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June 27, 2000   [Toronto Star]
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ALLIANCE LEADERSHIP RACE

Alliance out of touch?

Its supporters differ from most Canadians over immigration, abortion, death penalty: Star poll

By Thomas Walkom
Toronto Star National Affairs Writer

The Canadian Alliance remains out of touch with the vast majority of Canadians and is falling in public support, a new Toronto Star poll indicates.

On key issues - taxes, health care, capital punishment, abortion, gay rights - supporters of the fledgling movement are so offside with most Canadians that it has virtually no chance of winning the next election, the poll suggests.

``These guys are going nowhere,'' says Frank Graves, president of Ekos Research Associates Inc., which conducted the poll for The Star.

``They are a Canadian analogue to the U.S. new right Republicanism - and even in the U.S., that isn't going anywhere . . .''

The poll shows the federal Liberals remain far ahead in popular support. The Liberals are backed by 49 per cent of decided voters, while Alliance support stands at 16 per cent. The federal Conservatives are at 14 per cent, the Bloc Québécois 10 per cent and the NDP 9 per cent.

The poll interviewed 1,166 eligible voters across Canada between June 16-20 at the height of the Alliance leadership campaign. The margin of error is about 3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Support for the Alliance fell during the final month of the party's leadership race, from 19 to 16 per cent of decided voters.

By itself, that drop was not precipitous. Support for Reform and its successor the Alliance has ranged between 10 and 19 per cent of decided voters since the last federal election.

The poll shows that Alliance voters are less accepting of immigrants - particularly non-whites. They are more opposed to abortion and more supportive of capital punishment. Most Alliance voters take a harder line against homosexuality. Almost two-thirds of Canadians oppose two-tier medicine. But a slim majority of Alliance voters favour privatizing parts of medicare.

Alliance voters are also more supportive of the religious right and more interested in seeing this country Americanized.

What this means, says Graves, is that the Reform party's effort to broaden its support by transforming itself into a new party has failed spectacularly.

The purpose of the Alliance gambit was to increase the party's strength in Ontario and connect with a broader range of public opinion.

But according to the Star/Ekos poll, the Alliance has failed on both fronts.

When the Alliance was formed, national support for the party flared briefly, reaching 19 per cent last month. But now, the Ekos poll suggests, it has started to decline again - to 16 per cent.

In Ontario, Alliance support fell from 19 to 13 per cent - well below the figure its predecessor, Reform, captured in the 1997 federal election.

At the same time, support for Joe Clark's Progressive Conservatives - Alliance rivals - has jumped over one month from 9 to 14 per cent.

For years, Reform/Alliance leaders have tried to dispel the image of their party as a haven for those opposed to immigrants, gays, and non-whites. But the poll indicates that, in relative terms, it still is. About 30 per cent of Canadians think there are too many non-white immigrants coming to this country. But among Alliance voters, the figure jumps to 45 per cent.

Similarly, Alliance voters are more opposed to abortion (36 per cent versus 28 per cent nationally), more favourable to capital punishment (65 per cent versus 49 per cent) and more unwilling to grant homosexual and heterosexual couples the same rights (63 per cent versus 37 per cent).

The Star/Ekos poll found that trust levels for candidate Preston Manning had fallen to 19 per cent from 24 per cent in May. As for Stockwell Day, 18 per cent of Canadians said they had a high level of trust in him last month. But by June, this had collapsed to 9 per cent.

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