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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 19 April 2013

You Can't Stop Progress

I may have written on this subject a bit.  It's pretty interesting.  Social Conservatives are facing a losing war - even when they win battles, the emerging long term trend is away from a silo-based, two-row wampum sort of culture to one that's more polycultural in its character.

The ‘Big Shift’ may be moving into reverse iPolitics Insight

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the Sikh temple of Sri Keshgarh Sahib Gurdwara in Anandpur Sahib, India on Wednesday, November 7, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
The two most powerful demographic forces in Canadian society are aging and immigration. Both are profoundly altering the political landscape — and both have boosted the Conservative party in recent years.
Tonight I want to focus on how immigration is altering the political fortunes of different parties and speculate as to what this augurs for the future. I will also look at attitudes to immigration itself, how this is evolving in Canada and how this links to party preference and other factors.
Canada is a rapidly pluralizing society and, for the most part, it seems to be managing that transition to much greater heterogeneity very well. The huge tensions over immigration evident in both the United States and Europe are much more muted in Canada.
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Opposition to what are (relatively) much lower levels of immigration in the U.S. is more than twice as high as it is in Canada. In both the States and Europe, immigration and multiculturalism are hot button issues with real ballot-booth consequences.
Immigration is not a significant election issue in Canada. Canadians also recognize diversity as a positive value; it rates high in Canada and higher than in the U.S. In fact, in a forced-choice poll to describe Canada’s greatest achievement over the past 20 years, diversity was tied as the second most popular choice.

The longer-term tracking of attitudes to immigration is revealing, however. In the mid-1990s, over half of Canadians thought there were ‘too many’ immigrants coming to Canada. This deep anxiety about immigration was a product both of economic and cultural insecurity. The following chart shows that those fears subsided substantially and, after a spike upward following 9/11, opposition levels continued downward — even as they continued to rise dramatically in the U.S.
Using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) method of polling, we resumed tracking in 2011 and those results show that opposition to immigration may be on the rise again. (We do believe that a large part of this apparent rise is due to respondents feeling more comfortable in giving candid responses to the robot than they would to a live interviewer.)

The other tracking item is a more direct measure of racial intolerance. It asks the respondent to forget about the levels of immigration and tell us whether too many immigrants are visible minorities. While this is not a particularly harsh expression of racial intolerance (compared to things like refusals to hire, or acts of violence) it is clearly an expression of some level of racial discrimination. If one agrees that, regardless of the actual number of immigrants arriving in Canada, simply too many of them are non-white, that is an expression of some level of racial intolerance.
The tracking on this measure is closely linked to overall attitudes to immigration, which suggests that part of the resistance to immigration is rooted in intolerance or xenophobia. The most recent readings show that our self-congratulatory image of ourselves as a tolerant society which celebrates diversity may be a bit premature. The overall evidence is that hard racial intolerance has dropped dramatically over the last fifty years in upper North America. This new evidence suggests that some forms of racial intolerance continue to persist, albeit in more benign forms than in the past.

Our two most recent readings show another finding. Usually we find more people opposed to immigration in general than people opposed to visible minority immigration; in our most recent polls that gap has disappeared. This might be a reflection of the shift in the composition of immigration to a much greater concentration of visible minorities than in the past — or it may signal other social changes. It bears monitoring and further investigation.

The next chart shows the patterns on who feels most strongly that there are too many immigrants in general and too many immigrants who are visible minorities. Two groups stand out as particularly opposed to visible minority immigration.

The first is Albertans — which is mildly puzzling, given their acute economic need for greater immigration to cover deep labour market shortages and the election of a Muslim mayor in Calgary. It may be a reflection of the same phenomenon that we saw in Toronto earlier in the nineties when rapid immigration produced short-term, very strong opposition — which has largely disappeared since.

The second group is Conservative supporters. The fact that 56 per cent of Conservative supporters think there are too many visible minority immigrants shows an internal contradiction between the party’s outreach strategy and the inclinations of most of its constituents.
In the nineties, one of the key concerns expressed by critics of multiculturalist immigration policies was that it would produce ethnic ghettoization. A related concern was that national unity and identity would be threatened by a fragmentation of ethnic identities and the presence of different value systems connected with those identities.

In the following chart we can compare levels of attachment to both ethnic group and national ancestries from the late 1990s to the present. Notably this period saw a large influx of new immigration, raising Canada’s overall diversity to its highest-ever levels. It is therefore highly instructive to note the large drop in ethnic identification (61 to 43) and the continued strength of Canadian identity (79 to 74). This suggests that, quite contrary to fears expressed by critics of multiculturalism, high levels of immigration produced a broad lowering of overall ethnic and source-country identification, while national attachment stayed much stronger.
The rapid rise in immigrant and visible minority populations is not just sociologically interesting; it poses very real challenges to political parties. The political arithmetic is obvious. The Liberals’ huge traditional advantage with these groups evaporated as the party’s fortunes fell and the Conservatives engaged in concerted outreach to these groups.

The Conservatives’ success on this front was very evident in the last election, particularly in some of the ethnically-rich suburban ridings surrounding Toronto. The exact proportions of this success aren’t clear but obviously there was a marked improvement in Conservative fortunes with the non-Canadian born. This success has been seen as an ingredient of future success in recent work by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson (The Big Shift). The strength of their argument — that this shift in the immigrant vote is part of a game-change which sets the stage for continued Conservative success in the 21st century — is less clear.

As we can see in the tracking here, the Liberal Party actually has been recovering very well with the non-Canadian born. The Conservatives’ have surrendered their lead with this group and the NDP is falling back as well. Obviously these shifts mirror the general trends in the electorate — but in comparing to the same period with the Canadian-born we can see some significant differences in the patterns.

Most significantly, the Liberal rise has been sharper in the immigrant voter population — dramatic, in fact. The Conservatives still have a slight lead with the Canadian-born but they now are significantly behind with the immigrant vote. It is not clear how this will evolve from here but it is clear that the current patterns suggest that this part of the ‘big shift’ is going the other way.

The Conservatives have been wise to try to bring the non-Canadian born into their constituency. In the U.S. this growing portion of the population has been decisively moving to the Democrats — to the point where Stanley Greenberg has called the Republican Party, with its focus on the white working class, a “dying cult”. Clearly the Conservative party has taken this challenge seriously.

Canadians seem to have largely inoculated themselves from the extreme forms of the ‘clash-of-civilizations’ disease seen in other parts of the developed world — ironically, through the (non-official) multiculturalism which is viewed with such disdain in some elite circles today.

As the earlier figures on the continued presence of racial discriminatory attitudes showed earlier, our success in creating a more tolerant and diverse society remains a work in progress. The Conservative party should be applauded for its outreach to the immigrant vote and continued open-immigration policies. They may, however, want to deal with the unusually high incidence of opposition to visible minority immigrants held by their supporters.
Finally, the social shift to an extremely diverse, open and cosmopolitan citizenry can be a singular Canadian advantage in this century. But the greatest source of this diversity is in younger Canada — which increasingly is on the sidelines, both politically and economically. This needs to be corrected.

For more detailed numbers from the latest EKOS polls, click here and here.

Frank Graves is the founder and president of EKOS Research Associates Inc. and one of the country’s leading applied social researchers. Mr. Graves regularly lectures and publishes on a broad range of topics in research design and related methodological topics. Most recently, he has been writing and publishing in the area of public policy, specifically on the impact of Canadians’ changing views towards their governments and their country.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.
A note from EKOS on methodology:

This study was conducted using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator.

In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, EKOS created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, EKOS was able to reach those with a landline and cellphone, as well as cellphone-only households and landline-only households. This methodology is not to be confused with the increasing proliferation of non-probability opt-in online panels.

The field dates for this survey are April 3-10, 2013. In total, a random sample of 4,568 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.
© 2013 iPolitics Inc.

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