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Opinion: Interest in a referendum at all-time low in Quebec

Toula Drimonis Dec 15, 2016 6:21 am 699

The CROP-La Presse poll results have just been released and they paint an interesting picture, with some surprising and some not-so-surprising revelations.

The main findings? Support for the PQ has slipped in Quebec, interest in sovereignty is at an all-time low, and the PLQ remains stable. Despite brutal austerity cuts, Couillard’s Liberals seem to be doing ok, indicating that some Quebecers may indeed believe that “he saved Quebec” or that for the foreseeable future they don’t see any other viable alternatives they’re interested in voting for.

Let’s break it down.

Right or wrong direction: who knows?

Are we headed in the right or wrong direction? An almost equal percentage of Quebecers seem to be on either side of the fence here, with an even split indicating quite a divide in public perception. Only a slightly larger margin indicating that we may be headed in the wrong direction.

PQ slips in popularity

The PQ has slipped five points since Jean-François Lisée became its leader. While this time last year 30 percent of Quebec voters intended to vote for the PQ, that number has now dropped to 25, leading some to conclude that the party has a leadership problem.

Interest in a referendum at all-time low

The PQ doesn’t necessarily have a leadership problem, it has a party problem. With a whopping 70 percent of Quebecers not interested in a referendum on sovereignty, the party is understandably having a hard time latching on to anything specific that would compel Quebecers to vote for them. Even support in its own base among hardline separatists has fallen (from 73 percent to 61 percent) because the PQ decided to delay a referendum. It’s partly, I suspect, why identity politics have recently made their appearance again on the political scene.

The party infamous for introducing the highly discriminatory Charter of Values, has now, once again, decided that it’s going to try and win votes on the backs of Muslim women. The chador (a religious garment that covers everything but a woman’s face and rarely seen in Quebec) would be prohibited, and if elected, the PQ has promised that they would also call for a debate on whether wearing burqas and niqabs would be allowed in public spaces.

Trying to offer solutions to non-existent problems in an attempt to solicit the votes of the easily terrified and the woefully ignorant does not make you relevant; it simply makes you a party willing to marginalize communities that are already extremely marginalized for your political agenda. The focus should be elsewhere.

Most of the brouhaha, of course, was the PQ simply replying to the CAQ’s own fearmongering and identity politics, and the band goes on and on while the Liberals continue to profit from a lack of interest in sovereignty and the fact that no real alternatives seem to exist at the moment on the Quebec political scene.

Divided francophone vote

If one looks at francophone votes, they are almost evenly split between the Liberals (28 percent), the PQ (29 percent), and the CAQ (28 percent), while the Liberals continue their stronghold on the non-francophone vote (78 percent) despite recent attempts by the PQ to woo the English vote.

According to the poll, the Liberals seem to be doing really well throughout Quebec, which seems a little surprising considering the results of the latest by-elections.

Quebecers still like Justin

With regards to the federal government, Trudeau’s Liberals have slipped five points, but overall satisfaction seems to remain high, indicating that while the honeymoon may be over, the marriage remains intact. Justin Trudeau himself has only slipped one point for “Best Prime Minister”, while the CPC’s Rona Ambrose has gained three.

‘None of the above’ wins it all

Most revealing of all, perhaps, when asked who is “Best Quebec Premier”, Quebecers decided that Philippe Couillard would slip three points, Jean-François Lisée would slip seven, Francoise David slipped two, François Legault actually gained four, but “None of the above” jumped an impressive eight points, succinctly revealing the general malaise, disappointment, and perhaps lack of viable options available to Quebec voters.

How reliable is this poll?

As expected, considering these disappointing-to-the-PQ results, many online are criticizing them as Liberal propaganda or as unreliable.

Considering that the PQ retained two ridings in the latest provincial by-elections and the Liberals saw support in their traditional stronghold of Verdun drop considerably, it’s worth questioning these poll results a little.

One thing to always remember, while polls may certainly succeed in somewhat getting the pulse of a population, they, too, are often susceptible to confirmation bias and incomplete data, and depending on the methodology can be extremely reliable to extremely compromised.

The CROP-La Presse panel was a web-based questionnaire, a type of internet poll that many criticize for being inaccurate, incomplete, and often quite biased in its methodology. At the end of the day, as the U.S. election and Trump’s surprising victory proved only too well, a poll’s validity ultimately depends on who actually replied to it and who inevitably turns out to vote.

For a complete look at the poll (in French), you can go here.

Toula Drimonis

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