Tuesday, 11 June 2013

CRA POLL: THE LIBERALS' BIG DAY

Monday's CRA Poll, on the popularity of the Dunderdale Government and the three political Parties, is actually a very significant Poll.  No one really profits from reading a Party’s standings, this far from an election; even the titillation is brief.  The real value is when a Poll identifies a fundamental shift in the direction of the public’s political preferences. 

The CRA Poll contains some potentially big stories on that front.
The Liberals’ surprising spike, in popular support, demands particular attention. From May, 2012 to Feb. 2013, the Liberals were supported, at most, by 22% of those polled.  Now, this number has jumped to 36%.  THAT’S BIG.  Even the Liberals will wonder, for a while, if it is an anomaly or whether it is the beginning of a trend, something that has ‘legs’. 

Voter support for the PCs dropped from 38% to 27%; then, too, NDP support also dropped 2 points, from 39% down to 37%.  This means that the Liberals picked up all of the support that the Dunderdale Tories lost, within the past three months, and then some (though the NDP decline is within the Poll’s margin of error).  How is the Liberal high-jump explained?

One possibility is that NDP support has crested, or ‘capped out’; its left wing ideology, a tough swallow for traditional middle-of-the-road conservatives.  That’s the ‘obvious’ conclusion; but, often, the obvious is wrong. 

A more likely prospect is that Tory support, in the rural areas, is collapsing.  Some of you will recall the last MQO Poll which placed the NDP far ahead of the Tories, in the St. John’s area, and the Liberals a distant third.  That same Poll concluded that a three way split was shared among the parties in rural NL. (See slide above).  Until, a competing Pollster, like MQO provides additional analysis as to the comparative politics of the urban/rural divide, I believe it a safe bet that rural based Tory support has shifted, and in large numbers, to its traditional alternative, which is clearly not the NDP.

That said, ‘capping out’ is, potentially, a serious problem for the NDP; in order to walk the threshold to power, the Party must continue to grow outside its traditional base of support.  Lorraine Michael’s comment, to the media, that she plans to maintain the ‘status quo’ was not the most appropriate response on the NDP standings.  Like it or not, she will have to begin making plans that include policies that seek to connect with rural voters, knowing that policies contain  risk; still, it may be the only way she can take her Party to the next level.  Michael ought to know she has gotten an easy ride, thus far; but, the pathway to power is rarely as smooth as the one discovered by Kathy Dunderdale.   

Bear in mind, too, that the words Liberal and Progressive Conservative are more about ‘brands’ than about ‘ideologies’; not so, the NDP.  That Party has only lately learned the pitfalls of being ‘pigeon-holed’, the National wing of the NDP having recently obliterated the word “socialism” from its Constitution.   By contrast, the local Tories have spent like drunken sailors, for the past several years; yet, they are still not seen as a left of center party. 

That aside, Lorraine Michael should be very pleased that, on the question of which leader voters prefer, she stands well above the other two, with 36% versus 21% for Dunderdale and 24% for Dwight Ball. 

As for Mr. Ball, the CRA results could not be more timely.  His ‘interim’ status has gone on far too long; he may use the new numbers to beat off rivals and bring an end to a Party run by amateurs and other narrow interests; if I failed to mention Dean McDonald, it is quite by accident.  That Ball has been able to outdo the Premier, in popularity, ought to put some spring in his step and bring him encouragement to act, consistently, as a Premier-in-waiting.  Lest he parses too optimistic a message from the Poll, he should need no reminding that the ‘third’ Party is the one on top.

The Premier's popularity is another matter.

‘Satisfaction’ (completely/mostly combined), for the Dunderdale Government, has dropped from 45% in February to 32% now; down from 60% exactly one year ago.

From the perspective of a Pollster, the ‘consistency’ found, in this survey, is comforting. Not so for Ms. Dunderdale.

I am sure the Premier is concerned.

But, Ms. Dunderdale possesses an alarming ability to convey the sense that her only answer is to wait and see if her fortunes will turn around. 

It is odd that, for this Poll, her Minister of Finance was asked to field questions from the media. Hopefully, the Premier had not expected him to offer an inspirational perspective on the Government’s popularity problem. A Minister, less suitable, could hardly have been selected.

Though, many including this scribe, still look for ‘markers’ that signal whether the Premier understands both the source and magnitude of her problem, it has yet to be determined if she even possesses the skills and intuition essential to ‘understanding’ and to ‘connecting’ with her public. It is now clear that this ‘disconnect’ occurred some time ago, long before she ‘banged up the phone’ on Mr. Nigel Wright of the PMO.

Time is now the one thing the Premier has in excess, though it won’t last. 

Perhaps another Poll will contain a different outcome and if not that one, the next.

Meanwhile, the Premier waits.

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