Conservatives are not Republicans; New Democrats are not Democrats

Canada’s parliamentary system of government might have been modeled after Britain’s, but the political campaigns we’ve seen in recent years have been highlighted by decidedly more American influences; attack ads, exploitation of “wedge issues” and even the invitation of U.S. political figures to be keynote speakers at Canadian party conventions.

No question, the left-wing New Democrats have increasingly looked to the Obama Democrats south of the border in hope of finding some kind of message or theme that will allow them to break out of their persistent distant-third-place showing in the polls. And the Conservatives have looked to the Republicans for guidance in using wedge issues to their benefit.

However, it’s important that the New Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives and even the Béquistes – supporters of Quebec’s separatist Bloc Quebecois – all remember that politics is like retail: you have to cater to local tastes if you want to succeed, and you can’t assume that what works in one country will work just as well in another.

For example, take a look at some of these findings I dug out of the latest round of the World Values Survey. These are based on interviews conducted in 2006 with people who had a preferred federal political party:*

550 Canadian Liberals
626 Canadian Conservatives
337 Canadian New Democrats
190 Canadian Béquistes
390 U.S. Republicans
502 U.S. Democrats
208 U.S. Independents

What these findings suggest is that, in some cases, supporters of rival Canadian parties had more in common with each other than their would-be American brethren.

Where they are on the left-right scale: When asked to rate themselves on a 1-to-10 scale, where a ‘1’ meant that they were on the far left and a ’10’ meant they were on the far right, American Republicans positioned themselves decidedly to the right of Canadian Conservatives. Canadian Liberals were closer to the Conservatives than they might care to admit.

“In political matters, people talk of the left and the right. How would you place your views on this scale, generally speaking?” (Average score, out of 10)

American Republicans – 7.0
Canadian Conservatives – 6.1
Canadian Liberals – 5.6
American Independents – 5.4
American Democrats – 4.9
Canadian Béquistes – 4.8
Canadian New Democrats – 4.7

Quebeckers averse to religious leaders trying to influence governments: Canadian Béquistes are the most likely to strongly agree that religious leaders should not influence governments, possibly remembering the power exercised by the Catholic Church in Quebec before the Quiet Revolution of the ‘60s. American Democrats and Independents also show some signs of wariness, illustrating the extent to which the differences between “Democrat” and “Republican” have almost become synonymous with “secular” and “religious” at times. American Republicans, for their part, are the least likely to be hostile to the idea of religious leaders influencing governments.

“How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following statement: Religious leaders should not influence government.” (% Strongly Agree)

Canadian Béquistes – 43%
American Democrats – 34%
American Independents – 30%
Canadian New Democrats – 27%
Canadian Liberals – 26%
Canadian Conservatives – 25%
American Republicans – 19%

Weekly attendance at religious services: American Republicans are noticeably more likely to attend church or other religious services on a weekly basis than supporters of any other party in either Canada or the U.S. Canadian Conservatives and Liberals and American Democrats were about equally likely to attend religious services weekly. Attendance was lowest among New Democrats and Béquistes.

“Apart from weddings, funerals and christenings, about how often do you attend religious services these days?” (% Attend at least once a week)

American Republicans – 51%
American Democrats – 34%
Canadian Conservatives – 31%
Canadian Liberals – 30%
American Independents – 24%
Canadian New Democrats – 17%
Canadian Béquistes – 10%

Conversely, when it comes to those who never attend religious services, what’s surprising here is how high the figure among American Independents is in comparison to Democrats and Republicans – perhaps a sign that the “independent” label attracts a lot of secular Americans, or refugees from the culture wars? Fairly large numbers of Béquistes and New Democrats never attend religious services.

“Apart from weddings, funerals and christenings, about how often do you attend religious services these days?” (% Never Attend)

Canadian Béquistes – 55%
American Independents – 44%
Canadian New Democrats – 42%
Canadian Liberals – 28%
American Democrats – 26%
Canadian Conservatives – 23%
American Republicans – 16%

Religion as a very important part of life: Americans are generally more openly religious than Canadians, and that shows in the findings below. There’s a 20-point difference between American Republicans and Canadian Conservatives on this question – smaller than the gap between the Canadian Conservatives and any of their domestic rivals except for the strongly secular Bloc Quebecois.

“For each of the following aspects, indicate how important it is in your life: Religion” (% Very Important)

American Republicans – 59%
American Democrats – 43%
Canadian Conservatives – 39%
American Independents – 39%
Canadian Liberals – 38%
Canadian New Democrats – 25%
Canadian Béquistes – 15%

Active membership in religious organizations: Again, a substantial difference between the American Republicans – more than half of whom are actively involved in a religious organization – and everyone else.

“Now I am going to read out a list of voluntary organizations; for each one, could you tell me whether you are a member, an active member, an inactive member or not a member of that type of organization? Church or religious organization” (% Active Member)

American Republicans – 53%
Canadian Liberals – 35%
Canadian Conservatives – 35%
American Democrats – 35%
Canadian New Democrats – 23%
American Independents – 23%
Canadian Béquistes – 8%

Active membership in political parties: When it comes to organizing, American parties have an advantage over their Canadian counterparts in that Americans are more likely to be involved in politics. Canadians know that politics isn’t nearly as important as hockey.

“Now I am going to read out a list of voluntary organizations; for each one, could you tell me whether you are a member, an active member, an inactive member or not a member of that type of organization? Political party.” (% Active Member)

American Republicans – 21%
American Democrats – 21%
American Independents – 10% (whatever…)
Canadian Conservatives – 6%
Canadian New Democrats – 6%
Canadian Béquistes – 6%
Canadian Liberals – 5%

GOP leadership positions – women need not apply?: This was quite stunning. Forty-one percent of self-identified U.S. Republicans agreed that men make better political leaders than women do — way out of whack with supporters of other parties. This sentiment was nonetheless shared even in this day and age by one-in-five Canadian Conservatives, Liberals and American Democrats. The Béquistes and New Democrats were the least sympathetic to this point of view.

“Do you agree strongly, agree, disagree, or disagree strongly: On the whole, men make better political leaders than women do.” (% Agree or Agree Strongly)

American Republicans – 41%
American Independents – 23%
Canadian Conservatives – 19%
American Democrats – 19%
Canadian Liberals – 18%
Canadian Béquistes – 12%
Canadian New Democrats – 8%

Global warming as a very serious problem: This is an issue that resonates more strongly north of the border than south of it. Note the 11-point gap between Canadian New Democrats and American Democrats, and the even more stunning 35-point gap between Conservatives and Republicans.

“Please, tell me how serious you consider each of the following to be for the world as a whole. Is it very serious, somewhat serious, not very serious or not serious at all: Global warming or the greenhouse effect.” (% Very Serious)

Canadian Béquistes – 76%
Canadian New Democrats – 71%
Canadian Liberals – 67%
Canadian Conservatives – 62%
American Democrats – 60%
American Independents – 52%
American Republicans – 27%

Not so okay to be gay in the GOP: When asked to rate the justifiability of homosexuality on a 1-to-10 scale, with ‘1’meaning that it’s never justifiable and a ‘10’ meaning its always justifiable, Canadian Béquistes and New Democrats tended to have more accommodating attitudes, while American Republicans were noticeably less accommodating. Canadian Conservatives were a little more — well, conservative — in comparison to other Canadian parties, but much more liberal than the American Republicans.

“Please tell me for each of the following statements whether you think it can always be justified, never be justified, or something in between, using this card: Homosexuality.” (Average score, out of 10)

Canadian Béquistes – 6.9
Canadian New Democrats – 6.5
Canadian Liberals – 5.7
American Democrats – 5.3
Canadian Conservatives – 5.0
American Independents – 4.8
American Republicans – 3.3

Source: World Values Survey 2005-08 wave

* – Original question: “If there were a national election tomorrow, for which party on this list would you vote? Just call out the number on this card. If Don’t Know: Which party appeals to you most?”


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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