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Lecture 6

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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Charles Hoffman

April 04/12 Reasons to doubt government policy - Challenged with measuring the public opinion and comparing it to government policy o Opinion may be responding to policy o Opinion is fraught with measurement error o People with deviant views may self-censor because their views are unpopular o In Canada, strong party discipline, infrequent elections, and parliamentary tradition may insulate decision-making from public Two articles with different methods for measuring both policy preferences and government policy outputs examine these questions: - Petry and Mendelssohn look at a range of different policies and peoples support/opposition to change in existing policy. - Soroka and Wlezien look at government spending and support/opposition to more/less spending Petry and Mendelssohn - Focus on Chretien years: 93-00 o Compare to Mulroney and Trudeau eras, some of which were from previously published studies - Looked at preferences to see if they support status quo or a change - Then looked at policy outputs to see if government was consistent by maintaining status quo or changing policy - Method probably underestimates consistency since occasional polls tend to focus on contentious issues (where, presumably, opinion does not match policy) Findings - Mulroney era was marked by high level of consistency between opinion and policy - Chretien: just under 50% of all policies were consistent with public opinion Why a decline in consistency under JC? - Methodological reasons (more survey questions) - People wanted more change than inert government was providing o Government inertia compounded by early elections in ’97 and ‘00 o Supreme Court nullified legislation supported by majority using Charter of Rights and Freedoms  Similar to US court constitution that protects political minorities from majorities - Canadians shifted to the right o So. Opinion was very close to Mulroney and more distant from the Liberals under Chretien  Inconsistencies appeared more frequently when public was to the right of the liberal governments stances  Chretien government paid careful attention to Liberal supporters more so that opinion of all Canadians - Why? o During Chretien years, opposition on right was divided in addition to the NDP on the left  Chretien was not very vulnerable to losing elections to a divided
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