Environics Ontario campaign poll
Speaking of polling data, here is the stuff from Environics Research Group of earlier today:
Ontarians divided over proposal to extend public funding to all religious schools
TORONTO: A new Environics poll shows that Ontario voters are divided as to whether the province should fund all religious schools if they follow provincial educational standards.
The faith-based funding plan, promised by Ontario Conservative leader John Tory, is gaining profile as a contentious issue in the campaign leading up to election day on October 10. The new poll shows that 48 percent of Ontarians support the proposal to extend public taxpayer funding to schools of all religious denominations in Ontario if they meet provincial education standards and requirements while 44 percent oppose it. Further analysis of the poll results, however, show that more people are strongly opposed than strongly in favour: a total of 31 percent of the public is strongly opposed compared to 22 percent who are strongly in favour of extending the funding.
In polling conducted by Environics over two decades ago, in November 1986, 71 percent of Ontarians agreed that schools of all religious denominations should receive public funding if they met provincial education standards. That number fell to 57 percent agreeing with the proposal in a 1991 Environics poll and fell again to 54 percent in a 1994 poll.
The new poll also asked if the current funding of Roman Catholic schools should end and all taxpayer dollars be directed to the public school system, which is a proposal of the Green Party of Ontario but not endorsed by the three main parties. A similar division of opinion exists with regard to this idea. A total of 47 percent of Ontarians would remove the funding of Catholic schools and direct all public dollars to the public system; 45 percent oppose this.
The results of the two poll questions suggest the conflicting values and views of the public on the religious schools issue. Analyzing the results of the two questions together reveals four main segments of opinion:
• One-quarter of Ontarians (27%) support the principle of funding religious education, both Catholic and other funding.
• A similar number (28%) hold the opposing view – they oppose funding religious education in principle, and therefore reject Mr. Tory’s proposal and would remove Catholic funding as well.
• A third group (15%) prefer the current arrangement of continuing Catholic funding but not extending it to other religions.
• A fourth group (18%) of Ontarians, do not have strong views about funding of religious education but believe in the fairness principle of treating religions equally, either extending funding to other religions or removing it from the Catholic system.
The proposal to extend funding to all religious schools divides political party supporters as well. A majority of Conservative voters (60%) support Mr. Tory’s proposal but a substantial minority (36%) don’t like it. A majority of Liberal voters (55%) are opposed to extending funding to all religious schools but a significant minority (37%) support it. New Democrat voters are equally divided.
A slim majority of Catholics are favourable to extending funding to other religions, while Protestants are divided. Not surprisingly, those of “other” religious denominations (Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs) overwhelmingly favour extending funding, although the numbers of adherents of these religions is quite small in the poll. By contrast, those with no religious affiliation are significantly opposed to extending funding to all religious schools.
The poll shows the Liberals holding a slim lead over the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario voter support. A total of 39 percent of decided voters would vote Liberal and 35 percent would vote Progressive Conservative if an election were held today. This represents a drop of two points for the Liberals and four points for the Conservatives from a June 2007 Environics poll. The New Democratic Party holds 17 percent of the decided vote and other parties have increased their collective support to nine percent. Among all those eligible to vote, however, 23 percent remain undecided.