CRA poll confirms interesting race heading home

Published on April 28, 2015

Corporate Research Associates

The much-anticipated Corporate Research Associates (CRA) poll released Friday had some good news for almost everyone. Now that it’s been determined the provincial election outcome is still in doubt, the final week will be very interesting indeed. The May 4 outcome could come down to the CBC debate last night in Summerside and the wrap-up, televised Guardian-Eastlink debate at UPEI on Thursday evening.

The Liberals will take heart, that, despite the best the opposition and some outside forces could muster, it still holds a nine point lead. As CRA pollster Don Mills interprets, that could translate into some 20 seats - a clear and comfortable majority.

The Progressive Conservatives must be elated for dramatically narrowing the Liberal margin from the last poll in late February. Nine points behind with a margin of error at 4.5 per cent means the Tories are within striking distance of pulling off the upset. NDP support has reached a significant 15 per cent. If that continues to election day, and the Green Party holds its six per cent support, the third party total of 21 per cent would be the largest in Island history.

Support for the Liberals dropped 14 points since the last poll in February while PC support has grown nine points. The Tories will argue they have momentum and their supporters are rejuvenated that after eight years on the sidelines, they have a legitimate shot at power. The Liberals held a similar lead going into the 2011 election and actually increased that lead in the final week.

The significant polling changes in a short period of time are astonishing. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, whose personal popularity is at 38 per cent, is only 10 points ahead of young PC Leader Rob Lantz - and only six points ahead in the battleground of Queens County.

The poll does have some unusual findings. The huge Liberal lead in Kings County (58 per cent for the Liberals to 31 per cent for the PCs) is a mystery. The county is the heart of traditional Conservative strength and if Tory incumbents are in trouble, things don’t look good for the party. There are two likely scenarios - either the low polling numbers in the county have skewed the results, or there is a deep under-current of anger over how former PC leader Olive Crane was treated and a backlash is evident among Conservative voters.

Ms. Crane finished her days as an independent but her personal popularity remained high in the Morell, Mount Stewart, St. Peters Bay, Souris and Georgetown areas where she could still make a difference. If she tips the scales in those traditional Tory ridings towards the Liberals and influences the outcomes in adjacent ridings in Belfast-Murray River, Vernon River-Stratford and Stratford-Kinlock where the Tories had high hopes, it won't auger well for Mr. Lantz.

The numbers are equally startling in Queens County where just two points separate the Liberals at 39 per cent and the PCs at 37 per cent - and the NDP hold an impressive 18 per cent. If the Tories are hoping the numbers are skewed in Kings County, the Liberals are hoping even more fervently that the numbers are distorted in Queens.

The margin of error could see the Conservative actually in the lead in riding-rich Charlottetown and area, which has been a Liberal bastion the last two elections but now appears a toss up. This is bad news for Mr. MacLauchlan.

Liberal strength has ebbed to the NDP and if that holds in Queens County, then the election will be that “dogfight.”

The election could hinge on two factors - if Mr. Lantz performs well against Mr. MacLauchlan in the debates this week; and will people who intend to vote NDP bail out late and vote Liberal, as Mr. Mills said they tend to do.

The low number of undecided voters – at a mere 13 per cent  - is down significantly from February. It appears most voters have made up their minds - about a lot of things.