Where the votes are, aren't - Macleans.ca

Where the votes are, aren’t


Nanos released the results of a new poll overnight; the question was  “what is your most important NATIONAL issue of concern?”

It turns out that healthcare is back on top as our number one priority (27.1%)  followed by jobs and the economy (23.6%). No other issue hit ten percent; the environment was third at 8.8% (which, probably not coincidentally, is pretty much where the Green party is polling these days).

In his analysis, Nik points to the improving economy and growing worries over H1N1 as factors affecting the shifting priorities, but the lack of concern for the environment is really surprising. As the chart shows, in early 2007 the environment was the most important issue of all, with 35 percent of Canadians listed it as number one.

But that was clearly an unnatural spike driven by Dionmania;  it looks like the environment is moving back to its long-term status as a matter of tertiary national importance.   Anyone looking for a sense of what is guiding the government’s complete indifference to Copenhagen need look no further. Harper doesn’t care, because Canadians don’t.

Two positions for debate:

1. The point of political leadership is to tell people truths they don’t want to hear.

2. You can only lead where the people will follow

Here’s the Nanos release:

Nik on the Numbers

Since the fall of 2008, the economy has dominated the issue frame of Canadians. It is significant that for the first time in a year, another issue has registered as a more important unprompted issue of concern among Canadian. This is likely indicative of a number of factors at play. First, as unease about the economic downturn diminishes, fewer Canadians are worried about the economy and jobs. Second, the focus on H1N1 has helped healthcare as a comparative concern in November.

It will be important to watch to see if the downward pressure on the economy as a national issue of concern continues. If it does, it may be an early signal that other issues, beyond economic, may be able to reclaim some public attention.

To chat about this poll join the national political online chat at Nik on the Numbers. The detailed tables and methodology are posted on our website. You can also register to receive automatic polling updates.


Nanos conducted a random telephone survey of 1,005 Canadians, 18 years of age and older, between November 7th and November 10th 2009. A survey of 1,005 Canadians is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

Top Issue Question: What is your most important NATIONAL issue of concern? [unprompted] (Change between current and previous waves of research in brackets)

Healthcare 27.1% (+1.8)
Jobs/economy 23.6% (-6.1)
The environment 8.8% (+0.6)
Education 3.6% (-0.4)
Unsure 5.4% (-7.3)

Feel free to forward this e-mail. Any use of the poll should identify the project as the latest “Nanos Poll.”





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Where the votes are, aren’t

  1. I think people telling pollsters that they care about environment for the past decade will be studied in future because people are either lying to pollsters so they don't seem cold-hearted or else they want to 'solve' global warming as long as it does not affect them materially in any way, shape or form. People were willing to be a bit more earnest with their recycling and thought that's all they had to do and AGW would be disappear.

    And I know it is a cheat but I think your two points of leadership should be mixed. During normal times, like now, leaders have to follow the hoi polloi or else there will be problems. However, during times of national crisis, a leader tells uncomfortable truths.

    • "However, during times of national crisis, a leader tells uncomfortable truths."

      Or blatant lies (see Harper, Stephen: Coalition Crisis)

  2. Asking what the #1 priority for voters is a bit misleading the way Potter's interpreted it. For example, I'd be amongst those saying jobs/economy are my #1 concern, but that hardly means I don't care strongly about our environmental policy (or our health care, or education, or a bunch of other things).

    It just means I care somewhat more about jobs and the economy because I know that if that's not taken care of, the rest hardly matters – no one gives two #$(&s about polar bears if they don't have a job to provide for their family, and it's much easier to make the necessary short-term sacrifice for the enivornment while the economy is strong. Many – I would argue most – Canadians do care about the environment and our rather shoddy record on environmental action, but they care about other things more. Fortunately, it's not an either-or choice, we can help both the economy and the enivornment at the same time (well, except for in Alberta…).

    • Precisely. Why do pollsters keep on treating these issues as an either or game?

      • Because policy is an either/or game; government has limited resources, and can't address everything exactly the way and to the extent everyone would like. If that was true, we wouldn't need elections. Polls like this asking for an unprompted choice of "most important national issue" get to what's on respondents' minds naturally, rather than what they imagine they 'ought to' be concerned with according to political parties, policy activists and the media.

        Consider, if the question was:

        "Do you care about (pick all that apply)
        a) the economy
        b) health care
        c) the environment
        d) education
        e) other issues"

        Do you really doubt that a poll would show that 95%+ of respondents found all of them to be equally vital issues?

        • Way to argue your point by presenting a worthless example of questionnaire, what you should be asking is:

          List the following issues in order of importance to you (1 being the most and 5 being the least):

          d)health care
          e)other: __________

          This way you would see which issues people care about and where these issues are placed in their priorities. Maybe you could also limit it to top 3…?

          • "This way you would see which issues people care about"

            Not the way your question is phrased. Your question is choice-based, which is fair enough in a priority-setting exercise, but no way to tell which issue is a concern and which is not.

        • The only resources the government possesses which are limited are money and political capital – solid environmental policy takes far more of the latter than the former. It's not like to create a job we have to suddenly start spewing out more CO2, or to balance the budget we need to ignore all environmental concerns (quite the opposite, actually).

          It's a completely false dichotomy. Yes, some issues are more important than others, but that does not mean the others are unimportant or the government should not be taking action on them. The only preventative "resource" is political will.

  3. Harper doesn't care, because Canadians don't.

    When I read the email from Nanos this morning I wondered to myself who would be the first dimwit to claim Canadians don't care about the environment simply because it's not polling as the number one concern. Congrats, Potter.

    • Broadly, they don't. Not to the extent that you do, and not enough to severely disrupt the economy or their way of life. But, hey, it's great that you lash out at everyone drawing that reasonable conclusion from the available evidence.

      • Just shut up, you nitwit. I spanked Potter because he deserved to be spanked for arriving at a stupid conclusion not supported one bit by the evidence. This poll says nothing about whether or not Canadians care about the environment or any other issue. It only ranks them according to what Canadians view as most important.

        • This poll says nothing about whether or not Canadians care about the environment or any other issue. It only ranks them according to what Canadians view as most important.

          The denial on display here is staggering. At some point, minimal, unprompted demonstrable concern has to be interpreted as a real lack of concern.

          (I don't need to call you names to make that point, but if it makes you feel better, You Idiot, etc.)

          • At some point, minimal, unprompted demonstrable concern has to be interpreted as a real lack of concern.

            People are concerned about the environment and they constantly take action to preserve and protect it. Every year for instance, there are organized efforts by volunteers in many cities to clean up the trash blowing around the streets. The only people who claim Canadians only care about the environment in an abstract fashion are the dimwits who think environmental issues consist of only global warming.

          • 'People are concerned about the environment and they constantly take action to preserve and protect it.'

            And that is why it is low on the 'most important' issue list.
            Canadians are concerned about things they feel are outside of their control.

          • Neither national defence nor terrorism even made the list. So according to the logic at hand this proves Canadians don't care about either.

          • ”what is your most important NATIONAL issue of concern?”

            Read the question, Robert. I agree that people care about the environment like you describe but the question asks about national issue of concern, which is AGW.

            Garbage blowing around the streets, while entirely vexing, is not a national concern. Or maybe people are confused about what role Feds, Prov and Cities have, which is also a distinct possibility.

          • Open-ended questions provide context to other results. They're not the be and end all of quantitative research, and cannot stand on their own as indicative of full-scale support, concern, or behaviour.

            Top-of-mind questions are most often reflective of episodic -rather than thematic- issues. Top of mind environment numbers spike during natural disasters, summer heat waves, etc. Top of mind economy numbers spike with every *** jobs lost headline. Health care has been a default position for many over the course of the past 10 years, but it too is impacted by headlines about H1N1, body bags, and the like. These episodic bounces are precisely why TOM doesn't get full-scale reporting unless something signals a sea change – such as the number of people mentioning the economy coming back down to earth over the course of several reporting points.

          • If you believe in global warming, that the world is going to radically change any time now, wouldn't that be on the top of someone's mind? Who worries about jobs if you think your home is going to be filled with ten feet of water and your television is floating down the road.

          • People are willing to make token gestures so as to be seen as socially acceptable and politically correct. When it comes time to really pony up on the environment, Canadians don't care (see Green Shift). I think a large portion of Canadians are completely unconvinced of the "science" behind AGW.

        • Just shut up, you nitwit.

          You're avatar doesn't really do you justice, perhaps if it was flaming?

          The "environment" is not an issue to 90% of the public, it's merely a matter of fashion. Who they heck could be opposed to a cleaner environment? Nobody. Who's willing to make any genuine sacrifice for a cleaner environment? Again, nobody.

        • Get over yourself. Yes, avr is wrong (very wrong), but don't descend to name calling…

        • "Shut up", McClelland explained.

          Well done.

  4. Support for the environment is a mile wide but only and inch deep. As soon as people have to give up one iota of comfort, concern for the environment goes down the toilet. Witness how a carbon tax was received. Witness the protests wherever a wind farm is proposed. Witness the protests when a neighbourhood allows people to hang their clothes out to dry. Pathetic.

    • The "environment" is about more than just global warming. It covers everything from global warming to contaminants in our soil and water to the litter that blows around our neighbourhoods. And people are very active in dealing with various aspects of environmental concern.

    • It's almost as if you think environmental issues occur in a vacuum.

      Carbon tax was received poorly because of how it was sold (that is, it wasn't) and because you say the word "tax" and Canadians wig out.

      Wind Farm protests were not about "I don't like the environment" they were about "the noise and power they generate will give us headaches and lower our property values"

      Clothesline protests were an aesthetic thing and not wanting to see people's underpants on a public street. Legislation to reverse those bans was passed in Ontario.

      We have emission restrictions on cars. We have fines for litter and dumping. We have broad-scale recycling and compost programs (how well they are working, notwithstanding). We have restrictions on CFCs, PCBs, and a whole alphabet soup of other chemicals.

  5. Nanos has it right. It's quite simple, really. Health care has been my number one political issue for many years, because every day when I wake up it's the issue that directly affects me. Likewise, I am directly affected by the state of the economy. Why shouldn't I ask my political leadeers to focus on issues that matter to me?

    • Why shouldn't your[our] leaders lead by helping to raise awareness of issues that you think don't mater to you now?
      Assuming there's credible evidence of course.

    • yes and so I'll assume that the environment doesn't directly affect you.

  6. '1. The point of political leadership is to tell people truths they don't want to hear"

    Ah yes leadership would be nice…

    2. You can only lead where the people will follow

    On a slightly related topic. This just in…the Harper govt is planning to shave two points off the GST in the spring…

    • Or ….. Which way are my people going ? I want to lead them !

  7. Seems being number 3 is a pretty big deal. Besides, I think Health care at #1 should be ignored, it just seems like a default answer given by people who have nothing else to say.

  8. Dionmania?