06 December 2010

Tory support drops sharply

Support for the province’s ruling Conservative Party dropped by about 10 percentage points in Danny Williams’ last month in office according to a poll released on Monday by the provincial government’s official pollster.

Corporate Research Associates reported that 75% of decided respondents to a survey said they would vote Conservative if an election were held tomorrow.

CRA reported that the undecided, do not know and will not vote categories amount to 31%.  In itself, that’s the largest UND reported by Corporate Research Associates in the past five years.  It’s also up dramatically from the 19 percent reported in August.

cra nov 10 correctedWhen you adjust CRA’s party support number to show as a percentage of all respondents, the Tory vote drops to 51.8% from the 61.8% reported three months earlier. The graph above gives the CRA polling results since the last provincial election, adjusted to show the responses as a percentage of all respondents.  The reddish-brown line shows the actual Conservative vote share in the last provincial election – 43% - shown as a share of eligible voters.  That’s the same basis on which CRA polls.

Don’t get overly excited by the gap between the two lines though.  It illustrates the extent to which CRA’s polling is out of whack. 

Except for a couple of odd drops or climbs (November 2008, February 2010 and August 2010), the Conservative support has been declining steadily since CRA’s first post-election poll. The drop overall has been from 67% in November 2007 to 52% three years later. There’s even a bizarro period in the middle where the party support was within fractions of a percentage point for nine months consistently.

If you accept the drops and spikes, the Tories have dropped from 67 to 52 since February 2010.

There are a few things to bear in mind when looking at CRA polling numbers.  First, it is well established that the provincial government organizes its political communications to influence the outcome of the quarterly poll.  Second, as the actual 2007 election result shows, CRA also gives poll results that are significantly different from actual election experience.  In 2007, CRA’s results show the Conservative vote to be much higher than it was on election day and radically underrepresented the “will not vote” by approximately 20 percentage points.

Even allowing for those considerations, the Tories appear to have experienced a dramatic decline in voter support in a relatively short span.  Neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats picked up the disaffected vote, apparently.

Nonetheless, this poll shows the extent to which the Conservatives were bleeding support even before Danny Williams announced his departure.  What happens in the 10 months to the next provincial election will hinge on developments over the next five to six months.

The Conservatives will pick a new leader and bring down a new budget.  They also face labour and other problems across the province.  A significant number of voters in the province look like they have decided to wait and see what happens.

Keep your eyes fixed on the February polling period.

CRA’s news release was not available on line as of 1430 hours Newfoundland Daylight Savings Time.

- srbp -