The victory of the governing Progressive Conservative Party in Alberta’s latest provincial election is directly tied with a large proportion of voters making their final decision in the late stages of the campaign, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.
The online survey of a representative sample of 671 Albertans who voted on Apr. 23 also shows that the Wildrose Party lost 10 percentage points in the final weekend of the campaign, and that two-in-five Progressive Conservative voters considered voting for the right-wing opposition party but ultimately decided against it.
Choosing a Party
Across Alberta, two-in-five respondents (39%) acknowledge that they made the final decision on which party to vote for in their constituency on election day (23%), the Sunday (6%) or the Saturday (10%) before the election.
While 38 per cent of Alberta voters selected a party from the start of the campaign to just before the last weekend, one-in-four (24%) say they knew which party they would back before the election was called.
A deeper exploration of the mindset of Alberta voters shows that the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party started on equal footing as the election call was expected. Following the first week of campaigning, the Wildrose Party had gained six points, while the Progressive Conservatives fell below the 30 per cent mark. The largest gap between the two main contenders was observed in the days leading up to the televised leaders’ debate, with 45 per cent of voters saying they would have supported the Wildrose candidate in their riding, and 28 per cent saying they would have backed a Progressive Conservative.
In the last full week of the campaign, the Progressive Conservatives gained three points, but still trailed the Wildrose by a significant margin. In the final weekend and on election day, support for the Progressive Conservatives increased by 13 points, while the Wildrose Party dropped 10 points.
Sources of Strength
Albertans who voted for either of the two main parties were asked about their rationale. While both Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose supporters place equal emphasis on their leader (35% and 33%), Wildrose voters are more likely to cite the party’s policies as a factor that played a role in their choice (50% to 39%). Conversely, Progressive Conservative voters are more in touch with the candidates in their riding than Wildrose voters (26% to 17%).
Two-in-five Progressive Conservative voters (43%) say they considered voting for the Wildrose Party at one point in the campaign, but ultimately decided not to do so, including 52 per cent of those aged 18-to-34.
With only 61 per cent of voters settling on a party to support before the final weekend of the Alberta campaign, the potential of a late shift affecting the fortunes of the Wildrose Party was certainly present. An analysis of voting intentions throughout the campaign shows that the Wildrose Party peaked just before and after the leaders’ debate.
The Progressive Conservatives managed a brief jump by garnering support from some Liberal Party and New Democratic Party (NDP) voters, but ultimately benefitted from a 13-point increase that was driven partly by undecided Albertans settling on a final choice, but mostly from Wildrose voters who clearly had second thoughts as election day neared.
Mario Canseco, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+877 730 3570
Methodology: From April 25 to April 27, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 671 randomly selected Alberta adults who are Angus Reid Forum panellists and voted in the April 2012 provincial election. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.8%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Alberta. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.