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A Canadian Catholic Mystery (Or "Why Canadian Catholics Vote Liberal")
The Catholic Register (Canada) ^
| Michael Swan
Posted on 08/07/2005 1:07:17 PM PDT by ConservativeStLouisGuy
|A Canadian Catholic Mystery (Why Canadian Catholics Vote Liberal)
"Why Catholics vote Liberal is still largely a mystery, at least for me. I propose the creation of a special prize for the individual or team that solves the mystery," Blais told political scientists from across Canada at the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association in London, Ont., in June.
Blais has rigorously and carefully analysed voting patterns over the last 40 years and found beyond a statistical doubt that there is a significant "religious cleavage" in voting patterns outside of Quebec. On average, Catholics in Ontario and Atlantic Canada since 1965 have been 18 per cent more likely than non-Catholics to vote Liberal.
The Catholic tendency to vote Liberal in western Canada is a little less pronounced, but still significant with Prairie and British Columbia Catholics 12 per cent more likely to vote Liberal than the alternatives.
Since Catholics constitute 30 per cent of voters in Ontario and 40 per cent down east -- compared to just 20 per cent of voters in the western provinces -- the Liberal cushion among Catholic voters is enough to deliver the Liberals a stranglehold on those two regions. Liberals have won the largest number of votes cast in 15 of the last 19 federal elections in Canada.
In Ontario and Atlantic Canada since 1965 Liberals have averaged 43 per cent of the vote, compared to 33 or 34 per cent for the next most popular party. Subtract the Catholic vote from those totals and the Liberals would find themselves on the opposition benches more often.
"Religion is part of life. It should have in fact an impact on how we view society and politics," Blais told The Catholic Register. "It's not very surprising in a way."
Catholics, more than the rest of the population, disagreed with Liberals when they opened up access to abortion in the 1960s and 1970s, and they disagreed with the party on same-sex marriage in the last election. But the disagreements don't seem to change many Catholic votes.
"'Catholic vote" would suggest to me that it's a vote that could be commanded or controlled. But I don't think there is a 'Catholic vote' in that sense," said Tom Reilly, secretary general of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Reilly and the Ontario bishops have been front and centre in the most recent same-sex marriage debate, trying to persuade Liberal MPs to uphold a heterosexual definition of marriage. But Reilly denies the bishops have tried to change Catholic voting patterns over the issue.
"The bishops are not particularly trying to rally votes. The bishops are trying to rally people's commitment to the sacrament of marriage. It's an entirely different thing. It's significant in a different realm than the political," said Reilly.
Polling by the Ontario bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Catholic Civil Rights League has found that church-going, religious Catholics are more likely to vote than Catholics who are more detached from the church. Blais' study also shows the church-going Catholics are more likely to vote Liberal. Among regular church attenders or Catholics who say religion is important to them, the propensity to vote Liberal is 19 points higher than non-Catholics. Non-religious Catholics are only 12 per cent more likely to vote Liberal.
Rights league president Phil Horgan thinks the Catholic voting pattern may be about to change. He looks at trends in the United States, where the Catholic vote has shifted since Ronald Reagan's presidency away from its traditional allegiance to the Democratic party. Horgan believes the U.S. Catholic shift away from the Democrats is attributable to abortion and allied issues.
Since many Liberals ran supporting traditional marriage during the last election, and 34 Liberal MPs voted against Bill C-38 -- which legalizes same-sex unions -- in June, Horgan believes that a lot of Catholic votes for Liberals in the last election were votes for traditional marriage.
"The interesting data will likely come in the next election," said Horgan. "If we really want to see the effect of what the Catholic vote is, let's wait and see what the next election brings."
Horgan predicts Catholics will punish Liberals for passing the gay marriage bill.
Catholic attachment to the Liberal Party is not shallow, according to Blais. His study found 37 per cent of Catholics interviewed since 1965 said they think of themselves as Liberals, as opposed to only 21 per cent of non-Catholics. Blais says that pattern hasn't changed over 40 years. Nor is it attributable to Catholic ethnicity or immigration patterns.
"I have found no sign of a Catholic ethos and little contextual effect," he said.
African, Asian and Latin American voters are even more likely to vote Liberal than Catholic voters, regardless of religion. But Blais says that non-European votes are not what's driving the Catholic Liberal advantage. Though the ethnic voters of Canada's more recent immigration are 23 per cent more likely to vote Liberal than any other party, they only constitute six per cent of voters -- not enough to determine elections.
While Blais has been good at eliminating explanations for Catholic's Liberal preference, he admits he hasn't been been able to produce an explanation of his own.
"I just hope that my young students will come up with an answer. I've mostly given up," he said.
Terry Downey, a political scientist and president of St. Mary's University College in Calgary, doesn't know if he can win Blais' prize for the credible explanation of the Catholic vote, but he has a couple of suggestions.
"There is still a strong sense among Catholics of a private morality, which is not applied in the public realm," Downey said.
Particularly for older Catholics who grew up in a church that didn't much emphasize social teaching, the idea of voting based on social or moral issues is not natural, he said.
"You have to help people to connect those dots, which they're not being connected obviously at the moment," he said.
Downey also believes Catholics have been sympathetic to Prime Minister Paul Martin's argument that same-sex marriage is a question of minority rights.
"Within Catholic circles, we still think of ourselves as a minority. Look at separate school systems as a classic example," said Downey. "Catholics are sympathetic to arguments made on rights because we still see ourselves in some way or other as needing the protection that goes to minorities."
Since the Liberals have been more willing than other parties to use the power of the state to protect and promote minorities, Catholics have seen the Liberals as representing their interests, even if Catholics are the largest denomination in Canada.
"Even though we're a majority in the populace, the mentality is still there," Downey said.
TOPICS: Canada; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: catholics; liberals; lieberals; mystery; vote
Here were the first two (background) sentences of the article....
André Blais is president of the Canadian Political Science Association and professor of political science at the University of Montreal. His research is supported by the Canada Research Chair and hes a friend of Liberal cabinet minister Stephane Dion. If anybody should know how Canadian politics works and why, it ought to be Blais.
But the accomplished professor has been left scratching his head by the behaviour of English Canadian Catholics during elections.
posted on 08/07/2005 1:09:06 PM PDT
(11th FReeper Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Unnecessarily Excerpt)
possibly because they are French.
posted on 08/07/2005 1:10:04 PM PDT
Abstractly, conservatives foster liberal children. Hippies spent the peace dividend (wasted it, in my view) of their fathers. Parents work their whole lives, and their spoiled kids go off to act like animals for four years at college. Actually five years is more common these days...
The Church being this great institution, its members are a natural product of conservatism - rebellious teenagers, in a sense, they act and vote liberal purely out of spite.
And yet their "parents" - the church leadership - still love and support them, always rejoicing their return. Go figure.
(s)significant amounts of Canadian Drain Bramage.(/s)
The fact that one says he or she is Catholic is not a barometer for voting Conservative or liberal.
To me being Catholic means following church teaching. The Catholic church goes off doctrine. Therefore one cannot pick and chose in the Catholic faith. That said I believe many who call themselves Catholic are only in name, (Teddy Kennedy, Dick Durban, John Kerry,) the list goes on and on.
It is indeed a shame that a church that points out the fact that abortion is wrong, same sex marriage, as well as a whole host of things that are immoral and wrong in Gods eyes has such a bad time of keeping it members on the Right side of voting.
All I can say is people want to pick and choose when voting and have little regard for the outcome of there vote. Life means little to some. When a snail darter is worth more than a child one needs to ask themselves what in the hell is going on here.
God help us all.
More Canadian than Catholic.
posted on 08/07/2005 1:49:42 PM PDT
I call it the Kennedy effect -- many Catholics simply view their faith as a cultural identity, but don't really care what it teaches about faith and morals.
To: Unam Sanctam
You are correct. Most people follow the faith traditions of the family they were raised in. Church affiliation with parental traditions gets inculcated at a very early age, and relatively few people change traditions as adults, even when their personal views of faith and truth evolve and develop. Therefore, many people "go through the motions" but do not believe. Catholics' attitudes toward birth control are a good example, but not unique.
posted on 08/07/2005 5:14:21 PM PDT
(Tax exemption is a privilege, not a right.)
posted on 08/07/2005 8:03:43 PM PDT
(Let us always remember, the Lord is in control.)
While I could understand the sense in Catholics voting for the Liberals who voted against gay marriage and are pro-life and pro-family (the Paul Szabos, the Tom Wappels, the Dan McTeagues, etc.), other than that, this is a mystery. That should be one of the first groups targetted by the Conservatives - if we go even with the Liberals among Catholics, that would translate into a majority government.
All so-called "Catholics" who voted for gay marriage should be strongly targetted for defeat.
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