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July 21, 2000   [Toronto Star]
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Day's Alliance gains no new support: Poll

And no evidence party gathering steam as Liberals hold strong

By William Walker
Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA - Stockwell Day's Canadian Alliance party has so far failed to make any headway in voter support either nationally or in seat-rich Ontario, a new poll shows.

Instead, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's Liberals are holding strong at 48 per cent support among decided voters, a commanding 30 percentage point lead over the party's nearest rival, the Alliance, at 18 per cent, according to the poll done for The Star by Ekos Research Associates Inc.

The Progressive Conservatives have 13 per cent support nationally, the Bloc Québécois and New Democrats are at 9 per cent and 2 per cent support other parties.

``There is little evidence, despite all the media focus, that the Alliance is gathering steam. They're still behind where the Reform party (Alliance's predecessor) was in the 1997 election,'' Ekos president Frank Graves said yesterday.

``With all the splash they've had, they haven't upset the status quo. It's too early to say they won't, but this can't be encouraging news for them,'' Graves said in an interview.

A total of 23 per cent of Canadians remain undecided, virtually the same as the last Star/Ekos poll in June and typical of the undecided vote between elections.

The Liberals are up 10 percentage points from where they finished in the 1997 election, the Alliance is down a point from where the Reform party finished and the Tories are down 6 percentage points. Both the BQ and NDP are off 2 points from 1997.

The poll surveyed 2,492 Canadians aged 18 and over from June 14 to July 17. Day was leading the Alliance first ballot on June 24 and won the leadership July 8 amid heavy media coverage.

The poll is said to be accurate within plus or minus 2 percentage points, 19 times in 20. The margin for error rises when the results are subdivided by region or demographic group.

It found that Day's Alliance is not broadening its appeal east of Manitoba as it had hoped and is not yet widening its demographic support, which tends to be among males and older Canadians.

Graves said the poll indicates the Alliance, rather than being a threat to win the next election, would do well just to win as many seats as Preston Manning's Reform did in the last race.

Even a significant sample within the poll that was conducted after Day won the leadership on July 8 didn't show any different results, he said.

``Typically, a political party gets an upward bump in the polls from a leadership campaign and there has simply been none,'' Graves said.

Significantly, the Alliance is having major trouble attracting women to its right-wing cause. Some 65 per cent of Alliance supporters are male and only 35 per cent female. At the same time, female conservatives seem much more comfortable in Clark's Tory party than in the Alliance. A total of 58 per cent of those backing the Tories are women and only 42 per cent male.

Although Day won his party's leadership decisively among Ontario Alliance members - who were hopeful of a long-sought-after Ontario breakthrough - Ontario residents at large show no signs of moving to the party.

In this province the new poll shows that 58 per cent would vote Liberal if an election were held tomorrow, while only 14 per cent would vote Alliance. Joe Clark's Tories have 18 per cent support in Ontario and the NDP 9.

The Ontario results are virtually unchanged from the June Star/Ekos poll, although Alliance is up 1 percentage point, well within the margin for error.

The Chrétien Liberals lead in every province except for Day's home province of Alberta, where he served as provincial treasurer. In that province, Alliance has 50 per cent support to the Liberals' 30 per cent and Clark's Tories are at 11.

Nor has Day made any breakthrough thus far in Quebec or Atlantic Canada, where his party registered with 4 and 7 per cent support respectively.

It was also thought that the 49-year-old Day would broaden the former Reform party's appeal among voters of different age groups.

But 65 per cent of Alliance supporters remain males, the highest gender gap of any party, and 37 per cent are over age 65, the highest generational gap of any party.

``The overall political landscape is rather placid with the Liberals continuing to hold a huge lead,'' Graves said. ``The Alliance is still below the 1997 Reform party performance and shows little evidence of breaking out of its traditional constituency.''

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