Horse race: Gap narrows between ruling UCP and NDP, poll shows  

“There has been a little bit of movement. The UCP has come down a little bit, and the NDP has come up a little bit”

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New polls show a developing horse race in Alberta politics.

Leger’s May polls show Calgarians and young voters have moved the needle towards the NDP as the UCP lead (47 per cent vs. 43 per cent for NDP) has been halved to four percentage points since the March polls.

“There has been a little bit of movement. The UCP has come down a little bit, and the NDP has come up a little bit,” said Andrew Enns, Leger’s executive vice-president for Central Canada.

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“That movement has largely come within that 18- to 34-year-old age group. And also in the city of Calgary, those are the two kind of subgroups within the ballot that sort of moved a bit, positively for the NDP, which probably accounts for that little tightening of the of the overall race,” Enns said.

The 55-plus crowd skews a bit to small-C conservative, and to UCP — 54 per cent supporting or leaning to supporting the UCP in that group.

Health care remains a top concern

But their top concern is health, and the UCP are having trouble impressing Albertans on their health record. That could be detrimental to the UCP ballot.

And there’s still enough undecided to make a decided difference, one way or another.

“At that age group, you know, a lot of folks could be looking after parents, and so they’re interacting with the health-care system, or they could be starting to interact with the health-care system themselves, so they tend to start to pay more attention in terms of the state of the system. And so you see that that age group start to put their hand up more often when it comes to health care as a top issue, and start to be a bit more critical of the government if they feel things are going awry,” he said.

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The May 22-25 poll suggests health-care concerns lead issues for Albertans.

Among the polled, Premier Danielle Smith’s UCP government didn’t get stellar marks on that.

Between hospital bed shortages, medical staffing shortages, an oncology crisis, and the $85-million dismantling of Alberta Health Services (AHS) under Smith, the UCP has taken something of a lashing in the public eye on health care.

“I’m not necessarily surprised to see health care pop up as a top issue … it’s the bane for any incumbent government, regardless of stripe, right now,” Enns said.

“If they start to see health care break away as that dominant issue, that’ll be something they’ll have to take into account. Because, you know, that’s an issue that they’ll have to make sure they do a little bit better on,” he said.

“You want to be seen as, actually, trying to hold your own in that category.”

Those who would govern need to keep an eye on the 55-plus voters.

“That’s a demographic that traditionally always gotten out to vote, pretty reliably,” Enns said.

Economy and cost of living top of mind

Top-ranked issues, the poll showed, are health care (35 per cent), with the next ones having to do with the economy or cost of living: inflation/interest rates (32 per cent), housing prices/affordability (28 per cent), economy (24 per cent), and taxes (12 per cent).

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The current UCP government’s top approval rankings were: wildfire response (50 per cent good job, 31 per cent bad job), energy/pipelines (43 per cent good job, 35 per cent bad job) and transportation (40 per cent good job, 36 per cent bad job).

The government’s lowest approval rankings were: housing prices affordability (60 per cent bad job, 22 per cent good job), inflation/high interest rates (59 per cent bad, 22 per cent good), homelessness (59 per cent bad, 22 per cent good), health care (57 per cent bad, 29 per cent good), and poverty (55 per cent bad, 24 per cent good).

Some other trouble spots included managing relations with the federal government (49 per cent bad job, 34 per cent good job), crime (48 per cent bad job, 33 per cent good job), education (47 per cent bad job, 34 per cent good job), and relationships between provincial and municipal governments (47 per cent bad job, 33 per cent good job).

In all those instances, undecided numbers were in double digits.

The pollster questioned 1,009 adult Albertans, 415 Calgary adults and 409 Edmonton adults, between May 22 and May 25. The poll yields a margin of error no greater than ±3.1 per cent 19 times out of 20, Enns said.

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