© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Provincial NDP leader Mike Redmond and his daughter Ella chat with supporters Mabel Hernandez and her son Juan Cardona. Redmond was Cardona's soccer coach for two years.
Prince Edward Island New Democrats are feeling bolstered by a surge in the latest poll, but political pundits are warning Islanders may just be parking their votes.
The NDP pulled well ahead of the Progressive Conservative party in P.E.I. and is closing in on the governing Liberals, according to the summer 2013 Corporate Research Associates poll.
Mike Redmond’s New Democrats jumped ahead by 11 points this quarter, and now have the support of 32 per cent of decided voters in P.E.I.
This is the highest level of support the provincial NDP has ever seen in Prince Edward Island and places the party just 10 points behind the governing Liberals, who dropped 10 points this quarter to rest at 42 per cent.
Meanwhile, satisfaction levels with government have remained low, with more than half of all decided voters saying they are dissatisfied with the Ghiz government.
CRA president and COO Margaret Brigley says the Liberals appear to be losing ground to the NDP.
“Right now we’re seeing that Islanders are more likely to express dissatisfaction with the government than satisfaction… That could be a reason why the NDP figures have actually improved.”
Brigley said poll results from across all Atlantic Canada show voters are similarly unhappy with their respective governments, regardless of the party holding power.
“It appears the electorate is generally grumpy,” Brigley said.
“They’re looking for their government to really make a difference in tough economic times and they’re not confident that they’re in a better place, necessarily.”
When the last CRA poll was released in June, the PC party and NDP were in a virtual tie for second place. For the second time this year, the NDP has pulled ahead of the Opposition Tories – this time with a nine-point lead.
Support for the Progressive Conservative party remained stagnant at 23 per cent, compared with 22 per cent three months ago.
Redmond has also pulled well ahead of Interim PC Leader Steven Myers in personal popularity. When asked who they would most prefer as premier of P.E.I., 24 per cent of individuals polled chose Redmond – an increase of nine percentage points. This places Redmond 11 points ahead of Myers and just seven points behind Premier Robert Ghiz.
Just over four in 10 decided voters expressed support for the governing Liberal party compared with 52 per cent in June, while Ghiz’s personal popularity also declined this quarter from 38 per cent to 31.
UPEI professor and political scientist Don Desserud said while the NDP should be happy with these results, the party should not rely too heavily on them when election time comes.
The souring of public support for the governing party is normal for the mid-point of a second mandate, he said.
He believes the NDP’s gains in this poll are more indicative of an unhappy electorate than a growth in popularity for the New Democrats.
“Islanders just want to say that they’re not voting for the Liberals and they’re not voting for the PCs. In that sense it’s a negative statement.”
But Desserud said the party could use this to help grow more solid support.
“When you have poll results like that, you add a legitimacy to your party that allows people who in the past would have potentially considered voting NDP but who saw that as a waste of a vote… those people might decide ‘This is a party that I can vote for after all.’”
Redmond said he is pleased with the results, while stressing work to build the party will continue.
Nonetheless, he disagreed the NDP’s increase this quarter indicates Islanders are merely parking their vote.
“It galvanizes the party to know that the work we put in can yield success for the party,” he said.
“But I think it’s incorrect that people are parking their vote. I think they’re actually looking at the NDP as an alternative to what government is.”
Support for the Green party is at three per cent, compared with 5 per cent in June. Green party leader Peter Bevan-Baker saw a modest increase in personal support, going from four to six per cent of decided voters.
Thirty-six per cent of P.E.I. voters are undecided or refused to supply an answer.
The poll results are based on a sample of 300 Islanders, conducted between Aug. 8 and Aug. 28, with overall results considered accurate within plus or minus 5.6 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.