Kenney's approval ratings drop in wake of cuts, controversy

Kenney's approval ratings drop in wake of cuts, controversy

Jason Kenney's approval ratings have cratered by 15 points over the last three months, according to a new poll.

Conducted by DART, the poll shows the Alberta premier fell from 55 per cent approval in September to 40 per cent approval in December. 

In a release, DART calls it an "unprecedented plummet."

That plummet, however, is offset by an approval poll conducted by Angus Reid, which shows a far less dramatic drop of six percentage points in the same time frame. 

Kenney and his United Conservative Party government have moved fast to make deep structural changes to the province after four years of NDP rule, and introduced a budget with significant cuts and job losses. 

"When mixed in with numerous other contentious decisions — ranging from reducing the corporate tax rate to a belt tightening budget to the firing of the Alberta Election Commissioner — the premier is clearly playing the long game, likely factoring in a tough medicine impact on his popularity now for a revival in political prospects down the home stretch towards the next election," reads a release from DART on the poll. 

The numbers

In DART's numbers, only 13 per cent of respondents said they strongly approved of Kenney, with his highest support among those over the age of 55 (24 per cent) and making over $100,000 per year (17 per cent).

Twenty-six per cent of respondents moderately approved of Kenney. 

The Alberta premier is least popular with those between the ages of 18 and 34. Only six per cent of respondents in that demographic strongly approve of the premier, with fully 50 per cent strongly disapproving. 

Another poll, a smaller drop

Angus Reid's numbers show 54 per cent of respondents approved of the Alberta premier, down from Angus Reid's results in September, which placed his rating at 60 per cent. 

That includes 29 per cent who strongly approve, and 25 per cent who moderately approve of Kenney. 

Again, his support showed wide generational differences, with 46 per cent of those 55 and older strongly approving, a number that dropped to 10 per cent of those between 18 and 34. 

Income also factored in, with strong approval highest among those making more than $100,000 (37 per cent) and strong disapproval highest among those making less than $50,000 (55 per cent).

Dave Korzinski with Angus Reid says they fielded their questions while Kenney was in Ottawa. He says these numbers can be event sensitive and the road trip might have played a factor in the discrepancies. 

Reaction

Speaking to the DART numbers earlier in the day, Mount Royal University political scientist Lori William says Kenney's plummeting support doesn't surprise her.

"He's introduced a number of controversial initiatives lately. Some of this, I think, was self-inflicted. There's no need to fire the election commissioner, and people across the ideological spectrum and the partisan spectrum were angry with him about that," she said. 

Williams also highlights the cuts and the downloading of tax increases on municipalities as a primary source of angst. She calls them broken campaign promises. 

"The first three items on his election platform were about getting jobs, creating jobs, generating a better economy," said Williams. 

"The economy part is hard to deliver on, but when you're cutting jobs, particularly front-line health-care workers, teachers and so forth, that looks like you're doing the opposite of what you promised."

The long game

DART speculates Kenney is playing a long game, making fast moves and absorbing negativity early in his tenure in the hope that it will rebound come the next election. 

Williams says that's risky, given the fact Kenney isn't the sort of politician who engenders wide appeal like former premier Ralph Klein.

"Jason Kenney isn't that kind of leader, his likability numbers have always been relatively low. So it's not surprising at all that these numbers are dropping precipitously."

She says the party has been too negative in some situations and that doesn't appeal to voters. 

The weighted DART poll was conducted between Nov. 27 and Dec. 3 and is accurate within plus or minus 1.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20 if all of Canada had been polled. Regional sample sizes will change that certainty. 

Angus Reid's poll was conducted between Dec. 9 and 11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points 19 times out of 20 if the whole country had been polled, but Alberta sample size brings that margin up to four percentage points.