21 November 2012

Support but lacking sufficient information - the NTV/MQO Poll #nlpoli

The more questions you ask, the more information you get. The more information you have, the more accurate a picture you can draw of anything.

In this case, it’s public opinion.

On Monday, the provincial government/Nalcor front group released the results of a single poll question put by Corporate Research Associates to a random sample of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It showed 66% of respondents supported the Muskrat Falls project.

But on Tuesday, NTV News released the results of a poll it had commissioned from MQO.  More questions.  More information and a much different picture from Monday.

MQO produced a poll of its Atlantic Canada panel.  Asked about Muskrat Falls, 59% supported it, 20% opposed it and 21% neither supported nor opposed the project. 

Okay.  The two surveys were done around the same time (15 November to 19 November for NTV/MQ) and 15-17 November for CRA)  The reported margin of error for the CRA poll was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.  That puts the two poll results close enough to suggest that neither is completely out to lunch.

NTV/MQO went a bit further.  They asked whether people supported a PUB review.   69% supported a full PUB review.  14% didn’t and 17% had no answer.

They also asked about a referendum.  53% supported a
 referendum.  31% didn’t want a referendum and 17% neither supported nor opposed a referendum.
Then there was the killer.  Asked if they had enough information to make an informed opinion about the project, 57% said they did not while 43% felt they had enough information. [corrected]
So go back to that support question.  Not looking too good now, is it?  Roughly the same percentage people who supported the project also felt they didn’t have enough information to make an informed choice.  Unless MQO compared the answers to both questions we couldn’t tell for sure if the same people had the same view. 

But still, it undermines confidence in the support response.

Government Loses Big Time

After two years of public discussion capped off by an intense half million dollar advertising campaign, the provincial government still cannot persuade people that Muskrat Falls is the right option.

Sure they like it, but they don’t have enough information to make an informed choice.  What gets worse for the government is the high level of support for sending the project back to the PUB. That suggests  that they don’t trust the government to make the choice.  They want independent experts to assess the proposal.not the project proponents:  that is, the provincial government and Nalcor.

And just to drive home that point, 53% of the public would support a referendum on the project.

Opposition a Close Second

The second biggest loser in this would be the official opposition.  things were bad enough when opposition House leader Yvonne Jones finally came out of the closet and reveals that her support for the project is up for sale to the highest bidder. 

Jones has destroyed what shreds of credibility she had left after the Burton Winters fiasco last winter.  She looks exactly like what she is: desperate to win the Liberal nomination in the next federal election.

What Jones’ flashing neon “for sale” sign reveals more particularly is that the Liberal caucus is a loose association of individuals rather than a caucus working cohesively. They are back in the House but obviously have no strategy or sense of direction. They look weak and ineffective.  Now they can add “obviously divided” to the list of their defining characteristics.

What the poll results show more clearly, though is that the Liberal indecisiveness and their behind-the-scenes trending toward support for the project, shows a completely lack of political instinct. The fact they are still working with an interim leader and have a huge debt load is irrelevant compared to that.

And the Winner is…

David Vardy, Ron Penney and the 2041 Group have been promoting the idea of sending the project for a proper review by the PUB.  That same view has been endorsed by citizens’ groups on the political left and right nationally.

69% of NTV/MQO respondents like a PUB review.

The political winner on this point is the provincial New Democrats.  They’ve come back to the House aggressively pushing against the government on Muskrat Falls.  One of the issues they’ve seized on is the PUB review.  The NTV/MQO poll suggests that could be a winning position for them.  They’ve got a point and they are making it.