Canadian Politics

A04(c) - Populism in Canada

Date: Jun 12 | Time: 01:45pm to 03:15pm | Location: 680 Sherbrooke St. West 491

Understanding the Determinants of Populist Attitudes : The Case of Canada: Félix Lévesque (McGill University)
Abstract: While research on populism has traditionally focused on the populist political supply-side, there has been a growing body of research devoted to the populist demand-side in recent years. These studies have primarily investigated populist attitudes on an individual level to explain voting for populist parties. However, we still know very little about the determinants of these populist attitudes. This study seeks to fill this gap by testing a set of so-called objective and subjective sociological explanatory factors in the Canadian context. Canada has long been seen as one of the last strongholds resisting the populist tide that has swept Western democracies since the beginning of the 21st century. Many, however, contend that this is no longer the case, which makes the nation an especially intriguing case study for research on populist attitudes. This research mobilizes data from the 2021 Canadian Election Study and tests the various hypotheses using multivariate regression. Results indicate that populist attitudes are significantly better explained by subjective sociological factors, referring to individuals' subjective evaluations of society, than by their objective position within society. Additionally, this study offers a longitudinal analysis showing the growth of populist attitudes in Canada over the last twenty years.

Populism and Antagonistic Political Views in Canada: Joanie Bouchard (Université de Sherbrooke), Dominic Duval (UQAM), Katryne Villeneuve-Siconnelly (Université Laval)
Abstract: In this paper, we identify Canadian citizens who subscribe to populist ideas and study their perceptions of outgroups in their sociopolitical context. This is done using two batteries of questions found in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian Election Studies that target core principles of the main dimensions of populism. More specifically, these batteries allow us to identify Canadian voters who adhere to what the literature labels “Anti-elite sentiment” and those who prefer “Authoritative Leadership.” After identifying voters who subscribe to these ideas, we first describe their general political profiles across the typical range of political behaviour variables. We then take a closer look at outgroup attitudes. Antagonistic political views, that is perceiving politics through the “us versus them” lens, have important consequences and it is of the utmost importance to better understand these dynamics.

The Effect of Populism on Trust in Government and the Public Service in Canada: Brendan Boyd (MacEwan University), Jared Wesley (University of Alberta)
Abstract: Denigrating the public service has been a key feature of populists movements that seek to prioritize the individual and “common people” over elites and governments. While initially, it seemed like Canada might be an outlier in not having populist movements break into its mainstream politics, recent leadership victories by conservative politicians and the trucker convoy protests in winter 2022 have revealed the popularity of messages like”getting rid of the gatekeepers” among the Canadian public.. At the provincial level, premiers like Doug Ford in Ontario, Danielle Smith in Alberta and Francois Legault in Quebec have established populist brands that have led to electoral success. Despite these developments, we do not know whether and how populism is driving overall public trust in government and the public sector. We use survey data of the Canadian public from 2021 to determine the relative influence of populist attitudes on the public’s confidence in different types of public servants and different orders of government. We compare these effects to those exerted by party identification, region, age, education, democratic satisfaction, news consumption habits, and others. Our preliminary findings suggest that, even when controlling for those other factors, populist attitudes remain the strongest determinants of public trust in government at all levels. This leads us to an important discussion of the impact of populist movements on the stability, legitimacy, and performance of governments and public servants.