25 October 2006

Williams' PCs only 3 points ahead of Rideout's PCs 17 years later

[Revised: corrected poll numbers; image added]

Despite record high public approval ratings and Danny Williams' strong personal popularity, voter support for the Progressive Conservative party in the province remains only three points above the PC party standings in the 1989 general election or on par with the 2003 general election.

That's one of the conclusions from an assessment of the most recent polling results in Newfoundland and Labrador by NTV/Telelink and Corporate Research Associates.

Bond Papers has already questioned the usefulness of media polls, but leaving aside possible issues of sampling methodology and the limited information gleaned from the polls, some conclusions leap up that do not coincide with media reports, Williams' own interpretation and the assessments of the pollsters themselves.

NTV/Telelink surveyed 1,109 voters in Newfoundland and Labrador. In August, CRA polled 412 voters. The comparison results are provided below, adjusted to reflect percentages of total. CRAs results were reported as a percentage of decided voters on the party support question. Margin of error for NTV/Telelink was given as plus or minus 2.9% at the 95th confidence interval while the comparable figure for CRA was 4.8%.

Party Support (NTV/CRA)

PCP 51.1/59.86
LIB 17.3/14.76
NDP 07.5/05.74
Not vote 02.3/01.64
UND 21.7/18.0

n = 1109/412

Both polls showed satisfaction with the Williams administration at approximately 84%. Approximately 74% selected Williams as best choice for premier in both polls.

The Progressive Conservatives under Tom Rideout [left] received 48% of the popular vote, while still going down to defeat in 1989. Danny Williams' Progressive Conservatives received 58.72% of the popular vote in 2003, with 33.19% voting Liberal.

Danny Williams' recent attacks on Ottawa, launched at the party convention in Gander on 14 October coincided with the NTV/Telelink polling period.

NTV characterized the Progressive Conservatives' popularity as rising since a low point in 2004 after a public sector strike. While that is true - relatively speaking - no explanation has been offered as to why the overwhelming satisfaction with the government and with Williams as premier hasn't translated into equally phenomenal voter support.

While CRA has typically been quick to dismiss undecideds as being irrelevant, the results of both the CRA and NTV polls suggest the undecideds are comprised mainly of traditional Liberal supporters who may be dissatisfied with the current state of the party. This is only a possible explanation since neither poll provides any data on the undecideds except that they did not indicate a voting choice.

Speculation that Danny Williams' party might sweep the election in 2003 is also not founded on past performance with comparable voter choices. In 2003, Williams won 34 seats of the 48 seat legislature with 59% of the popular vote. Liberal Clyde Wells won the same number of seats in a 52 seat legislature in 1989 with 47% of the popular vote. Media polls do not provide any reliable geographical data to allow seat-by-seat projections.