For the first time in P.E.I. history, the NDP is number two in the polls in the wake of a plunge in support for the PC party, according to the latest Corporate Research Associates poll.
The CRA’s winter 2013 data shows the NDP is now polling at 26 per cent, an increase of four points since the last quarterly poll conducted in November 2012.
This places them well ahead of the Progressive Conservative Party, which has the support of just 16 per cent of Islanders — a drop of 12 points since the last poll.
This steep decline now places the PC party behind the provincial NDP in an historic shift of voter support.
“This is maybe the start of a real, true three-party jurisdiction,” CRA chairman and CEO Don Mills said in an interview Wednesday.
“(The NDP) certainly seem to be a credible force now in P.E.I. They’re certainly poised to elect someone with these numbers.”
The story is similar in support for the NDP and PC leadership. NDP Leader Mike Redmond is stable at 18 per cent, compared with 15 per cent last quarter, while support for Interim PC Leader Steven Myers has dropped to single digits at seven per cent since November when former leader Olive Crane garnered 19 per cent.
Redmond is bolstered by his party’s numbers, which have been growing steadily over the last year.
“It’s a good day for the NDP,” he said.
He attributed this growth to the work he and the party have been doing to grow support. For the first time ever, the NDP has been organizing riding associations and Redmond says he has already secured 14 to 20 candidates to run in the next election.
“The New Democratic party on Prince Edward Island is a strong alternative to what government represents, and if we just continue to do the work then I think we can make a positive change.”
Mills says he believes this a major factor in the rise of the NDP to second place is the leadership struggles of the PC party over the last few months.
The PC party has been in a state of chaos since the day the last CRA poll was released. On that day, Crane announced she was quitting as leader of the party.
“It’s no secret we have gone through a difficult time, and like anyone who goes through difficult times we’re hoping to emerge stronger, and I think we will,” Interim PC Leader Steven Myers
Since then, infighting over who should take over as interim leader coupled with an attempt to divide the roles of party and Opposition leader kept the PC party’s internal squabbles in the glare of the public spotlight.
Myers said the drop in support in this newest poll did not surprise him.
“It’s no secret we have gone through a difficult time, and like anyone who goes through difficult times we’re hoping to emerge stronger, and I think we will.”
Myers remains hopeful the party can rebuild and regain the support of Islanders.
“It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, so we have a lot of work to do. It’s not hard to acknowledge that, but we’re ready to do the work.”
Meanwhile, satisfaction for the Ghiz government has increased since last quarter.
Fifty per cent of Islanders say they are satisfied with the performance of the provincial government led by Premier Robert Ghiz — an increase of seven points since last quarter.
Support for the Liberal party has also grown to 51 per cent, an increase of six points.
Mills said he believes Islanders are now softening to the idea of the HST, which he thinks caused the government to lose support last year.
A total of 42 per cent of Islanders were undecided or refused to say what party they would vote for – a number Mills says is typical for the early-to-middle period of a government’s mandate.
The poll results are based on a sample of 300 Islanders, conducted between Feb. 11 and March 2nd, with overall results considered accurate within plus or minus 5.6 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.