Policy disagreements among Canadians reflect values more than regional differences — new survey

September 12th, 2017
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Montreal – Canadians’ differences over values have a considerably greater effect on their public policy preferences than does the region where they live, finds a new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

“Policy disagreements have often been interpreted through the prism of regionalism. Our findings show that although regions matter, policy disagreements are primarily the product of value conflicts that are similar from one region to the next,” say Éric Montpetit, Erick Lachapelle and Simon Kiss.

Their analysis is based on an original survey developed to measure the degree to which Canadians are divided along three value inclinations: egalitarianism, traditionalism and legal rigorism (a belief that laws should apply strictly and uniformly to everyone). They find that individuals who share the same values, regardless of where they live, have similar policy preferences. For example, egalitarian values have a strong impact on Canadians’ welfare spending preferences, and the effect is similar across all regions.

More broadly, the authors observe that there may have been a tendency to exaggerate fears that disagreements among regions will be harmful to policy acceptance and institutional legitimacy.

They conclude that public policy should be designed, framed and promoted to appeal primarily to values, not to regions. Although the composition of values varies among regions, this does not prevent the formation of cross-regional alliances that can help build national acceptance.

The survey was conducted in March and April of 2015, with a sample of around 1,000 Canadians in each of five regions: British Columbia, the Prairie provinces, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

Does Canadian Federalism Amplify Policy Disagreements? Values, Regions and Policy Preferences, by Éric Montpetit, Erick Lachapelle and Simon Kiss, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).

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The Institute for Research on Public Policy is an independent, national, bilingual, not-for-profit organization based in Montreal. To receive updates from the IRPP, please subscribe to our e-mail list.

Media contact:    Shirley Cardenas    tel. 514-594-6877    scardenas@nullirpp.org