Close to half of Prince Edward Islanders are prepared to vote for the Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming election, according to a poll released Tuesday morning.
Dennis King announced Monday night there would be a general election on P.E.I. April 3.
The latest Narrative Research poll comes hard on the heels of that. It shows the results of phone calls made to 420 Islanders from Feb. 13 to March 2.
The Tories hold a comfortable lead in voting intentions in the poll, as they have through much of the last four years. The party's 49 per cent support is the same as it was in November, but down a little from the previous few polls.
If an election were held today on Prince Edward Island, for which party would you vote?
"These numbers suggest that the King government is in a strong position right now," said Margaret Brigley, CEO of Narrative Research.
It is not just voting intentions. Satisfaction levels in the government remain high at more than 70 per cent.
How satisfied are you with the overall performance of the provincial government led by Premier Dennis King?
"Importantly, since Dennis King was elected four years ago satisfaction levels in the province have been at unprecedented levels," said Brigley.
The Greens held second position in the poll, at 22 per cent, with the Liberals in third at 19 per cent. The difference between the two is well within the 6.1 percentage point margin of error among decided voters.
"We see the Green Party and the Liberal Party really neck to neck in terms of vying for that second position," said Brigley.
King also comes out as the most favoured leader to be premier.
Which one of the following individuals would you most prefer as premier of Prince Edward Island?
Of those reached by the pollsters, 42 per cent preferred King as premier, with 24 per cent supporting Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and 11 per cent Sharon Cameron.
The margin of error on the favoured leader and government satisfaction sections of the poll was 4.8 percentage points.
What might 49% mean in the election?
In previous elections, taking close to half of the popular vote was enough to win a strong majority.
In recent history, the result closest to 49 per cent for the winning party was in 2011, when Robert Ghiz's Liberals won 51 per cent. That resulted in the Liberals winning 22 of the legislature's 27 seats.
But times have changed. The house now holds three parties, and three-horse races look different from two-horse ones.
In that 2011 election, the Progressive Conservatives won 40 per cent of the vote, placing them in Opposition with just five seats. With a combined eight per cent of the vote, the Greens, the NDP and the Island Party were shut out.
Eight years later, with the Greens surging, 37 per cent of the vote was enough for Dennis King's PCs to form government, albeit a minority with 13 seats.
Election campaigns, while generally only a month long, can sometimes seem much longer, and can be full of surprises.
"When you are in that front position you are always the one that has the most to lose," said Brigley.
It's a truism Peter Bevan-Baker is familiar with. The Narrative Research poll of February 2019 had his Greens leading, but come election day the Greens found themselves not government, but Official Opposition.
That 2019 poll put the Greens at 39 per cent, with the Tories at 29 and Liberals at 27. The poll that mattered, on election day, gave the PCs another eight points and shaved eight from the Greens. The Liberals picked up two percentage points.
2019 party support
There are signs the electorate could move as much in this election. In both polls, about 35 per cent of those reached did not express a party preference.
Polls are considered to be accurate 19 times out of 20.