By Bruce Anderson and David Coletto
In next year’s federal election well over 1,000 people will register as candidates for different parties or as independent candidates. This willingness to participate in the political process is important to the health of any democracy.
We recently explored the idea of political candidacy in our polling. Here are the highlights of what we found:
• six per cent of Canadians say they would consider running for office, and another 15 per cent say they might consider it. While the vast majority of people wouldn’t consider running, the 21 per cent represents a considerable pool of potential political talent, the equivalent of millions of Canadians.
• The persistent gender imbalance in politics is reflected in the fact that men are quite a bit more (28 per cent) inclined to run compared to women (18 per cent). The tendency to consider standing for office peaks between the ages of 30 and 45 (27 per cent)
• Of those who would consider running, 35 per cent think they would (definitely or probably) win. While men are more likely to consider running, women are slightly more confident than men that if they ran they would win.
Only 12 per cent of Conservative voters, and 13 per cent of Liberal voters would consider carrying another banner or running as an independent; 22 per cent of NDP voters would do so.
In terms of how people feel about their current representatives:
• 41 per cent say they could name their federal MP, and another 17 per cent say they probably could.
• 17 per cent say their MP deserves to be re-elected and another 24 per cent say “probably”.
• Women (38 per cent) are considerably less likely than men (44 per cent) to support incumbents.
• Among those who say they know the name of their MP, 56 per cent say their MP deserves re-election, 36-points higher than those who cannot or probably cannot name their MP.
While there has been plenty of evidence of voter frustration with politics over the years, a considerable number of people believe that they can make politics better, and are open to participating as candidates. A good number also believe that they would have a chance to win.
In our first past the post system, incumbents often win with considerably less than 50 per cent of support. Notwithstanding that, voters seem less critical when evaluating the performance of their own MP than of the system or a party as a whole. The numbers also show how valuable it can be for local MP’s to become well known among constituents, it clearly tends to condition people towards supporting incumbents.
Finally, the gender balance in our politics seems to have more to do with women feeling less able or willing to consider a run for office – and is less about confidence in their prospects of victory: women are if anything more confident than men that they could win if they ran.
Our survey was conducted online with 1,850 Canadians aged 18 and over from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4, 2014. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading provider of online research samples.