From a two-party-plus to a one-party-plus? Ideology, vote choice, and prospects for a competitive party system in Canada

Scotto, T. J. , Stephenson, L. B. and Kornberg, A. (2004) From a two-party-plus to a one-party-plus? Ideology, vote choice, and prospects for a competitive party system in Canada. Electoral Studies, 23(3), pp. 463-483. (doi: 10.1016/S0261-3794(03)00054-4)

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Conventional wisdom, buttressed by numerous empirical studies, has questioned the importance of both class and ideological factors on voting behavior in Canada. However, two recent studies of the 1997 Canadian national election [Gidengil et al., Canadian J. Political Sci. 32 (1999) 247; Nevitte et al., Unsteady State: The 1997 Canadian Federal Election, Oxford University Press, Ontario, 2000] indicate that ideological factors played an important role in determining the outcome of the election, since they affected the direction of the vote for the several parties in both Quebec and the rest of Canada. In this paper, we clarify and extend these analyses with data from the 2000 election, as well as the 1997 election. We find that a number of ideological dimensions underlie the issue positions of voters in Quebec and the rest of Canada in both the elections and that these have important implications for the maintenance of the multiparty system that seemed to emerge in the last decade. More specifically, we find that ideological factors affect partisan volatility in Canada, and that the inclusion of these factors improves the explanatory power of a standard vote choice model in both election years. We infer from our findings that ideological differences among Canadian voters can help sustain a multiparty system in the foreseeable future but that it is a system that currently favors the Liberal Party—so much so, in fact, that the ability of any other party to successfully displace the Liberals as the government in the future is problematic. However, there is a curious periodicity to the electoral fortunes of Canadian parties at both the federal and provincial levels. Political parties can govern for years and then experience an electoral disaster of a magnitude sufficient to make them a distinctly minority party.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Scotto, Professor Thomas
Authors: Scotto, T. J., Stephenson, L. B., and Kornberg, A.
College/School:College of Social Sciences
Journal Name:Electoral Studies
ISSN (Online):1873-6890
Published Online:23 July 2003

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