Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil
Credits: Screen grab/Sun News Network
OTTAWA - With less than a week until the votes are counted in the Nova Scotia provincial election, the stars appear to be lining up for a big win by Stephen McNeil and the Nova Scotia Liberal Party.
A new poll, commissioned for Sun News Network, shows that the Liberals have a wide lead over the NDP incumbent and the third party Progressive Conservatives in terms of voter intention and are seen by more Nova Scotians as the party best able to deal with what voters say is their number one issue - jobs and the economy.
Nova Scotians surveyed Monday and Tuesday night in a live person-to-person telephone poll by Abacus Data also ranked McNeil higher than incumbent Premier Darrell Dexter and Nova Scotia PC Leader Jamie Baillie as "best leader" and higher when it came to "best premier."
Election day is Oct. 8 and if McNeil prevails he will join Quebec Premier Pauline Marois as the only two challengers to unseat an incumbent in eight provincial elections and one federal election since the spring of 2011.
Dexter, for his part, is using largely the same argument that other incumbents did to hold on to office.
Copying the core message used by Stephen Harper and the federal Conservatives, B.C. Liberal Christy Clark, Alberta Progressive Conservative Alison Redford and Manitoba New Democrat Greg Selinger in elections they each won, Dexter is telling Nova Scotians that McNeil and the Liberals are "not worth the risk."
So far at least, Nova Scotians do not seem to be responding to that message they way they did elsewhere.
Abacus found that, among all eligible voters surveyed, 29% said they plan to or have already voted for the Liberals; 16% picked the NDP and 15% picked the Progressive Conservatives. Even though federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May campaigned in Nova Scotia last week, just 0.4% of eligible voters plan to vote for the Nova Scotia Greens.
But Abacus also found 35% of eligible voters remain undecided, even after Abacus asked respondents a series of questions to guage which way they might be leaning. A further 5% refused to say who they voted for or will vote for.
Abacus says the margin of error for results that include all eligible voters is +/- 4.5%.
"The road to victory for the NDP or PC Party is daunting, but not impossible at this point. While there are many undecided voters still, the window of opportunity is closely quickly with less than a week to go in the campaign," said Abacus CEO David Coletto.
While the other three parties have a candidate in all 51 ridings, the Greens are running in only a handful of ridings.
Separating out the undecided from all eligible voters -- many undecided voters simply will not cast ballot -- and counting committed voters and those voters leaning one way or the other, Abacus found that 48% supported the Liberals, 26% supported the NDP, 25% supported the Progressive Conservatives and the Greens score 1%. The margin of error for this result is +/- 5.7%.
That's roughly comparable other other polls -- a big Liberal lead with the NDP and PCs in a distanct 2nd and 3rd -- but it is the first poll to show that Dexter is in jeopardy of going from "first to worst" and that Baillie and the PCs have a shot at becoming the Official Opposition.
And even with 48% popular support, there is an outside chance, depending on how the votes break regionally, that McNeil could end up with a minority government.
Abacus also found that better than 1-in-3 Nova Scotias say "Jobs and Economy" are the top issue in this campaign. When asked which party would best be able to deal with that issue, the Liberals ranked first at 34% compared to the PCs in second at 17%.
Abacus was in the field on Monday and Tuesday, surveying 500 voters by phone. Sun News Network has commissioned Abacus to continue surveying up to 250 voters each night, except Friday, between now and up to and including Sunday.
All the data and a detailed explanation of the methodology can be found at http://www.novascotiapolls.ca
David Akin anchors Battleground, a news and talk show about political campaigns, five nights a week on Sun News Network.