I haven’t commented much on the deal lately because my opinion is well known but I did find the results of the new Radio Canada poll interesting. Particularly the set up question. Now it is possible that my French is not particularly good so I Google translated the question:
An amended agreement was submitted in January. Are you aware of the differences between the two agreements?
Half of the people said they were not even aware of the differences and only 17% said they felt ‘quite’ aware. That drops to 10% or one out of 10 among people under the age of 34.
This is the defining public policy issue of the day and half of New Brunswickers have essentially no knowledge of the deal as proposed?
And then I get this stream of commentary about the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ and the shining example of democracy at work.
And the other thing that is interesting about this poll is the deep division between Anglophones and Francophones. On almost every question, Anglophones have at least a 50% more very unfavourable rate than Francophones. Sometimes it’s double very unfavourable.
The final point is – and you can chop these things up in a thousand ways – the higher income reponders in Fredericton and Saint John tend to be far more against the deal and Edmundston-Woodstock is deeply against it but it is interesting to note that 35% of the respondents in that zone are retired.
The richer, older and anglophone are correlated with deeply against the deal.
I guess all these things make some sense. The fact that only 17% of people say they have a good understanding of the new deal. I guess that makes some sense. The vocal and public opponents of the deal have little interest in people knowing the deal – there are still placards all over the place that read “say no to the sale of NB Power” even though NB Power is not being sold.
The fact that richer folks are more likely to be deeply against the deal. That makes sense I guess.
The fact that older folks are deeply against it – I guess that makes sense as well.
The high correlation between anglophones and deep dislike of the deal? That card has been subtley played all along.
The last point, of course, is likely the most important. This is a relatively small poll – particularly when you chop it up into regions and linguistic groups.
I think there is no doubt that the majority and a strong majority do not like the deal but when half of the people say they have no understanding of the difference between the first deal and the second, there is a fundamental problem. A problem with how this is being communicated in the media. A problem with how the government communicates complex public policy issues and a problem with how we tend to take the easy way out and go with our ‘hunch’ or gut feel on issues (I just read Gladwell’s Blink which is a good exposition on this issue).
PS – I can’t find a link to the full poll online. If anyone knows where it is let me know and I will link to it here.