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Alberta Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice arrives for the leaders debate in Edmonton on Thursday.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

Every week during the campaign, The Election Index highlights important numbers to help you understand the shape of the race.

50 per cent

All evidence suggests the 2015 Progressive Conservative electoral coalition assembled by PC leader Jim Prentice will differ from Alison Redford's 2012 support in two crucial ways. The first – that it will be considerably smaller – has understandably been receiving most of the attention. The second – that it will consist of quite a different set of voters – has been overlooked, but remains just as important. A recent Leger poll found that only 50 per cent of respondents who voted for the PCs in 2012 would support them this time, the rest favouring other parties. On top of that, 17 per cent of 2012 Wildrose voters seem to have followed the floor-crossers to the PCs.

In a certain way, this Wildrose support was likely the reason for last December's floor crossing spectacle, in which a majority of the Wildrose caucus signed on with the PCs. Securing tens of thousands of their voters would have been an excellent way to guarantee an unstoppable legislative majority for Mr. Prentice. However brilliant that might have seemed at the time, the plan falters when half of their support from 2012 is straying to other parties.

14 per cent

The rise of the NDP is remarkable to those who see Alberta as a conservative stronghold. While a lot of the NDP's increase in support comes from people abandoning other progressive parties, the poll from Leger also revealed that 14 per cent of Wildrose voters from 2012 are planning to switch to the NDP in 2015. If you look at politics only as an ideological battle between left and right, this is a puzzle. However, if the election is less about left-right division and more about an anti-PC sentiment gripping the province, then this apparent stroll from right to left makes a great deal more sense.


The NDP leads in every age category of potential voters except for those over 65, according to the latest Ekos poll. The New Democrats have a 20-percentage-point lead among those younger than 65, but trail the PCs by seven points among older voters. This will be something of a danger for the NDP on election night, because older voters are much more likely than younger ones to cast a ballot. The extent to which the NDP can convert its strong polling numbers into actual votes and real seats depends heavily on how strong the turnout is among younger voters.

48 per cent

Despite the dramatic polling figures that some are still struggling to process, this election will be determined by the same group that surprised everybody in 2012: last-minute deciders. The 48 per cent of voters reporting in the latest Ipsos poll that they might change their minds could back the governing party like they did last time, strengthen a surging NDP or resurgent Wildrose, split like long-decided voters have, or just decide the effort to vote is not worth it and stay home.

We have no reliable way to predict which paths these voters will take. A recent Ipsos poll suggests Wildrose supporters are somewhat more certain than PC or NDP voters in their current choice. Dramatic changes might also come from Liberal or Alberta Party voters, about three-quarters of whom might still go somewhere else on election day. This means the final days of this campaign will involve a lot of reflection by Albertans and a stockpiling of snacks by election-night watchers, who might just be in for the kind of evening they have not seen in 44 years.

Paul Fairie is a political scientist at the University of Calgary, where he studies voter behaviour.