The Progressive Conservatives are headed for a solid majority government and the Liberals and NDP are fighting it out for second place, according to a poll by Corporate Research Associates (CRA) conducted exclusively for The Telegram.
The Telegram will roll out results of the wide-ranging poll — which has a large sample size of 800 — in the coming days.
The poll was conducted between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points with a confidence level of 95 per cent.
The PCs are leading the race with 44 per cent support among poll respondents, followed by the NDP with 18 per cent and the Liberals at 12 per cent.
Three per cent said they did not plan to vote, two per cent refused to say and 22 per cent indicated they are undecided.
CRA president and CEO Don Mills said PC Leader Kathy Dunderdale seems to be doing well to maintain a high level of support and keep her party in top position after Danny Williams’ exodus.
He said Dunderdale has the strongest support of any leader in the Atlantic provinces.
“They are really good numbers — not as good as Danny Williams,” Mills said.
“He’s a hard act to follow, obviously.”
In the Telegram poll, 55 per cent of respondents chose Dunderdale as the leader they would most prefer as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, followed by NDP Leader Lorraine Michael at 19 per cent and Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward in last place with 11 per cent.
Dunderdale is up five per cent over August and four per cent over May. Michael is up two per cent over August and five per cent over May.
Aylward is down five per cent over August, when he became the new leader after Yvonne Jones stepped down due to health concerns. Jones polled 16 per cent in May.
Though the NDP — boosted perhaps by a strong federal showing — are polling ahead of the Liberals, Mills cautioned that the NDP support is concentrated on the Avalon and the party’s ability to pick up a lot of seats is confined.
Asked which party would be their second choice, 45 per cent of poll respondents said the NDP, while 18 per cent favoured the Liberals. The PCs polled 15 per cent as a second-place party.
Mills expects, based on poll results, that the NDP will wind up in second place in terms of popular vote, but may not form the official Opposition.
“They are clearly tracking as the second-choice party,” Mills said, adding the NDP has risen dramatically in the polls since the last election.
He noted a lot of people are indicating support for the NDP for the first time and could waver when they actually go to the polling booth.
It’s no great revelation that the PCs are likely to form the government. But whatever the results are on Tuesday, the political landscape can be influenced by what the other parties do in the next five years to advance themselves.
Mills said the recent passing of federal NDP leader Jack Layton has a lot of people focusing on the NDP.
“They have an opportunity to establish deep roots in the province,” Mills said of the party.
He said Aylward had a tough situation coming in at the last minute to lead a party in disarray, and the Liberals provincially may have been dragged down by the party’s federal election results.
“As a brand they are a little bit tarnished,” Mills said.
He said even if they have more seats than the NDP come Tuesday, the Liberals will still feel like the third party and will be in rebuilding mode, which is something the Tories went through after the Liberals seized power for years in the post-Brian Peckford era.
Memorial University political scientist Amanda Bittner said the Telegram poll confirms earlier polls that have been released over the course of the election campaign.
(One local firm, MQO, was slammed by Aylward as being biased in favour of the Tories.)
“Voters don’t appear to be overly fond of Kevin Aylward or the Liberal Party. In fact, support for both Aylward and his party has dropped since the beginning of the election,” Bittner said.
“This may reflect the performance of the three leaders in the debate, or it may be a result of the platforms that each of the parties have advanced — it’s hard to tell based solely on these numbers.”
As for the preferred leader, Bittner noted Dunderdale’s support has remained fairly steady over time while Michael has seen hers grow.
“In fact, the steady increase in support for Lorraine Michael and the NDP appears to be the story of the election,” Bittner said.
Like Mills, Bittner said the important thing to note is whether the NDP support will translate into a share of seats in the House of Assembly.
“All parties will need to mobilize their supporters on election day. Nothing is in the bag yet,” she said.
The NDP is weakest in the west (for polling purposes, that region includes the west coast, central Newfoundland, and Labrador) — 10 per cent of the respondents who live in that region compared to 24 per cent of respondents who live in St. John’s/Avalon and 18 per cent in the east (which includes the east and northeast coast).
The uneven support for the NDP geographically may reflect on the party’s level of organization outside the Avalon.
However, the Liberals are showing their weakest support in St. John’s/Avalon, at seven per cent of respondents who live there. (Thirteen per cent of respondents who live in the east say they will vote Liberal, while 18 per cent of respondents who live in the west support the Grits.
The PCs are showing strong results across all regions with a slight dip in the west (37 per cent of respondents living there support them) compared to 49 per cent in the east and 46 per cent in the St. John’s/Avalon region.
Among decided voters across all regions, 59 per cent of them said they would vote PC, 25 per cent NDP and 16 per cent Liberal.
Among the undecideds or those who refused to state their preference, 26 per cent are leaning towards the PCs, while 21 per cent are leaning towards the NDP and 14 towards the Liberals.
Some 38 per cent said they don’t know.