UPDATED: Who Really Won the “Ethnic” Vote in the May Election?
September 9th, 2011
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[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]
[UPDATE: I have added the relevant charts, both from the preliminary CES data reported in June's Policy Options, and the graphic prepared by the Vancouver Sun from the Ipsos-Reid Exit poll data.]
Before too many myths become entrenched, it’s worth reviewing what we know about last May’s election from the various post-election surveys reported so far, and identifying some of the areas where people disagree.
With another round of election post-mortems held this past Tuesday in Toronto, and another on September 22 in Ottawa, perhaps a literature review of the exit polls, post-election surveys and other associated research would not be out of place.
Most of the major public domain opinion research firms conducted post-election research of some kind. Here are the studies, datasets and analyses that I’m aware of:
[Click on image to open full-sized PDF version of sources table]
In the next series of posts, we’ll review these exit surveys by examining a number of questions on which they disagree, starting with “Who Really Won the ‘Ethnic’ Vote?”.
The only way to answer this question definitively is to buy the very, very detailed (long-form) census data from Statistics Canada, cross-reference it against polling division boundaries (some vendors do this for you and sell the product), and then run correlations between different measures of ethnicity or immigrant status and a party’s actual number of votes by poll. This methodology was clearly employed as part of the justification for Jason Kenney’s strategy to buy ethnic-outreach TV ads (the one that was inadvertantly given to the NDP months before the election this past spring).
Of course the last set of census data that included various measures of ethnicity and immigration was in 2006, and there won’t be a similar data set in 2011 because the long-form census was cancelled, so even those correlations would have to be done with older census data, or unrepresentative national household survey data from 2011.
An alternative is to run post-election opinion research – whether by telephone, online, by interactive voice response (IVR) or in focus groups – soon after the election.
Another part of the answer involves defining our terms when it comes to the voters in question; and a number of writers have unintentionally conflated different dimensions. Voters might be:
- Immigrants. If so, the length of time they’ve spent in Canada is one variable that influences both whether they’re likely to vote and who they are likely to vote for. It’s also associated to some extent with the country they came from, and therefore the immigrant voters’ ethnicity and/or visible minority status and/or religion.
- Visible Minorities. In which case, they might be either immigrants or born in Canada. And in the latter case, they might have an Aboriginal Identity. Or be of First, Second or later Generations. [UPDATE: Note that Statistics Canada does not include members of any of the aboriginal peoples of Canada in its definition of Visible Minorities, unless that person reports a combination of aboriginal and other visible minority statuses. Aboriginal Identity is a separate measure in the census. Thanks to the commenter for reminding us to be clear on that point.]
- Regardless, voters have one or more Ethnicities; and they speak and understand one or more Languages, whether as a mother tongue, in the home, at work, or otherwise.
- And they might be adherents of a Religion.
Here’s what the various post-election surveys have reported on those different but related aspects.
The Canadian Election Study (CES) uses a grouping of “immigrants” which it defines as first-generation Canadians from non-US and non-European origins; thus, mainly visible minority immigrants. Based on their preliminary unweighted dataset, the CES researchers report that the Conservatives obtained fewer vote intentions in 2011 from this group of immigrants than it did from non-immigrants (i.e., the party’s immigrant vote share minus its non-immigrant vote share totalling -3 points or so); while the Liberals showed the opposite pattern, and to an even greater extent (around +5). On the other hand, the Conservatives’ negative gap has grown smaller since 2008, while the Liberals’ immigrant advantage was shrinking too. Meanwhile the NDP was also picking up somewhat more support from new Canadians in 2011, they found.
[Figure from Soroka et al., Policy Options, June 2011]
Nonetheless, all this CES data showed fairly similar distributions of party vote intentions in both immigrants and non-immigrants in 2011, they report, though earlier CES studies showed that the Liberals lost visible minority supporters to the NDP in 2006, and another wave of them to the Conservatives in 2008.
With its much bigger sample (n=36,520), the Ipsos-Reid Exit Poll could report on more sub-groups, and give a more detailed picture of immigrant voting patterns.
- For one thing, the probability of voting at all amongst immigrants increases significantly with their time in Canada, with immigrants of less than 3 years standing more likely not to vote (31%) than to vote NDP (19%), Conservative (14%) or Liberal (12%).
- The Liberals double their vote to 24% amongst those in Canada 3-5 years, just one point ahead of non-voters in that group; and then
- the NDP moves ahead to 26% amongst immigrants of 6-10 years standing, with the Conservatives moving up to tie the Liberals at 23% each, and non-voting falling to 14%.
- At 11-20 years, the Conservatives move slightly ahead (26%) of the other two parties, as turnout further increases; and
- they spike at 41% amongst those immigrants in Canada for 20 years or more, with the NDP back at 24% and the Liberals four points behind.
- By the time we look at voters born in Canada, the Conservatives have a 33-30 headstart over the NDP with the Liberals back down to 14% and non-voting at 6% (factoring out the non-voters, the vote-shares in this group are 37% Conservative, 36% NDP and 15% Liberal).
|Source: Ipsos-Reid 2011 Exit Poll||Cons||NDP||Lib||NV|
|Actual overall % of eligible voters||24.3%||18.8%||11.6%||38.2|
|Immigrants by arrival in Canada|
|< 3 years ago||14%||19%||12%||31%|
|3 – 5 years ago||12%||19%||24%||23%|
|6 – 10 years ago||23%||26%||23%||14%|
|11 – 20 years ago||26%||23%||22%||11%|
|21+ years ago||41%||24%||20%||6%|
|Born in Canada||33%||30%||14%||6%|
|Actual overall vote share||39.6%||30.6%||18.9%|
|Born in Canada||37%||36%||15%|
|Born outside Canada||42%||29%||22%|
|Immigrants by arrival in Canada|
|< 10 years ago||28%||41%||21%|
|10+ years ago||43%||28%||22%|
|Not visible minority||39%||34%||15%|
Taking together all those born outside Canada, the Conservatives win handily: 42% vs. 29% for the NDP and an above-overall-vote-share 22% for the Liberals. But, when broken down by arrival in Canada, the Conservatives lose the under 10 years category to the NDP, while they dominate in the 10 years and over group.
So, the Liberals were over-represented in their vote share amongst all but the most recent immigrants, while the NDP became increasing well-represented the longer the immigrants had been in Canada, according to the Ipsos-Reid dataset.
Conservative strength meanwhile was largely concentrated amongst immigrants of the longest-standing, and their supporters were less likely to be members of visible minorities than otherwise.
[Click on image to open full-sized version; Chart from the Vancouver Sun, May 9, 2011]
Darrell Bricker told the LISPOP seminar in Toronto earlier this week that this group of immigrant Conservative supporters was composed of more established Italian, Greek, Portugese and older South Asian immigrant communities, amongst whom the Conservatives were now winning decisively. This group of voters has been in Canada long enough to have moved out to the suburbs, and has then increasingly taken on the middle class values of their neighbours (whether born in Canada or not), he said.
Hence, the disagreement between the CES and Ipsos-Reid findings can be explained by the fact that the CES researchers eliminate European immigrants from their definition of immigrant voters. The data seem to show that the NDP is winning amongst newer Canadians and visible minorities, with the Liberals also drawing relatively more of their votes from this group as well; while the Conservatives are overwhelmingly winning amongst immigrants of much longer standing, primarily from European origins, and narrowly beating the NDP amongst those born in Canada.
The only other data we have in the public realm is a report by Minister Kenney that the Conservatives’ internal polling showed them with two-thirds of the support amongst Cantonese speakers, said to have been of help to them in Scarborough and Vancouver; and another report from Liberals Navdeep Bains and Jim Karygiannis that it was the NDP surge that was responsible for their party losing seats around Toronto, rather than Kenney’s push into the ethnic communities.
New Canadians in the Ensight Canada post-election focus groups were reported to have been more aware of the parties’ platforms, less anxious about a majority Conservative government and less receptive to charges of totalitarianism against Stephen Harper (many coming from genuinely oppressive regimes themselves, as the report notes), understanding the reasoning behind his call for a stable majority government.
Insofar as religion is concerned, no CES findings have been reported as yet, though they are known to collect that data. The Ipsos-Reid Exit Poll, however, found quite different patterns of party support by religious observance:
|Source: Ipsos-Reid 2011 Exit Poll||Cons||NDP||Lib|
|Actual overall vote share||39.6%||30.6%||18.9%|
|Attends church/temple weekly||50%||24%||18%|
|Attends church/temple monthly or less||35%||37%||16%|
|Some religious identity||42%||32%||16%|
|No religious identity||27%||42%||17%|
So, this gives another clue as to the profile of the likely remaining Liberal immigrant supporters, inasmuch as a larger number of them would be expected to be Muslims, though the Liberals are facing a stiff challenge from the NDP for that group as well. Meanwhile, while Jews still make up a greater proportion of Liberal support than they obtain overall, the Conservatives more than doubled the Liberals’ support amongst this group.
Now if the Conservatives didn’t win newer immigrants and visible minorities – if it was only a matter of slowly assuming Canadian suburban values and getting older, that immigrants would eventually vote Conservative – was Minister Kenney’s energetic campaigning all in vain?
I don’t think so. Not if you consider that the original objective of the outreach strategy was to put the Liberal Party on the defensive in one of its last bastions of uncontested support. Or that the Conservatives have steadily reduced the gap in their support amongst even non-US, non-European immigrants, over the past two elections.
But the other aspect to his efforts, I believe, was to find and build some party organizational infrastructure to go along with that growing support – find and recruit candidates from many different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultural communities, build party membership there as well, and then welcome those members into the riding associations and election planning committees that would be running the local campaigns. Not to mention building relationships with ethnic media outlets across the country. That was the extra piece required to cement the party’s newfound support into a winning political strategy.