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Tories on the cusp of a majority government in New Brunswick

[Ottawa – September 12, 2020] New Brunswick’s governing Progressive Conservative Party are poised to come out on top in Monday’s provincial election. The question remains whether it will be a majority or a minority. The Tories, led by Premier Blaine Higgs are tied with the opposition Liberals at 32 points each, but thanks to having a better vote efficiency, are likely to win the most seats. In the last election in 2018, the Tories won one more seat than the Liberals (22 to 21) despite losing the popular vote by six points. The Tories are now polling at the same level as when they won in 2018 (32%), while the Liberals have dropped six points from the 38% they won in 2018. How many seats this will cost them will play a significant role as to whether or not the PCs can win a majority. The Tories need just three more seats to get a majority in the 49 seat legislature. There are other parties in play for seats as well; the Greens are in third at 18% (up six points from 2018) and the right-wing People’s Alliance are at 10% (down three points). The NDP is a non-factor at four percent (down one point). While there are fewer than 48 hours until election day, 19% of voters remain undecided, which means we might see a big shift in voters’ intentions as they make up their minds before they go and vote.

The Tory vote efficiency can clearly be seen in their regional poll numbers. They have decent leads in Moncton, Saint John and in the rural South and West, while they trail the Liberals massively in the more Francophone North and Eastern part of the province where the Liberal vote is heavily concentrated. There, the Liberals lead the Tories by 28 points; in fact, the Tories are so far behind that the Greens are ahead of them in second place. Meanwhile, in Fredericton there is a near three-way tie between the Liberals, PCs and Greens who are all within one point of each other. The biggest regional shift in vote intentions from the last election is in Moncton. In 2018, the Liberals won the Moncton region 45-32, but are trailing the Tories 42-30. While this is a large shift, it may only be enough to win one more seat from the Liberals there.

The Tories are polling equally among men and women at 32%, while women are slightly more likely than men to support the Liberals, who are polling at 36% among women and 29% among men. Surprisingly, the Greens are doing better among men (20%) than women (15%). There is a strong correlation between age and support for the Progressive Conservatives. Only 16% of decided voters under 35 plan on backing the Tories, while nearly half (47%) of decided voters over 65 back them. The opposite is true for the Greens, who lead among those under 35 at 34%, but are backed by only 9% of voters over 65. There is less of a correlation for Liberal voters, though they do lead among those aged 50-64 with 40%.

Surprisingly, there is no education gap when it comes to support for the Liberals and Tories. Both parties are within two points of each other in each education group. Support for the Greens does go up with education, though. One-quarter of university-educated voters back the Greens, compared to 17% of college educated voters and just 13% of high school educated voters.

There is a large gap between the parties when it comes to language. Not surprisingly, the Liberals have a massive lead among those who answered the survey in French. Over half (54%) of these Francophones plan on voting Liberal, while only 11% back the PCs. The Greens are in second with this group at 27%. Among those who took the survey in English, 38% support the Tories, compared to just 25% for the Liberals and 16% for the Greens.

We all know with the First Past the Post election system we use, the party that wins the popular vote doesn’t always win the most seats. That’s especially true in New Brunswick, and with the seat distribution the way it is, there may not be much difference between a narrow PC win in the popular vote and a Liberal win. The PCs should win the most seats either way, but can they get to a majority? It all depends on how those 19% who are undecided end up voting.

Methodology:

This survey was conducted using High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cell phone, as well as cell phone only households and landline only households.


The field dates for this survey are September 8 to 12, 2020. In total, a random sample of 641 New Brunswick residents aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 3.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, education, and region to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the New Brunswick electorate, according to Census data and past election turnouts.

This poll was conducted as part of a crowdfunding effort from the public, and as such we have also publicly provided a data file in the form of a spreadsheet.

Please click here for the data tables.

Please click here for the data file.

Please click here for a copy of the questionnaire that was used for this survey.

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