Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Tuned In" Canadians?

If you want to read a misleading poll result, then this Ipsos Reid offering on voter engagement and attitudes is a perfect example. The methodology is fine, but the conclusions are so contradictory, the idea the people are "still tuned in" evaporates with subsequent responses:

The number of Canadians turning out to vote may be dropping, but a majority of the country appears to still be tuning into politics, according to a new poll.

The Ipsos Reid poll conducted for Postmedia News and Global National found that less than one-third of respondents [31 per cent] said they have "tuned out of any kind of political activity, including voting."

Only eight per cent strongly agreed with that statement, while 23 per cent somewhat agreed.

That leaves the majority - 69 per cent - saying they have not tuned out, with 39 per cent strongly disagreeing that they have tuned out and 30 per cent somewhat disagree."

A huge majority say NO, they haven't tuned out, they are engaged. Trouble is, when you drill down further, the electorate's behaviour contrasts with their assertion:

A Statistics Canada survey of voters from the May election found that more than one-quarter -28 per cent - of the country's 7.5 million voters who did not cast a ballot did so because they weren't interested in voting, while another 23 per cent said they were too busy to vote.

I'm sorry, but with ADVANCE polls and every effort to make voting as PAINLESS as possible, to say you are "too busy" to vote is the clearest indication of complete and utter disinterest. Truth be told, the simplest of effort required, times and dates provided to ensure being "busy" taken into account and you still can't bother to participate in the most basic democratic expression? One thing to say you don't vote because you hate the choices, but "busy" is an admission of disinterest, anything but "tuned in".

Ipsos also asks voters impression of the government, and within these results you see that despite what we say, people are very much tuned out:
A majority also believed the government was getting things accomplished on enhancing Canada's reputation in the world (60 per cent).

Seriously? The international community criticizing us on the climate file, the UN criticizing us, ample evidence that our "reputation" is eroding and yet Canadians think our stature is on the rise? To my mind this perspective tells me that no one is paying attention, because this fall has seen a steady diet of criticism, how 6 in 10 of us see improvement escapes me.

This poll tells me Canadians like to think they're engaged and participating, but a closer look reveals superficial interest, bordering on completely oblivious. I also believe this government in particular has accurately incorporated the public indifference and sleeps well within knowledge.


Peter said...

Oh, my. Steve, I have been following your posts on Liberal renewal with interest. My own view is that both you and the Dippers are so frightened of the public spotlight and internal dissension that you are looking for a sort of cuddly, cost-free renewal where new ideas burst forth in a spirit of collegiality and fellowship and then go on to sweep the nation. Even though you are both looking for new leaders, it's as if you all think that, until then, it's best to say nothing about what specifically the country needs and just do a daily rending of your garments over this or that Harper outrage. I suggest you steel yourself for some tough public battles over a medium to long haul if you are serious. Just ask the Cons.

But whether I'm right or wrong, one thing I'm pretty sure of is you'll have to get past blaming the public for being stupid or inattentive and do a little more soul-searching about where those numbers are coming from. The notion that middle Canadians, who you used to see as tolerant, generous and sensitive to social justice, have become a bunch of crabby, science-denying yahoos who have let more enlightened folks down starting to be a regular theme on progressive blogs, without anyone clicking that they're the same people.

Much of the left is stuck in the 20th century, but the public is not.

Steve V said...

Who's blaming anyone? All I'm doing is stating the public is NOT tuned in at all. How you extrapolate that thesis to your rebuttal frankly escapes me?

As for the long haul, believe me I am not deluding myself.

Peter said...

What I am getting at is that the views you so casually dismiss as superficial are well-grounded in much of the public mind. Few have respected or cared about the UN for a decade for some very good reasons, but Canada has led in high-profile international polls for respectability and the best place to live. I've just come from Dawg's where I answered yet another charge that Kenney is anti-immigrant by pointing out he has presided over the largest flow in history and that even the Swedes see us as a model. We've escaped the financial crisis so far better than anyone else in the OECD. Harper has performed competently on the international stage, has managed U.S. relations well and is seen as an effective economic manager, surely public priority number one. The environmental lobby hates him, but they always have. Kent's message was that we're not going to agree to reduce our standing of living when five of the six largest countries in the world refuse to be so bound, which I suggest makes perfect sense to most Canadians.

I understand you want a whole host of different policies, but don't let all those all-too-desperate Harper horror stories blind you to the fact that this is an activist government with a lot of support. Harper isn't particularly liked like Layton was, but he is respected. You aren't likely to replace him by carping about helicopter rides and gazebos or repeating rote shibboleths about destroying democracy.

Let's start. Ford won the world's most liberal, multicultural city and he won the ethnic vote. Was this, in your view, a failure of a public that wasn't paying enough attention?

Steve V said...

Why are you equating Ford to a testament of public failure, why are you making a connection I'm not asserting here? You seem to just be ranting on your pet thesis, with no consideration to what I've said here.

You comments about "the left" are more your baggage than a pretty self evident point about people having superficial knowledge of the political process. What you said at Dawg's, you actually think more than 2% of us have the foggiest idea what your talking about? I live in the real world, they don't, it's the stuff of junkies and all that matters are buzzwords and easy slogans, not the details.

Peter said...

Look at the last paragraph of your post. It hardly screams respect for the general public.

Geez, you are touchy. I actually think there is a much greater potential for the Libs than most Libs seem to, but they're going to have to persuade an awful lot of people that they are listening respectfully.

Steve V said...

It's not respect, it's engagement, and I'm quite confident I'm right, as turnout continues to demonstrate.

Touchy? Geez is right. You say I'm blaming people, I respond and you get all uppity? So tired of the projection routine, I just responded to YOU.

Tomm said...


Peter is right.

Steve V said...

Thank you Conbot, I find that incredibly persuasive.

Tomm said...

Your welcome.

It was the least I could do. I think I'm just a natural educator.

Omar said...


Here's hoping basic grammar isn't your area of responsibility at the University of Natural Education.

Tomm said...


I tend to be inclusive with my use of possessive forms.

I am just the empty vessel described by Lao Tse.

But I am guessing you already knew that from reading my posts.

sharonapple88 said...

We've escaped the financial crisis so far better than anyone else in the OECD

The funny thing about this is that it's probably Liberal policies -- balanced budget, regulation of banks -- that helped us through the crisis.

Even as late as Dec. 2007, the Harper government pushed for deregulation.

"[A] WTO submission from Canada dated Dec. 5, 2007, berates other WTO members for their lack of "ambition" in the financial services negotiations. On behalf of the co-sponsors of the submission, Canada claimed: "further liberalization of financial services will help promote economic growth and improved standards of living for all WTO Members…"

What happened in 2007? That was around the start of the finacial crisis. So while that was going on, banks failing and needing bailouts, the Harper government was pushing for liberalization of finacial markets. Yes. Really.

As for international standing... could be better. There's the whole mess with regards to the Keystone pipeline. Then there's the loss of the UN Security Council Seat -- first loss for Canada. The relationship between Canada and Asia is a mess. Why?

"The paper, commissioned by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Canada China Business Council, says Ottawa has succeeded in building strong bilateral relations in the region, including with China, in the past.

"But not of late, says the report, written by Wendy Dobson of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. Instead Canada's dealings in the region have been ad hoc and scattered.

"The former federal Finance Department official and president of the C.D. Howe Institute says Canadians now have a bad reputation in Asia of showing up but not following up, and of making demands out of proportion with their importance.

"It is astounding that as yet Canada has no major comprehensive trade deals or investment agreements with any country in Asia, and is "absent" from key international forums that have become a way of doing business in the region."

daniel said...

....I'm not sure what aspect of your post Peter is taking issue with, Steve - he seems to be using the (rather obvious and widely-accepted) fact that the voting public is less informed than they like to believe as a jumping-off point into non-sequitors about Liberal attitudes, Conservative victories, and how the Liberals somehow owe more respect to the general public than they give.

As for my own opinion - I wouldn't say that the Canadian public at large has *ever* been particularly enlightened or engaged. The only reason that the Liberal party had been so dominant in the past was on account of their greasy, heavy-handed, take-no-prisoners style of retail politics, and the Conservatives' persistent unwillingness to admit to themselves on several occasions (Clark, Stanfield, Drew, Manion, etc) that the Canadian public was more interested in a slugfest than an honest policy debate.

The only difference now is that the Conservatives have figured out a way to tunnel under that which was previously considered "rock-bottom" in Canadian politics. They've discovered that most voters are far stupider than the Liberals ever gave them credit for; and for some reason, the Liberals suddenly seem convinced that an honest policy debate will aid them in returning to power, when their own great electoral successes were achieved by retail politicians slugging and steamrolling a long succession of Tory policy wonks.

sharonapple88 said...

Going to throw in Canada-Brazil relations as not being what they should. Beyond a Brazilian paper publishing a possibly dubious story that Harper locked himself in the bathroom when he didn't get his way, things were described as being "tense" between the two sides. Apparently, Harper's request to talk to the media a the Brazilian Presidential Palance was denied, and there was no joint press conference.

Harper, making friends wherever he goes.

Steve V said...

"....I'm not sure what aspect of your post Peter is taking issue with, Steve - he seems to be using the (rather obvious and widely-accepted) fact that the voting public is less informed than they like to believe as a jumping-off point into non-sequitors about Liberal attitudes, Conservative victories, and how the Liberals somehow owe more respect to the general public than they give."

Thank you Daniel!

Omar said...

Merry Christmas, Tomm ;-)

Peter said...

They've discovered that most voters are far stupider than the Liberals ever gave them credit for;

Sigh. Good luck with the renewal.

Scotian said...

I'm more tuned in and I have basically withdrawn from watching/following the news since the federal election. I still check on the basic overall destruction of our system of governance in progress by the Harperites (and yes it is that, my issue with Harper was always rooted in the process side as I repeatedly pointed out and repeatedly was ignored by and called a Liberal shill by his supporters and too many Dippers that failed to understand just what they were enabling under the Layton/Harper anti-Liberal alliance policy), and after all who cares about the integrity of the Office of the Speaker of the House, that Ministers of the Crown need to follow the rule of law when the courts rule against them, or that democracy means having policy discussions and expert analysis in Parliamentary committee done in open session as a rule unless there are specific national security issues requiring otherwise, it is not like that matter at all, or that it can possibly make voters less willing to vote or be involved in the process or even be informed. After all, it is not like being an informed voter is a prerequisite to a healthy democratic society functioning, no not at all (if anyone needs it pointed out this last was highly sarcastic).

Canadians have been less and less tuned in for many years, content and complacent that things could never go really wrong in a nation whose motto and general goals were peace, order and good government. I've been Cassandra for over a decade about this and many other things not least how dangerous Harper was to our core beliefs of governance, not because of ideological differences but because of his inherent contempt for the basic principles and Constitutional structures of Canadian governance. Remember when he asserted that the government was superior to Parliament? That is as antithetical to our core Constitutional structure as you can get.

Canadians suffered too much from the "it can't happen here" mentality. We know from repeated surveying that the actual political majority is centrist to left leaning, not conservative (and I mean Canadian conservative in that, not the radical form our current Harper government represents, that is far more diminutive in nature in the population as s a whole, not just the voting element), and as Harper continues as he has so far it will become increasingly apparent to that out of touch/tuned out percentage that something has gone horribly wrong and that they need to start tuning in again.

The question I have is how bad will the damage be by then and whether it can be recoverable or not, which was why I was so anti-Harper all along to begin with. It was also where my rage with the left/Dippers that were politically active came from, I said time and again just block Harper first then take down the Libs but that Harper was something far worse and more dangerous to Dipper principles and ideology, and the reality has proven me right yet again, and now that they don't have Layton to drive the cult of personality that has been their main advantage as of late federally, well things may well become truly ugly for them, especially given the nationalist element within its dominant Quebec wing. Which only showed how much even many that were supposedly "tuned in" were not actually paying enough attention to the reality out there IMHO.

Al this was the result of an ill-informed public too complacent in its belief that things could never go too badly wrong and that all politicians and parties were essentially the same. That is going to really bite them in the butts now, and may well end up being the epitaph of this nation if it gets bad enough.

Omar said...

It'll all come out in the wash. Eventually.