Polls and political futures

Bob Wakeham
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Though they represent merely a “snapshot” in time (as politicians, especially those in trouble, are prone to describing poll results) the Corporate Research Associate numbers released this past week on the popularity (or lack of same) of Newfoundland’s

three political parties had to have stretched more than just a few Tory, Liberal and NDP eyebrows skyward as the possible implications of the CRA information were scrutinized.

Actually, a movement of hair north of the eyeballs probably

doesn’t do justice to the way in which NDP disciples, in particular, must have reacted upon seeing a poll that showed their party in a virtual tie with the Liberals for second place among Newfoundland voters, at least those (as per the always important caveat) with a definitive opinion on ballot box matters.  

Much rejoicing

In fact, there was probably a collective (in a manner of socialist speaking) scream of joy from the NDP rank and file, an understandable howl of pleasure.    

Being that it’s spring in most parts of North America (the Avalon with its traditional depressing dose of RDF being an exception), let’s put those NDP numbers in perspective with a bit of baseball analogy, as in: New Democrats here have not quite reached the futility level of, say, the Chicago Cubs (who’ve not won a World Series since 1908), but Team NDP in Newfoundland is not unlike that group of “lovable losers” of major league ignominy, the provincial left-fielders having been the recipients of not much more

than patronizing pats on the head throughout their time on the ballot in this province.

So for those long-suffering NDP rooters in this smiling and wind-swept land, signs that their party and their leader, Lorraine Michael, may be taken more seriously than perhaps at any time in their history (during those few weeks, at the very least, when the pollsters were “in the field,” as they say) must have produced a state of mind of

unfamiliar satisfaction, a dramatic change of pace from the single-digit figures of support normally attached to their electoral chances.

And it’s obviously not a coincidence that the poll was conducted around the time of the federal election, when the federal NDP was making historic strides in its parliamentary quest for power, unprecedented success that included victories in two Newfoundland ridings.

Interesting timing

It should also be noted that the timing was also a factor in the significant fall in the polls for Kathy Dunderdale, her bosom-buddy appearance with Stephen Harper during the campaign a disaster (as even the most casual observer of politics could have predicted), a loss in voter support for her and her party, a depreciation in popularity that has obviously benefited the NDP.

There was no way Dunderdale was going to be able to maintain the incredible (some would say near frightening) leadership popularity of her predecessor, Danny Williams, the premier with the Smallwoodian power, a man who was Newfoundland politics for a decade.

No one could.

And it hasn’t helped that where Williams was forever confident (see: cocksure and arrogant) and intimidating, Dunderdale, in her early stages as premier has appeared, at times, nervous and unsure of herself.

Throw in that ill-advised hop in the political sack with Harper and you’ve got a recipe for the unappetizing meal those poll numbers served up last week.

Opposition option

As for Yvonne Jones, the CRA results just confirm what anecdotal evidence and street talk say about her fortunes, namely that people seem to genuinely like the Liberal leader and admire her toughness, exemplified in her unfazed willingness to go one-on-one with the formidable Williams, but that she’s perceived to be the classic opposition politician, a saucy and belligerent Steve Neary/Bill Rowe type (I’m dating myself here), not a potential premier.

Not the head of government in waiting. 

Whether you agree with all, some or none of the punditry emanating from the poll, you’ll have to admit that if these recent numbers indicate a trend, we’re in for an interesting election this fall, a change from recent displays of electoral power by Williams; there’ll be no slam-dunk this time around for the Tories.

But if the provincial NDP are buoyed by the recent performance of their federal brothers and sisters, a move from the mezzanine into the orchestra pit, just a hop away from the main stage, and if the local party is ambitious beyond the St. John’s area, they could be the story in October.    

Still, five months can be an eternity in politics, plenty of opportunity for more of those “snapshots” in time, for polls like the one released Tuesday, and columns like this Saturday offering, to be rendered absolutely and positively out of touch with any sense of reality.

Stay tuned.  


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: NDP, Chicago Cubs

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, North America

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Recent comments

  • David
    June 13, 2011 - 12:31

    Muskrat Falls: frantically signed in secret, premier immediatley bolts into retirement, no information of any kind forthcoming since ---- overall, a "too-complicated- for-the-public-to-understand-so-best-left-to-the-geniuses-in government" strategy. Sounds like this has all the hallmarks and attributes of our long list of shrewd mega deals.

  • james
    June 13, 2011 - 08:44

    better have a look what happening in europe before voting ndp

  • Jesie
    June 12, 2011 - 20:58

    The Liberals are going nowhere with their position on the Muskrat Falls development. They are just all negative all the time on all the issues. That will not sell.

  • Cyril Rogers
    June 12, 2011 - 13:01

    Bob, doesn't your description of Yvonne Jones describe Mr. Williams to a significant degree? He was certainly feisty as Opposition Leader, before he became the Great Leader. Nobody truly knows how well a person will perform in the Office of the Premier until they are there. It has certainly become evident that Ms Dunderdale is incoherent and in over her head in trying to explain away the flaws of the Muskrat Falls deal. Her ill-advised decision to grab onto Mr. Harper's coattails during the recent federal election is yet another example of her poor judgement. Now, she has painted herself into a corner and is fearful of criticizing the Prime Minister or the feds. At WHAT cost to Newfoundland and Labrador? Better to take our chances on an unproven leader than to stick with a Premier and a party that has had their opportunity and have been found wanting.

  • Cyril Rogers
    June 11, 2011 - 17:41

    For those of us who passionately believe Muskrat Falls, in its current format, will be a millstone around our necks, the unpalatable spectre of strategic voting must be considered. Letting the PC's slide back in by a split vote of NDP and Liberal supporters is a very likely possibility. It is time to vote strategically if you don't want this deal to handicap us for generations.