Election 2011: Our complicated relationship with politics


In its post-campaign survey and its mail-back survey, the Canadian Election Study tested several ideas about government and politicians.

The government does not care much about what people like me think.

Strongly agree 26.9%
Somewhat agree 38.0%
Somewhat disagree 24.9%
Strongly disagree 8.1%
Don’t know 2.0%

Politicians are ready to lie to get elected.

Strongly agree 44.1%
Somewhat agree 38.9%
Somewhat disagree 10.3%
Strongly disagree 3.7%
Don’t know 2.6%

Those elected to Parliament soon lose touch with the people.

Strongly Agree 14.8%
Agree 51.7%
Disagree 27.3%
Strongly disagree 1.8%
Not Sure 4.4%

So while a majority of respondents were at least fairly satisfied with our democracy, large majorities at least somewhat agree that the government doesn’t care, that politicians are ready to lie and that MPs soon lose touch with their constituents. Furthermore, 56% say the “people in government … waste a lot of the money we pay in taxes.”

At the same time, there are other findings that chip away at this presented cynicism. Just less than 61% disagreed with the idea that “People like me don’t have any say about what the government does” and 65% disagree with the suggestion that “most politicians are corrupt.”

And for all the general displeasure, we still apparently take voting quite seriously: 70.4% said voting is a duty, 70.6% said they’d feel very or somewhat guilty if they failed to vote, 60.8% said they felt entirely or mostly positive about the vote they cast and 98.1% agree that “it is important that people vote in elections.”


Election 2011: Our complicated relationship with politics

  1. “…. there are other findings that chip away at this presented cynicism.”

    I am curious to know why you think those answers are cynical, Wherry. I think answers are accurate reflections of our MPs – it would be useful if our msm took their rose coloured glasses off when they write about our pols and public service.

    Does Harper et al really care what average person thinks? Harper and his cabinet share very little info with public, they are imperious.

    Lying to get elected – how many people believed Rae when he said he wasn’t going to run for Lib leadership a year ago when he became interim leader? Very few. That’s just one example of how we expect pols to lie and we are surprised when they are telling truth.

    And Del Mastro and Oda and limos for everyone are perfect example of pols losing touch with average people. Del Mastro situation is outrageous, tells us much how pols think – Dal Mastro is saying that he can’t clear his name if he’s expected to tell the truth under caution, he can only clear his name if he can talk to bureaucrats without being held accountable for what he’s saying. WTF!?!?!

  2. Emma Goldman ~ Anarchism: What It Stands For

    “All voting,” says Thoreau, “is a sort of gaming, like checkers, or backgammon, a playing with right and wrong; its obligation never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right thing is doing nothing for it. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.” A close examination of the machinery of politics and its achievements will bear out the logic of Thoreau.

    What does the history of parliamentarism show? Nothing but failure and defeat, not even a single reform to ameliorate the economic and social stress of the people. Laws have been passed and enactments made for the improvement and protection of labor.

    Even were the workers able to have their own representatives, for which our good Socialist politicians are clamoring, what chances are there for their honesty and good faith? One has but to bear in mind the process of politics to realize that its path of good intentions is full of pitfalls: wire-pulling, intriguing, flattering, lying, cheating; in fact, chicanery of every description, whereby the political aspirant can achieve success.

    Added to that is a complete demoralization of character and conviction, until nothing is left that would make one hope for anything from such a human derelict. Time and time again the people were foolish enough to trust, believe, and support with their last farthing aspiring politicians, only to find themselves betrayed and cheated.

  3. we still apparently take voting quite seriously: 70.4% said voting is a duty, 70.6% said they’d feel very or somewhat guilty if they failed to vote…and 98.1% agree that “it is important that people vote in elections.”

    Forgive my ignorance…is this survey taken only from people who voted in the last election, or the general population? Cause this sure doesn’t square with our turnout numbers.

    • 89.8% of respondents to the post-election survey said they had voted.

      • How did they select participants? What population were they trying to model? If they are trying to model the general population and ended up with 90% people who voted, I’d say their results are about as useful as a bag of wet mice.

  4. The juxtaposition of the two sets of responses noted by Wherry points at a depressing truism. While people are generally unhappy with their governments, they virtually inevitably blame the people rather than the structure. This is not to say that the politicians are blameless but rather that our structure rewards bad behaviour especially by the PM & cabinet. As a result, we flop back and forth between leaders and parties and are continually disappointed that each new government rapidly begins behaving worse than the previous government.

    A great debate was aired last night between Coyne and Sheila Copps. In his closing rebuttal Coyne made the above point very nicely.

    • It’s true. Our democracy is actually a rather crappy system. The main problem is that it’s still unfortunately better than all the other alternatives. Much like our conservative government.

      • It’s this attitude that perpetuates the problem. If we don’t demand better, no matter what party is in power, nothing will ever change.

    • I would love to watch that. Where did it air?

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