It seems that our pollsters have difficulty in appreciating that voters are sophisticated, and appreciate the differences between the choices facing them.
Voters understand the differences between (1) an outright merger of the NDP and LPC (under which both parties cease their independent existence and become one entity), (2) a coalition of the two parties (both remaining separate but uniting to govern the country through a formal agreement outlining the terms of the cooperation – like the one the UK Tories and LibDems signed: 5 year deal; shared cabinet posts; vote together in confidence votes; agreed items to legislate on; agreement to vote as they please on other issues); and (3) cooperation on a case by case basis.
But we saw when the 2008 coalition was agreed on that not all our pollsters seemed to understand the differences, and confused the issues, or simply focused on one of the models without discussing the other choices we have as voters.
Take Ipsos latest findings, for example:
Some have argued that the only way for any party to defeat the Conservatives is to have a merger of the left – for the NDP and Liberals to join forces. On this point, four in ten (41%) Canadians ‘agree’ (11% strongly/30% somewhat) that they would ‘support the NDP and Liberal Party merging into a single party’, while six in ten (59%) ‘disagree’ (29% strongly/30% somewhat) with a merger. A majority of Liberal (64%) and NDP (57%) voters would support this kind of merger, but Bloc (39%) and especially Tory (20%) voters are not crazy about the idea – not surprisingly since, according to these figures, a merged party would appear to have broad support.
The questions focus on merger but are simplistic because they do not explore the spectrum of cooperation models open to the LPC, NDP and Green Party.
If our pollsters would only find out the views of Canadians on the spectrum of choices, then I expect the headlines to be far different from the ones greeting the Ispos limited-issue poll.
I would be very surprised if a majority of Liberals or Dippers would agree to a complete merger of the two parties if they were offered the alternatives that in reality apply: pre-election cooperation ala the Cullen Plan; post-election coalition ala the UK Tory-LibDem model; or a case by case cooperation of the LPC with a minority NDP government.
There is a fierce desire by many to replace the Tory government, but an equally fierce desire by many to retain the essential cultures and nature of the Liberal and NDP parties.
Come on, pollsters! Ask sophisticated questions about the models of cooperation we are faced with – we are pretty clued in as voters.
Let's not just talk about that part of the political space that Harper's new Tories want to talk about (Us versus the merged socialist and tax and spend opposition with the socialists calling all the shots). That's allowing the Harper brainwashing to dictate the intelligent discussion of our political choices.And that's a pretty dumb thing to do.