NTV commissioned NTV to poll opinion about the provincial Conservatives a month after Paul Davis took over as Premier.
The party choice numbers are simple enough: Liberals at 37, Conservatives at 16, the NDP at just six percent, and undecided at 40.
Leadership numbers Put Dwight Ball of the Liberals slightly ahead of Paul Davis (31 to 27) with Lorraine at 10 and undecided at 33.
The Conservatives who have been clinging to the belief that “satisfaction” with government is the great hope will be dashed to find the most recent “sat” number is 48%, down from 60% just a short while ago for MQO.
So what does it mean?
Well, the party choice numbers are pretty much in the same neighbourhood as they were one year ago. The MQO/NTV poll in October 2013 had the Liberals at 35, the Conservatives at 20, and the NDP at 12. And in March 2014, the numbers were almost exactly what they are in the most recent poll: 37, 19, seven.
No matter what they have done, including pound through a year-long leadership circus, the Conservatives have not moved the party choice number one teensy bit. Now some people will get excited by the variation from poll to poll. They shouldn’t. Whether it is MQO or Corporate Research Associates, these polls have such a big margin of error that you can have a variation of up to 210 or 12 points from an earlier poll and it would still be within the range of possibilities and not a significant sign of change.
You don’t need to bother with that because the lack of change in these party choice numbers tells you something else. There is no connection between the party choice numbers and either leader or satisfaction. They all move on their own.
We already knew that satisfaction wasn’t influencing party choice or vice versa. Well, now we can safely say that there is no apparent connection between party choice and leader choice. That flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that holds that leaders are everything in Newfoundland politics. But there’s no denying the numbers.
So what’s driving party choice?
Well, that’s the $64,000 question. The sort of polling the media uses can;t possibly tell us that. We’d need to design some specific questions to explore that question.
One thing we know is that the major parties should be polling to find out why the party positions are where they are in the horse race. The only way you can secure your lead or move from second into first is by exploring what’s driving opinion. So far the parties seem to be relying on pure conjecture. A little bit of hard information, and the will to use it, could make a dramatic change in local politics.