Pollsters relieved at getting it right in Alberta’s unlikely swing to the left

Corporate Alberta may be wringing its hands, but Canada’s market research industry breathed a collective sigh of relief today following the NDP’s remarkable majority victory in the Alberta election.

OTTAWA — Corporate Alberta may be wringing its hands, but Canada’s market research industry breathed a collective sigh of relief today following the NDP’s remarkable majority victory in the Alberta election.

A variety of polls consistently showed strong support for Rachel Notley’s New Democrats in the last weeks of the campaign and yet many were reluctant to believe the public opinion surveys would prove out on election day.

A series of errant predictions on provincial votes over the last couple of years bruised the profession and Alberta’s counter-intuitive swing to the left was seen as a test of polling’s predictive powers.

Pollster Frank Graves of Ekos Research says the industry needed a collective win and that Albertans themselves continued to believe there would be a Progressive Conservative victory late into the campaign.

Bruce Cameron, president of Calgary-based polling firm Return on Insight, was casting doubt on an NDP victory in a published op-ed as recently as Sunday, even though his own survey results strongly suggested otherwise.

Pollsters say fluctuating voter turnout is the wild card that confounds election predictions, but the solid NDP trend line of support throughout the Alberta campaign made Tuesday night’s victory a certainty when 58 per cent of eligible voters — more than usual in Alberta — cast ballots.