Support for the Conservative government’s electoral reform is highest among those who don’t know much about it, according to a second poll from Angus Reid.
The Tories’ proposed Fair Elections Act would overhaul how Canadians vote in federal elections, change how Elections Canada investigates fraud and communicates with the public, and increase donation limits. The bill has proved controversial, with experts, including the chief electoral officer, and even some Conservative senators recommending significant changes. The Harper government says the measures crack down on voter fraud and preserve the integrity of elections.
(What is the Fair Elections Act? Read The Globe and Mail’s easy explanation.)
The Angus Reid survey released Thursday suggested that Canadians are less likely to be in favour of the bill the more they know about it. Among respondents who did not know much about the Fair Elections Act, 52 per cent said they support it. That number drops to 41 per cent among those who say they are familiar with it.
Those numbers are consistent with the firm’s last poll on the subject in February. The biggest change is in how many people say they’re hearing about the bill.
Angus Reid’s survey found 31 per cent of respondents were very or fairly familiar with the legislation, up from 20 per cent in a February poll. Respondents who said they voted for opposition parties in the 2011 election were more likely to be familiar with the Fair Elections Act than Conservative supporters. An Ekos poll conducted in March, and paid for the by Council of Canadians, found 27 per cent of respondents were familiar with the bill.
The Official Opposition NDP has staked a lot on fighting the Fair Elections Act since it was introduced in February by Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre. The New Democrats have held a series of town halls across the country and, on Tuesday, announced they would start targeting backbench Conservative MPs to vote against the bill.
Overall, the Angus Reid respondents split almost evenly on whether they supported or opposed the electoral reform. But that support swung wildly when they were asked about specific measures in the bill.
Ninety per cent of respondents said they supported tougher penalties for those who break rules, including the robocalls issue. Seventy-two per cent supported the elimination of vouching at the polls, one of the Fair Elections Act’s most controversial measures. But only a quarter of respondents supported taking investigative powers away from the chief electoral officer or restricting what Elections Canada can communicate to the public.
When asked whether they trusted the Conservative government to ensure the integrity of elections, 35 per cent of respondents said they trusted the government and 65 per cent said they didn’t trust the Tories. This support broke largely along party lines, but was essentially the same whether or not someone was familiar with the proposed electoral reforms.
The Angus poll was conducted with an online panel of 1,505 Canadian adults on April 14 and 15. It has a probabilistic margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.