Canadian Election Studies

Why do Publics Support Minority Governments? Three Tests

With Y. Dufresne. Parliamentary Affairs (2012): 1-16.

First-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral rules usually produce legislative majorities. But minority governments appear to be an increasingly common electoral outcome in political systems operating under those rules. What, then, drives citizens views about minority governments? The Canadian case is instructive; it operates under FPTP rules and has recently experienced three minority governments in a row. This investigation proposes three explanations for why citizens might support minority governments and these explanations are empirically tested using Canadian Election Study data. The analysis indicates that people support minority government outcomes mostly for partisan strategic reasons. Pragmatic considerations are important but, surprisingly, principled motivations have quite modest effect.

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Political Judgments, Perceptions of Facts and Partisan Effects

With A. Blais, E. Gidengil, P. Fournier, J. Everitte, and J. Kim. Electoral Studies 29:1(2010): 1-12.

We test two competing hypotheses about the impact of partisanship and information on people’s political judgments and perceptions of facts using Canadians’ reactions to a major scandal. Our findings with respect to subjective political judgments confirm the argument that partisan predispositions are crucial. But there is no evidence to support the argument that the polarizing effect of partisanship is most evident among the most informed. When it comes to perceptions of “objective” facts, the results are consistent with Zaller’s reception axiom: the more informed people are, the more likely they are to correctly perceive objective facts. Partisanship does not appear to affect these perceptions.

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The Development of Dual Loyalties: Immigrants’ Integration to Canadian Regional Dynamics

With A. Bilodeau and S. White. Canadian Journal of Political Science 43:3 (2010): 1-30.

The transformations in recent patterns of immigration have the potential to reshape the trajectory of Canada’s regional political dynamics. Drawing on data from the 1993–2006 Canadian Election Studies, this analysis explores how immigrants adjust to the prevailing regional political norms in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Do newcomers adopt the political orientations (feelings towards Canada and their province, confidence in provincial and federal governments, perceptions about how the province is treated by the federal government and support for the Liberal party) that resemble those of their native-born provincial counterparts? The results suggest that immigrants, especially newer waves from non-traditional source countries, tend to develop orientations that are more federally oriented than the local populations in their province. This tendency is most pronounced in Quebec where both groups of immigrants from traditional and non-traditional source countries internalize political grievances and norms less efficiently than their counterparts in other provinces.

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Information, Visibility, and Elections: Why Electoral Outcomes Differ When Voters Are Better Informed

With A. Blais, E. Gidengil, P. Fournier. European Journal of Political Research 48:2 (2009): 256-280.

This article assesses the aggregate effect of information shortfall on the outcome of the last six Canadian elections. Building on Bartels’ analysis, the authors find an information effect in three of the six elections examined, and in each case the information gap benefits the Liberal Party. That finding raises the question: why does information matter in some contexts but not in others? It is argued in this article that the information gap is related to lack of visibility. When and where all political parties have some degree of visibility, the less informed vote like the better informed, but when and where a party is hardly visible, the less informed are less likely to support that party. The less informed appear to consider a smaller set of options when they decide how to vote.

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Election Campaigns as Information Campaigns: Who Learns What and Does it Matter?

With R. Nadeau, A. Blais, and E. Gidengil. Political Communication 25:3 (2008): 229-248.

During election campaigns political parties compete to inform voters about their leaders, the issues, and where they stand on these issues. In that sense, election campaigns can be viewed as a particular kind of information campaign. Democratic theory supposes that participatory democracies are better served by an informed electorate than an uninformed one. But do all voters make equal information gains during campaigns? Why do some people make more information gains than others? And does the acquisition of campaign information have any impact on vote intentions? Combining insights from political science research, communications theory, and social psychology, we develop specific hypotheses about these campaign information dynamics. These hypotheses are tested with data from the 1997 Canadian Election Study, which includes a rolling cross-national campaign component, a post-election component, and a media content analysis. The results show that some people do make more information gains than others; campaigns produce a knowledge gap. Moreover, the intensity of media signals on different issues has an important impact on who receives what information, and information gains have a significant impact on vote intentions.

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The Political Resocialization of Immigrants: Resistance or Life-Long Learning

With S. White, A. Blais, E. Gidengil, and P. Fournier. Political Research Quarterly 61: 268-281.  

Theories of political socialization contain competing expectations about immigrants’ potential for political resocialization. Premigration beliefs and actions may be resistant to change, exposure to the new political system may facilitate adaptation, or immigrants may find ways to transfer beliefs and behaviors from one political system to another.
This analysis empirically tests these three alternative theories of resocialization. The results indicate that both transfer and exposure matter; there is little evidence that premigration beliefs and actions are resistant to change. Moreover, how immigrants adapt depends on which orientation or behavior is being considered and on what kind of political environments migrants come from.

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Does Low Turnout Matter? Evidence from the 2000 Canadian Federal Election

With  D. Rubenson, A. Blais, P. Fournier and E. Gidengil. Electoral Studies 26:3 (2007): 442-450. 

We examine whether turnout has a partisan bias; specifically whether higher turnout would benefit parties and policies of the left. Using data from the 2000 Canadian Election Study, we analyze differences in opinion between voters and non-voters across a wide spectrum of policy areas in order to assess the extent of divergent views between voters and abstainers. Next, by simulating universal turnout we test the hypothesis that the outcome of the 2000 Canadian Federal Election would have been appreciably different
if all citizens were to have voted. We find scant evidence for a partisan effect of turnout in Canada. Voters’ opinions are, by and large, representative of the larger population and universal turnout would not have changed the election result.

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Other Refereed Journal Articles

Assessing the Impact of Political Scandals on Attitudes toward Democracy: Evidence from Canada’s Sponsorship Scandal

With N. Ruderman. Canadian Journal of Political Science 1(4) (2016): 1-20.

Satisfaction with the workings of democracy seems to have declined in Canada, as it has in other established democracies. Political scandals are one frequently invoked explanation for that shift. But there is substantial scholarly disagreement about whether political scandals undermine democratic satisfaction. This paper uses evidence from a conveniently timed round of the CES (Canadian Election Study) from 2004, as well as the CES panel from 2004 and 2006, to explore this relationship more definitively than is usually possible. The results indicate that the scandal eroded satisfaction with the way democracy works but did not undermine support for democracy more generally.

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Race, Gender, and Affirmative Action Attitudes in American and Canadian Universities

With I. Ivan Katchanovski and S. Rothman. Canadian Journal of Higher Education 45:4 (2015): 18-41. 

Direct comparisons of American and Canadian faculty and students’ views
concerning issues of race, gender, and affirmative action in higher education
are rare. The 1999 North American Academic Study Survey provides a unique
opportunity to analyze the role of national and positional factors in faculty
and student attitudes towards race, gender, and affirmative action in the US
and Canada. The findings indicate that national factors are more important
than positional factors on many racial and affirmative-action issues. Differences
between students and faculty are more pronounced than are cross-national
variations on many gender-related issues.

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Scapegoating: Unemployment, Far-right Parties, and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

With C. Cochrane. Comparative European Politics 12:1 (2014): 1-32.


Far-right parties blame immigrants for unemployment. We test the
effects of the unemployment rate on public receptivity to this rhetoric. The dependent
variable is anti-immigrant sentiment. The key independent variables are the
presence of a far-right party and the level of unemployment. Building from influential
elite-centered theories of public opinion, the central hypothesis is that a high
unemployment rate predisposes citizens to accept the anti-immigrant rhetoric of
far-right parties, and a low unemployment rate predisposes citizens to reject this
rhetoric. The findings from cross-sectional, cross-time and cross-level analyses
are consistent with this hypothesis. It is neither the unemployment rate nor the
presence of a far-right party that appears to drive anti-immigrant sentiment; rather,
it is the interaction between the two.

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Earning their support: Feelings Towards Canada Among Recent Immigrants

With S. White and A. Bilodeau. Ethnic and Racial Studies 38:2 (2013): 292-308.


This article examines the factors that lie behind Canada’s success at earning the support of its newcomers. It examines the extent to which feelings towards Canada are grounded in immigrants’ experiences in the host country, predispositions inherited from their lives
prior to migration, and their comparative assessments of the host country and the country of origin. The findings indicate that although feelings towards Canada are partly shaped by post-migration factors, immigrants also interpret experiences in their new host country through the lens of their pre-migration experiences.

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World Value Surveys

The Decline of Deference Revisited: Evidence after 25 Years

Presented at “Mapping and Tracking Global Value Change: A Festschrift Conference for Ronald Inglehart,” University of California, Irvine, March 11 2011.

The Decline of Deference made the case that people learn authority orientations in the family and generalize those orientations towards other domains such as the workplace and the polity. Further, these outlooks are consequential for how people evaluate authoritative institutions and for their political behaviour. These expectations were originally tested with data from the 1981- 1990 rounds of the WVS in 12 advanced industrial states. This paper moves that analysis forward in three directions. The first empirically re-examines the theory with 25 years worth of WVS data and asks: Does the theory still hold up? We then turn to investigate whether there are detectable traces of generational learning. Exploiting the longer time span of the WVS data, we ask: Do those authority oriented values that parents aimed to teach their children in 1981 leave any statistical footprint in what might be ?the children? of that older generation 25 years later? The third empirical section turns to a multilevel analysis, and takes advantage of the broadened number of countries, to investigate an institutional question: Are the individual level orientations towards authority consequential for aggregate institutional country level characteristics? Here authority outlooks are tracked against measures of democratic performance in 45 countries.

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Cleavages, Value Gaps and Regime Support: Evidence from Canada and 26 Other Societies

With M. Kanji. In R. Inglehart, T. Pettersson and Y. Esmer (eds.), Changing Values, Persisting Cultures: Comparative Findings from the World Values Surveys. Leiden: Brill Academic, 2008: 45-73.

Canada, along with such countries as the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland, is usually identified as being among that small cluster of states that qualify as “deeply divided” societies.  Thirty-five years ago, Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan (1967) developed a comprehensive account of how deep and reinforcing social cleavages presented states with the challenges of integration and political support.  Their pioneering account focused primarily on how party systems mediated societal cleavages based on religion, class, language and region. Contemporary evidence suggests, however, that the “old” cleavages, which Lipset and Rokkan claimed decisively shaped states during the industrializing period, may be less prominent now than they once were…This exploration examines the impact of social differentiation and diversity from the vantage point of new cleavages.

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