COVER

THE MEANING OF NO

A Maclean’s /Decima poll looks at the reasons behind the No vote—and what Canadians expect will happen next

ROSS LAVER,BRUCE WALLACE November 2 1992
COVER

THE MEANING OF NO

A Maclean’s /Decima poll looks at the reasons behind the No vote—and what Canadians expect will happen next

ROSS LAVER,BRUCE WALLACE November 2 1992

THE MEANING OF NO

COVER

REFERENDUM FILE

A Maclean’s /Decima poll looks at the reasons behind the No vote—and what Canadians expect will happen next

Since the death of the Meech Lake accord in June, 1990, Canadians and their political leaders have repeatedly expressed frustration and fatigue with the constitutional process. But a poll conducted on referendum day for

Maclean’s by Toronto-based Decima Research indicated that many Canadians actually want to keep on talking. A narrow majority of respondents across the country said that new talks on the Constitution should begin within a year. Generally, those with more formal education and those with higher incomes were less likely to favor a resumption of talks in the next 12 months.

At the same time, most Canadians appear to reject claims that their lives are adversely affected by the constitutional uncertainty. And roughly half of the respondents said that there would be no impact from the rejection of the Charlottetown agreement. Twenty-nine per cent of Quebecers, compared to 18 per cent of those surveyed in the rest of Canada, said that they thought that a No vote would lead to an eventual breakup of the country.

Still, there was little common ground for rejecting the Charlottetown reforms. Among those outside Quebec who voted against the accord, the largest group—27 per cent—said that they disliked the agreement because it gave Quebec too many powers. In comparison, very few of those surveyed said that their vote was based on opposition to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney or on resent-

ment at the tactics used by the Yes side to sell the agreement. Similarly, none of the No voters in the English-Canadian sample cited the accord’s impact on women as the main reason for their decision.

In fact, 22 per cent of No respondents outside Quebec said simply that the Charlottetown agreement “is a poor one,” rather than choosing a more specific reason. That group, said Michael Sullivan, a senior vice-president of Decima, appears to reflect “generalized bitch-

ing that may have nothing at all to do with the agreement.” Added the pollster: “This is their opportunity to complain. It’s their chance to punch politicians in the eye.”

For the poll, Decima researchers interviewed by telephone a random sample of 300 Quebecers and 600 people in the rest of the country, beginning at 4 p.m. local time on Oct.

26. Interviews were conducted only with people who had already cast their ballots or said that they intended to vote; those who did not plan to vote were excluded. “One of the most striking things we found was that, even late in the day, many Canadians were undecided as to how they would vote,” Sullivan said. “A lot of people clearly made up their minds in the polling booth.” Nationally, results of the poll are considered accurate within a range of 3.4 percentage points, above or below the figures given, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is larger for subgroups, such as those broken out according to province, income or age-group.

ROSS LAVER

and

BRUCE WALLACE

with

MARY NEMETH

CANADA EXAMINES THE ROAD AHEAD

Most respondents want constitutional talks to resume

Q: What do you think would happen as a • result of a defeat of the accord?

THERE WILL BE NO REAL IMPACT

CANADA WILL EVENTUALLY BREAK UP

THE RECESSION WILL WORSEN

If the accord is defeated, should a # new attempt to get a constitutional agreement begin within a year?

QUEBEC

THE REST OF CANADA

WHY CANADIANS VOTED THE WAY THEY DID

Among respondents outside Quebec, there was little common ground for rejecting the Charlottetown accord

THE NO VOTE

Q: Which of the following reasons for voting No comes closest to your main reason?

QUEBEC GOT TOO MUCH_

THE AGREEMENT IS A POOR ONE_

THE PROVINCES SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN MORE POWER_

I AM OPPOSED TO BRIAN MULRONEY

I RESENT THE FEAR TACTICS USED_

TOO MUCH WAS GIVEN TO ABORIGINALS

THE SENATE REFORMS GO TOO FAR_

THE SENATE REFORMS DO NOT GO FAR ENOUGH_

MY PROVINCE DID NOT GET AS MUCH AS IT COULD HAVE_

NOT ENOUGH WAS DONE FOR WOMEN

OTHER

THE YES VOTE

l Q :Which of the following reasons for • voting Yes comes closest to your main reason?

A YES VOTE WILL HELP KEEP CANADA TOGETHER

THE AGREEMENT REPRESENTS A FAIR COMPROMISE

IT IS TIME TO PUT CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS BEHIND US

A NO VOTE WOULD BE VERY NEGATIVE FOR THE COUNTRY

THE AGREEMENT REPRESENTS CONSTITUTIONAL IMPROVEMENTS FOR CANADA OVERALL

PROMINENT LEADERS I RESPECT ARE BEHIND THE AGREEMENT

THE AGREEMENT GIVES MY PROVINCE AS MUCH AS IT CAN GET

ANALYSING THE RESULTS IN QUEBEC

Quebec endum Premier campaign Robert fighting Bourassa off accusations spent most from of provincial the referNo forces that he had “caved in” during the Charlottetown negotiations. But the Maclean’s/.Decima poll indicates that opposition to the constitutional accord in Quebec was more broadly based. While 44 per cent of those who voted No said that they did so because their province failed to get enough concessions from the rest of Canada, a larger number, 56 per cent, said that they voted No because they believed that the deal was a poor one. “Despite the claims of the No side, most Quebecers rejected the notion that Quebec did not get enough concessions at the table,” said Michael Sullivan, a senior vice-president of Decima Research. “The overriding con-

cern was the more general complaint that it was a poor deal.” As was the case in other provinces, few of the Quebecers who voted Yes said that they did so out of concern that a rejection of the accord would have serious implications for the countiy. In fact, nearly half—49 per cent—of Quebecers said that the defeat of the accord would have no impact Even among the Yes voters, only 13 per cent said that they thought that the consequences of voting No would be very negative. By contrast, 22 per cent of Quebec’s Yes voters said that it was time to put constitutional matters aside, and an equal number said that the Charlottetown agreement “represents a fair compromise.” The most popular response among Quebecers voting to accept the accord—31 per cent—was that a Yes vote would help to keep the country together.

BREAKING DOWN THE VOTE

More than half of all men and women opposed the deal, while the wealthiest and most educated voted Yes

The result of the Oct. 26 referen dum did more than kill the Charlottetown constitutional accord-it also amounted, in ef fect, to a massive repudiation

by Canadian voters of the country’s political and economic elites, the vast majority of which supported the agreement. And the Maclean’s/Decima poll appears to underscore that social division. In general, respondents who voted No were younger and had lower household incomes than those who voted in favor of the agreement. Other groups that were disproportionately opposed to the accord included residents of rural areas and those with less formal education. Nearly two out of three, 63 per cent, of respondents who live in communities of less than 100,000 people voted No, compared to 52 per cent of those who live in larger urban centres. Stefan McDonald, a 19-year-old farm worker who lives near Renfrew, Ont., typified the rural negative attitude. “One reason for my decision to vote No is that I don’t like the politicians,” McDonald said.

“There should be an election as soon as possible.”

When the results were analysed according to level of education, university graduates were the only group to favor the accord. Similarly, respondents whose household incomes ex-

ceed $60,000 a year were significantly more likely than other people to vote Yes.

The survey also indicated that many of the accord’s supporters were motivated by a fear that the recession would get worse if the agreement failed to win ratification. “I am graduating this year and I need a job,” said Kieran Hackett, a 23-year-old engineering student at Montreal’s Concordia University who voted Yes. “I think constitu-

tional stability will help the economy.” Most respondents in the Maclean’s/Decima poll clearly want that search for stability to continue. A majority of voters in four of the country’s five major regions said that they wanted constitutional negotiations to resume within a year. The only exception was the Prairies, where 59 per cent rejected the idea of more talks in the near future.

On balance, women were significantly more likely than men to favor a new round of discussions: 59 per cent agreed with that proposition, compared to only 46 per cent of men. The desire for new talks was widespread even among No voters. Said Lise Archambault, a middle-aged No voter in Montreal: “My fear now is that by rejecting this deal, we will have discouraged the politicians from ever trying to solve constitutional problems again.” Archambault’s concern appears well founded. Indeed, although the poll makes it clear that Canadians want the long-running constitutional soap opera to continue, it also underscores their distrust of the current cast. That inherent contradiction raises an important question: whether anyone has the credibility and willingness to restart the process. “It’s a conundrum,” said Decima’s Michael Sullivan. “Voters have thrown the

ball back into the politicians’ court, but at the same time they have tied their hands by saying, ‘We don’t trust you to deliver the goods.’ ” One possible solution—a constituent assembly, comprised of non-politicians who could forge a compromise where elected officials have repeatedly failed. But in the aftermath of Oct. 26, few political leaders will likely have a desire to even establish such a process.

...BY ‘SEX’

There was no significant gender gap in how males and females voted on the proposed accord

YES NO MALE 45% 55% FEMALE 43% 57%

of women respondents across Canada, compared to only 23 per cent of men, said that the death of the Charlottetown accord will make the recession worse

...BY ‘EDUCATION’

As a group, university graduates were the only Canadians to . vote in favor of the accord

YES NO

Public/elementary school 41% 59% Some high school 41 59 High school graduate 43 57 Vocational/technical/college 35 65 Some university 38 62 University graduate 54 46

...BY 'AGE’ Younger Canadians were more likely to oppose the Charlottetown accord

YES NO

18 - 24 years 38% 62% 25 - 34 years 34 66 35 ■ 44 years 44 56 45 - 54 years 57 43 55 - 64 years 32 68 65+ 61 39

of No voters believe that the agreement’s failure will have no adverse consequences

...BY 'INCOME’

Households earning less than $60,000 per year were against the proposed deal

YES

NO

Under $15,000

44%

56%

$15,000 to 29,999

39

61

$30,000 to 44,999

41

59

$45,000 to 59,999 $60,000+

42

54

58

46

4%

of respondents in English Canada said that they voted No because the accord gave too much to aboriginals

of No voters want new constitutional talks to begin within the next 12 months