Expert pollster predicts Wildrose majority, but close race in most Alberta ridings

But seat projections for Danielle Smith Wildrose majority come with big caveat

The Wildrose party would win a healthy majority government with 50 to 60 seats, based on the results of the latest public opinion poll, says an analyst renowned for the accuracy of her seat projections.

But Janet Brown, a public opinion research consultant, said her prediction comes with a big caveat.

The model she uses to do seat projections shows half the province's 87 ridings have a margin of victory of less than 10 per cent.

"At this point, unexpected events can have a big impact and the get-out-the-vote efforts of individual parties could have a big impact," Brown said in an interview Wednesday.

"So I'm sort of prepared to say that it looks like it's going to be a Wildrose majority, but I'm not necessarily prepared to say it's definitely going to be a Wildrose majority," Brown said.

A Leger Marketing poll, commissioned by the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, shows Wildrose with 42 per cent support among decided voters while the Progressive Conservatives are at 36 per cent.

The survey, conducted between last Friday and Monday, shows 10 per cent support for the NDP, nine per cent for the Liberals and two per cent for the Alberta Party.

Brown's seat projection ranges would indicate a fundamental reshaping of Alberta politics.

The Tories - in power continuously since 1971 - would be reduced to somewhere between 23 and 33 seats. The Liberals, the official Opposition in the last legislature, face the possibility of being wiped out with a range of zero to three seats.

The NDP stands to win somewhere between two and five ridings.

Brown, who accurately predicted the 72-seat Tory win in 2008 and was a couple seats off in 2004, said she's less confident in her forecasts this time around because the provincial political scene is "a whole different kettle of fish" compared to the years of the Tory dynasty.

Wildrose - which won no seats in the 2008 election though it held four in the last legislature because of defections and a byelection win - has essentially risen from obscurity, she said. As well, three of the four parties have rookie leaders.

The Leger telephone survey of 1,200 Albertans has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

The timing - the survey was conducted between April 13 and 16 - means some respondents would have been aware of the furor over an Edmonton Wildrose candidate's anti-gay blog.

But the polling was completed before CalgaryGreenway candidate Ron Leech landed in hot water after saying he had an advantage because he was Caucasian.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said her party is staying focused on winning a majority government in the final days leading up to the April 23 vote.

"We are wanting to win 44 plus seats but it is very, very close," she told reporters in Chestermere Wednesday.

"I think we've identified 23 constituencies where it's very, very close and we want to make sure that we want to give that last-minute support to our candidates. We want to do what we can to be able to help people make up their mind," said Smith, adding that she would travel over the coming days to seats where she can help push candidates over the top.

An e-mail sent to Tory supporters from the PC campaign said the Leger poll was good news for the Tories because of the tightness of the race, especially in Edmonton and Calgary and the large number of undecided voters still left in the latter days of the campaign.

PC Leader Alison Redford said she wouldn't comment on the numbers, but the final four days of the campaign will be crucial.

"What we're talking about right now . . . is Albertans looking at the people they think they want to lead their province, how they want their province to be represented in Canada and how they want their province represented in the world," she said.

The Liberals may be lacking the funds of the two larger parties but are undaunted by poll numbers and ready for election day, said Leader Raj Sherman. "We have local teams that have identified a lot of local voters and they are going to get the vote out," he said.

New Democrat Brian Mason said Wednesday he still expects some voter intentions to change in the time between the poll and election day. "Just taking a brief snapshot in time, it's interesting, but it's not going to reflect the final result," he said.

Calgary Herald, Thurs Apr 19 2012
Byline: James Wood

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