POLL: Young Canadians more progressive than their elders

Broadbent Institute releases major poll on the political attitudes of Canadians
Broadbent Institute

Big news at this weekend’s Progress Summit, where analysis of a new poll shows young Canadians are strikingly more progressive than their elders.

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The report, entitled Could a Progressive Platform Capture Canada's Youth Vote? is authored by academic David McGrane, and shows a striking gap between old and young Canadians on issues of taxation, inequality and environmental protection.

The Broadbent Institute is an NDP-affiliated think tank established after the death of late party leader Jack Layton to provide an incubator for progressive policies and ideas. Press Progress, their flagship media site, has carved out a niche for itself as a progressive gadfly, but the institute’s Progress Summit, happening this weekend in Ottawa, is inarguably the jewel in the institute’s crown.

In opening reception remarks Thursday, and again Friday morning, Ed Broadbent couldn’t resist poking his old sparring partner Preston Manning in the eye by pointing out that, at 800 people, his conference was significantly larger than the Manning Centre’s such conference for conservatives, which took place in the same city a few weeks earlier.

Held at the downtown Delta hotel, which has been rented out in its entirety for the conference and its attendees, the affair is both a touch swanky and exceedingly professional. Elevator doors have been branded with the institute’s insignia and the full breakfast bar includes smoothies and gluten-free muffins.

The room is more or less evenly balanced between the middle-aged and those older, but there aren’t a huge number of young faces in the crowd. The hundreds of dollars in conference fees and associated costs of travelling to Ottawa are no doubt a disincentive.

This is a conference of the institutional left, and by that I mean most people in the room hold down full-time jobs with progressive organizations or unions (or the many progressive communications and tech companies here to hawk their wares). It’s a national networking event for the leaders and staff of a wide range of progressive institutions, and part of a concerted effort by the NDP to close the gap with the Conservatives in the many areas where their practices have been more advanced.

Organizers have improved on last year’s conference when it comes to the representation of Quebec, always a weak spot for the institute, and speakers from that province this year include Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Charles Taylor, Jean-Francois Nadeau and Sidney Ribaux. The conference is co-chaired by Valerie Plante, a Montreal city councillor and member of the institute’s board of directors, and her influence is evident.

But the most interesting development at this weekend’s conference may not take place on stage.

The institute released a major study this morning based upon the Social Sciences and Humanities Council-funded Comparative Provincial Elections Project and its results are fascinating.

Over 8,000 Canadians were polled by the CPEP, and the margin of error is estimated to be below one per cent. The study released by the institute compared the results of older Canadians (35+) to young Canadians (under 35) and found:

  • 77 per cent of young Canadians disagreed with the statement that government should leave it entirely up to the private sector to create jobs. Only 66 per cent of older Canadians disagreed.
  • When it comes to whether government should ensure that everyone has a decent standard of living, 82 per cent of of young Canadians said yes, compared to 72 per cent of older Canadians.
  • 72 per cent of young Canadians agree the world is always changing and we should adapt our view of moral behaviour to these changes. Only 57 per cent of their elders agreed.
  • On the environment, 56 per cent of young Canadians thought protecting our climate was more important than creating jobs, while 46 per cent of older Canadians agreed.
  • The study found no difference between samples on corporate taxes, with 60 per cent of both groups supporting raising these taxes.
  • On personal income taxes, the young are 1.5 times more likely to support increasing personal income taxes than their elders, and are significantly more likely to support raising taxes to increase public services.

Whether or not they support progressive ideals, the real challenge with young voters is getting them to vote at all. This report argues that solving that perennial riddle is as simple as giving them something worth voting for.

For more from the summit you can follow @EthanCoxMTL on Twitter, and check back here later for more coverage.

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