Liberals in the lead, Yukon Party lagging: polls

Two polls are showing the Yukon Liberals leading the other parties in advance of this year's territorial election.

Two polls are showing the Yukon Liberals leading the other parties in advance of this year’s territorial election.

The recent polls from Toronto-based Mainstreet Research and Yukon-based DataPath Systems also show the Yukon Party trailing both the Liberals and the NDP.

But the polls differ substantially in other ways.

The Mainstreet poll, released on Wednesday, found that if Yukoners went to the polls today, 22 per cent would vote Liberal, 11 per cent would vote NDP and six per cent would vote for the Yukon Party. The difference between the NDP and the Yukon Party is within the poll’s margin of error. Regardless, that leaves a whopping 61 per cent of voters undecided.

Mainstreet president Quito Maggi said that’s the highest number of undecided voters he’s seen in a pre-election poll, which means it’s difficult to make any solid predictions.

But he also pointed out that, among undecided voters, 18 per cent said they were leaning toward the Liberals, compared with 15 and eight per cent favouring the NDP and Yukon Party, respectively.

He said what’s most striking is that the Yukon Party placed third in both categories, as it’s unusual for incumbents to trail two opposition parties.

“The incumbent Yukon Party is in big, big, big trouble,” he said. “It just speaks to a real desire for change.”

The Mainstreet poll was based on a survey of 335 Yukoners contacted on landlines and cell phones. The margin of error was 5.33 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The DataPath Systems poll, conducted in December 2015, ranked the candidates in the same order, but found far fewer undecided voters.

DataPath partner Donna Larsen said results show the Liberals leading with 32 per cent of the vote, followed by the NDP and the Yukon Party with 28 and 20 per cent, respectively. Just 19 per cent of respondents were undecided or did not answer. One per cent chose other parties.

The DataPath poll was based on 359 respondents who completed online surveys received by email. The margin of error was 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20. That means the difference between the Liberals and NDP is within the margin of error.

It should also be noted that the two polls phrased their questions slightly differently. Both listed the three main parties and their party leaders, but the Mainstreet poll asked voters which party they would support, while the DataPath poll asked which party leader they would support. The DataPath poll also gave the territorial Green Party and “another party” as options, while the Mainstreet poll did not.

Both Maggi and Larsen said their polls were not commissioned.

“We like to poll pretty much every election that happens in Canada,” Maggi said. “We’re non-partisan.”

Larsen said she was surprised by the number of undecided voters in the Mainstreet poll, and wondered whether that might be related to respondents only having been contacted by telephone.

She believes people can get nervous when they’re questioned about their politics over the phone.

“They don’t want to say who they’re going to vote for, so they’re just going to say ‘undecided.’”

More and more polling companies are moving toward online polls like hers, Larsen said, because so few people even answer their phones.

But Mainstreet has had good results in recent years. It accurately predicted a majority NDP government in Alberta and majority Liberal governments in B.C. and Ontario during their last elections. It also claims to be the “only polling firm” to have predicted a Liberal majority during the last federal election.

However, Maggi said those successes were due to large sample sizes that allowed the company to break down the results into subregions. He said that wasn’t possible in the Yukon, because the sample size in any given region would be too small.

As for what will happen in the Yukon, Larsen agreed with Maggi that it’s far too soon to draw any conclusions about the election, which must happen by October 2016 at the latest.

She also argued that the Liberals are getting a boost from the federal Liberal win last October. “They’re definitely riding the wave of the federal election right now.”

Beyond its focus on voter preferences, her poll also asked respondents to choose the single largest issue facing the Yukon right now, from a range of options. The largest number of respondents, 16 per cent, chose “poor government” – but Larsen said that’s no different from previous polls.

What is striking, she said, is that 35 per cent of respondents chose either the economy, unemployment or lack of industry. That’s up from a total of 12 per cent from the last poll in 2013.

In answer to another question, 48 per cent of respondents said the economy is in serious or critical condition, up from 26 per cent in 2013. “People are definitely feeling worse about the economy,” Larsen said.

Both she and Maggi said they will conduct more polls as the election approaches.

NDP spokesperson Mike Fancie said the Mainstreet poll shows “the vast majority of Yukoners are still making up their minds about who they’re going to vote for this fall.”

But he said the party “is hearing again and again that Yukoners want change.”

Liberal Party and cabinet spokespeople said they don’t comment on election polls.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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