Are Canadians more conservative than we used to be?
The conservative-minded Manning Centre thinks so and a new poll it paid for says the centre of the Canadian political spectrum has shifted rightward.
A survey by Allan Gregg of Harris-Decima and Carleton University's Professor André Turcotte concludes that while a majority of Canadians identify with the "centre" position on the political ideology scale, this centre is increasingly embracing "traditionally conservative values."
The poll says a plurality - or 47 per cent - of those respondents who consider themselves political "centrists" voted for the Conservatives in 2008. By comparison, back in 1997, 41 per cent of those self-identified as centrists voted Liberal.
"What is most surprising about these results is how mainstream conservative the political centre has become," Mr. Turcotte said.
The survey found a majority of Canadians strongly agreed with traditionally conservative value statements on the morality of abortion, the definition of marriage as "between a man and a woman" and the supremacy of the family.
But while results suggest far more conservative-mindedness among Canadians, they also explain why surveys find most people are nevertheless leery of government action to enforce morality.
For instance, the poll says 75 per cent of respondents feel abortion is "morally wrong" and 80 per cent support the traditional definition of marriage.
But it also found only 21 per cent of self-identified political centrists wanted to see government play a "major role" regulating individual behaviour and morality, suggesting Canadians have a strong libertarian streak on social issues.
Separately, the polling identified significant support for Tory government's handling of issues like the long-gun registry and global warming.
The poll says six in 10 respondents back the Harper government's decision to abolish the long-gun registry. It found half of respondents back the Tory go-slow approach to fighting climate change. And six in 10 said the Conservative government is doing "just enough" to deal with the economic recession.
Mr. Turcotte said Canadians also appear to be losing confidence in government ability's to use social engineering to fix economic inequality in Canada.
Only 31 per cent of respondents felt government action is the best way to solve economic problems.
"They still believe we are our brothers' keeper but unlike a couple of decades ago, they don't think government can or should be the ones to reduce income inequality," Mr. Turcotte said.
The poll for the Manning centre surveyed 1,000 adult Canadians between Feb. 1 and Feb. 10. The results of the survey are considered accurate within 3.3 percentage points 19 times out of 20.