- Independence support has grown to just shy of a majority
- A majority of UCP and rural voters back independence
In an exclusive poll conducted by Northwest Research for the Western Standard, 45 per cent of decided Albertans surveyed said that they would defiantly vote yes or were leaning yes if there was a referendum on Alberta’s independence, while 55 per cent said that they would definitely vote no or were leaning no.
If undecided voters are factored in, 41 per cent said that they would back independence, 50 per cent were opposed, and 9 per cent were not sure.
The poll surveyed 1,100 people in Alberta, was weighted for regional balance, age, and gender, and contains a margin of error of 3.02 per cent.
Previous polls conducted on independence before the last federal election normally pegged support in the mid-thirties to low-forties. Since the federal election, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has commissioned a “Fair Deal Panel”, whose report has been delayed with the support of NDP leader Rachel Notley.
Those surveyed were first asked if they agreed that “If the federal government is unwilling to negotiate with Alberta on a new constitutional arrangement, Alberta should hold a referendum on independence.” In that scenario, 48 per cent of decided respondents said that they would vote yes, and 52 per cent said that they would vote no, nearly a statistical tie.
Those surveyed were also asked “If a referendum on independence were to be held, which way would you vote?” In this scenario, 45 per cent of decided voters said that they would definitely or were leaning to vote yes, and 55 per cent said that they would definitely or were leaning to vote no.
Support for a referendum on independence if the province’s demands were rejected was highest outside of Alberta’s two biggest cities, at 61 per cent in support and 39 per cent opposed, while it was lowest in Edmonton at 33 per cent backing sovereignty and 67 per cent backing the federalists. Voters were most evenly split in Calgary at 44 per cent in favour, and 56 per cent opposed.
Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams said the polling numbers may reflect Albertans displeasure with pandemic relief offered by the feds to the energy industry and farmers.
“Earlier polls on support for independence reflected a decrease in support for independence attributed to recognition of Alberta’s interdependence with the rest of the country and the importance of federal support in the face of unprecedented economic peril,” Williams told the Western Standard.
“This poll raises questions about that interpretation. It is possible that respondents were influenced by the wording of the question; asking about support if the federal government would not negotiate.”
The poll asked respondents two questions on independence, including one that does not reference any negotiations with the federal government
“Another factor could be frustration with pandemic fall out, and particularly the federal government’s slow/inadequate response to challenges faced by oil/gas and agriculture,” Williams continued. “It will be very interesting to see whether future polls reinforce this picture. Pointed questions could shed light on the underlying trends that explain it.”
Older voters were more likely to back a referendum on independence, with 43 per cent support of those under age 35, 46 per cent for those between ages 35 and 54, and 56 per cent of those over 55.
There was a modest gender gap as well, with men breaking 52 per cent to 48 per cent in support of a referendum on independence, while women broke 43 per cent to 57 per cent.
While support for independence was strongest if Alberta first sent its “fair deal” demands to Ottawa, support for going straight to an independence referendum was still relatively strong at 45 per cent of decided respondents.
Support for going straight to an independence vote without presenting any demands to Ottawa was highest again outside of the two biggest cities at 57 per cent, and 43 per cent opposed. In Calgary, there were 42 per cent in support and 58 per cent opposed, and in Edmonton 33 per cent in support, and 67 opposed.
The independence question presents a potential third-rail for Alberta’s political landscape, with 82 per cent of Wildrose Independence Party voters in support, 52 per cent of UCP voters, 41 per cent of undecided voters, and just 11 per cent of NDP voters.
Both major parties and their leaders have pledged themselves as federalists, however the UCP used significant anti-Trudeau language until the last federal election.
On April 27th, the relatively small Freedom Conservative Party and Wexit Alberta announced that their members would vote on a merger to form the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta.