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New Brunswick Liberals continue to hold their lead over other political parties, getting support from nearly half the residents who took part in a poll carried out in November and released Thursday.
Premier Brian Gallant's Liberals won approval from a consistent 47 per cent of those surveyed, a number that hasn't changed since August, according to polling company Corporate Research Associates Inc.
"They continue to enjoy a pretty healthy lead over the other parties at the moment," said Don Mills, the chairman of the company. "Part of it has to do with the personal popularity of the premier, relative to the other leaders."
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Mills said the four other parties are gathering a small percentage of support, and opposition to the government is not coalescing around a single party, which is an advantage for the Liberals
However, just over a year ago, 55 per cent of people polled said they were satisfied with the current government, he said.
That's now fallen below 50 per cent, and if the numbers continue to decrease, the Liberals could be facing trouble by election time next fall.
"That trend-line is probably not good for the government," he said.
"We've seen very few governments get re-elected without at least 50 per cent."
On the other hand, as long as more people continue to be more satisfied than dissatisfied with the New Brunswick Liberals, they're "actually in pretty good shape a year out," Mills said.
Only 28 per cent of people who were surveyed said they preferred the Progressive Conservatives, a drop of four percentage points since the August poll.
Mills said one of the challenges for the PCs is that they haven't established an "alternative position to the current government."
Eleven per cent of people surveyed supported the NDP, down from 12 per cent.
The Green Party remained stable at nine per cent.
The only increase was in the percentage of people whose minds were not made up. Thirty-four per cent of people polled said they were undecided, compared with 30 per cent three months ago.
Six per cent of residents who were asked for their preference refused to share one, and four per cent said they didn't support any party or don't plan to vote.
The telephone poll of 800 adult New Brunswickers was done from Nov. 2 to Nov, 29.
Residents prefer Gallant
Brian Gallant is less popular than his party, the poll suggests. Support for Gallant dipped to 32 per cent from 36 per cent among poll participants.
Despite some controversies, including the thousands of botched property tax assessments this year and major changes to health care management, Gallant has a few superficial things going for him, Mills suggested.
"His style is one that's appreciated by a pretty strong segment of the population."
PC Leader Blaine Higgs also fared worse in this poll, with only 18 per cent of people surveyed preferring him, compared with 20 per cent in August.
Mills said the fact Higgs isn't fully bilingual, has its limitations when considering the more than 30 per cent of New Brunswickers for whom French is the first language.
"That is certainly an Achilles heel as a leader, not to be fully bilingual, as the Liberal leader at the moment [is]," he said.
"The problem for Mr. Higgs is he hasn't been able to grow the support for his party since he's become leader. Nor has he grown his personal numbers."
Mills said this could be a big challenge with less than a year left until an election.
Green Party Leader David Coon was next popular, with nine per cent of people polled preferring him, down from 11 in the previous poll.
Three per cent of those polled preferred Kris Austin of the People's Alliance, compared to two per cent last time.
Jennifer McKenzie, the leader of the New Democratic Party, was preferred by eight per cent, up from seven.
Five per cent of New Brunswick residents preferred none of the leaders, up from three per cent, and 25 per cent had no opinion.
"We don't see a trend … that's either up or down at the moment for anybody," Mills said.
The overall results are accurate within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 95 times out of 100, the polling company said.