Paul Davis favourite for PC Leadership; 53% of NL has positive impression of NL Leader Dwight Ball

pdf-icon-transparent-background2According to a new VOCM-Abacus Data random telephone survey of 600 eligible voters in Newfoundland and Labrador conducted from July 28 to August 1, PC leadership candidate former Health Minister Paul Davis has the most positive personal rating of the three candidates running to become the next leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Davis also leads in a three-way hypothetical match-up among all respondents and among those who voted PC in the 2011 provincial election.  Davis leads former Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent by seven-points among all respondents and by 14-points among those respondents who said they voted PC in 2011.  Former MHA and cabinet minister John Ottenheimer places third with both groups, trailing Davis by 13-points among all respondents and 16-points among those who voted PC in 2011.

When presented with provincial ballots with each of the leadership candidates named as PC leader, the Liberal Party and its leader Dwight Ball lead on all three, although a PC Party with Davis as leader performs slightly better than when voting preference is tested with Kent or Ottenheimer as PC Leader.

Overall Impressions: Davis +35, Kent +21, Ottenheimer +20 vs. Dwight Ball +41, Lorraine Michael +3

Respondents were asked how they feel about the three candidates running for PC Leader as well as the two other political party leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Overall, respondents were more likely to have a positive impression of former Health Minister Paul Davis than either of his two rivals, although all three candidates had net positive ratings.  Forty-six percent of respondents had a positive impression of Davis compared with 11% who had a negative impression.  His net rating was +35, 14-points higher than Steve Kent and 15-points higher than John Ottenheimer.

However, none of the three leadership candidates had more favourable impressions than Liberal Leader Dwight Ball whose net positive rating was +41.  Overall, 53% of survey respondents had a positive impression of Dwight Ball while 12% had a negative impression of him.  NDP Leader Lorraine Michael’s ratings were more mixed with 33% saying they have a favourable impression of her compared with 30% who have a negative impression.




When we drill down and focus only on those respondents who said they voted PC in the 2011 provincial election, Paul Davis’ advantage over his leadership rivals increases.  Davis’ personal rating among PC voters is +48 with 58% having a positive impression compared with 10% who have a negative impression.  Both Steve Kent (+31) and John Ottenheimer (+22) are in positive territory, but trail Davis by wide margins.


The NL Liberal Party’s lead on the ballot (which we released yesterday) is likely driven by the fact that a plurality of former PC voters have a positive impression of Liberal Leader Dwight Ball.   Among PC voters in 2011, 44% said they have a positive impression of the Liberal Leader compared with 19% who have a negative impression giving Ball a net rating of +25, higher than PC leadership candidate John Ottenheimer (+21).

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael’s net rating among PC voters is -19 with 24% saying they have a positive impression of her compared with 43% who view her negatively.

The PC Leadership Race

Respondents were then asked to select which of the three PC leadership candidates would be their first choice if they were personally voting to select the next leader.  Among all respondents, Paul Davis had a seven-point lead over Steve Kent and a 13-point lead over John Ottenheimer.  Davis was the choice of one in three respondents (34%) followed by Kent at 27% and Ottenheimer at 21%.  Eighteen percent of respondents were undecided.


Among those who voted PC in 2011, Davis’ lead increases to 14-points over Kent with 40% selecting the former Health Minister as their first choice.  Kent was selected by 26% of former PC voters followed closely by John Ottenheimer at 24%.  Ten percent of PC voters were undecided.

And finally, among those voters who said they always vote PC in provincial elections, Davis was selected by 41% compared with 32% who selected Steve Kent.  John Ottenheimer was well back in third with 21% among core PC Party supporters.

Hypothetical Provincial Ballots with Three PC Leadership Candidates

Finally, voters were presented with three hypothetical provincial ballots in which the names of the three PC leadership candidate were rotated and the names of the other party leaders were mentioned.  Respondents were asked which party they would support if a provincial election was held at the time of the survey.

None of the three PC leadership candidates were able to overtake the Liberal lead among committed voters but Paul Davis performed best in the hypothetical match-ups.


With Davis as leader, the Liberals lead the Tories by 8-points, with the Liberals at 46%, the PCs at 38% and the NDP at 16% among committed voters.  With Kent as leader, the Liberal lead grows to 13-points, with the Liberals at 48%, the PCs at 35%, and the NDP at 16%.  If John Ottenheimer is named as PC leader, 49% of committed voters said they would vote Liberal compared with 34% for the PCs and 17% for the NDP.


Analysis from Abacus CEO, David Coletto

As PC Party members across Newfoundland and Labrador meet to elect delegates to the Leadership Convention to be held September 12 and 13, former Health Minister Paul Davis is the preferred choice among all eligible voters and among those who voted PC in 2011.  Davis’ personal rating is highest and rivals that of popular Liberal Leader Dwight Ball.  While none of the three leadership candidates push the PC Party ahead of the Liberals in hypothetical ballots, Davis does perform best, albeit only slightly better than Steve Kent or John Ottenheimer.

Whoever the Tories elect on September 13 as their next leader and Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, the road to re-election in 2015 will be a tough one.  They face a very popular Liberal Leader and the effects of three terms in government.

Based on our polling, Paul Davis seems to be the favourite and best hope for the party at this point.  But the goodwill the public has for him personally needs to be translated into support for the party.


The random live-interview telephone survey commissioned by VOCM was conducted with 600 eligible voters living in Newfoundland and Labrador.  The survey was completed from July 28 to August 1, 2014.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 500 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 4.1%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was statistically weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched population of Newfoundland and Labrador.  The tables within this report detail the weighted and unweighted counts for the sample.

Note the small sample sizes when reviewing results in subgroups.

For more information about the poll’s methodology or the results, please contact David Coletto, CEO at or at 613-232-2806.


Abacus Data is an innovative, fast growing public opinion and marketing research consultancy. We use the latest technology, sound science, and deep experience to generate top-flight research based advice to our clients.  We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and exceptional value.

Our team combines the experience of our Chairman Bruce Anderson, one of Canada’s leading research executives for two decades, with the energy, creativity and research expertise of CEO David Coletto, PhD. For more information, visit our website at