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[Ottawa – March 18, 2010] – EKOS tested two indicators of social conservatism as part of an ongoing societal monitoring program. The indicators are interesting for a number of reasons.

One asks whether the public agree that we should NOT have legal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The other asks whether the respondent supports the reintroduction of the death penalty. In both cases, the current results were compared with benchmark testing conducted 10 years ago.

These indicators are interesting social barometers at any time but they become even more interesting in the current political context. First, both the Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition have spoken on the issue of pot legalization as a response to the Prime Minister’s foray into the unscripted world of Web 2.0. Secondly, Preston Manning and his foundation have released and commented on a study which claims that there has been a “blueing” of the centre. Mr. Manning is a highly respected spokesperson and his research was headed by two of Canada’s most respected pollsters. Moreover, this report comes amid growing controversy and debate on the role of social conservatism in the current government’s agenda.

While the overall claims made by Mr. Manning clearly have some evidence in favour of them, these are extremely important issues and the overall conclusion as to whether or not the centre is now blue is still an open question.

In the case of both of the measures presented here, the “progressive” views outweigh the socially conservative views. Moreover, the 10 year later judgement suggests the trajectory leans to a more, not less, progressive view.

In the case of decriminalized pot, only 30% support legal penalties for personal possession. In the case of capital punishment, only 40% support reintroducing the death penalty.  Interestingly, among Conservative supporters, findings for both of these measures are dramatically reversed.

In addition to the strong differences across Conservatives and other supporters, Albertans and males are more pro capital punishment. Among university educated Canada, there is very strong rejection of capital punishment. In the case of decriminalizing pot, the biggest divides are (unsurprisingly) age and party identification. Younger voters are very receptive to decriminalization, Conservative supporters are not.

In another poll finding, only 33% support the Conservatives after more than six years of a united right. So the jury is still out on this fascinating question regarding the broad trajectory of Canadian society.

Click here for the full report: full_report_march_18

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