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Concerns About COVID-19 Drop in Alberta, Along with Approval for Premier & Prime Minister

Posted June 29th, 2020 in Health Care, Healthcare, Media Release, News by Marc Henry

(June 29, 2020 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE)

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(Calgary) Albertans’ concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic have fallen sharply over the past two months, and with it much of the associated political credit for politicians according to the latest ThinkHQ Public Affairs survey. 

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Over the past two months, the proportion of Albertans who say they are “Very concerned” about COVID has receded 23 percentage points, while matters like the provincial economy, unemployment and trust in government remain the most pressing issues today. Coinciding with this, the survey finds that any “COVID bump” politicians may have gained through their handling of the crisis is eroding. For instance, Premier Kenny’s personal popularity has slipped back into negative territory this June, and evaluations of both he and the Prime Minister in relation to their management of the Coronavirus situation have also diminished over the past two months. Interestingly, this decline in approval for managing the pandemic appears largely a “political phenomena” – public health experts like Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Dr. Theresa Tam have not seen their public esteem drop in Alberta.

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Albertans’ COVID Concerns Falling, but Thorny Issues Remain for Government

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The Coronavirus is still with us, but Albertans are emerging from their homes and the economy is gradually opening up as the pandemic has been effectively managed to this point. Not surprisingly, Albertans are expressing less concern about the spread and management of the virus than they did two months ago. Today, just over one-third (35%) of Albertans say they are “very concerned” about the spread and impact of COVID, a drop of 23 percentage points in only two months.

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The top issues today include the provincial economy (70% very concerned) and unemployment (60% very concerned). While these two matters hold their place atop the Issues Agenda, public anxiety about them has also eased notably since April – strong concern down 7 and 11 percentage points respectively. 

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Rounding out the “Top 3” issues in Alberta is “Trust in the provincial government”, but unlike the other two, this issue is notching upward. Currently, 58% say they are very concerned about it, which represents an increase of 5 percentage points since April.

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Concerns about COVID may be down among Albertans, but regard for how the provincial government has managed the crisis remains rock-solid. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of those interviewed approve of the government on this front, largely unchanged since April. The challenge for the Kenney government is that the public’s interest is now focused more attentively on issues where their performance is considerably weaker. 

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For example, when it comes to management of the provincial economy, a bare majority (50%) of Albertans disapprove of the government’s performance vs. 45% who approve. They fare slightly better when it comes to job creation where 47% approve, compared to 45% disapprove, but slightly worse when it comes to being trustworthy. On that issue, 54% disapprove of the Kenney government vs. 42% approve.

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Provincial Leader Performance

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Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta

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This June’s survey finds Premier Jason Kenney’s personal approval overall drift back into nominally negative territory with 48% offering positive ratings and 50% negative. That said, negativity toward the Premier is considerably more intense (36% strongly disapprove vs. 18% strongly approve). This represents a slight, but notable, drop in approval for the Premier over the past two months. Previously, Kenney saw his personal approval jump 7 percentage points (from February to April 2020), coinciding with the COVID pandemic. Premier Kenney’s current standing with the public is only nominally higher than earlier in the year.

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  • Kenney’s popularity is stronger outside of the two metro regions of the province, particularly in Northern and Central locales. His approval stands at a very impressive 71% among rural residents. Meanwhile, Edmonton remains hostile ground for the Premier, where only 36% offer positive ratings toward him

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  • There is a decided generational and gender gap in Kenney’s support. Men are more likely to be fans than women, and approval climbs consistently with age. Those holding university degrees are somewhat less likely to approve of the Premier than those who do not

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Rachel Notley, Leader of the Official Opposition

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One word describes NDP leader Rachel Notley’s approval since the spring 2019 election…steady. Her current reviews are mixed (slightly negative), with 49% of those interviewed saying they disapprove of her performance, compared to 46% offering approval. The former Premier’s approval has fluctuated within a relatively narrow band since roughly June of 2018.

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  • Rachel Notley owns Edmonton, with her approval sitting at 61%, but she struggles in smaller communities across the province, and among rural residents her approval is only 23%

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  • Across other demographic breaks, Notley’s approval is almost the mirror opposite of Kenney’s; she does better with women than men, her support is highest among those under 35 (and declines with age), and positive ratings tend to increase with education levels

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Albertans Assess Those Managing COVID-19

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Our June survey tracked some interesting ratings of various personalities involved in the COVID-19 response efforts and found that “political credit” seems to be diminishing somewhat in the public’s mind.

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Medical Experts

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Statistically speaking, public regard for the medical experts involved in COVID-19 response remain unchanged since April. Currently, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, enjoys approval for fully 86% of Albertans, while nearly six-in-ten (57%) approve of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Medical Officer, when it comes to their response to the virus.

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The Politicians

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Ratings for the politicians in regard to their performance on COVID is not as durable and seems to be receding with concerns about the virus.

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  • Premier Jason Kenney: Receives positive grades for his actions related to the COVID crisis – 55% approval though the Premier has seen his ratings on this slip 4 percentage points since April

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  • Prime Minister Trudeau: Approval for Trudeau in regard to COVID-19 response has dropped sharply over the past two months; down 7 percentage points to 43% vs. 54% disapproval

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  • Official Opposition Leader Rachel Notley: Notley is an anomaly in this trend. In April, fully 43% of Albertans said they approved of her performance in relation to COVID, and these ratings have inched up (within margin of error) since, currently sitting at 45%

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  • Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro: Alberta’s Health Minister’s troubles in other areas seem to be keeping him from benefiting from positive public sentiment about Alberta’s COVID-19 response. In April, more Albertans disapproved of his performance than approved, and that trend has become more exaggerated today. Currently only 31% offer positive ratings of Shandro, compared to a bare majority (50%) who disapprove, and another one-in-five (19%) don’t know enough about him to offer a rating at all

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Commentary

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Commenting on the survey, ThinkHQ Public Affairs President Marc Henry notes:

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“It’s an interesting phenomenon; In times of crisis, people do tend to “rally to the leader”. There are exceptions. Trump’s response in the U.S. is a textbook example of how not to lead during a pandemic, but generally speaking if leaders manage a crisis even reasonably well, people tend to rally around them, and support rises.

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Take Doug Ford in Ontario for instance. His personal approval jumped an astounding 40 percentage points since the COVID crisis began, and he’s managed to come across as very competent, caring and empathetic on this issue and it shows in his numbers.

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Premier Kenney’s “COVID-bump” was quite modest – about 7 percentage points – and appears rather short-lived. He’s still getting majority support when it comes to managing COVID, but his personal popularity has slipped down into slightly negative territory. It’s not territory he is unfamiliar with. Indeed, but for about a six month “honeymoon” post-election and the past two months, Kenney’s popularity has fluctuated in a fairly narrow band just slightly below where he is today since he became leader of the UCP.

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The Prime Minister’s approval on COVID-19 in April was surprising, and illustrative of the “rally to the leader” phenomena. Alberta is not a friendly place for the PM, yet back in April half of the province offered approval for him on COVID. As concerns about the virus retreat, so too goes his approval on it – down 7 points in two months. Still, 43% approval for Trudeau on virtually anything in Alberta is notable.

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The same can’t be said for Alberta’s Health Minister, Tyler Shandro, whose numbers are a complete anomaly. Shandro never received a “COVID-bump” despite heading the ministry leading the charge on response. In fact, his April numbers were dreadful. This June, they’ve actually worsened. It’s not unusual for Cabinet Ministers to have a low profile, but it is unusual for one to have half of the province disapprove of him, and another one-fifth not know who he is. He’s only been in office for about a year now, but this minister has taken some significant damage.”

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Click here to view the full release and methodology

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Media Inquiries:

Marc Henry

President, ThinkHQ Public Affairs, Inc.

Marc@ThinkHQ.com