Marriage a Conservative Vote

Sep 26

As married folk, we know well the chasm that separates our lifestyle with that of the swinging single. We’ve been there.  Done that. That gives us license (says ‘us’) to complain that they have it easy, that they can’t appreciate the challenges of married life – much less the self-sacrifice of raising a family. We disdain their freewheeling ways (and admittedly, envy them occasionally) as we carry our burden of familial responsibility with pride and tenacity. It should come as no surprise, then, that these differences appear on election day in our voting preferences. According to the results of a large-scale exit poll from Canada’s 2006 election, married persons are almost twice as likely as single persons to vote Conservative; whereas, singles split their votes equally among all the parties.

Do married people become Conservative supporters after their vows or are Conservatives simply more likely to get married in the first place? No one can say for sure, but it is likely a combination of the two. If suburban living and diaper changes led to Conservative votes, then those couples living together without wedding bands would also show a propensity toward . However, according to the research, their voting preferences mirror that of the single population with 26% Conservative, 21% Liberal, 24% NDP, and 21% .

In today’s accepting climate of alternative families, those couples who actually choose to tie the knot are, in fact, advocating their support for traditional marriage and rejecting less conventional partnerships. With 43% of their vote going to the Conservative party they are clearly supporting policies that protect the institution and that are sympathetic to their lifestyle needs (think $1,200-a-year per child payments.) While a national daycare program, as promised by the NDP and Liberal party, is a boon to single parents, it is of little allure to more traditional families that are more likely to have a stay-at-home parent or a combined income high enough to afford the daycare they want for their child.

Divorce changes a person’s priorities however, and the Conservative vote dips to just 30% upon dissolution of a marriage, with the NDP gaining the Conservatives’ loss. Strangely, the Liberal support hovers at about 26% regardless of any change in marital status.

The Prime Minister seems to be paying attention to the trends. Last election, Harper was like the awkward guy at the bar who couldn’t get the ladies to look his way. Now, according to an article in Maclean’s Magazine by John Geddes and Aaron Wherry, he’s the new chic magnet in Parliament – stealing female votes from not-so-suave Stephane Dion. And now that he’s the new stud in town, he’s hoping to seduce more Liberal voters by moving his party’s reputation toward the center – a hipper, more forward-thinking party. In Maclean’s Magazine’s Special Campaign Edition, Paul Wells portrays a Prime Minister who is intent on transforming the Progressive Conservatives into the nation’s “natural governing party.”

“You do that in two ways,” says Harper, “One thing you do is you have to pull Conservatives, to pull the party, to the centre of the political spectrum. But what you also have to do, if you’re really serious about making transformation, is you have to pull the centre of the political spectrum toward conservatism.”

If Harper wins a majority on October 14, he can credit himself for convincing the population that his right-wing agenda isn’t as scary as the Liberals would have Canadians believe. But if he hopes to affect long-term electoral success for his party, he’s got a long way to go. While married couples (his bread and butter voters) make up 68.6% of Canada’s population, they are on the decline. Based on 2006 census data, common-law and lone-parent families are on the rise, each making up 16% of the population. For the first time in census history, Canada has more unmarried people (51.5%) than legally married people (48.5%).

As more people toss convention out the bedroom window, Harper will face an ever-threatening wave of left-leaning voters. And unless he’s got a shipload of incentives to calm that storm, a tsunami just might pull him under, along with his ship of Tories.

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