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P.E.I. may be headed for a minority government, with the Green party maintaining a slight lead in public support over both the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals, says an exclusive poll commissioned by The Guardian.
The poll, conducted by Narrative Research, shows Peter Bevan-Baker’s Green party has maintained a narrow lead over both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives, despite the party being out-spent and out-fundraised by both parties.
The Greens garnered the support of 35 per cent of decided and leaning voters. But the PCs, under new leader Dennis King, are showing the strongest increase in support and are closing in on the Greens, gaining the support of 32 per cent of decided and leaning voters. The Liberals are not far behind at 29 per cent. The NDP, led by Joe Byrne, are sitting at three per cent.
Eight per cent of the electorate is undecided.
The new polling numbers indicate that the election is still very much a three-way battle.
"There's a definite probability you've got a minority government," said Narrative Research CEO Margaret Brigley.
Narrative Research, formerly known as Corporate Research Associates (CRA), rebranded and changed its name on Tuesday.
Governments in P.E.I. have historically oscillated between PC and Liberal. This election represents the first time since Confederation that a third party, the Greens, has been in serious contention to win an election in the province.
The new poll indicates the PCs have gained significantly in popularity since King won a leadership contest in February. The PCs have seen their polling numbers climb from 20 per cent last November to 32 per cent this week, a jump of 12 percentage points.
While still in the lead, the Greens have seen their share of support drop by two percentage points since November, from 37 per cent to 35 per cent. The Liberals, meanwhile, have seen their numbers drop seven percentage points since November, from 36 per cent to 29 per cent.
Green Leader Bevan-Baker has maintained his position as the most preferred choice as premier, earning the support of 37 per cent of Islanders. King was the preferred choice of 23 per cent of Islanders, while Liberal Premier Wade MacLauchlan was the choice of 22 per cent. NDP Leader Joe Byrne earned the support of four per cent of voters. Twelve per cent didn’t indicate a preference.
Broken down by county, the poll found the Greens hold a commanding lead in Prince County, with 40 per cent of decided and leaning voters, compared to the PCs 29 per cent and the Liberals 27 per cent. The Greens also hold a slight lead in Queens County, at 36 per cent, compared to 33 per cent for the PCs and 28 per cent for the Liberals. In Kings County, long seen as a stronghold for the PCs, the Liberals are currently leading, with 41 per cent support among decided and leaning voters, compared to 35 per cent support for the PCs and 23 per cent for the Greens.
But the Greens may face more of a challenge to turn out its base of voters than the other two mainline parties, said Brigley.
"The folks who are intending to vote Green, they're less committed in their response, so it's a softer vote intention right now.
"When you look at the folks who are intending to vote Liberal, they are most definitive and most committed to their party."
Brigley added that Green support is highest among voters aged 18-34, a demographic that often has a lower voter turnout.
“It will be really, really important for them to rally the troops and get the vote out,” Brigley said.
The poll was conducted by Narrative Research and was commissioned by The Guardian. The poll of 539 voters, of whom 468 were decided, was carried out by telephone between April 12 and 15. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
More polling data to come
In the coming days, The Guardian will be releasing further polling results showing the voting intentions of Islanders in the upcoming referendum on electoral reform and about the issues considered most important to Island voters. Watch for it on all The Guardian’s platforms starting Thursday.