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.