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Tories keep top spot in survey

Latest poll shows 46% support for PCs, 28% for NDP, 23% for Grits

Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari

The Progressive Conservatives are maintaining their commanding lead in Manitoba voter popularity.

A new Probe Research poll conducted for the Winnipeg Free Press shows Brian Pallister's Conservatives with 46 per cent of the decided vote compared with 28 per cent for the NDP, 23 per cent for the Liberals and three per cent for the remaining parties.

One in five of those polled wAS undecided or refused to say which party they would vote for if a provincial election were held that day.

The results are similar to a Probe survey in December that saw Tory popularity jump to 48 per cent among decided voters. At that time, the NDP was the choice of 26 per cent of voters and the Liberals 20 per cent, with the other parties at six per cent.

The significance of the new poll is the Tories are cementing their new-found status as top dogs, while a Liberal resurgence -- at the NDP's expense -- continues.

"They've plateaued at a very high level," Probe president Scott MacKay said of the Conservatives.

For the first time in two decades of Probe polling, the NDP is running third in popularity among the three main parties outside the city of Winnipeg.

There, NDP support stands at just 17 per cent among decided voters compared with 19 per cent for the Liberals and a whopping 61 per cent for the Progressive Conservatives.

Inside Winnipeg, the two main parties are more competitive. In Winnipeg, 38 per cent of decided voters would support a Tory candidate compared with 34 per cent for the NDP, 25 per cent for the Liberals and three per cent for the Greens or other parties.

Probe also did an analysis of how effective each of the three main parties has been in retaining those who supported them in the last provincial election.

The analysis found fewer than half (47 per cent) of those who cast ballots for the NDP last time would vote for the party again if an election were held today. Thirteen per cent of 2011 NDP voters surveyed would now back the Tories and 17 per cent would vote Liberal. Another 23 per cent said they were undecided or would not vote.

On the other hand, 85 per cent of those who voted Tory last time, and 88 per cent who voted Liberal, would vote for the same party again.

The Progressive Conservatives continue to be the most popular party among virtually all demographic groups.

However, support for the three main parties is evenly divided among voters aged 18-34, with 33 per cent backing the PCs, 32 per cent opting for the Liberals and 31 per cent for the NDP. Within this group, young men prefer the Tories (49 per cent), while young women prefer the Liberals or the NDP (40 per cent and 39 per cent, respectively).

Within Winnipeg, the Tories had the strongest support in the areas west of the Red and north of the Assiniboine rivers at 55 per cent, compared with 22 per cent for the NDP and 20 per cent for the Liberals. The NDP is more competitive in other parts of the city, with the exception of southwest Winnipeg, where it is running third. Probe warned, however, that rankings within parts of the city are less reliable because of the much smaller voter sample sizes involved.

Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said while she is encouraged by her party's growing popular support -- the Grits received less than eight per cent of the vote in the 2011 election -- she's not putting a lot of stock in one poll.

"I'm full steam ahead" meeting Manitobans and "presenting them with a more honest, more reasonable option," she said. "We just have to keep our focus and keep going."

Conservative spokesman Mike Brown said he was a little "surprised" at the numbers.

"I think we expected the NDP to bounce back a bit from where they were. So the fact that they're really lagging or really haven't gained at all is a bit of a surprise," he said.

Brown said the Conservatives' continued high approval numbers suggest Manitobans are warming to their ideas, while the governing party "is not listening" to voters.

But cabinet spokesman Matt Williamson said the NDP is listening to Manitoba families, who have told the government they want more spending on infrastructure without cuts to health and education.

"The PC plan for across-the-board cuts to infrastructure, health care and education would hurt families and mean fewer jobs and opportunities for young people," he said in a statement.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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