Meet the Tories: Segmenting the Conservative Party Base (Part 2)
I never dared to be radical when young for fear it would make me conservative when old.
If you’re reading this, I have to assume you already read or are familiar with why I chose to write about the Conservative Party of Canada and how the party is electorally unique.
In Part 1 I took a look at how conservative voters viewed government spending on seven major public policy realms along gender and regional line during the 2015 election.
Just in case you didn’t read Part 1, here is a brief recap of some of the major findings:
Conservatives overall were, on average, three times as fiscally hawkish on welfare and immigration as they were on other policy issues such as health care or education.
For every one Tory that believed that the government should spend less on the environment, four believed the government should spend more on it. The greatest level of opposition to environmental spending was found among conservatives in Alberta
Conservative women are more likely to favour increased government spending in 6/7 policy realms with the exception of defence while conservative men were more likely to favour reduced government spending on each of the seven policy realms
Conservatives on the east coast were the highest supporters of government spending in four of the seven policy realms: welfare, the environment, crime and justice, and immigrants and minorities.
Conservatives in Alberta were least likely to support increased government spending on five of the seven policy realms with the exceptions of education and crime & justice.
East coast conservatives were significantly more likely to believe the government should spend more on welfare while also having one of the highest levels of opposition to government spending.
This article takes into account how those same conservatives viewed public policy spending along age and educational lines.
I thought I might illustrate the data a little differently in Part 2. Instead of looking at how each demographic viewed all of the seven public policy realms at once, I broke up each policy realm and looked at how each demographic viewed the issue individually.
All of you policy wonks out there will be pleased to know that I included charts and graphs for ALL demographics (gender, region, age and education) at the bottom of this article.
So let’s cut to the chase of the conservative base.
Those of you who read Part 1 of this article will recognize the chart below. I chose to include it again to help (re)preface how conservatives overall viewed government spending on major public policy issues.
Conservative strategist Lynton Crosby noted from his polling that age was one of the largest determinants for polarized views in society today.
The same phenomenon can be seen among Canadian conservatives (certainly during the 2015 election).
From a macro perspective, divides within the conservative base weren’t as staunch along educational lines as they were along generational lines, though some differences were noticeable.
Conservatives between the ages of 18-24 were more likely to believe that government spending should be increased in five of the seven policy realms with the exception of crime and justice as well as defence. Conservatives above the age of 65 were most likely to support government spending on those two policy realms.
Conservatives with a high school education or less were more likely to believe the government should increase spending on health care, crime and immigration while more educated conservatives were more likely to support increased government spending on education, the environment and defence.
Although conservatives overall are supportive of increased government spending on health care, those between the ages of 25-34 were five times more likely to oppose increased government spending on health care.
The more educated the Tory the less supportive they were of health care spending. There is a 25% delta between those with a high school education and those with graduate degrees or higher.
As noted in Part 1, conservatives were least supportive of government spending on welfare in comparison to other major public policy issues; conservatives between the ages of 25-44 were most fiscally hawkish on welfare – in some cases more than 2:1 than other age categories.
Those above the age of 65 were least likely to believe that the government should spend less on welfare.
Although the differences between the educational categories were marginal, generally speaking those with lower levels of education were slightly more likely to believe the government should spend less on welfare.
Even though education is more likely to be debated in a provincial legislature than on Parliament Hill, a fair bit of division exists among Tories of different age groups with respect to how much government should spend. The same cannot be said when we view educational spending through the lens of the level of education an individual conservative attained.
Younger conservatives between the ages of 18-24 were, on average, twice as likely to support increased government spending on education than other age groups. However, an equal percentage of those 18-24 believed government should spend less on it.
The highest percentage of fiscal restraint on educational spending came from those between the ages of 25-44.
Very few conservatives want educational spending reduced. Strong pluralities and, in many cases, majorities of Tories believed that educational spending should be increased.
Due to the fact that the same group of Tories can view educational spending very differently through different demographic lenses, I think the best way to understand this divide would probably be to crosstabulate educational spending with age and use the level of education a Tory attained as a control variable (though I’ve been wrong many, many times in my life and will continue to be so). Broadly speaking, younger generations are becoming increasingly more educated than older generations and this *may* help give context to this divide.
To say that the environment is a young person’s issue is too narrow of a conclusion. We see from the above that six out of every ten conservatives between the ages of 18-24 believed the government should spend more on the environment, however, opposition to environmental spending doesn’t really increase with age – it fluctuates from one age bracket to the next.
The greatest level of opposition to environmental spending came from three in every twenty 25-34 year olds.
Generally speaking, while Tories overall weren’t environmentally hawkish, those with lower levels of education were more likely to oppose increased environmental spending.
Crime & Justice
More often than not, we see that conservatives are more likely to favour status-quo spending on crime, if not believed it should be increased.
The greatest level of opposition to increased spending on crime was seen among those with higher levels of education and among those 18-44.
Older Conservatives were more likely to believe that government spending on crime should be increased with the exception of those between the ages of those between the ages of 18-24.
The younger the conservative, the less likely they were to support government spending on defence. Alternatively phrased, the older the Tory the more they wanted to see the government spend more on defence.
The greatest level of opposition to increased defence spending was seen among those 18-24 and those 35-44.
It was interesting to see that conservatives with higher levels of education were more likely to want increased government spending on defence than those with lower levels of education.
Immigrants & Minorities
Despite conservatives overall being less likely to support government spending on immigrants and minorities, younger conservatives between the ages of 18-24 were more supportive of increased government spending on the policy realm than other age groups by a ratio of 2:1.
Conservatives between the ages of 25-44 had the highest levels of opposition to government spending on immigrants and minorities.
While government spending on the topic was relatively unpopular, those with lower levels of education were slightly more likely to believe that government spending on immigrants and minorities should be increased.
The highest level of opposition came from those with some college or university where four in ten Tories believed spending should be reduced.