05.10.2012 07:09 AM

The growth of independent thinking

What does this poll – which is consistent with many others, recently – mean?

In my opinion, the rise of independents. Lots and lots of citizens no longer see themselves attached to any single ideology. They’re now the biggest single demographic, and they’re growing.

Dippers will claim it means they are most popular, but that’s superficial and ultimately false. The Cons and Libs are simply the most familiar choices: the new independents are looking for newer choices.  The Occupiers, Tea Party and non-voters are all part of this: they are turning away from the traditional alignments.

I think something big is happening, here. What do you think?

33 Comments

  1. smelter rat says:

    Harper may eventually step so far over the line that he’ll awake the masses, and that day may be coming sooner than later. I hope so.

    • Kevin T. says:

      Unfortunately, not for three more years, regardless of outrage or polls. They turned years of slime into a majority, they have three more years to do whatever they want. I do admit, it is somewhat gratifying to see all these little smoke piles turn into conflagrations, but I think the media oxygen that would/should fan the flames and bring to light the true nature of this government (which is get in power to destroy, and once in power, do anything to stay in power by continuing to destroy, regardless of law or decency) will soon peter out, and we’ll eventually get all these myopic, ostrich-y editorials endorsing Harper once again.

  2. Philip Lococo says:

    Nice that the fringe media has finally caught on.

  3. Philip Lococo says:

    It means Harper anybody else w/ bs on their agenda is doomed.

  4. Doug says:

    The technology for direct, unmediated communication and organization between citizens gets better every day. What becomes of political parties and NGOs when people can effectively self-organize around specific issues that they care about?

  5. kre8tv says:

    We have a system of government in which power is concentrated in PMO, including a potentially dangerous amount in the hands of unelected officials. The whole point to having a House of Commons has been rendered pointless by the rise of omnibus bills and debate closure, backed by a Speaker whose rulings have revealed him to be anything but impartial. We have a Parliamentary Budget Officer whose advice is consistently ignored. A brain trust in the public service that’s being wasted. A Minister of Justice who is on the record as saying “I don’t care what statistics say.” A procurement system rife with the stench of impropriety. A market that wants you to be a consumer, but not a citizen. A society that is already splitting between a minority with a generous publicly funded pensions, and then the rest. A sense of priorities in which there’s never money to do the right thing for citizens but always enough for self-promotion and to piss away on pointless showcasing of police power. What little environmental protection we had is being dismantled to satisfy an oil lobby that only knows the value of keeping shareholders happy for the short term. Our party system here (and in the US) suffers from the prevailing sense that whatever political convictions they have that help get them elected all tend to go out the window the moment they form office.

    So it’s little wonder that citizens aren’t exactly endeared to any party anymore.

    Our Parliamentary system ought to have been enough to serve us well. It was designed to support a federation built to last one thousand years. Instead, folks are within their right to ask whether it’s a system worth saving at all. I don’t pretend the have the answers, but I do think that there is a growing sense out there of what can loosely called political agnosticism. Voters have given up believing a single word of what any party promises, and instead make their choice based on who is least likely to drive the national car into a ditch.

    • kre8tv says:

      Man I’m in a cranky mood today. Didn’t realize until after I hit send that I cussed in my comment.

      • Philip says:

        Thought you hit the nail on the head, if that is any help. In fact, your post echoes some conversations I have been having with several friends who are normally not interested in politics. I do get the impression something very different is happening.

  6. Lyndon Dunkley says:

    If the recent Alberta election is indicative, (and everyone knows Alberta is the new bellwether for Canadian federal politics) it means the end of the federal Liberal Party. If an election were to be in two months with these type of poll numbers, I believe two themes would develop:

    1) Left leaning Liberals would be told not to waste their vote and vote NDP to stop the scary and proven Harper.
    2) Right leaning Liberals would be told not to waste their vote and vote PC to stop the scary and unproven Mulcair.

  7. AP says:

    “[I]n today’s world … you see, things are unstable, to say the least. The parameters are changing, to use a big word.”

    P.E. Trudeau
    Speech at the Paul Sauvé Arena, Montreal
    May 14, 1980

  8. Michael S says:

    As all parties crowd to the centre voters become independent consumers. The result is a very different political market.

    • kenn2 says:

      I wish that were true.

      In fact, the new Canadian ‘right’ borrowed the playbook and techniques of the US right by correctly identifying that there was a sizable number of disenchanted right-wing voters and segments (social conservatives, western resentment at eastern Canada, the religious right, libertarians, free-marketers) who didn’t identify with the federal PCs BECAUSE they were too centrist.

      These voters were successfully marshaled under the Reform and now CPC banners, each responding to the finely-tuned bait waved in front of them… and here we are.

      Of course, Harper is now doing what every credible PM has done once in power – try to hold onto the reins by appealing more to the naturally centrist moderate Canadian. This of course pisses off the fringe elements who helped elect them.

      A progressive renewal, should it occur, will be started by some party that is unabashedly progressive/”socially responsible”, who have some mainstream appeal but will also collect up all the unionists, socialists, pacifists, greens and promise them the moon and stars. Once elected, this party will also drift to the center, and become the new Liberals.

      Change the system and you will change the market. Hence my call to shun polling, as a first step.

      • Michael S says:

        No, the system is working. The NDP is crowding the centre and leading in some polls. Stephen Harper won because his centrist message was far more buyable than Michael Ignatieff’s message, which was, what exactly? Something that smelled out of Deep Annex.

        • kenn2 says:

          Stephen Harper won because his centrist message… Uh, no.

          Harper won because of:
          – successful seduction of the aforementioned right-wing sentiment
          – implosion of the federal Liberals. Ignatieff or not, they were and are AWOL federally.
          – a magnificent election machine

          Harper’s only lurched toward center when his majority made it possible.

  9. David MacRury says:

    I think it happened decades ago but parties were asleep at the switch. Despite that these recent manifestations will have little effect on who weilds power because many don’t participate in the system leaving parties to pick the bones of what is left. In the end that will destroy effect democracy which is ironic given the purpose of these movements is to empower people. Chantel Herbert said it better than I in the Star.

  10. David MacRury says:

    Effect should read effective.

  11. kenn2 says:

    Gaaah. Why the trumpeting of another POLL?? Where’s that massive grain of salt that kept you off of the Wildrose bandwagon?

    I do sort of agree that in the current political landscape, more people are not firmly anchored to a party. There’s many in the center who are adrift (federally) now that the federal Liberals are currently off the radar, there’s increasing disenchantment with the CPC, from both the center and the hard-right fringe, and when pollsters try to force a victim into box A, B, or C… the NDP gets an apparent bump. I don’t think it’s yet a bump of real consequence, and certainly too soon to place bets.

    I know that political insiders live and die by polls as the best available feedback, but the current CPC reign is as much or more the victory of the mechanics – the strategists, the pollsters, the electoral engineers – as it is a public response to policies and platforms. I say that we need to pull the teeth of the mechanics, and poke their eyes out, by refusing to participate in mass polls, Just say no and hang up. Demand limits and accountability for all political messaging (robocalls anyone? Why is the EC investigation taking over a year??).

    Policy and visible accountability, not ‘messaging’ and ‘polling’. Hang up on pollsters. Complain about robo-calling. Who’s with me? Who’s truly independent?

    • Warren says:

      Agree. But the trend line – by Harris-decima, Ipsos, Leger, Forum, etc. – all points to the same thing: traditional alignments are shifting.

      • Jason Hickman says:

        Fair enough, Warren – but there was one whale of a trend line in Alberta for what, four fifths of the campaign, and it turned on a dime. Even if you can say that the last public polls released the weekend before the election showed a narrowing, it didn’t come close to capturing what happened.

        Anyway. We all know of polls that showed the Dion and Ignatieff LPC leading the CPC. Right now, the NDP seems to be handling the Mulcair honeymoon well enough, and at least *for now*, the NDP is the de facto choice for the I-hate-Harper vote. But who knows? If the LPC doesn’t shoot itself in both feet next year, *they* could get a bounce. Maybe the NDP does tear itself apart over Quebec, and the LPC, the BQ *and* the CPC all benefit as a result.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong yet – for instance, maybe the NDP survives whatver bounce the new LPC boss gets, and maybe the LPC never manages to become “the” alternative to the CPC again; that would be one heck of a shift. It’s happened before; certainly, the old PC Party never made a complete comeback after ’93. It’s just too soon to say now, and after AB, I’m a bit gun-shy when it comes to assuming that even a significant-looking shift in the polls is based in reality and/or permanent.

      • Robbie says:

        Are we in a state of political flux that resembles Europe in the decades after the introduction of the printing press? Are we seeing the fruit of a technologically advanced information and mobile culture honestly reflected in the political arena? Is it the era of the mercenary voter?

  12. Ron says:

    It means the NDP’s drift to the centre is gaining traction. Over the next few years they will develop their brand and amplify the frustraition with the majority conservatives, if the liberals don’t get up off the floor they will be down for the count and could become irrelevant. In the end Canada would be better served in the next election with a single centre left brand to oppose the conservatives. Its time for the leaders of both parties to suck up their pride and go where the electorate is allready moving, merge, and punt the Harperites into political oblivion.

  13. Ted H says:

    More independent members of parliament would be a good development in my opinion. People who would represent their constituency in the commons rather than representing the party line in the constituency.

  14. Philippe says:

    We’re headed towards a 2 party system where independents determine the fate of elections. If it sounds familiar (it should) – it’s exactly what they have down south.

    • Michael says:

      Can the political scientists in the crowd please explain something to me?

      For years the NDP has survived with 20% or less popular support. In 1993 they were down to 9 seats, not even enough to have official party status.

      Why didn’t anyone talk about a 2 party system back then? Why did no one talk about the death of the NDP? Why did they survive?

      Not too long ago everyone was talking about the “pizza parliament” with 5 parties having elected members. There was a lot of talk about the rise of regional parties, and how majorities would be hard to come by. That never came to pass, so why will the 2 party system?

  15. Pat says:

    I think people are just looking for other options because they don’t believe in the ones they currently have.

    Fewer and fewer people want to be associated with the LPC, CPC or NDP because they’ve all proven to be slimy. They congregate to new parties/movements because those groups haven’t proven to be untrustworthy.

    I suspect this is a symptom of the “war room” mentality, which puts an emphasis on airing negative information all day, every day. When you make every option a bad option, people seek to create new options or refuse to participate. It isn’t a coincidence that voter turnout has plummeted since the “war room” approach to politics was brought to Canada by people like Warren. No offense to Warren – no way he could know that would happen.

  16. Dan says:

    Let’s pretend that the obvious isn’t true: that a poll saying “I would vote for the NDP if an election were held today” doesn’t mean “I would vote for the NDP if an election were held today”.

    First, I’d say you’re wrong about ideology. Canadians have NEVER been particularly ideological. You’ll find Conservatives who want the government to expand health care and protect the wheat board. You’ll find pro-life, anti-gay Liberals who want the government to cut social security (in the name of sustainability). The Liberals are a lot of peoples’ third choice. There’s a ton of evidence that voters don’t exist on any left/right/center spectrum.

    Second, remember that democracy is about the power of collective intelligence. It’s not that the electorate will always do the smartest thing. It’s that when government makes mistakes, the voters will have enough intelligence to throw them out. People felt like the Liberals became complacent and corrupt, so they replaced them with the opposition: the Conservatives. The Conservatives promised everything would be different and better… what conclusion are voters drawing now? They hate the Conservatives, but don’t want to go back to the Liberals either.

    So I agree with your basic conclusion: something big is happening. When people are rejecting the two main alternatives, it tells you they’re looking to change more than the past decade, and more like the last generation. People no longer believe it’s enough to switch pilots. They want the ship to make a 90 degree turn, or they want to abandon ship completely.

    I think that does explain the appeal of the occupiers and the tea partiers. People feel like government has failed them over the last 30 years or more, so they’re looking for problems that have existed for that long, if not longer. Is free health care a problem? Is free trade a problem? Just because I think I know the answer, it doesn’t mean everyone else agrees with me. Whatever it is, for the first time in a long time, Canadians are hungry for new ideas. And not just any new ideas. Something to bring back the middle class that’s been squeezed for more than a generation.

  17. Michael says:

    I wouldn’t be so fast to dismiss the Conservatives. They have not had a very high ceiling of support, but they have also not dropped very far either.

    They are masters of micro targeting. So they seem to have a narrow band of support, with a hardcore committed group that votes for them no matter what. They have so demonized any opposition and played to that core, that it is hard to see that group voting for anyone else.

    Also, with the declining number of people voting, that hard core group has an influence on the election results far beyond their numbers. The people who are more inclined to vote for progressive parties are also those less likely to vote. Whereas the Conservative demographic is more likely to go to the polls.

    Not to say the Conservatives can’t be defeated. But the opposition has to get their act together. and then chose a strategy. Either try to beat the Conservatives at their own game, and micro target. Or offer a positive message of hope.

  18. Mike Foulds says:

    I think the general malaise with the state of the world after the 2008 recession and the subsequent success of the Arab Spring movements has made people question the ideologies of the parties. Occupy and it’s offshoots represent some of this general malaise.
    I teach high school and with that comes the privilege of knowing some bright young people in their twenties who are off at University. They are critical of media and mass consumers of it. Almost unanimously they criticize our system, our parties, and our leaders. I think the polling you are seeing reflect this emerging malaise with the system.

    • kenn2 says:

      The incessant use and abuse of polling, and our slavish poring over their entrails, is symptom #1 of the malaise.

  19. William says:

    I have voted PC under Mulroney and Liberal since.

    I presently consider myself an independent albeit a progressive one.

    People are discovering that no party has all the answers and they usually just peddle bullshit anyhow.

  20. patrick Deberg says:

    I think the CPC party slipped into power because of what they didn’t say. They just shut up and then further shut the crazies up. Look at Miers and the boast of the big election death machine. I had no idea he was working on such a thing. I thought everyone would at least play by the rules. I think a lot of tax dollars was routed into the Tory brand here. Quietly and secretly. Everyday you hear more about the affront to democracy in election fraud and this was amazingly complicated with buying phones here and using servers there and services across the way. This was not a single operative but a driven attempt to deny the people of Canada their vote. Phoning old people to get them to drive 20 miles away. This took years to build up and a great deal of money to enact. The depth of their contempt is shocking and I for one was taken aback by the ferocity of the attacks put out by this group. They have gained the reins of power, are soon to defund all parties but their own. No donations for them either but they will be shoveling cash out the back door through “paid media consultants” and whatever other stealth operatives they have on the go. The thing that frightens me is the government is just one huge organ of destruction they are using in a way I have never seen before. They are arrogant, angry and will be taking no prisoners. I hope we can call some byelections soon and stop this tide.

  21. !o! says:

    This has been a long time coming, and we’re just starting to see it at a macro scale in the past few years. As cliche as it is, the network changes everything. Mcluhan knew what he was talking about.

    The novel, the newspaper, the monthly magazine, those are conducive to parties, to organizations with ties to the production and dissemination of self-contained, pre-endorsed and vetted versions of reality. The network is more nuanced, more individual, it’s harder to keep a single party-supported ideology under control.

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