Leaked New Brunswick PC internal poll: All the details here …

Robert Ghiz, premier of Prince Edward Island, speaks with the media, as premiers Kathleen Wynne of Ontario (R), Philippe Couillard of Quebec (2nd L) and David Alward of New Brunswick (top, R) look on during their Council of the Federation summit in Charlottetown on Thursday. (REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

Earlier this year, during the Quebec provincial election, two internal party polls were released to the media. They were widely reported on as much for their contents as they were for the selective nature of the data released and the motives for releasing the poll. Both internal polls were released by parties that were trailing in several media-sponsored public domain polls. The incumbent Parti Quebecois would be thumped at the polls on election day by Philippe Couillard’s Liberals while the third party Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) pretty much ended up where it started — well back in third.

Every media-sponsored public domain poll showed a steady march during the campaign of increasing voter support for the Liberals and a steady drop by the PQ.

The only late campaign poll to show that the PQ was leading was one the PQ itself released. The CAQ released its internal poll showing that it was closer to the leaders than public domain polls.

It was clear in both cases that the motive for both the PQ and CAQ to release what turned out to be over-optimistic (to put it politely) polls was to boost the morale of campaigns that, at the time of the release of these polls, was flagging. Successful campaigns need volunteers and money and both of those can be  harder to come by if polls are showing a campaign is blowing up, as the PQ campaign, as it turned out, was.  (Eric Grenier of 308.com does a nice job on the Quebec issue here.)

Which brings us to New Brunswick.

The Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick — the incumbent — has hired NRG Group of Winnipeg to do its polling and this week, the results of its most recent internal poll were leaked to the Telegraph-Journal and we obtained a copy as well.

Unlike in Quebec, there is not much public domain polling available to use as a benchmark for internal polls. Corporate Research Associates of Halifax has been active in Atlantic Canada providing quarterly snapshots of the political tides. For the last 18 months or so, CRA has found Premier David Alward’s PCs in New Brunswick badly trailing the NB Liberals, led by Brian Gallant. CRA will release its latest snapshot of New Brunswick politics after the Labour Day Weekend and that will be the first public poll of the campaign — and, in fact, the first public poll in weeks on New Brunswick.

The case can certainly be made that the poll I’m about to walk through has been leaked precisely to boost the spirits of PC campaign workers and volunteers.. That is definitely some context to keep in mind as as we go through the numbers and methodology.

The Ballot:

The question used by the pollster:

“If a provincial election were held today, to elect Members to the Provincial Legislature to represent you in Fredericton, which party would you vote for? (ROTATE) PC Party/David Alward’s PC Party; Liberal Party/Brian Gallant’s Liberal Party; NDP/Dominic Cardy’s NDP; The Green/David Coon’s Green Party?”


  • Liberals 34%
  • PCs 26%
  • NDP 13%
  • Green 5%
  • Undecided: 14%
I am told by a source who has seen the other NRG polls done for the PCs that the gap between the Liberals and PCs was 13 points in June and 16 points in March. I have not been provided with either of those earlier polls.
The Liberals also lead among both English-speaking and French-speaking voters but by different amounts. Among English voters it’s LIB 31 | PCs 28 | NDP 15 and among French speakers it’s LIB 43 | PCs 22 | NDP 7

Potential for PC growth?

Remember this polls was done just before campaigning actually started. And the PC Party, knowing it was behind in the polls, needs to know if it has room to grow. Presumably this result — from a question presumably put only to those who indicated they were going to vote for someone other than a PC candidate —  indicates that it does. Here’s the pollster’s question and result:
Q: .Even though you are not supporting the PC candidate now, what are the chances that you might support the PC candidate on voting day September 22nd?
  • No chance: 40%
  • Very slight chance: 20%
  • Small chance 15%
  • Fair chance 17%
  • Don’t know 5%
The PC takeaway here is that about 32% of those who said last week they’d vote Liberal or NDP or Green (Fair + small chance respondents) are up for grabs and the PCs presumably will aim at those voters. Notably, my source said that, the gain in PC support since March has come from both Liberal and New Democrat supporters.
Releasing the results of this question to the media seems, to my eyes, to be very important for the PC campaign because it lets candidates, volunteers, and those who might donate money believe that, despite previously grim poll results for the blue team, the PCs are very much in the race and can see a path to victory. Of course, whether they are in the race and close the gap by Sep 22 is still very much an open question.
And, of course, we do not have the results of this question for Liberals or New Democrats. This is where a media-sponsored public domain poll would be helpful, to determine how “firm” their support and where potential switchers might go. In the federal scene for example, lots of self-identified New Democrats would consider voting LIberal and a few would consider voting Conservative. A few Conservatives would consider voting Liberal but almost none would consider voting NDP. A few Liberals would consider voting either Conservative or NDP. Knowing this helps us explain campaign narratives, i.e. for Conservatives, it’s all about getting the base out to vote because if they vote, they’re only going to vote one way.

What’s on the voter’s mind?

The Alward record on job creation, as I’ve detailed, is terrible. The province has a smaller work force, fewer jobs, and the unemployment rate is up since Alward took office. Do voters care? This question gets at that:
Some/Other people say the upcoming provincial election is about the government’s record over the past 4 years in terms of promises kept, its actions on important social services and how it has performed managing New Brunswick’s economy. Other/Some people say this election about the future of New Brunswick and which leader has a real plan to create jobs and grow the province’s economy.


  • Future of New Brunswick 55%
  • Government Record 36%
  • Don’t know 8%
My source tells me that, in June, NRG found that 32% saw the election as a referendum on the government’s record, and 57% thought it was about the future. I could read the results here as both positive and negative for both the PCs and the Liberals. Party strategists presumably could read between these lines better than I.
NRG also asks a pretty standard question on a lot of political polls these days: What’s the most important issue facing New Brunswick today?
  • Job/Employment/Unemployment: 39%
  • Economy 18%
  • Health Care 13%
  • Natural Gas development/Fracking: 5%
  • Debt/Deficit: 5%
  • Wages/cost of living/energy prices 2%
Poor government, dishonest politicians, accountability, education, pensions, environment/water, infrastructure/roads — each one of those was rated as “top issue by 2% or less of respondents.” Now both Alward and Gallant have talked a lot about jobs in this election, For Alward, saying yes to “Fracking” = more jobs. For Gallant, “moving forward” with hundreds of millions on “infrastructure/jobs” equals job. The question will be: Which equation makes more sense to voters?

The Fracking Question

Alward has bet the farm that New Brunswickers will agree with his position to develop shale gas through tracking and reject the views of the Liberals and the NDP who would block any new tracking opportunities. So NRG asked:
Q Some/Other New Brunswickers say even though our economy and job situation isn’t great, there still is no urgency to proceed with fracking and the development of the province’s shale gas resources at this time. Other/Some people say our economy and job situation is in poor shape and we should develop our shale gas resources now. What do you say?
  • Strongly no urgency: 31% + Somewhat no urgency 17% = not urgent of 48%
  • Strongly need to develop now 29% + somewhat need to develop now 16% = 45% develop now
That’s not a slam dunk, obviously, for Alward’s view of the world. But as the only party in the “develop now” camp, the PCs stand to gain from vote splits among three parties in the “not urgent” camp. If the PCs come anywhere close to capturing a big chunk of the 45% who say now is the time to develop shale gas, he’s home free.

On methodology

NRG says it has done at least four pre-writ polls, in November, March, June and in the three days before the official campaign start on Sept. 22. NRG is doing live telephone polling from its Winnipeg call centre and NRG says, since March, it has made 6,300 phone calls into New Brunswick households.

For the poll we obtained (which, I’m told, is the same one the Telegraph Journal received), the total number surveyed was 1,215. The pollster says the results are accurate to withing 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

We did not receive tables of raw responses or weighting formulas used by the pollster although the pollster does say this: “The data from this study has been moderately weighted to bring up the under 35 year old population, but the sample is still somewhat skewed to an older population then is actually the case in New Brunswick. This distribution is felt to more accurately reflect the population that votes in provincial elections.”

The pollster did, though, provide the following information about those it polled on Aug 18-21

  • Male/Female percentage split was 48/52
  • Age splits: 13% were 18-34, 37% were 35-54 and 50% were 55+
  • Language: 67% spoke English at home; 22% spoke French at home, 10% spoke both at home, 1% spoke other.
  • Regional breakdown: 23% each from the Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton areas, 31% from “North”

2 thoughts on “Leaked New Brunswick PC internal poll: All the details here …”

  1. The Liberals also lead among both English-speaking and French-speaking voters but by different amounts.

    Among English voters it’s LIB 31 | PCs 28 | NDP 15
    Among French speakers it’s LIB 43 | PCs 22 | NDP 7

    Now giving the Liberals just announced to broaden Linguistic responsibilities and enforcing the language commissioners recommendations of course the francophpnes would be higher among Liberals.

    I just wanna point out as well that the Liberals policy was not once put in the English Media but was all over french media. I be more curious if the numbers would change if the English actually seen this policy.


  2. Look, David, if you want to do some real reporting, instead of being an Alward lackey, look into SWN and their EDGAR filings. The reason they couldn’t come back for seismic testing this year is because they’re on the verge of bankruptcy.

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