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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - May 2, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta The LetHbridge Herald Third Section Lethbridge, Alberta, Wednesday, May 2, 1973 Pages 31 38 EXPLODING A MYTH Is separatism gaining in popularity in Quebec? Analysis of opinion polls says no, profs claim MONTREAL (CP) Analy- sis of public opinion polls con- ducted in the last 11 years ex- plodes "myths" about separa- tist sentiment in Quebec, say two sociologists. Professors Maurice Pinard and Richard Hamilton say the polls show the proportion of separatist sentiment in the Quebec population has changed little since 1962. "Separatism is gaining new people but it is also losing people and the main variable here is said Prof. Pi- nard, veteran in po litic a 1 pulse-taking. The movement, -which began in the late 1950s, now had been active long enough for field surveys to show a pattern of "defection" as vot- ers grow older, with a higher rate of defection among work- ers than middle-class citizens. The two McGill University a French- Canadian and Hamilton an on the basis of the polls that only 10 to 15 per cent of the Quebec electorate now favor separa- tion of the province from the rest of Canada. In a joint interview, they hammered hard on the theme that Canadians as a and received an exaggerated picture of sep- aratist sentiment as such. CREDITISTES GAIN They reiterated an analysis of last September that the Ralliement Credit g a i n i n g ground faster than the separa- tist Parti Quebecois or any other party. That analysis, they saad, has been bolstered by devel- opments, including Social Credit's strong Quebec show- ing in the October federal el- ection and a December politi- cal survey conducted for the Union Nationale. pointing to a sharp decline in that once powerful party. An earlier Pinard-Hamilton poll of French Quebecers out- side Montreal indicated a Creditiste leap of 13 per cent, mainly at the expense of the Union Nationale, while the Parti Quebepois was appar- ently standing still in the rural areas. Though still another poll in- dicated "marginal" gains for the Parti Quebecois in the Montreal area, the professors concluded: "These studies suggest, con- trary to frequent assertions, that the PQ is not 'on the march.' If any party is on the move, or to be designated the 'coming Wing' in Quebec, it would have to be the Credi- Ustes." The Creditistes were appar- ently picking up support that might otherwise have gone to the Parti Quebecois for rea- sons of social discontent rather than separatism, and Dr. Piaard declared: "The fact that support for separatism is low does not mean French-Canadians have no grievances. French-Canadi- ans do have cial, economic and ethnic. But the point is, people are not ready to buy separatism as a solution." HIT AT MYTHS Prof. Pinard, 43, native of DrummondVille, Que., is a graduate in law from Univer- sity of Montreal, a PhD in so- ciology from Johns Hopkins. Engaged in a long-term study of Quebec political move- ments, he earlier hit about Social Credit in his book. The Rise of a Third Party. Prof. Hamilton, 43, also has pursued what he terms myths in other contexts disputing claims of "backlash" in the U.S. Native of Buffalo, N.Y., son of Ontario-born parents and PhD from Columbia, he came to McGill in 1970 after teacbing and research experi- ence in the U.S. and Europe. The two sociologists said opinion polls over the long term show Rene Levesques appeal to the electorate is greater than that of his Parti Quebecois, which in turn holds greater appeal than separa- tism, as such. "One must clearly distin- guish between sentiment for separatism and support for the Parti Quebecois." in the view of the professorial polls- ters. SECOND BIGGEST VOTE In the 1970 Quebec general election the PQ won 23 per cent of the popular vote, in tliis respect second only to the victorious Liberals of Robert Bourassa, with 45 per cent. The Union Nationale, now the official opposition, won 20 per cent and the Creditistes, 11 per cent. Prof. Pinard and Prof. Hamilton said some 10 opinion polls conducted since 19G2 show strictly separatist senti- ment never exceeded 15 per cent in the whole electorate, 17 per cent in the majority French-language sector. One sampling of Quebec and non- year did find a percentage of 19 in favor of "political independence" but that term, the professors said, might mean to some citizens greater provincial autonomy, rather than separatism. Their conclusion is that the proportions of the population favorable and unfavorable to separatism both increased "slightly" over a period of time, with a decline among the undecided. "That is the true picture, but it has not shaken the myths in the mind of the pub- said Prof. Pinard, who directed his first poll on the separatist question in 1962 and his most recent, along with Prof. Hamilton, last fall. "The main myth is that sep- sratism started somewhere close to zero sometime in the early 1960s, climbed to 23. per cent by 1970 and now 'must' be somewhere around 35 or 40 per cent. That simply is not true. Were it true, it would be reflected somewhere in these polls." OPPOSED PROGRAM Sampling of voter opinion before and after the 1970 Quebec provincial election in- dicated many citizens voted for the Parti Quebecois even though they opposed the par- ty's program for taking Quebec out of Confederation. This was explained by such factors as the personal appeal of Mr. Levesque, discontent caused by unemployment and the desire of voters to break with traditional patterns and support a new party left-of- centre in social aims. One poll before the 1970 el- ection indicated only 14 per cent of only 50 per cent of those saying they would support the favored total economic and political separation from Can- ada. A Pinard-Hamilton survey last October indicated only 45 per cent of PQ supporters in the working class favor the separatist option, 62 per cent in the middle class. These findings apparently raise the possibility that non- separatists might at some point give the PQ an electoral edge. But would not the out- come of a PQ victory be the same ever the motives of PQ sup- porters? That might indeed be the case, in the view of Prof. Pi- nard and Prof. Hamilton, who said the situation underlines the responsibility of scholars and journalists to report the situation "in all its clarity." Looking For Real Carpet Value? Jordans INSTALLED BROADLOOM SALE "Three" Fashion Leader Carpets