February 28, 2014 – A new Angus Reid Global poll reveals Canadian support for changes to the Elections Act proposed by the Harper government is highest among those who aren’t aware of the issue. Overall, Canadians are evenly split on the changes: Half (51%) support and half (49%) oppose.
The survey also suggests Canadians do not trust the motives of the Conservative government in introducing the proposed legislation, and do not feel the Harper government’s impact on the democratic process has been positive.
One-fifth (20%) of Canadian adults surveyed by ARG say they are either very or fairly familiar with proposed changes concerning Elections Canada, while most (42%) say they’ve heard of the issue but aren’t familiar with it, and nearly as many (38%) say they hadn’t heard about the issue at all.
When it comes to awareness and political affiliation, awareness is highest among past Liberal and NDP voters (25% and 24% respectively) followed by past Conservative voters (18%).
Among those who are familiar with the contents of the Fair Elections Act, 44 per cent say they support it and 56 per cent are opposed. However, among those who are only aware of the issue in passing or who are just not paying attention, that support rises to 53 per cent, while 47 per cent say they’re opposed.
Awareness does not appear to significantly affect support or opposition to individual changes proposed in the legislation: 91 per cent of all Canadians surveyed support imposing tougher penalties on those who break election rules, such as robocallers. Overall, 59 per cent are against reducing Elections Canada’s public information activities. And 37 per cent of all Canadians say they’re against transferring election watchdog responsibilities away from the Chief Electoral Officer, while about as many say they support the measure (34%) and 28 per cent say they aren’t sure.
Awareness levels don’t affect how much Canadians trust the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper when it comes to ensuring the best possible elections oversight, with 37 per cent saying they trust the government and 63 per cent saying they don’t. Trust is unsurprisingly highest among past Conservative voters (72%) compared to past Liberal and NDP voters (16% and 15% respectively).
But there is unmistakable skepticism around the motivations for the proposed legislation. While nearly two-thirds (62%) of Canadian say in introducing the legislation, the Conservative government is motivated politically and dislikes Elections Canada – that rises to 69 per cent among those aware of the issue. Conversely, 38 per cent of all respondents feel the Conservatives are making a genuine attempt to improve the rules and administration of Canada’s elections. This drops to 31 per cent among those most aware.
Effect on Democracy:
On the question of the Conservative government’s effect on democracy in this country, awareness of the Fair Elections Act and its proposed changes drive the most polarized responses. Among Canadians overall, one in ten (12%) say the Harper government has improved the democratic process, while equal amounts (44%) say it has either diminished or had no real impact on democratic process in Canada.
However, among Canadians familiar with the proposed legislation, 17 per cent give the Conservative marks for improving democracy and fully 57 per cent say the Harper government has diminished the democratic process.
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