Monday, July 29, 2013

It's In The Hands Of The Young

Frank Graves has been tracking public opinion for a long time. In his most recent survey, he asked Canadians four broad questions: 1) Do you favour more or less immigration? 2) Should Canada focus on domestic production or international trade? 3) Should we build our economy on carbon based energy or green energy? and 4) Do you favour more or less government?

In only one of these four areas do Canadians appear to support Harper government policy. We are not as welcoming of immigrants as we used to be. But, interestingly, on the question of active or laissez faire government, Canadians and Conservatives are on different sides of the fence. Graves writes:

The results are very interesting and fit in with our trends analysis which suggests that there is growing skepticism to the notion that a minimal state and lower taxes would leave the invisible hand of the market to produce a better economy for all. The invisible hand seems to be offering a visible middle finger to frustrated citizens who have tired of these promises of prosperity while their situations have stagnated or declined. This has not produced an appetite for ‘big’ government but it has produced a clear conviction that the state should have more – and not less – of a role in designing and delivering a better future. And once again, it is notable that this consensus does not appear to be congenial with the core political philosophy of the government of the day.

What is even more interesting is how closely the numbers track the results of the last election:

It is therefore perhaps not surprising that in our most recent poll, support for a smaller government almost perfectly reflects support for the current government. When asked whether they believe a more active government or a less active government would lead to a better future 25 years from now, just one-quarter of Canadians (26 per cent) put their faith in a smaller government (this compares to 28 per cent who say they would vote for the Conservative Party in a future election). By corollary, 70 per cent would like to see a more active government, compared to 72 per cent who would vote for another party.

But what is most intriguing of all is the attitude of the next generation to government in general:

One notable finding, which mirrors recent European research, is that the youngest citizenry are more muted in their support for active government. The newest cohorts may be the most progressive ever in terms of social values, but they are more individualistic and less receptive to the notion that the state can solve their problems. Whether this is a product of growing up in an era of retrenchment and austerity, which offers little for them, or something deeper, it merits further investigation.

It's pretty clear that the Harper government does not represent most Canadians. But it is equally clear that the next generation holds the balance of power. How they respond in the next election will determine Canada's future.


Ck said...

How will the youth of the future respond? Sadly simple. They don't vote. Politicians know this.

Another thing the Harpercons know all too well is that the baby boomers all vote and when they do, it's always for them.

Another thing to be remembered, the median age in Canada is over 40. Proof positive, we're an old country.

Owen Gray said...

It's all pretty cynical, ck. I'm one baby boomer who hasn't -- and who won't -- vote for Harper.

But, unfortunately, my generation has forgotten about the next generation.

Anonymous said...

I know several baby boomers, that will never vote for Harper. I know people who once voted for Harper, will not do so again.

I too know young people that refuse to vote. They detest Harper, his corruption, thefts and cheating to win. There is no point in their voting because,votes are tampered with. They too say, Harper is a Dictator and, no-one can trust a Dictator.

I had thought perhaps, Trudeau would pick up votes from the younger generation?

Lorne said...

Ck, I have to challenge your assertion that all baby boomers vote for Harper. While this may fit the stereotype of the angry old white guys, I don't think it is an accurate reflection of reality.

Perhaps there is a measure of self-selection here, but almost no one in my baby boon circle has even a niggling respect for what Harper has done and is doing to this country.

I think the greater challenge is to try to find ways to motivate young people to vote. Perhaps, as has been suggested by others, allowing on-line voting (if a secure system can be found) will be part of the solution.

John B. said...

What tendency in attitudes towards government should one expect to find among younger people given the example with which Harper has provided them? I’m a baby boomer who isn’t the least bit surprised by the absence of political engagement and diminishing support for active government that have taken hold on this generation and on many citizens within my own.

We must take the responsibility for our failure to identify and address the risks involved in turning over stewardship of the country’s fortunes to the cult of market libertarianism. We’ve had forty years and countless opportunities to expose and draw attention to the lies and hypocrisies of its preachers. We could have put the cult into check before any of the disturbed teenagers of the 1970s and '80s who are now running the country had read the first page of Atlas Shrugged. But most of us continue to be content to allow the project to proceed unmolested until we become personally affected. I’m grateful that my father’s generation was more attentive and by its experiences better equipped to identify nonsense and deception.

Owen Gray said...

I'm sure that's part of the Liberals' calculations, Anon. But, clearly, Trudeau will have to be where the country is to succeed.

Owen Gray said...

It's hard to get people to vote if they believe their vote doesn't count, Lorne.

And given our first past the post system -- and the way the Conservatives have suppressed votes -- the challenge will be to convince the young to trust hope over experience.

Owen Gray said...

Your father's generation learned from hard and bitter experience, John.

Your generation is enduring the same hard and bitter experience. And, if enough of you identify the cause, you will send Mr. Harper back to Calgary or Leaside -- although it will be a difficult task.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think a poll of youth taken today cannot be predictive of how they will act in the future when they, presumably, inherit the reins of power. The future that they will face when it is their turn to dominate the decision-making processes at governmental, economic and individual levels, is nearly completely unknowable to us today.

How will their opinions and conscience be informed by environmental, social and security changes that will almost certainly befall them over the next 20 years?

In difficult circumstances exploited by disaster capitalists and their ilk, compassionate, generous people can turn hard and good people turn bad rather quickly.

Owen Gray said...

Agreed, Mound. The young -- who will inherit a world dominated by the selfish and the self righteous -- may, indeed, turn bad quickly.

Some would argue that that process forms the arc of human history. But -- for the sake of the planet -- let's hope the next generation doesn't follow that arc.