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Premier Alison Redford scrums with the media following a meeting of the provincial PC Party executive in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, March 15, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshJeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is still in political hot water, even after agreeing last week to pay back the $45,000 cost of her controversial trip to South Africa.

Since early this year, Ms. Redford has been under fire for her travel expenses, particularly her expensive trip to South Africa last December to attend memorial services for African leader Nelson Mandela, who she worked with in the mid-1990s. Last week she was pushed into announcing she would pay back the $45,000 cost to provincial coffers. But it's not clear it did anything to reverse the political damage.

A poll from ThinkHQ Public Affairs Inc. released Wednesday shows her approval rating before she made the announcement that she would pay back the cost of the South Africa trip was 19 per cent and afterwards it was 17 per cent. The survey sample sizes were 743 and 945, respectively.

Overall, the results from 1,688 Albertans, sampled both following the Premier's repayment and after, show Ms. Redford's approval rating sits at 18 per cent – a drop even from January, when her approval rating stood at 35 per cent.

Another recent Leger Marketing poll also showed the premier's approval rating at 20 per cent.

In contrast, the ThinkHQ poll said Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith's approval rating stands at 51 per cent.

ThinkHQ pollster Marc Henry said one has to go back to the darkest days of former premier Don Getty, who served from 1985 to 1992, to see a sitting Alberta premier have the support of less than one in five Albertans.

"And that was when the economy was tanking," Mr. Henry said in a note on the poll. "To see a sitting premier with these numbers amidst a provincial economy functioning as well as Alberta's is today, is truly uncharted territory."

In the past week, two MLAs have left Ms. Redford's caucus and others have publicly discussed leaving. Debate about Ms. Redford's political future continues within circles of party members.

The ThinkHQ poll also said if a provincial election were held tomorrow, 46 per cent of Albertans would vote for the Wildrose party while 19 per cent would vote Progressive Conservative. Sixteen per cent would support the Liberals and 15 per cent would cast a ballot for the NDP.

Mr. Henry added that the controversy over Ms. Redford's expense claims appears to be having an impact. Most Albertans are aware of the controversy, he said, and seven in 10 are less likely to vote for the PCs as a result, including 59 per cent of those who voted PC in the last election. Many poll respondents also said the travel expense controversy is a "character issue."

Just eight per cent said the Premier didn't really do anything wrong.

With a sample size of 1,688, the margin of error for the poll sits at plus or minus 2.4 per cent. The margin of error would be higher for subsamples, including the separate groups of those surveyed before and after the Premier's declaration that she would re-pay the $45,000.

ThinkHQ said the sample was weighted to reflect differences in gender, age and regions.