On debate over proposed Fair Elections Act, Sound does not necessarily equal FurySustained news coverage & high-profile criticism don’t change opinions of those unfamiliar with the legislation
April 17, 2014 – The latest Angus Reid Global poll on changes to the Elections Act proposed by the Harper government shows weeks of media headlines and disapproval from high-profile experts have done little to sway general public opinion since ARG first canvassed the issue in February.
Support for the proposed legislation remains highest among those who aren’t aware of the issue. Overall, Canadians are evenly split on the changes: Half (49%) support and half (51%) oppose. This represents a statistically insignificant two-point change from February (51% supported, 49% opposed).
Two waves of polling do show however that awareness is slowly growing and that opposition among those who are aware of the changes is also growing. Further, it appears Canadians continue to be more uncomfortable about the motivations of the Harper government in introducing the legislation than they are about the contents of the legislation itself.
One-third (31%) of Canadian adults surveyed say they are either very or fairly familiar with proposed changes concerning Elections Canada. This represents an 11 point increase in awareness over earlier this year. The number of people (42%) who say they’ve heard of the issue but aren’t familiar with it is unchanged, while 27 per cent now say they hadn’t heard about the issue at all, a decrease of 11 points since February.
When it comes to awareness and political affiliation, awareness is still highest and growing among past Liberal and NDP voters (40% and 38% respectively) followed by past Conservative voters (32%).
Among those who are familiar with the contents of the Fair Elections Act, 41 per cent now say they support it while 59 per cent are opposed, a slight change from February (44% supported, 56% opposed). Among who have heard about the issue but aren’t familiar, or haven’t heard about it at all, support rises to 52 per cent, while 48 per cent say they’re opposed. These levels are virtually unchanged from earlier this year.
Levels of awareness have some effect on support or opposition to individual changes proposed in the legislation: 90 per cent of all Canadians surveyed support imposing tougher penalties on those who break election rules, such as robocallers (unchanged since February.) This is highest among those most aware (96%) but still significant among those who aren’t (88%).
Overall, 62 per cent (compared to 59% in February) are against reducing Elections Canada’s public information activities. Among those familiar with the legislation this rises to 72 per cent – decreasing to 57 per cent among those unfamiliar.
There is a noticeable change from earlier this year on the issue of transferring election watchdog responsibilities away from the Chief Electoral Officer. In the first wave of polling on this issue, 37 per cent of all Canadians said they were against the proposed move, while 56 per cent are against it now.
On the issue of vouching, nearly three-quarters of all Canadians surveyed say they support eliminating the option of having someone vouch for a would-be voter at a polling station. This support drops to 59 per cent among those familiar with the legislation and increases to 78 per cent among those who don’t know much or anything about it.
Another key indicator of public opinion on this issue that remains consistent from earlier this year includes the notable lack of trust Canadians hold for the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper when it comes to ensuring the best possible elections oversight. These levels are unchanged since February, with 35 per cent saying they trust the government and 65 per cent saying they don’t. This rises to slightly 68 per cent among those who are familiar with the issue. Trust remains highest among past Conservative voters (70%) compared to past Liberal and NDP voters (20% and 16% respectively).
Also unchanged is skepticism around the motivations for the proposed legislation. The most recent findings continue to show nearly two-thirds (63% in April, 62% in February) of Canadians say the government’s changes are motivated by politics and a dislike of Elections Canada. This rises to 72 per cent among those aware of the issue. Conversely, 37 per cent of all respondents feel the Conservatives are making a genuine attempt to improve the rules and administration of Canada’s elections. This drops to 28 per cent among those most aware. (February results were 38% and 31% respectively.)
Opinions harden along party lines:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, past Conservative Party voters support the Harper government’s proposed changes to the Elections Act by a ratio of more than 2:1 over past Liberal and NDP voters. Among those who cast a ballot for the CPC in 2011, 71 back the Fair Elections Act, compared to 35 per cent of Liberal and NDP voters.
Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology