(For my takes on the previous releases, see here and here.)
As my RMC colleague Christian Leuprecht notes, “The results largely confirm what we already know.”
Only 14% of Canadians consider foreign policy to be very important, and less than a third expect foreign policy to play more of a role in their voting decision in the next election.
If there is so little that is new here, why write about it? Because the raw data are fascinating, particularly when it comes to age and gender.
Consider the following: “Canada should more often side with the alliance of democracies rather than always go along with what multilateral organizations like the UN want.”
A full 25% of men age 55 and over strongly agreed with this statement. Just 2% of women between 18 and 34 did.
Even more interesting, 54% of these women answered that they didn’t know, as did 40% of the women polled between the ages of 35 and 54. No more than 24% of men of any age group were similarly unsure.
When asked whether “Canada should build closer relationships with other democratic countries in the IndoPacific region,” 48% of women between ages 18 and 34 again had no opinion, while only 12% of men from the same age cohort answered the same way.
A similar gap was evident in a question about whether Canada should pursue a seat on the UN Security Council, and another about whether Canada should be more active in NATO.
On the other hand, the same female cohort was twice as likely to think that Canada should spend less on defence, and more supportive than any other cohort of a national commitment to global poverty eradication.
Part of the differences here are likely explained by men’s propensity to over-estimate their expertise and express strong opinions on issues that they might not actually know very much about.
But I suspect that there is more than that at play.
The majority of the foreign policy preferences examined in the survey lean conservative – and Conservative – and as Western Washington University’s Catherine Wineinger has noted, “The under-representation of women in right-wing parties is a global phenomenon.”
Devlen suggests that “the contours of a plausible consensus on Canadian foreign policy,” that includes “A resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with democracies from around the world, proactively bolstering the Euro-Atlantic community, while strengthening Canada’s ties with fellow democracies in the Indo-Pacific and spending commensurate amounts on defence to assert Canada’s interests,” could be forthcoming.
Such a vision resonates among Canadian Conservatives already, but the MLI’s own data seem to indicate that it does not represent the predominant views of the next generation of Canadian women.
In that context, maybe doubling down on foreign policy isn’t the best way to expand the big blue tent.
Advisors to Erin O’Toole had best look at these numbers very carefully.
I am nowhere near qualified to examine the role of gender in foreign policy in serious depth. For that, I would suggest turning to my colleague, Andrea Lane. On gender and international security more broadly, take a look at the work of the University of Florida’s Laura Sjoberg. Not only is she incredibly prolific, she is also one of the most professional scholars I had the privilege of dealing with when I co-edited International Journal.
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