Minority with a majority
Yesterday afternoon, I sat in on some fascinating talks by eight of Canada's leading pollsters, at an event held by Canada's Market Research Intelligence Association. I'll have a full story coming in the paper in the days ahead (soon I hope), but in the meantime, I thought I'd share a snippet or two.
All of the presentations were great, but Greg Lyle, from Innovative Research Group, raised a question/conundrum that would make an excellent conversation starter for weekend dinner parties. (If your guests are into politics.) I'll transcribe what he had to say here. See what you think.
First thing I want to do is talk about how the Tories won. Immediately following the election, it was noted that the Tories won the election campaign. Since then, though, it appears that Jack Layton did. [pause, then polite laughs from the crowd]And most of the debate is on how did the NDP breakthrough happen, and not so much how the Tories won.
It's important to understand that the Tories have been winning by fighting on issues that most people *don't* support. If you think for a second, most of us, and certainly most of the people that are on the margins of whether they're going to vote or not think the way democracy works is that government does what most people want, most of the time.
But on most of the issues that mattered in this campaign, the Tories got a very strong mandate to do what the minority want.
At this point, Lyle put some charts on the screen, showing how Canadians felt about whether corporate taxes should be raised to finance the increasing costs of health care.
Given a choice, most people would raise corporate taxes rather than trust trickle-down to work. However, if you look at how vote support works, if you think the way to go is to cut corporate taxes, you're a Tory, 84 per cent Tory. But if you are on the side of the spectrum, a few people are Tory and the others are split (among the other parties) halfway to Sunday.
And so long as you have this situation, which to me is reminiscent of the free-trade election... one party got all the people who supported free trade, the other parties split the opponents and free trade was policy.
That's not the way elections are supposed to work. That's not the way democracy is supposed to work. And what will get really interesting ... is what happens as the government consistently does a series of things that most people don't want. Where will those numbers go?
And the same thing happens if the government introduces new policies to deal with crime. Should it focus more on getting tougher on crime or should it focus more on dealing with the causes of crime? 57 per cent of Canadians say 'focus on the causes of crime.' Only 38 per cent say 'get tough on crime' -- almost identical to what the Tory vote was. Seventy-three per cent of the people who say get tough on crime voted Tory, only 16 per cent who said deal with the causes of crime.
And I did this on five different issues... and it's the same story, again and again. The topical issues in the debate, Tories were in the minority point of view, but they got all the votes of people who shared that point of view. So I'll just leave you to think about how the world's going to evolve in the next four years, if the Tories are going to do what they were elected to do, which is stuff that most people don't agree with.