New poll from Forum Research confirms size of NDP's lead in B.C.

The Daily Twigg  Vol. 1 No. 10  Jan. 25, 2012

New poll from Forum Research confirms size of NDP's lead in B.C.

By John Twigg

A new opinion poll of B.C. voting intentions reinforces a previous finding that the New Democratic Party has a solid lead while the B.C. Liberal Party support is being eroded by the upstart B.C. Conservatives, but my analysis of the numbers says the outcome of the next election still remains to be determined.

The telephone poll of about 1,000 people by Forum Research Inc. on Jan. 23 found NDP support at 39 %, up from 34 % in the previous month's poll and enough to deliver what Forum said would be a majority government of 57 seats to NDP leader Adrian Dix if that level of support held through to the May 2013 election; the New Democrats have and can win at that level when the opposition is divided but it's too far away to say the pattern will hold.

That uncertainty is reflected in findings for the B.C. Liberal Party and Premier Christy Clark that were somewhat improved from the previous poll, other findings for Dix were mixed and the findings for John Cummins and the B.C. Conservative Party were somewhat worse, so the poll does give "the Clark Liberals" a glimmer of hope for the May 14, 2013 voting day.

Clark's approval up but still below her disapproval
The Toronto-based pollster said the Liberals were at 26 %, up from 23 % in the previous poll but not enough to save them from being reduced to only about 20 seats, but Forum president Dr. Lorne Bozinoff noted approval ratings for B.C. Liberal Party Premier Christy Clark had turned upward too, to 34 % from 29 %, and among male voters it had jumped up 12 points to 40 % - probably reflecting her and the party's obvious marketing of her femininity (more below).

However Clark's disapproval was still quite high at 46 %, reflecting that she has not been doing enough to repudiate the many mistakes of former premier Gordon Campbell and really she has mainly been keeping lids on the many unhealthy scandals he left behind. It also echoes and affirms a recent finding by rival pollster Angus Reid that her disapproval was 51 % so both polls reflect high voter anger at her party, her predecessor and at her herself for various reasons (e.g. her suppression of an inquiry into the BC Rail scandal which could reveal that she had more than a peripheral role in it, e.g. her unthinking, impractical and unjust insistence on televising trials of a few hundred rioters, e.g. her skewed views of spending priorities etc etc).

Support for the B.C. Conservative Party led by John Cummins was steady at 22 per cent, approximately unchanged from 23 per cent in the previous poll but still enough to deliver 7 seats in certain enclaves, but Cummins' approval was down slightly to a relatively low 21 %, his disapproval was somewhat high at 35 % and his no opinion or don't-know-him score was quite high at 45 %.

Attack ads against Dix had some impact

Perhaps the most interesting and important findings are the personal ratings for Dix, whose approval was up slightly to 37 % and his disapproval was up somewhat more to only 34 %  which suggest that Liberals' "risky Dix" attack ads and website against him had some limited success but that he also still has a bit of a recognition problem. That was seen in Dix's decision to attend a media event for aggrieved clients of Community Living B.C. in Vancouver rather than hang around in Victoria and do a few media hits while Clark was hosting the Canadian Premiers' annual conference, which may have helped convince Clark to find $40 million to inject into troubled CLBC a few days ago but didn't do much to raise Dix's profile.

A news report in the Province newspaper said that was "an indication that the anti-Dix ads launched by the Liberals haven't had their desired effect" which may or may not have been quoting Bozinoff's analysis but is probably wrong in either case because Dix's disapproval did jump up a bit more than his approval climbed, and the NDP support of 39 % and Dix approval at 37 % are still low compared with the antipathies to Clark and the Liberals.

The sort of lukewarm feeling about Dix is also reflected in the weaker numbers for the B.C. Green Party, which saw support fall from 15 % to only 9 %, and a mention that Delta Independent MLA Vicki Huntington would retain her seat, which together make the point that if there is a groundswell of opposition to the Clark-Campbell Liberals it is not all going Dix's way and much of it will be simply not voting.

That's seen too in the somewhat mixed results for Cummins, who seems to have made an initial splash but has not yet stepped it up to a second level; he is still seen by some social conservatives as too soft and pink and by some liberals as too divisive and dangerous to the anti-NDP coalition.

Twigg's take on the latest poll: byelections will tell more

So what is going here? What is the real story? Well it could be that Forum is trying to improve its performance a bit after the previous poll's splashy release which probably made too much of a big deal out of a small sample and especially for a sort of first effort in a market a bit new to them.

I felt at the outset that their finding of 34-23-23 in the previous poll was a bit of a statistical aberration - with some need to use all of that 3% variance 19 times out of 20 margin, and this time the poll appears to do that because 39-26-22 is closer to what other pollsters have been finding and closer to what veteran eyes and ears like mine would say should be the case given the ebb and flow of political and economic news.

But I also wonder just what Forum is up to. Are they trying to fish for new clients? Are they trying to establish a base from which they could release momentum reports in the weeks and finally days before the May 14, 2013 vote? Maybe both? Are they trying to scare people away from splitting the anti-NDP vote? Who put them up to it? Who paid, if anyone?

Those are fair questions to ask because the history of political polling in B.C. is tainted with some nasty examples of push-polling, biased questions, dubious samples and blatant attempts to influence voting behaviour during elections - and not just against the NDP but also in the midst of Social Credit and Liberal leadership contests!

Dix's response to this latest poll, that it's just one of perhaps 50 before the next election, is a good position for him because it shows he too realizes that nothing here is yet a done deal and if he and his colleagues are going to win they're going to need to do a lot more work to shore up their support and push down their opponents.

In that regard the looming byelections in Chilliwack-Hope and Port Moody-Coquitlam will be interesting and timely tests of where the parties and their respective leaders stand with voters.

In Chilliwack, the Conservatives last night confirmed that criminologist John Martin will be their candidate while the NDP will nominate from among several contenders on Jan. 28 and the Liberals will confirm Laurie Throness, a longtime conservative activist, on Feb. 4.

In Port Moody, the New Democrats are well-set with former mayor Joe Trasolini and the Conservatives will go with Christine Clark while the Liberals will soon nominate Dennis Marsden, a former president of the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce and a former Liberal candidate in an adjacent riding.

The potential power of the incumbent government is reflected in Clark recently going to Port Moody to officially announce a turnaround and restoration of some gaming-grant funding and that B.C. Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom and federal cabinet ministers James Moore and Denis Lebel were planning to use a Port Moody locale to announce pre-construction steps for the Evergreen rapid transit project - which reflects that Clark has hopes of her party retaining that seat even though they're in a three-way contest against tough opponents.

A word about Christy's use of cleavage

Finally, I'm going to risk making a comment about Clark's use of her cleavage as a vote-gaining device, such as when she showed up in the Legislature with a low-cut blouse back in October. Blogger David Schreck was excoriated for criticizing that, even by Adrian Dix, but I can say that as a now very veteran observer of political goings-on in and around the Legislature and B.C. politics that I too thought it was rather cheap and cheezy of Clark to do that there.
They key question is not whether Clark has a right to dress as she pleases because when she is out and about she can style herself however she wishes, whether blonded hair and enlarged breasts or otherwise, but when she is in the Legislature, and especially when she is Premier, she is subject to some dress codes - codes which may be somewhat archaic in that originally they governed only clothing for men (jacket and tie) but which informally governed women too (modest). And what Clark did back in October was more risque than I had ever seen or heard of there before. (Former Socred MLA Patsy Jordan for example was a former beauty queen with a very large bust but she rarely if ever went low-necked in the House.)

But hey - politically it worked well for Clark. The brief furore about it drew attention away from other much more important and problematic issues for the Liberals, and now as this latest Forum poll has shown it is helping her gain support from male voters - what you could call a bit of a Sarah Palin effect.

I'm sure more than a few of my readers will be disappointed at Clark's somewhat tawdry use of her cleavage but it's also a political and human reality that lots of men like to look at attractive women more than at plain or unattractive women, and Clark's attributes in that area - a hot young hockey mom who's single - are now one of the B.C. Liberal Party's best assets.

Maybe that's why Prime Minister Stephen Harper accepted her invitation to attend her son's hockey game and even stayed for all three periods.

Could Adrian Dix have done something like that? Not likely, or at least not until he becomes Premier.