A majority of Islanders are dissatisfied with the Robert Ghiz government, according to the latest Corporate Research Associates poll.
Over one-half of Islanders polled in August expressed dissatisfaction with the provincial government.
This is the second consecutive quarterly poll showing unrest with the current administration and comes as the Liberal Party itself also shows a steady decline in support over the last year.
Poor economic conditions, unpopular budget cuts, civil service reductions and the announcement last spring of the HST coming to P.E.I. are all factors that have played into the Liberal government's continued decline, says Don Mills, chairman and CEO of CRA.
"More than half of the people in P.E.I. are currently dissatisfied with the government. When that happens over a couple of quarters, you tend to lose voter support," Mills said in an interview.
Premier Robert Ghiz’s personal popularity has also weakened. While it remained steady this quarter Ghiz has dropped 13 points compared to August of last year.
But those disenchanted with the Ghiz Liberals do not appear to be turning to the Opposition Tories.
While PC Leader Olive Crane is the only leader to see an increase in personal support in this poll, overall this year Crane has not significantly grown her popularity.
Her Progressive Conservative Party did see a bump in support this quarter with an increase of six points.
But Mills pointed to the fact the PC Party numbers were 'unusually down' last quarter.
"If you look at the last year for the Progressive Conservatives, the highest they've ever been is 34 per cent and that was in November, right after the election. So they really haven't improved on the situation since the election," Mills said.
Don Desserud, dean of arts at UPEI and a longtime political analyst, said this poll is bad news for the Conservatives.
He did not lay the blame on Crane’s leadership, but said others likely will. Opposition parties are notoriously hard on their leaders, he said.
“It’s not so much that people blame the leader as they say, ‘A new leader will solve all our problems,’” Desserud said.
“It’s a simple solution, it gets people excited but it avoids questions that they might not want to face that their policies aren’t as popular or as coherent… so I think people are going to look at those numbers and it’s going to make Ms. Crane’s job very difficult.”
Meanwhile, the NDP, who experienced a surge in support in the last quarterly poll, maintained their newfound strength. Eighteen per cent of Islanders polled said they would vote NDP, a number unchanged since the last poll despite the fact the party is currently leaderless. A leadership convention is planned for next month.
Mills said support for the NDP is growing across the region. And with P.E.I.'s party jumping from seven per cent support to 18 since August of last year, this represents a notable shift.
"A certain portion of the population are disaffected with the traditional parties in power - either the Conservatives or the Liberals - and they're willing now, because of the lack of progress that they've seen, to consider a third option," Mills said.
"I think we might be seeing the very beginning of a true third party system across Atlantic Canada."
“It’s not so much that people blame the leader as they say, ‘A new leader will solve all our problems,’” - Don Desserud, dean of arts at UPEI
Desserud said it will be interesting to watch what happens with the NDP’s support levels once a new leader is elected.
“I think that support is based on an excitement about the NDP on the national level and still probably some coat tails from Jack Layton himself, but you put a new leader in there and the focus changes,” Desserud said.
He said he believes it’s not necessarily the case that Islanders are turning from Liberal to NDP. He said actual vote counts during last year’s election indicate former Liberal supporters did not switch allegiance but rather refrained from voting.
“That seems to be more of the way in which people are dealing with issues these days – when they don’t like a party, rather than switching parties they simply will not vote at all.”
Support for the Green Party of P.E.I. and interim Green Leader Darcie Lanthier remained unchanged at 8 per cent and five per cent respectively.
The Island Party dropped from one per cent to zero for party support and, although former leader Billy Cann left the party to join the NDP last month, support for the Island Party leader remained at one per cent.
The poll results are based on a sample of 300 Islanders, conducted from between Aug. 10 and Aug. 31, 2012 with overall results accurate to within plus or minus 5.7 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.