. The large undecided is an indication that people are willing to jump off the ship, but need to know they are going to a safe place. Jumping off into the ocean isn't necessarily a good choice unless they believe staying on the boat is a less attractive option. Our job, the prov Liberals, is to make sure we have that safe alternative for them. These folks who comment here with such disdain are showing their arrogance - which is good for us.

Ursula said...

"Why didn't Tom, Kathy and Joan sit together at Deer Lake airport while they waited to board their flight back to Sin Jawns"? ~~Yourself~~

Funny one Ed , could it be that they have such high status now that they have become so all important , one of them actually has a personal security detail, maybe the government can't afford more than one of them at a time , so they have to stay some distance from each other . Much like the Royals who actually fly in different aircraft .

Ursula said...

@CochraneCBCNL Mmmm..... tort. Gluggghhhhglgggughguggghgugllgggghuggghh

Speaking of funny , Cochrane is having fun over at Wally's Twitter Place .

My father who was a terrible chauvinist would say that he is "behaving like a dizzy broad".

Was the by-election too much for him ?

Dylan said...

Hi Ed,

What do you think about John Efford pretty much saying that Yvonne Jones should consider stepping down as Liberal leader? He mentioned the recent telelink poll and said that he knows what he would do if he was only 11% in the polls?

What do you make of that? Is he involved with the Liberal Party at all these days?

I found that surprising that he would say that. I think David Cochrane was suprised as well.

NPJ said...

@ Brad Cabana

"Our job, the prov Liberals, is to make sure we have that safe alternative for them. These folks who comment here with such disdain are showing their arrogance - which is good for us."

Brad Cabana I like how you refer to the provincial liberals in this context "our job". Weren't you trying to make a run at the PC leadership? What makes you think the Provincial Liberals want you?

Are you listening to what Kelvin Parsons said when he stated "we welcome all people"?

Wm. Murphy said...


FYI, Ed does not comment about Jones and the Leadership issue of the Liberal Party. In fact he has no intention on commenting about the affairs, direction, strategy, policy, politics or musings of the provincial Liberal Party

Never has and I would imagine, never will.

Brad Cabana said...

NPJ or whoever you are (got to love those brave names) I have been welcomed by numerous members of the provincial party. I am happy to be a part of the team and to do whatever I can to replace this government with a new, energetic administration. I am sure Mr Parsons was right when he said all people are welcome in the Liberal Party. Any Party that hopes to hold government has to be, or they are destined to remain on the side lines of futility. Is that where you want to stay?

Edward Hollett said...

Dylan: I am not surprised at anything John Efford says about anything. Perhaps you and David have forgotten the unfortunate way John ended his political career.

Edward Hollett said...

Brad: I think you are grossly overstating the current state of affairs and nothing I have been writing would suggest imminent collapse for the Tories and so forth. That seems to be the way Tories seem to interpret these things but that isnt what I am saying at all.

Brad Cabana said...

Ed, I haven't heard many Tories sayong their ship is going into the rocks. How is saying the Tories are at 40-45% grossly overstating things? I don't understand where you are coming from on this. I'm simply stating what the poll released yesturday states - including the massive undecided. The same as you were stating in your blog. Is agreeing with your analysis wrong?

Edward Hollett said...

Sorry Brad if I misunderstood your point.

The 44% is actually a fairly typical number for parties in this province.

As for Tories saying they are on the rocks, I doubt any of them are even aware of the difficulties. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. What I was referring to what the response my posts got from some apparent Tories. They seemed spooked by the suggestion of fairly normal problems or exaggerated what i wrote.

Brad Cabana said...

I've been listening to them on radio, TV, etc...they almost seem to be self-hypnotizing. We are number one, we are number one. I suppose they haven't heard the old military saying: never believe your own propoganda. Like I said before sir, it's best to be underestimated for the Liberals.

NPJ said...

@ Brad Cabana

You're perhaps one of the problems that exist within the Liberal party. You're inability to gather support from withinside the Tory ranks has driven you towards the Liberals simply because they didn't embrace your half-hearted attempt to tackle one of their own.

Unfortunately, the voters today are much more in tune to what's going on. Trying to be opportunistic as you are is seen exactly for what it is.

The entire problem with the Liberal party right now is its lack of direction, lack of leadership and lack of true understanding as to what the people want.

The Conservative party has exactly the same issues going on but even in this post Danny era, it does take time for the shine to wear off.

Edward Hollett said...

And how is that different from the Tories, NPJ, with a leader selected on the basis of a political necessity and ruling based on the consent of the others, purely for the time being?

And since Cabana is merely someone who said he wants to take a run at a Liberal nomination he can hardly be said to constitute anything within the Liberal party.