Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

REPLAY: NDP clinging to lead, Tories picking up steam, Liberals in deep trouble, poll says

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Hugh McFadyen's Tories are gaining ground, but the NDP's grip on Winnipeg ridings could catapult Greg Selinger back into the premier's office.

  • View a replay of Free Press political reporter Mia Rabson's chat with Probe research associate Curtis Brown about the poll.

A Free Press/Probe Research poll gives the NDP a slight lead with 46 per cent of decided voters while the Tories aren't far behind at 43 per cent.

But the real story is in Battleground Winnipeg -- where the Tories must win at least five seats to form government -- as the NDP still has a commanding lead despite the best efforts of their political foes.

Among Winnipeg voters, 53 per cent favour the NDP -- no change since 2007 -- while only 35 per cent would vote Conservative.

The Tories have gained ground in Winnipeg since the last election, but they appear to have gained mostly by stealing voters from the Liberals.

The province's struggling third party is at one of its lowest ebbs in recent history at just seven per cent. In the 2007 election, the party won 12 per cent of the popular vote and climbed a little in polls afterwards. Now, it faces the possibility of electoral oblivion.

In the 2007 election, there was a 10-point gap between the NDP and the Tories in the popular vote. Probe's poll suggests that gap has narrowed significantly to just three points. But Probe president Scott MacKay notes the NDP formed an easy majority in 1999 with just a three-point lead.

MacKay says Manitobans are feeling uncommonly buoyant thanks to the return of the Jets, a healthy economy, rising house prices and some megaprojects on the go. That leaves voters with a simple ballot question: Do we stay the course and give the tried-and-true NDP a fourth term, or are we confident enough to take a risk on the Conservatives?

MacKay said some are willing to take a risk, which accounts for the modest gains the Tories have made since 2007. "But the alternative has not exactly captured people's imagination," he said. "McFadyen's numbers are quite weak."

Voter Mike Wilwand, who was among those surveyed by Probe, is pondering that question with four days left to decide. He says he's worried about crime, policing and lax sentences handed down to criminals, which might make him favour the Tories.

But the widower is also struggling with five children, several with special needs. Special aid in the school system and community programs just aren't enough, he said.

"Child care in Winnipeg is unbelievable," said the Kildonan riding resident. "I cannot believe the sad situation Winnipeg is in for daycare."

Though the NDP has had 12 years to improve things, Wilwand is not yet convinced the Tories have better options.

"I'm really stuck in middle," he said.

Outside Winnipeg, NDP support has eroded, suggesting NDP ridings such as Swan River, Dauphin and Dawson Trail could be vulnerable to the Tories. Only a third of voters outside Winnipeg favour the NDP, compared to half who plan to vote Conservative. In the last election, the NDP gleaned 41 per cent of the rural vote.

The poll also suggested there is not much room for movement in the waning days of the campaign. The vast majority -- 86 per cent -- of Tory and NDP voters are locked in, saying they are unlikely to change their minds before election day.

And no party has really surged ahead or caused voters to sit up and take notice -- further evidence of what many have called a humdrum campaign.

The largest proportion of people polled said their impression of the Liberals, Tories and NDP has worsened since the campaign began.

Nearly a quarter of voters are undecided. So late in the campaign, those people are unlikely to vote, said MacKay.

One undecided voter who will cast a ballot Tuesday is retiree Jim Wintemute, who calls himself a "dyed-in-the-wool Conservative" who happens to really like his NDP MLA.

"In all the 40 years I've lived here, Jim Rondeau is the only one who has knocked at my door and come in and talked to me. I've asked him to check on a couple of things and he has done so," said Wintemute. "I am kind of leaning toward him."

The 70-year-old, who has a family member struggling with cancer, also likes the NDP pledge to fully cover all cancer drugs. But he doesn't agree with the NDP on the Bipole issue and feels he wants to do a little more research before making up his mind.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

The poll

THE random telephone survey of 1,000 Manitobans was conducted between Sept. 21 and 28. One can say with 95 per cent certainty that the results are within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points of what they would have been if the entire adult population of Manitoba had been surveyed.

The question

WHICH party's candidate are you most likely to support in this provincial election?

The answer

Among decided voters:

  • NDP: 46%
  • Conservative: 43%
  • Liberal: 7%
  • Green: 4%

In Winnipeg:

  • NDP: 53% (53% in the 2007 election)
  • Conservative: 35% (29% in the 2007 election)
  • Liberal: 7% (15% in the 2007 election)
  • Green: 3% (2% in the 2007 election)

Outside Winnipeg:

  • NDP: 34% (41% in the 2007 election)
  • Conservative: 54% (50% in the 2007 election)
  • Liberal: 5% (8% in the 2007 election)
  • Green: 5% (1% in the 2007 election)

Northwest

The northwest is a hodgepodge of ridings -- NDP strongholds such as Kildonan and The Maples as well as ridings up for grabs such as St. James, Kirkfield Park and Assiniboia. The Tories have spent oodles of time in those three ridings, bolstered by a star candidate in speedskater Susan Auch, and they're closing the gap. The NDP is still in the lead but the Tories are coming on strong. This could be a fun corner of the city on election night.

  • NDP: 47%
  • Conservative: 41%
  • Liberal: 9%
  • Green: 2%

Southwest

Even when the party is in the tank, the Tories still clean up here, thanks to true-blue neighbourhoods such as Charleswood, Tuxedo and Fort Whyte. This is the only quadrant in the city where the Tories have a slight edge over the NDP. It's also the area where the Liberals do the best, thanks to support in Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard's home riding of River Heights and a strong Grit campaign in Fort Rouge.

  • NDP: 41%
  • Conservative: 44%
  • Liberal: 14%
  • Green: 1%

Southeast

If Winnipeg is the battleground, then the most intense hand-to-hand combat has been in ridings like Southdale, Riel and St. Vital. The Tories are running hard there, but a batch of NDP cabinet ministers might have little to worry about. The poll puts the NDP well ahead in the quadrant, bolstered by the party's strength in St. Boniface.

  • NDP: 51%
  • Conservative: 39%
  • Liberal: 3%
  • Green: 5%

Northeast

Will hardcore NDP ridings such as Radisson or even Elmwood go Tory this election, especially with the newfound success of the federal Tories in the area? Probably not, according to Probe's numbers. In the northeast, the NDP still enjoys the support of the vast majority of decided voters. The numbers suggest it's possible the NDP might even do some stealing of its own. The party is targeting the Tory-held riding of River East.

  • NDP: 61%
  • Conservative: 32%
  • Liberal: 2%
  • Green: 1%

Core

This is the NDP's heartland, and that's not likely to change Tuesday. The Tories are not targeting ridings such as Logan or Point Douglas, which makes sense since the NDP has an almost insurmountable lead. Interestingly, the core, which includes Wolseley, is also where the Greens appear the strongest.

  • NDP: 69%
  • Conservative: 19%
  • Liberal: 7%
  • Green: 6%

(Note: Sample sizes for each quadrant are small, meaning the margin of error is larger than that listed for the province-wide poll.)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 30, 2011 A6

History

Updated on Friday, September 30, 2011 at 9:51 AM CDT: Adds Talk the Vote

11:39 AM: Talk the Vote ends.

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