Thursday, September 24, 2009

Evangelical voting study comes to faulty conclusions...

This has got to be one of the most ridiculous studies I've ever read. There is no basis for its main conclusion that "the Liberal Party alienated its evangelical base over a decade sending former supporters in search of new political homes."

As we know, it's true that overall voter support for the Liberal Party in Canada went from 41% in 2000 to 37% in 2004 to 30% in 2006 and finally 26% in 2008. Over this same period, support for the Liberals among evangelicals also dropped, according to the study.

Meanwhile, support for the Conservatives started at 30% in 2004 (down from a combined 38% in 2000 for the Canadian Alliance and the old PCs), then increased to 36% in 2006 and then 38% in 2008. The NDP has also gone up among the general public: from 9% in 2000, to 16% in 2004, to 17.5% in 2006 and then 18% in 2008.

If the study's numbers are true, then evangelical voting trends mimic voter shifts in the general public. Yet the study's authors make the assumption dropping Liberal support among evangelicals has mostly to do with alleged Liberal denigration of evangelical Christians, rather than other issues like the sponsorship scandal, voter fatigue with the same party in power, as well as weak leadership after Jean Chretien.

The study's authors point to a handful of alleged Liberal insults as having done the damage to evangelical support, including Warren Kinsella's infamous Canada AM appearance during the 2000 election sporting a Barney the Dinosaur doll.

The report's authors even suggest that a minor comment made by former Liberal cabinet minister Pierre Pettigrew in 2005 during the equal marriage debate was offensive and drove more Christian fundamentalists away from the Liberal Party. What comment was that, you ask? Pettigrew said, "I find that the separation of church and state is one of the most beautiful inventions of modern times." The study claims many evangelicals saw that statement as a threat to religious freedoms.

So let me get this straight: somebody praises the division of church and state and many evangelicals find this offensive? The division of church and state is the basis for religious freedoms, not a threat to them.

This study is pure bunk and does a disservice to the evangelical community in Canada. Too often, assumptions are made in this study about how "many" evangelicals felt about a certain incident or a minor comment without any data to back up those assumptions.

And lo and behold, Sun Media reports on the "study" as news because that's what Sun Media does: it reports bullshit right-wing propaganda as fact.

Support for the Liberals dropped 15% among all Canadians between 2000 and 2008. Support for the Conservatives, NDP and Greens went up during that time. Those shifts also appear to be present in evangelical voting patterns. The only conclusion one can seriously draw is that evangelical voting patterns are largely in sync with the general populace in Canada.

The intentions of this study, based on its faulty conclusions, do appear clear to me: this is nothing but a baseless, partisan, cheap shot against the Liberal party.


CanadianSense said...

Did you also discount the McGill study?

It was a gradual shift of many voting blocks.

W.K. attacking Day is minor to the group he mocked?

Same sex marriage changes?

What party is responsible for those changes?

The wafer scandal story was pushed by whom?

You don't see a pattern of trying to divide and mock Harper?

Those comments he made in Quebec?

Really are you going to pretend many Lib bloggers don't attack the "religious right wing republicans out west" for supporting the CPC?

The Rat said...

The separation of church and state was meant to prevent the state from interfering with religious freedom. And funny that in Canada where the Church of England has special status, or did you not know that the Queen of Canada cannot by law be Catholic?

Only recently have Liberals distorted this to mean that those who go to church must not allow those beliefs to influence their decisions in government. So yes, it is quite offensive in its modern form in that it basically bars evangelical Christians from public office. Or at least Kinsella broadly implied that with the Barney incident and it is only reinforced by statements like Pettigrew's.

Top Can said...

My point exactly.

Separation of Church and State is nothing but an idealized fantasy. It's not so much about religion as it is about a values system, your particular world view.

To ask a person of faith to leave his values at the door when it comes to issues of the state is like asking a marathon runner to do the 50K without his legs.

Your comments are noted, but they do not exactly help attract evangelicals back to the Liberal Party if they feel that they will be attacked like this for standing up to certain issues that contradict party policy. I don't hate you for being gay, but you certainly have no right to immediately cry bigotry everytime someone releases a study like this.

Matt Guerin said...

Separation of church and state means the state has no right to control religions and tell religions what to believe or do. Without this protection, the state could decide to outlaw an entire religion and send all of its followers to their deaths (like the Christian churches did in the middle ages to non-believers like Pagans).

At the same time today, the division of church and state means that churches cannot demand control over the state in a secular society. No one religion can seize power and implement its morality upon the rest of us. The state must act for all its citizens and act in the best interests of the state, etc. and uphold the rule of law and the constitution. That meant equal marriage should be allowed, not banned.

If a politician wins a seat and decides he's only going to fight for the interests of his own fundamentalist religion, against the other 90% of the people of his riding, we have a problem. You would argue he should do this. I would argue such a person should be defeated, and if they're running in Ontario they'd likely would be.

Most mainstream voters in areas not predisposed to vote Conservative were gravely worried about the fundamentalist hold on the new Conservative Party, well aware the party is dominated for former Reformers. Few wanted to see fundamentalist Christian policies enacted into law. This being said, it does appear that the Conservatives, unable to win a majority, have, at least under chameleon Harper, moved away from such far right positions in order not to alienate the big mainstream in Canada. They put aside their far right views and have tried to govern from the centre. I would argue this has been the secret of their current success. That plus voters are not yet tired of them. It hasn't even been four years of Harper yet, so we ought not be surprised by that. The Liberals were in power for 13 years. Any party, no matter how popular historically, would have difficulty winning again after that long in office. See the NDP in Saskatchewan as another example. Voters should want to mix up the parties in power every 10 years in a healthy democracy, just to keep them honest. If the opposition can't defeat the government after 10 years in power, they're obviously doing something really wrong.

There are ebbs and flows to these things. Eventually the Liberals will win favour again with the public and return to office. Will fundamentalists return and vote Liberal? Some will, I'm sure in higher numbers than now. If those same voters only care about socially conservative issues, then they probably won't vote Liberal. Why they continue to vote Conservative is beyond me, except perhaps they still hope Harper will take away equality rights for gay people should the Tories win a majority.

Fundamentalists don't have to check their beliefs at the door when running for office, but they should not lie about what they intend to do with power. People like me have every right to be afraid of what a fundamentalist Conservative or Liberal would do to me were they to win power. We already see how the Harper government does everything it can to ignore the gay community and even punish Conservative ministers who treat us as equal citizens. I don't want to imagine what they'd do with a majority.

CanadianSense said...


What are you talking about?

Are you suggesting a conspiracy of evangelical "christians" belong to the reform party that merged with the alliance six years is responsible for the loss of liberal government?

The loss of voting blocks from the Liberal party has been slow and gradual.
The study reflects a loss of another voting block, nothing more.

The Rural vote, visible minorities, Roman Catholic vote were traditional Liberal strongholds and they have left.

Since 2000 you can look at the ridings in the 905 and see how the leads vanished. Dion was used by some as a scapegoat.

The problems run much deeper and the direction of the Polls and leadership scores reflect it.

Matt Guerin said...

No I'm not suggesting that at all. I was originally arguing that the study was silly because it argued the Liberals lost a key constituency due to a few members' comments. This at the same time as the Liberals were losing support generally for other more substantial reasons.

I would argue the Liberals never had much support among far right fundamentalists. But now they have even less.

Yes the Liberals have lost blocks of support over the last 9 years. They lost support across the board. That's what happens when a party falls into disfavour after a long stint in power, then makes the mistake of electing a truly inappropriate leader in Stephane Dion. But I think they've reached the bottom and now they're only going to grow. You seem to be arguing this down trend is permanent. Kind of like how the Democrats were permanently doomed in 2004 in the U.S. Things change.

CanadianSense said...

I don't believe Canadians have made substantial changes over small issues or faux crisis.

At present the CPC are scoring well in polls and leadership because they don't like the alternative.

The voters will decide when his time is up and it was premature for the sudbury declaration.

Plan B?

It will be a strategic mistake for the Liberals to adopt the NDP role of voting against 100% of the CPC bills before reading them.

It was a mistake for the NDP to do it as well.

The Bloc take a different approach and pretend to read the Bill first before voting against it.

Asking voters to go to the ballot box in less than one year is a mistake and the polls are reflecting the sentiment.

We now have a PR campaign between the two major parties.

Based on the Ads to date, faux outrage being displayed by the Liberals I don't sense a change in the short term.

wilson said...

Science Minister Gary Goodyear's commitment to the theory of evolution was the most recent Liberal attack on religion.
How may Liberals said Minister Goodyear was not fit for office, because of his religious beliefs?

Michael Fox said...

This is the best part of the article:
For example, in a pre-campaign interview on The Michael Coren Show, Dion made frequent mention of God. When asked by Coren why he was peppering his conversation with references to God, Dion replied, “I have been told that this is important to the people who watch this show.”