With the dust of the provincial election having more or less settled, a polling organization has conducted a survey on the reasons for the fundamental shift in the balance of political forces and announced some results that should be some good food for thought for both winners and losers.
As the details below will clearly set out, it looks like Albertans wanted a change “from PC” and not necessarily “to NDP”. One hopes that NDP leadership under Notley will realize that this is a one-off chance that they have make good use of if they would like to remain relevant in the provincial politics in the long run.
The survey conducted among randomly selected 1000 Albertans by a company called Abacus Data has produced the following assessment of the election results in broad strokes:
• The vast majority (91 per cent) said the result had nothing to do with preferring a female premier. Only 9 per cent overall and only 10 per cent among women, said it was about electing a woman.
• Overwhelmingly, those surveyed say the result was more about a desire for change (93 per cent) rather than a preference for the NDP (7 per cent). NDP voters were as likely as everyone else to say it was more about change.
• Two thirds (67 per cent) say the leaders’ debate mattered; only 34 per cent felt it was not that important. To underscore just how critical it was, those who voted NDP were 9 points more likely to say the debate mattered.
• More felt the result was about “cooling on Jim Prentice” (63 per cent), than “warming to Rachel Notley” (37 per cent). NDP voters were 14 points more likely to say it was about warming to Rachel Notley, while Wildrose voters were 14 points more likely to say it was about cooling towards Jim Prentice.
• More say this election was about anger (62 per cent) than about “hope” (38 per cent). Wildrose voters were more likely than others to say it was about anger, while NDP voters were more likely to say it was about hope.
• Most say the election had more to do with leadership (58 per cent) than the economy (42 per cent). Given the economic pressures faced by Alberta in recent months, this is well worth noting.
• The provincial budget was a prominent backdrop for the election call, and almost half (44 per cent) said the result was about the budget. More (56 per cent) said the election was about other things.
• The election was almost equally seen as an expression of “mood” (52 per cent) as it was a choice made around “issues and policy” (48 per cent). NDP supporters were far more inclined to see it as an issues-based result, while PC and Wildrose voters said it was about mood.
• Finally, Albertans are equally divided on whether the result was about the province becoming united (51 per cent) or being divided (49 per cent). Perhaps, given the nature of the result, what is most remarkable is that so many people saw the result as having a unifying element or at least being about a shared feeling.
It goes without saying that social scientists, political parties, lobbyists and even big corporations will continue to analyze the results of one of the most fascinating elections of recent times in the country for a considerable time to come. Some will try extrapolate the outcome to the forthcoming national elections.
Regardless of how these assessments end up, there is one major achievement that Albertans can be proud of after this election: They have showed that they would not be taken for granted and put the politicians on their toes with a big time reminder that the seats they occupy do not belong to them and that they are on borrowed time only to do some good for the people.