Equalization poll

A Mainstreet Research Poll conducted exclusively for the Western Standard and the Alberta Institute shows two-thirds of Albertans intend to cast a “yes” ballot in the October 18 referendum on removing equalization from the constitution.

The poll was conducted between October 12-13, 2021, among a sample of 935 adults with automated telephone interviews using both landlines and cellphones. The results are weighted for demographic and geographic balance and contains a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.2% at a 95% confidence level.

Respondents were asked: “On the referendum question of eliminating equalization payments, how would you vote today?” The exact question is: “Should Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 — Parliament and the Government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making equalization payments — be removed from the Constitution?”

Among all respondents, a majority of 55% said that they would vote ‘yes,’ while 29% said they would vote ‘no,’ and 16% said they weren’t sure.

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But among decided voters, the ‘yes’ side is projected to win with 65.5% in favour, and 34.5% opposed.

Support for the “yes” side was strongest among men (63.8%), Albertans living outside of the two big cities (68%), and UCP and Wildrose voters (84.3% and 85.7%).

Opposition was strongest amongst young women (34.7%), Albertans living inside the two big cities (35%), and NDP voters (62.4%)

Support for the “yes” side was relatively consistent across all age categories, although it was somewhat weaker among those aged 19-24 (54.5%) and stronger among those age 65-plus (58%).

While the “no” side was strongest in Calgary (36%) and Edmonton (34.3%), the “yes” side is still on track to win in both of those cities at 49.6% and 41.7% respectively.

How voters intend to cast their ballots on the constitutional equalization referendum falls largely along partisan lines. While 84.3% of UCP and 85.7% of Wildrose voters intend to vote “yes,” just 4.4% and 6.4% intend to vote “no.” Although diminished in voter support since the 2019 provincial election, 87% of Alberta Party voters intend to vote “yes,” however the lower number of AP respondents in the poll increases the margin of error.

Among NDP voters, 62.4% intend to vote “no,” while 19.1% intend to vote “yes,” representing the most divided party support over the issue.

The potential for the “yes” side to outperform the poll’s results are significant, with both UCP and Wildrose voters making up the largest share of respondents who said they were unsure as to how they would cast a ballot on the issue.

The poll comes as good news for the “yes” side, which has been increasingly worried the low approval ratings of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his UCP would drag support for their side down.

“We’re encouraged to see that, despite everything going on in provincial politics at the moment, a clear majority of Albertans appear to still be determined to get a better deal for Alberta”, said Alberta Institute President, Peter McCaffrey.

“This referendum is just the first step on a long journey, but it is a vital one, and should this result bear out on election day, it will send a very clear message to Ottawa that the status quo is no longer acceptable.”

Mainstreet Research President Quito Maggi told the Western Standard in an interview that while the “yes'”side was on track for a clear win, it was still being hobbled by Kenney’s low popularity.

“It’s a little surprising how low support is for the ‘yes’ side. It’s a clear majority of people, but it’s not as big as we would expect it to be. The intent was to have overwhelming support on a question like this, but even at two-thirds, it’s lower than I would have expected,” said Maggi.

“It’s not just a blind sense here, but it’s believed — rightly or wrongly — that Alberta is a net loser on equalization. It surprises me support for this isn’t higher when support for something like [Alberta] independence is so high.”

The Western Standard will be releasing polling results on other issues — including independence, vaccine passports, the Senate race, and approval ratings — in the coming days.

“There must be something about this being Jason Kenney’s baby and, because it’s directly tied directly to him, and because his popularity is so low, it’s what’s dragging these numbers down,” said Maggi.

Maggi added the poll shows most political leaders have been wise to avoid inserting themselves into the referendum, with Kenney avoiding involvement to prevent dragging down the “yes” side, and Rachel Notley not wanting to upset the minority of NDP supporters who intend to vote “yes.”

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