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Generational and life-cycle effects on support for Quebec independence

Abstract

The resurgence of separatist movements in Scotland and Catalonia illuminate the ebb and flow of such movements over time. The catalysts of separatism in post-industrial democracies are largely treated as circumstantial, but intergenerational data on attitudes towards independence might assist the development of a general theory of support for separatism. This replace draws on the case of Quebec, leveraging a half-century worth of public opinion data to investigate intergenerational shifts in attitudes towards separatism. Historical data from the Canadian Election Study (CES 1968–2011) allow us to test the relationship between attitudes towards independence among youth in Quebec and general levels of support for separatism. Coupled with this are the more than 1 million observations from the 2011 Canadian federal as well as the 2012 and 2014 Quebec provincial editions of Vote Compass. This last dataset allows us to estimate the variation in support for Quebec independence for very precise age groups defined at the year-of-birth level. The results show a clear generational cycle variation that appears correlated with specific series of historical events.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    A confusion persists in the literature about the definition of generation, and its distinction from other concepts such as cohorts (see Alwin and McCammon 2003). For the purpose of this replace, we use the terms generation and cohort interchangeably.

  2. 2.

    The purpose of Vote Compass’ is to help voters position themselves in the political landscape during electoral campaigns. To achieve this, users are prompted to give their opinions regarding 30 policy statements. The application then compares the users’ answers with those provided by political parties to create a graphical representation of users on a two-axis political landscape. In addition to its civic engagement purpose, the data generated by the tool is also useful to researchers, given all users’ answers are recorded into a database. Vote Compass usually runs for the duration of the campaign period. For more information, see http://www.votecompass.com.

  3. 3.

    Potential pooling-induced bias is minimized by temporal proximity of the elections and constant levels of attitudes towards Quebec independence. Further analyses also show stability among covariate patterns.

  4. 4.

    The first CES waves used face-to-face interviews. Also, most CES waves reinterview respondents after the campaign survey using a post-election phone survey and a mailed questionnaire.

  5. 5.

    The CES question wordings for measuring attitudes towards Quebec separation are as follow: Are you in favour of separation or opposed to it? (1968, 1979); What is your opinion on Quebec independence? (1988); What is your opinion on Quebec sovereignty, that is, Quebec is no longer a part of Canada? (1993); Are you very favourable, somewhat favourable, somewhat opposed, or very opposed to Quebec sovereignty, that is Quebec is no longer a part of Canada? (1997, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011).

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Correspondence to Yannick Dufresne.

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Dufresne, Y., Tessier, C. & Montigny, E. Generational and life-cycle effects on support for Quebec independence. Fr Polit 17, 50–63 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41253-019-00083-9

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Keywords

  • Quebec separatism
  • Generations effects
  • Public opinion
  • Political socialization
  • Canada
  • Electoral behaviour