Comparative Politics

Polarization and Campaign Dynamics in Canada, 1988-2021



This paper asks if the increased polarization of sentiment in the Canadian party system has made campaigns less volatile, on the model of the US experience, and if campaigns have also become increasingly important as venues for strategic updating. We unpack the issues in conceptualization and measurement and look at three decades of survey data. But with multiple parties and a single-member plurality electoral system, certain parts of the system may have become more volatile—not less—and may have done so as a consequence of the very polarization that the characterizes the overarching framework. We also conjecture that polarization has increased pressure for within-campaign consolidation of the rival electoral blocks. The conjectures are not borne out. We conclude with speculation on why this is so.


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