Albertans' notorious socially conservative views may be more the exception than the rule in the province these days, according to numbers from a Lethbridge college study.

The Calgary Herald states a telephone survey conducted by the college found most Albertans — in some ways overwhelmingly — support historically explosive conservative issues such as abortion, assisted suicide and same-sex marriage, harshly in contrast with Alberta's staunchly conservative reputation.

The poll showed that 74 per cent of Albertans believe same-sex marriage should have equal standing with traditional unions, which is up from 66 per cent in 2009, the Herald reports.

The survey also showed that 81 per cent of Albertans believe abortion is a matter of personal choice, which is up from 78 per cent in 2009. Seventy-six per cent of those living in Wild Rose Country believe the terminally ill should have the right to opt for doctor-assisted suicide, which is up from 64 per cent in 2009, the Herald states.

Ironically, when compared to a similar survey conducted in what was until recently a bastion of provincial NDP politics, participants in the University of Saskatchewan's Taking the Pulse poll showed the attitude regarding some of these social issues in that province were not as progressive as the respondents in Alberta, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix states.

Loleen Berdahl, U of S associate professor of political studies, told the StarPhoenix she and her fellow researchers added the assisted suicide question to other moral issue questions in their poll, which used the exact wording as the survey conducted by Lethbridge College.

She tells the StarPhoenix she was astounded to find that while 76 per cent of Albertans were in support of doctor-assisted suicide, the number of Saskatchewan residents who felt similarly about the subject was only 59 per cent.

Berdahl explained the results by saying, "just demographically, Alberta is a bit younger, in terms of population, than Saskatchewan. It's a bit wealthier, and we see, of course, that age and income matters to these questions."

But although Albertans are more progressive in their social attitudes than their predecessors and even their socialist cousins to the east, issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion are still hot-button issues.

An incident that saw a pro-life add displayed on the side of a trailer parked along a southern Alberta highway near Taber, and later vandalized with pro-choice slogans earlier this month, raised a tempest on social media.

People on both sides of the fence held nothing back, using pointed - and sometimes profane language — to condemn one side or support the other.

Taz Dhrwl was more forceful in the delivery, saying "Pro-lifers are f***ing up the world for the rest of us. If you're pro-life, then you should be taking care of the homeless people in your town and city, and not worrying what a woman is going to do with her body."

Collette A. Smith countered with, "a liberal society requires that we tolerate different values<< But in reality, our current 'liberals' only tolerate those values that are the same as theirs, which makes them even more intolerant than those they're pointing a finger at. Hypocrites much?"

STORY CONTINUES AFTER GALLERY..

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  • Where The Parties Stand On Abortion

    Here's a look at the official position of Canada's federal parties, and how the controversial debate has reared its head in recent years. <em>With files from CBC</em>

  • Conservative Party

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said that he has no interest in addressing the issue head-on.<br><br>"As long as I am prime minister we are not opening the abortion debate," Mr. Harper said in April 2011. "The government will not bring forward any such legislation, and any such legislation that is brought forward will be defeated as long as I am prime minister." (CP)

  • NDP

    NDP leader Tom Mulcair has stated that his caucus is unanimous in its opposition to the private member's motion calling on Parliament to look at whether a fetus is a human being, but he plans to force his MPs to vote along party lines.<br><br>"We're resolutely in favour of women's right to choose," Mulcair declared. (CP)

  • Liberal Party

    Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae has stressed that the abortion issue is matter of individual conscience. Rae expressed his personal opposition to reopening the debate, but said Liberal MPs will be allowed to vote "their conscience" rather than force them to toe the party line.<br><br>"Our position on reproductive choice, my position on reproductive choice is very, very clear. It has been for decades. The position is it's a person's right to choose." (CP)

  • Planned Parenthood Funding Controversy

    Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Brad Trost tells Saskatchewan's ProLife Association in April 2011 that the federal government has decided to cut funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a decision he says was influenced by anti-abortion supporters.<br><br>"I cannot tell you specifically how we used it, but those petitions were very, very useful and they were part of what we used to defund Planned Parenthood because it has been an absolute disgrace that that organization and several others like it have been receiving one penny of Canadian taxpayers' dollars," Trost said.<br><br>Maurice Vellacott, a Conservative MP from Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, also calls for Planned Parenthood to be defunded.<br><br>Vellacott says the controversy over the funding "exposed the lies and destructiveness of IPPF's agenda."<br><br>"It exposes what this abortion giant is surreptitiously trying to achieve worldwide."<br><br>International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda approves funding. (CP)

  • 'Coerced' Abortion Law

    Conservative Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge proposes "Roxanne's Law" in 2010, a bill that would penalize anyone who "coerced" a woman into ending her pregnancy against her will.<br><br>"It's not just as simple as feeling pressured to get an abortion; there is a lot of discussion of sex-selection abortion these days, as well," Bruinooge told the Winnipeg Free Press. "It's part of the overall topic of intimidation that goes towards a pregnant woman."<br><br>Bruinooge insisted the bill wasn't meant to force Parliament to wade into the debate banned by Harper, stating that nothing in his bill made it illegal to abort a fetus.<br><br>But the Liberals and New Democrats saw it as a backdoor entry into the touchy topic.<br><br>"How is an abortion bill not an abortion bill?" said then-Liberal MP Anita Neville. "This certainly introduces discussion into the House of Commons and it is a rather sneaky way of doing it."<br><br>Then-NDP leader Jack Layton echoed her concerns. "You have got to wonder what is really going on here."<br><br>The bill was defeated in December of 2010, with 178 votes for and 97 against it. Harper and many Conservatives voted against it and 10 Liberals supported it. The NDP was unanimously against it. (Handout)

  • Maternal Health

    International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda discloses for the first time in April 2011 that Canada will not fund abortions in its G8 child and maternal health-care initiative for developing countries.<br><br>Keith Martin, then-Liberal MP who had defected from the Tories years earlier, expressed outrage. "People here are perplexed and wondering why Canada is rolling back the clock and depriving women in developing countries from having the same rights to basic health care and access to abortion as women in Canada," he said.<br><br>Then-NDP leader Jack Layton accused the Tories of putting Canada on side with former U.S. president George Bush, who reduced support for abortion-related aid.<br><br>"It's picking up the banner that George Bush used to carry, and I think that that's not something that would be supported by the majority of Canadians, that's for sure," Layton said.<br><br>On June 25, Canada pledged $1.1 billion to a global initiative on maternal and child health for developing countries - a disproportionately high amount compared to other G8 countries. Canada did not allow for its share to be used in the funding of abortions. (CP)

This trend may help to explain shifting attitudes in Alberta's political scene, which this spring saw the poll juggernaut Wildrose Party come a distant second to the PCs in Alberta's latest provincial election.

Many watchers contributed the Wildrose implosion to comments made by controversial party candidates, which either offended or scared voters back to the PCs.

The Alberta Tories' ruling record is now 41 years, but they won their last mandate with a more economically centrist platform, augmented with a very socially liberal tone.

That trend may now be bleeding into federal politics in the province, with what is now a head-to-head contest in the coming Calgary Centre byelection.

The byelection, like all federal ballots in Calgary, are more or less considered Conservative coronations but the Liberal candidate in the riding, buoyed by support from some influential Tories in the city is now giving the Tory contender, Joan Crockatt, who was a Wildrose booster during the provincial ballot in her role as political commentator with Sun News, a run for her money. The race is now at a statistical-dead-heat.

The byelection, to replace former conservative MP Lee Richardson, will be held on Nov. 26.

Related on HuffPost:

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  • Harvey Locke 32.6%

    Liberal Party Of Canada.

  • Joan Crockatt 36.9%

    Conservative Party Of Canada

  • Antoni Grochowski 0.5%

    Independent

  • Tony Prashad 0.4%

    Libertarian

  • Dan Meades 3.9%

    NDP

  • Chris Turner 25.7%

    Green Party