And both the Tories and Liberals have gained support after Pierre Poilievre’s leadership victory.
A clear majority of Conservative supporters strongly support taking public funds away from the CBC — but fewer support attacks on journalists, a Mainstreet poll suggests.
Several prominent Conservatives, including leader Pierre Poilievre and former leader Erin O’Toole, have called for deeply cutting or completely defunding the CBC.
In 2021, government grants made up about 60 per cent of the CBC’s revenue.
The question of whether the CBC should get public funds is a very partisan one, with Conservatives far more likely to say they should be taken away.
(Most Bloc voters, interestingly, are stout supporters of the national public broadcaster.)
Past Conservative or PC governments, while not friendly to the CBC, didn’t pose an existential threat to it either, in practice.
Would one that is led by Poilievre?
It’s “a flashpoint issue that could well unify Conservative opponents,” said University of Toronto political scientist Christopher Cochrane.
“Those are the kinds of issues that if the Conservatives are thinking strategically, they would want to avoid. It’s very possible the Conservatives could win the next election if the Liberal-NDP vote is split, but it’s inconceivable that they’re going to win it if the NDP supporters rally behind the Liberals. Threatening to abolish the CBC would be a real strategic blunder for the Conservatives.”
NDP support shifting to LiberalsCompared to a poll in July, among decided and leaning voters:
- Conservatives have moved from 38 per cent to 41 per cent
- Liberals have moved from 28 per cent to 33 per cent
- NDP has moved from 18 per cent to 12 per cent
“Poilievre captures all but the most extreme supporters of the People’s Party,” explained Mainstreet CEO Quito Maggi. “Looking at an average of where we’ve seen PPC support in 2022, that’s (down by) about half to a third. We’ve had them in high single digits most of the year.”
However, Poilievre’s appeal to the right has had another effect: spooking soft NDP supporters toward the Liberals.
“It’s this polarization of public opinion, with Trudeau as the champion of the progressive vote and Poilievre the champion of the conservative vote,” Maggi said.
“If we continue to see this, the NDP staying low and then continuing to decrease, we could end up in a scenario where it’s an extremely polarized, almost two-party system like we have in the United States, in the next election.”
Progressive voters rallying to the Liberals from the NDP is a dangerous trend for Conservatives, said Cochrane.
“In many respects, the Conservatives’ fate is tied to New Democratic Party success. The better the New Democrats do, the better chance the Conservatives have of winning governments, and if they alienate them, it’s going to be a very difficult challenge for them.”
Views of candidates attacking the mediaConservative MPs, including Poilievre, have seemed to be making a point of picking fights with reporters in recent days.
READ MORE: Conservative MP demands journalist be kicked out of parliamentary press gallery over tweet
Respondents were asked whether they’d be more or less likely to support a candidate who attacked media they perceived as unfavourable to them.
Conservatives are both more positive and less negative about the tactic than supporters of other parties.
“I think the idea of the establishment media being against Conservative MPs, and their positioning themselves against the quote-unquote establishment media at every opportunity, is not at all a surprising strategy,” Cochrane said. “And I’m not at all surprised that it works for them.”
Carleton University journalism professor Dwayne Winseck said he expected Conservative support for the tactic to be stronger than it turned out to be.
“I was surprised. This was a little softer than what I was anticipating as I read through the other (questions) and based on my previous reading around this topic. These numbers are not as clearly distinct as the others from the other parties.”
Fox’s northern outpostSome three per cent of those surveyed said the outlet they consumed the most news from was Fox News, compared to four per cent for CNN and one per cent for three other traditional American networks.
Canadian Fox consumers are:
- more than twice as likely to be male as female
- likelier to be over 65
- much likelier to live in Alberta: 9.3 per cent of Albertans surveyed said their main news source was Fox
- have a high school education or less
- about equally likely to support the Conservatives or PPC; almost none support any other party or are undecided
What media people consumeAsked what media outlet they consumed the most, 55 per cent of Conservatives, and 67 per cent of PPC supporters, named Fox News, YouTube or social media, or “alternative media” — not a traditional outlet.
“This is just wild, in my view,” Winseck said.
“Over half of the Conservative party relies upon this right-wing network propaganda system with Fox News as its hub. Revolving around that hub are all sorts of others like Breitbart, Infowars and all sorts of others. Daily Caller.”
The equivalent figures for the Liberals were eight per cent, 24 per cent for the NDP and 32 per cent for the Bloc.
Liberal, NDP and Bloc supporters were the likeliest to say their main news source was the CBC (57 per cent, 48 per cent and 78 per cent).
YouTube’s algorithms reward inflammatory content, which machine learning has discovered keeps people engaged for longer, seeing more ads, tending toward extremism, Cochrane said.
“These algorithms’ main function is to keep people on, to keep them interested, keep them watching and that sort of thing. There’s a real risk that people who start down the path toward more off-the-wall content end up being drawn into even more off-the-wall content and so on. I think that’s a very real possibility.”
This Mainstreet Research poll was conducted on Sept. 21 and 22, 2022. A sample of 1,088 people was interviewed by automated telephone interviews. The poll is accurate to within ±3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Mainstreet Research is part owner of iPolitics and QP Briefing.