By Barry Kay
A demographic correlate of partisanship that many election observers know from simply looking at a map is the urban-rural distinction. Anyone who has seen an Elections Canada map know that the presence of Liberal red is largely concentrated around the big cities, and much of the rest apart from Quebec is coloured Conservative blue. This visually distorts the reality of where Canadians live, but reflects the fact that those in less densely populated areas tend to vote Conservative.
Noting the size of one’s community doesn’t explain the whole story however. Certainly Canada’s three largest metropolitan centres of over one million, are electoral wastelands for the Conservative Party. However when one moves to the next population category, they find that centres of 500,000 to a million indicate more Conservative support than any other classification. That is because it includes the two Alberta cities of Calgary and Edmonton.
In reality once region is controlled, population size has a very modest relationship with party support, apart from that big metroplitan category of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. It is only among these three largest cities where there is a distinctive pattern.
|Table 1: 2008 Vote by Community Size|
|Over 1 million||30.4||39.2||13.2||18.2|
|Source: Ipsos Reid, 2008|
Data not presented here suggests these centres are home to disproportionate numbers of unmarried voters, renters, recent immigrants, gays and non-religious citizens, all categories associated with Liberal or NDP support rather than Conservative. In other words, apparent differences by community size, are largely accounted for by other demographic factors. It would seem that vote differences in various sized communities is itself related to the different demographics among them.