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Class voting in Canada, 1962-1968 : an analysis of the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion surveys. Fyffe, Gregory George

Abstract

Unlike many western democracies, Canada has a party system which is not polarized in terms of class. Particularly since the early 1930's many writers have attacked "brokerage politics" on the grounds that it has enabled a small elite to control political debate, and in particular has prevented the party system from presenting meaningful alternatives for the social and economic development of the country. To people such as Frank Undorhill, Gad Horowitz and Charles Taylor, "the politics of polarization" is essential to an efficient democratic political system. Another writer, Robert R. Alford in Party and Society, has concluded that the trends in Canada towards industrialization, urbanization and secularization are bound to encourage an increase in class-oriented voting behaviour. The large numbers of people working in the cities, coupled with a decline in the salience of regional, religious and ethnic issues, will increase working class consciousness to the point where a change in the substance of political debate is feasible. The thesis examines the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion (Gallup) surveys for the 1962, 1963, 1965 and 1968 elections to see if Alford’s forecast is substantiated. There are many shortcomings in both the data, and the approach used, but the analysis would suggest that the overwhelming importance of religious and linguistic factors has not significantly declined, and as far as this thesis can detect, there has been little increase in class voting. A concluding chapter suggests other research approaches to the problem under investigation, which might well have produced different conclusions. However, a brief examination of the early political history of Canada would seem to indicate that the absorption of the working classes into the existing party system was done in such a way as to permanently restrict the extent to which a working class consciousness is likely to develop. While there are signs indicating that class-oriented voting will probably increase, it is unlikely that the polarization will ever occur to the extent possible in countries which have developed, politically and econonacally, along different lines.

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