The NDP and Progressive Conservatives are in a dead heat in popularity among provincial voters, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
A year away from Manitoba's first-ever fixed-date provincial election, the race between the province's two major political parties remains tight, the poll conducted exclusively for the Winnipeg Free Press by Probe Research Inc. says.
But it's the numbers in Winnipeg that reveal what's really going on -- or isn't, Probe Research president Scott MacKay said.
While Hugh McFadyen's opposition PCs have picked up steam over the NDP in the past year, they haven't seen much upward movement in Winnipeg where it really matters, MacKay said.
"If the tide were really changing, you'd want to see those city numbers changing," MacKay said. "Where the votes count, the NDP continues to have a large lead."
What that means only confirms what we already know -- McFadyen and his Tories must focus most, if not all, their efforts on Winnipeg constituencies where they think the have a legitimate shot at picking off an NDP seat.
"It's the city that's always been the battleground," MacKay said. "That hasn't changed."
Where the PCs have picked up popular support is in rural areas where they already enjoy more support than the NDP.
The provincewide poll results show the NDP and the PCs remain statistically tied, with the PCs now sitting at 42 per cent (up slightly from 40 per cent in June) while the NDP now have the support of 40 per cent of Manitoba's decided voters (down slightly from 41 per cent in June).
While the PCs are ahead of the NDP for the first time since December 2008, it doesn't mean much because their lead is within the poll's margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Liberals trail way back in third place at 12 per cent support (-1 per cent versus June). Another six per cent of Manitoba adults would vote in a hypothetical election for other parties not represented in the legislature. Twenty per cent of those surveyed were undecided or refused to say which party they would vote for in a hypothetical provincial election.
The numbers change significantly when it comes to what the poll found in Winnipeg.
Nearly one-half of voters in Winnipeg (46 per cent) said they would vote for the NDP while about one-third (35 per cent) would vote for a PC candidate. Only 14 per cent said they would vote for the Liberals while five per cent preferred other parties MacKay said in its polling,
Probe breaks the city into five sections. The NDP continue to lead the PCs in the southeast (43 per cent versus 29 per cent respectively), northwest (48 per cent versus 38 per cent) southwest (44 per cent versus 37 per cent) and core (58 per cent versus 21 per cent) areas of Winnipeg. The PCs, however, now lead the NDP in the northeast corner of the city (46 per cent versus 37 per cent respectively). The PCs currently only have one seat in northeast Winnipeg, Bonnie Mitchelson in River East.
Probe also found 44 per cent of women would now cast ballots for an NDP candidate, versus 36 per cent of women who prefer the PCs.
Male voters prefer the Tories; 48 per cent versus 36 per cent for the NDP. Probe's poll offers a more restrained portrayal of provincial party support than one released by Angus Reid late last month.
The online poll of Manitobans, who've signed up to become Angus Reid forum members, said 49 per cent of Manitobans would vote for McFadyen's PCs if an election were held today, well ahead of the 34 per cent who would cast their ballot for the governing NDP.
The provincewide telephone survey was conducted by Probe Research Inc. Sept. 16-30 of 1,003 Manitoba adults. The results are within +/- 3.1 percentage points of what they would have been if the entire adult population of Manitoba had been interviewed.