NO CHANGE OVER THE DECADE
[Ottawa – April 1, 2010] – A majority of Canadians describe themselves as leaning pro-choice with regard to abortion. A little more than a quarter prefer “pro-life”, with the remainder undecided.
This finding of a 2-1 margin in favour of the pro-choice position is almost unchanged from the answers Canadians gave to the identical question a decade ago.
The lean to pro-choice holds true across virtually all demographic groups, although the margin is less clear with Conservative supporters and seniors. Among urbanites and the more educated, the pro-choice preference is overwhelming. Interestingly, there is no significant difference on the issue between men and women.
The issue of abortion is one of the most emotionally charged of all social issues. It has arisen once again in the context of the debate about child and maternal health in the developing world – one of the Harper government’s priorities for the upcoming G-8 summit, which will be hosted by Canada.
This week, the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who was visiting Canada, commented pointedly that the United States administration considers maternal health to include the availability of “safe and legal abortions.” The Canadian government’s position on the issue remains unclear.
“The abortion issue has also come up lately as an indicator of Canadians’ ideological direction,” said EKOS President Frank Graves. “A recent study commissioned by the Manning Centre suggested that most Canadians believe abortion is morally wrong. That may be true as a matter of personal moral values. However, as a political matter – whether abortion should be permitted for those who choose – the evidence is that Canadians are decisively pro-choice.”
“Moreover, since we asked this identical question ten years ago, we can say with confidence that on this issue there is not, in fact, a trend to more conservative views,” said Graves. “In fact, Canadians’ views on this issue are amazingly stable.”
Recent evidence from the respected Pew organization in the United States suggests that Canadians differ from Americans in this respect. Americans have moved decisively away from support of abortion rights.
Since the publication of the Manning Centre study, EKOS has been updating a variety of indicators germane to the question of whether Canadian attitudes are indeed “blueing” – or becoming more conservative. We are not yet in a position to consolidate our research, but the early evidence suggests that on issues of social behaviour, the trend seems to be, if anything, in the opposite direction. We will be submitting a more complete analysis in coming weeks but when measured over time, we have found that on indicators such as same-sex marriage, the decriminalization of marijuana, and capital punishment, Canadians’ are becoming less conservative, not more.
In trying to assess social change it is methodologically essential to ask the same question over time in a semantically consistent fashion from random samples of the overall population.
EKOS hopes to present a more comprehensive report on the question the direction of social values in the coming weeks.
Click here for the full report: full_report_april_1