Early in the Nov. 27 election campaign, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien recalled that his mother once told him:
“When you throw mud, you lose ground.” The respondents in the informal Macleans survey largely agree. Only a few shared the opinion of George Edwards, 59, an Aurora, Ont.-based management consultant, who said some specific ads might be acceptable. “If they attack the known facts, especially policies, performance or lack of, then I am in favour of them,” he said. But he quickly added he found it “disgusting” when such ads attack a person.
That feeling of dismay over attack ads was near universal. “They appeal to people’s worst instincts,” said 48-year-old Halifax lawyer Gus Richardson. Added Arlayna Alcock, 31, an English-as-a-second-language teacher in Calgary: “They make me uncomfortable—I think they’re mean and unnecessary.”
Do you pay attention to/give much credence to polls during the campaign?
Most of those questioned claimed they paid no attention to how politicians were supposedly faring during the campaign. Marlene Lines, 49, an insurance adjuster from Markham, Ont., who will begin teaching statistics at nearby York University in January, said she ignores polls because her background has made her aware of their potential pitfalls. “I know how things can be manipulated,” Lines said. “You just don’t know how the samples were taken.” Bookkeeper Louise Bussières, 40, of Laval, Que., agreed. “Polls,” she said, “are not always right and we always have surprises at the last minute.” A sizable minority, however, said polls offer a useful service. “Political parties do them all the time and it becomes part of their information,” said Calgary freelance writer Brian Burton. “The public should have the same information so that they can do things like vote strategically.” But the chance of
affecting an outcome means limitations should be placed on polls, argued Luba Horvath, 50, a Vancouver stayat-home mother of three. “I don’t think they should be done prior to elections, say in the last week or two,” she added. Horvath cited the example of NDP Leader Alexa McDonough, who might be hurt by low poll numbers. “She may be a far better politician than the guy who scored 41 per cent,” said Horvath, “yet what if people vote according to the numbers they see?”
Other poll devotees nonetheless suggested popular opinion ultimately means little to them. “I listen,” said Sandra Starratt, 42, a Halifax highschool French teacher, “but it would never influence how I vote.”
How would you feel if this campaign were to result in a minority government?
Canada has had six minority governments since 1957.
How respondents viewed the spectre of another depended upon their view of that history. “I don’t think a minority government has ever worked in Canada,” said Yves Rouleau, 63, a retired engineer in Laval. “It paralyzes the government.” Keith Thirgood, 49, co-owner of a Markham marketing consultation and design firm, would be happy. “My favourite governments were minority governments,” he said, referring to Lester Pearson’s Liberal minorities in 1963 and 1965. “The governments had less chance to become arrogant because they relied upon the assistance of smaller patties.” Many in the five ridings agreed that curbing arrogance is a welcome byproduct of electing a minority government. But some, like statistician Lines, noted the downside: “We would probably end up having another election too soon.”
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