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Ethnic politics is already a science in the U.S. It’s on the way in Canada

November 28, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

In the U.S. polls are run constantly into the political preferences of voters based on ethnicity, in addition to gender, age, religion and other demographics.

Race-based politics has long been established in multi-ethnic cities like Chicago, New York and Miami. American pundits have also analyzed how religion and ethnicity combine, particularly since 1960 when 80 per cent of Catholics of European descent voted for John F. Kennedy.

With people of Hispanic, Black and Asian origins now accounting for more than 80 million Americans, politicians are not the only ones who find it valuable to keep up with scientific polling.

Polls generally show two thirds of Hispanic Americans vote Democrat, while one third lean Republican. Only one in 10 Black voters are Republican and just 26 per cent of Asian-Americans. About one third of people of European descent cast ballots for Democrats, and just over half go Republican.

Canadians are more shy about how ethnicity connects to politics. We don’t often learn about surveys that probe how minority groups tend to think about political issues.

When I’ve asked Canadian politicians if their party conducts private polling on ethnicity, they all say, of course they do: Race-based strategies are crucial to any campaign. But no party has ever handed me their internal data.

Political scientist Shinder Purewal of Kwantlen Polytechnic University has had a similar experience. “I’ve spoken to a number of pollsters and they’re very reluctant to give ethnic numbers, while they’ll give numbers in general.”

One recent exception to this hands-off Canadian approach was a poll by YouGov, which revealed that Indo Canadians lean liberal-left. More than 38 per cent of respondents said last year they would cast a vote for the Liberals — twice the number that planned to go with the Conservatives.

This fall, a Leger poll for Postmedia detailed how ethnic groups would affect October’s tide-shifting elections in the cities of Vancouver and Surrey.

Understanding the hopes and fears of ethnic groups can be a big political deal. In the city of Vancouver, 44 per of the population is of European descent, 20 per cent is of Chinese descent and 14 per cent are of South Asian descent. Indo Canadians are the largest group in Surrey, at 38 per cent compared to 33 per cent who are of European descent.

The Leger poll found the eventual winner in Vancouver, Ken Sim, who highlighted how he would be the city’s first Chinese Canadian mayor, appealed to 21 per cent of those of European ancestry, 15 per cent of South Asian voters and 35 per cent of those with Chinese roots.

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