Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Angus Reid: Out to lunch or finger on the pulse?

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So what the heck are we to make of pollster Angus Reid’s take on political party support in Manitoba?

Last week he came out with a poll that showed Hugh McFadyen's Progressive Conservatives out in front of Premier Greg Selinger's New Democrats.

The online poll was taken Feb. 16 to 23 among 800 randomly selected Manitoban adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error — which measures sampling variability — is +/- 3.5 per cent.

The poll found 44 per cent of decided voters say they would support the Progressive Conservative candidate in their constituency if a provincial election were held tomorrow. The governing NDP is second with 37 per cent followed by the Liberal Party with 13 per cent, and the Green Party with three per cent.

Officially, McFadyen’s Tories didn’t comment on the poll.

But you can bet McFadyen and his crew were grinning ear-to-ear.

This was a sign, albeit a temporary one, perhaps, that whatever the Tories are doing is finding resonance with some voters.

It’s also a sign, albeit a temporary one, perhaps, that Selinger and his bunch have got some tough slogging ahead of them to recapture the glory of former Premier Gary Doer’s populist stranglehold over the PCers.

Now, it’s easy to brush off Reid’s poll as either too weighted and too inaccurate and too out-of-touch with how ordinary folks really feel about the NDP and Manitoba politics.

But you can’t brush off this: It’s Angus Reid.

And Angus didn’t get to where he is among Canadian pollsters by being wrong.

Those in the biz say that Reid, using the same online technique, has accurately called the outcome of several recent elections, particularly in British Columbia.

And certainly, we have a way to go before we’re scheduled to go to the polls Oct. 4, 2011.

And yes, a lot can happen between now and then.

What Reid’s poll does do is float Hugh’s boat a little higher, certainly when the PCs start hitting up people for donations and party memberships as they select candidates for the upcoming election.

The seat count in the Manitoba legislature is NDP 36; PCs 19 and the Liberals two for 57 seats. Obviously, the PCs have their work cut out for them if they want to steal seats away from the NDP and Liberals. That means they’ve got to get some big traction in Winnipeg, something they’ve failed to do over the past decade.

Then there’s this: The NDP have been in power since 1999, and as anyone knows no party rules forever. Governments get tired and voters yearn for change.

The potential big spoke in the wheel in this upcoming election is that the boundaries of 54 constituencies have been withdrawn by the Manitoba Electoral Divisions Boundaries Commission changes based on population shifts in the province.

That means, in a way, there’s a new deck of cards in the upcoming campaign which could — could is a key word — shift the fortunes of who gets to sit in the legislature. And where they get to sit.

At the same time the boundary changes may not amount to a hill of beans come Oct. 5, 2011.

Really, the only thing that could have any impact on the outcome is not a map change or any one poll, even if it’s an Angus Reid one, but how many people actually come out to vote.

The turnout of eligible voters in 2007 Manitoba election was 56.75 per cent; 320,451 voters for whatever reason didn’t show up. The number was similar in 2003.

In 1999, when Doer came to power, it was 68.11 per cent.

It’s that roughly 10 per cent difference, more people excited about voting, which will decide political party fortunes.

And Hugh McFadyen’s.


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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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