a more nuanced portrait than one might think

CAQ posters dripping with blood, death threats against Liberal MP Marwah Rizqy and increased security measures for several leaders: if the tone of the provincial campaign has taken a hostile turn, it is however not said that these tensions affect the general population .

On September 1, the day Ms. Rizqy pointed the finger at Conservative leader Éric Duhaime, polarization was the subject of no less than 13 front pages, eclipsing inflation, the third link and the Quebec tramway combined, d ‘after an analysis of the Leadership Chair in Digital Social Sciences Teaching (CLESSN) at Laval University.

“There is a real fear in the media universe that there is a polarization, but that does not translate into the electorate”, however thinks Professor Éric Montigny, scientific director of the Research Chair on Democracy and the parliamentary institutions of Laval University.

He bases his analysis on a Leger-Marketing survey conducted last August with 1,200 respondents. When participants were asked, among other things, whether “the government should strive to close the health gap between rich and poor, even if that means raising taxes”, the vast majority positions a little to the left, but still close to the center. Only a small minority has more radical positions. Only 8% of Quebecers are very polarized to the left, and 2% to the right.

If there were polarization on socio-economic issues, a greater proportion of the population would be at the extremes than in the center, which is not currently the case, according to Professor Montigny.

“What we see is that there is no polarization, on the contrary, we see a nice normal curve where the majority of voters are in the center (…). If there was a polarization, what we would have is a hollow in the center, he explains. In the background, we have a dromedary. If there were polarization, we would have a camel: there would be two bumps with a hollow in the middle. »

He comes to the same conclusion on the axis of identity: even if Quebecers have a slightly more nationalist than cosmopolitan tendency, few move away from the center on questions of independence and protection of the French language. It is 8% of citizens who have a radically cosmopolitan position, and 11% who are on the contrary very nationalist.

The big burst

The professor recalls, on the other hand, that the issue of identity is no longer necessarily the question of the ballot box, as it was before. “What we see instead is a break-up of the partisan system, a break-up of political parties on new, more fragmented axes. (…) There are more issues that are present in the political debate and on which voters are called upon to position themselves. »

Indeed, if we look at the characteristics of the most polarized Quebecers, we notice a variety of priorities and a variety of profiles.

For those on the far left, mostly women (54%), the fear that motivates them above all is linked to the environment. They also travel much more by bicycle, on foot or by public transport.

On the right, we first fear inflation and economic setbacks. Those most polarized in this sense are mostly men (79%), and they are more likely to be heterosexual and drive motorized vehicles than average.

The most pro-cosmopolitan fringe of the electorate is above all afraid of intolerance and racism. They are mostly immigrants (54%, against 15%).

The most nationalistic, for their part, fear the deterioration of the French language as much as that of the environment.

The distorting mirror of social media

Social media has often been held responsible for polarization, because of its algorithms which tend to isolate internet users in echo chambers.

For example, if we observe the political ecosystem of Twitter, we realize that most of the exchanges are between members of the same party.

The Twittosphere, as the CLESSN researchers call it, lists all the publications of the candidates between July 1 and September 7. Thus, the party most focused on itself is the Coalition Avenir Québec, with no less than 98% of interactions between party candidates. It is Québec solidaire that appeals the most to the members of other groups, with 83% of exchanges internally and 17% externally.

But Professor Montigny recalls that “Twitter is not representative at all” of the social climate. “In social media, what we see is a distorted mirror of society, where there are people who are more radical and people who express remarks in the political debate a little more uninhibited, which I calls for incivility rather than polarization. »

If we now turn to the debates in the National Assembly, we can see that the tone used by the deputies has remained more or less the same since 1955, according to an analysis by the CLESSN based on the words used during periods of Questions.

In the years 2005 to 2022, the tone has even become more positive than during the period from the 1960s to the 1990s. MPs therefore do not tend to have increasingly polarizing comments outside of social media. , according to the analysis.

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