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Regional alienation : understanding political culture, regionalism and discontent in western Canada Portengen, Michael Bernard

Abstract

While western regional alienation has been the subject of much scholarly and public debate in Canada, we still know relatively little about the factors driving the phenomenon. Relying upon survey data collected in the 1997 Canadian Election Study (CES), this study attempts to substantively quantify western regional alienation and identify its correlates. Using the existing literature as a starting point, the study examines how western regionalism and political culture are typically conceptualized and identifies several factors commonly said to propel regional unrest and western 'distinctiveness.' Regression analysis is used to systematically test the accuracy of existing theories concerning western regional alienation. The study contends that while the four western provinces do not hold a monopoly on feelings of regional alienation, levels of unrest are indeed higher in the West than in other parts of the country. Regional alienation is also distinguished from more general understandings of political apathy or cynicism. Finally, with respect to the factors said to propel regional unrest, antipathy towards Quebec and Outgroups are shown to be the most important predictors or regional alienation - while attitudes concerning the economy, populism, social programs, law and order and continentalism have a weaker effect. However, even after controlling for these factors, significant regional differences remain. Thus, other factors - as-of-yet unaccounted for - must also play a role.

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