Abacus Data: Progressives in Alberta

Public opinion on policy, political leaders, and the province’s political identity

We've posted an excerpt of the Abacus Data report below. Click here to view and download the entire document


This study was commissioned by Progress Alberta to explore the political attitudes of Albertans on a range of current policy areas.  It also seeks to understand how Albertans see themselves from an ideological perspective.

The survey informing this study was conducted online with 1,000 Albertans aged 18 and older from December 2 to 7, 2015. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Albertans recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading providers of online research samples.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Alberta's population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

1.0        Alberta: More progressive than you think.

Most Albertans consider themselves to be a progressive. Surprising eh? 

In a study commissioned by Progress Alberta, we surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 Albertans aged 18 and older and found that Canada’s “conservative province” is not as conservative as you might think - in fact, more Albertans self-identify as progressive than conservative.

When asked whether they consider themselves to be a progressive, 59% said yes.  And when we followed up and asked people to place themselves on a scale between very conservative and very progressive, 38% put themselves on the progressive side of the spectrum compared with 30% who staked out a position on the conservative side and 31% who put themselves squarely in the middle.

Yet despite the fact that more Albertans see themselves as progressive than conservative, a majority still describes the province’s population as conservative and most continue to vote for conservative political parties.  These contradictions seem to be explained by the difference between individual identity, collective identity, and party identification: psychological orientations that effect the political behavior of people in the province.    

Notwithstanding the fact that Albertans elected a NDP government last spring, this study finds plenty of evidence to contradict the “conservative” province thesis. 

For example:

  • Alberta’s most popular politician is Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi (58% of Albertans have a positive impression of him) despite the fact that 55% place him on the progressive side of the political spectrum.
  • Premier Rachel Notley (33% positive) is viewed positively by more Albertans than Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean (24%) or interim PC Leader Ric McIver (16%).
  • A majority of Albertans (51%) believe that the province has become more progressive in the past year.  Only 15% think it has become less progressive.
  • Seven in ten Albertans support the provincial government’s decision to ban corporate and union political donations to the province’s political parties.
  • Two thirds support (66%) the provincial government’s decision to raise income taxes on the highest income earners in the province.
  • Almost a majority of Albertans (48%) support phasing out coal-powered electricity generation by 2030.
  • More Albertans support the provincial government’s plan to introduce a carbon tax than oppose it (support 47%, oppose 42%). 

Urbanization, in-migration, and generational change are all shifting the province’s political attitudes and behaviour. Most Albertans think the province has become more progressive in the past five years.  More identify as progressive than they do conservative.  And the province’s most popular political leader is seen as a progressive himself. Perhaps it might be time to reconsider the notion of conservative Alberta.

This is excerpt of the Abacus Data report. Click here to view and download the entire document

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